The African Union Commission (AUC) has solicited Nigeria’s backing in bringing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) project to fruition.
The commission’s Chairperson, Mr Moussa Faki, made the appeal on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, when he led a delegation of AUC on a visit to Nigeria.
Faki thanked Nigeria for supporting his candidature and emergence as the AUC chairperson.
According to him, Nigeria has always been in the forefront of achieving a free and prosperous Africa.
He said that at the celebration of its 50th anniversary, the AU adopted Agenda 2063 – a vision of Africa that was integrated, free, peaceful and prosperous.
“The agenda is now on the table of the AU – peace and security – that is to make sure that we silence the guns by 2020, and economic integration of the continent on which important decisions have been adopted.
“At the beginning of this year; AU adopted the Continental Free Trade Area, protocol on free movement of persons, the African passport and SAATM.
“ECOWAS has adopted free movement which is a reality in Nigeria.
“ECOWAS is one of the most advanced regional economic community and when it comes to air transport, we know that Nigeria is there to help AU and with the support of Nigeria, this will become a reality.
“You can imagine that you cannot travel from one African capital to another if you do not go through Europe or Asia.
“Abuja to Ndjamena is just one hour flight but sometimes you have to go to Addis Ababa; sometimes you come to Abuja; this is something that cannot continue on the continent,’’ Faki said.
He said that agenda 2063 of AU could not be achieved without reforms and appreciated the support that had been given by Nigeria for the reforms.
The chairperson said that with regards to peace and security, AU had established a Peace Fund, adding that Nigeria had made contributions to the fund since 2017.
He said that the US had contributed 55 million dollars to the Fund.
The AUC boss said that a five-member Board of Trustees would be inaugurated for the fund among whom was Nigeria’s Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
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He said that he was in Nigeria to bolster cooperation between the country and AU, exchange views and interact on how to work better towards achieving the African dream.
He commended Buhari for his fight against corruption and described him as an exemplary leader worthy of emulation by other African leaders.
Earlier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, had said that it was an honour to receive the AUC chairperson in Nigeria.
“We know how much you value Nigeria and you always stress the importance of Nigeria to the African project.
“`How you believe that when you talk of African integration, it means nothing without the active participation of Nigeria; you are of the belief that Nigeria is the engine of African continent.
“In addition to the 2063 roadmap, there are also ongoing reforms, a reform agenda of the Secretariat and of course, for the AU to succeed in all these, the member-states have to key in and support the process.
“It is not the easiest of tasks to get 55 countries to work in consonance towards these objectives.
“So, we want to take advantage of the presence of the AU Commission’s chairperson in Abuja for us to horizontally, as a government be able to key in and interrogate the reform process,’’ he said.