Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Responding to the spate of violence and insecurity raging across the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called on regional leaders to adopt a common approach in curbing the menace.
President Buhari spoke during the 55th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Abuja.
He said the sub-region must remain focused on its collective endeavour to make West Africa an area of peace and security.
The President stated that making the sub-region an area of peace and security was essential if the sub-region was to attain the primary objective of ECOWAS.
“This is an essential prerequisite if we are to attain the primary objective of our organization which is, ‘to promote cooperation and integration, leading to the establishment of an economic and monetary union in West Africa, in order to raise the living standards of its people and contribute to the progress and development of the African continent,’” Buhari said.
The President added that despite the overall progress made in the sub-region, particularly in the field of political governance, it continues to face considerable security challenges.
“We are all witnesses to the recurring incidents of inter-communal clashes, herders-farmers conflicts, banditry and terrorist attacks in all our countries.
“These threats, you will agree with me, have consequences on the peaceful co-existence between our communities and peoples, as well as their livelihoods.
“This unrest also undermines all our efforts in achieving full regional integration. It is, therefore, necessary that we act collectively to end this menace in the interest of regional stability and wellbeing of our people,” the President added.
While expressing condolences to the families of the victims of terrorist attacks, banditry and inter-communal clashes which, he said, were perpetrated by some misguided elements in the societies, the President said the sub-region would not relent in its efforts to protect the lives and property of peace loving people, while vigorously sustaining the war against terrorism and criminality.
“Taking into account the transnational nature of the threats confronting us, the need for the adoption of a common strategy at the national and regional level to combat them has become imperative. By so doing, we will reinforce our actions and resources for a more effective response to protect our citizens and secure our common space.
“While I acknowledge that several initiatives and measures have been taken in our respective countries, recent developments have shown that we must cooperate more effectively to achieve our goals.
“We should send a strong and unified message to the perpetrators of violence that we are resolute in our collective determination to confront and defeat them,” President Buhari also said.
On his part, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said apart from military approaches, more efforts should be made in addressing violent extremism, terrorism, and other conflicts in the sub-region.
Guterres, represented by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, added that in this regard, the establishment of the Lake Chad Governors Forum, regional cooperation and stabilization, peace building and sustainable development interventions in a region affected by terrorists Boko Haram, is a welcome initiative.