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Buhari Tasks ECOWAS Leaders On The Regional Economic Integration

By Niyi Adeyi

President Muhammadu Buhari has advocated for shift and emphasis on the economic integration, alongside campaign for, and focus on the peace and security, in the African sub-region.

Buhari made the advocacy Thursday in his welcome address at the ongoing 40th Anniversary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in FCT Abuja.

While hailing the sub-regional body’s leadership in its successful resolution of the crises in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali and Guinea-Bissau, President Buhari said despite this, there were still much to achieve, justfying the need to fast track the integration process, saying that the most effective way was through “accelerated and focused investments in key development sectors including but not limited to energy, transportation, as well as road and rail networks”.

In line with this, Buhari urged ECOWAS leaders to keep pushing the existing initiatives and adopt new ones, noting that insufficient power supply has been identified as a major obstacle to investments in the region.

“As we make individual efforts to boost power supply in our respective countries, we should accelerate the implementation of critical infrastructure such as the West African gas pipeline project, while remaining committed to the promotion of alternative and renewable energy sources. Urgent steps need to be taken to encourage intra – regional trade among member states in order to boost employment generation and trade relations.

“On the consequences of climate change, we must continue to coordinate our actions with the other African countries including through the African Union, in working with the rest of the world to reduce global warming without compromising our industrial development drive” stressed President Buhari.

In the same vein, the President noted that the region has continued to be confronted with the daunting scourge of transnational organized crime including arms trafficking, drug trafficking, as well as piracy and criminality at sea. He added that the sub region is also worried about the rising scourge of violent extremism and terrorism, all of which he lamented constituted serious threats to peace and security in the region and required “sustained focus and concerted actions”.

The Nigerian Leader restated: “We must continue to enhance our system of governance and, working with our partners, accelerate the implementation of our joint initiatives and mechanisms that were created to address these daunting but not insurmountable risks. We must enhance cooperation with other regional and continental organizations such as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), and the African Union particularly in the fight against violent extremism, terrorism and piracy”.

President Buhari called on the regional leaders to note that beyond politics, “the economic integration of our region must remain the fundamental objective of this Organization”, insisting that ECOWAS leaders must accelerate efforts towards achieving monetary union by meeting the convergence criteria while member–states should strive to key into the Common External Tariff, which came into being this year.

He observed that looking within the ECOWAS Commission and other institutions of the Community, there was an urgent need for structural reforms and capacity building in order to enhance efficiency, improve transparency and build confidence, stressing that accountability and doing more with less should be the hallmark of the ECOWAS Commission.

According to President Buhari, the ECOWAS Parliament needed to be empowered to make laws, rather than operating as an advisory body, while the ECOWAS Court of Justice should be strengthened to enable it deliver on its mandate.

The President saluted the vision, wisdom as well as courage and resolve of the founding fathers of the body, which he said it has over the years evolved to become a leading regional economic community in Africa. He also commended its present leadership on its drives.

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