From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called for a concerted effort by member countries to end the menace of insecurity in the region.
The West African body said the dignity and sovereignty of the sub-region are at stake as a result of the terrorist attacks.
Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, made the call during the 58th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government held virtually.
Akufo-Addo recalled that the sub-region continued to face critical security challenges with deadly terrorist attacks in Mali, northeastern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
He reaffirmed the strongest condemnation of the attacks in the region and community, while also deploring the activities of the criminal, terrorist groups.
‘We sympathise and extend our deep condolences to affected countries and the families of the victims.
‘These developments must reinforce our conviction that we must pursue, even more vigorously, the actions we have begun, with the rapid implementation of the decisions of our Extraordinary Summit on Terrorism, held on 14th September 2019. This concerted effort, which must be a major priority objective of the community, is the best way for us to address collectively, the security challenges, and give ourselves the means to ensure the security of the populations of our community. Our dignity and our sovereignty are at stake,’ Akufo-Addo said.
Akufo-Addo thanked member states that were making significant efforts to support the initiatives to tackle the insecurity in the region, especially those that have begun to pay their financial contribution to the US$1 billion ECOWAS Regional Security Fund (ERSF), created in support of the 2020-2024 Anti-Terrorism Action Plan.
He stated that raising the money had to be a high priority for ECOWAS because it enabled member states to act independently in the crisis.
‘Your Excellencies will recall that the 2019 Summit created the Fund to cover a five (5) year period, 2020-2024. The UEMOA countries committed to contributing five hundred million United States dollars (US$500 million), whilst the Federal Republic of Nigeria also pledged three hundred and fifty million dollars (US$350 million); leaving a balance of one hundred and fifty million dollars (US$150 million) for the six (6) remaining countries and other sources.
‘Out of the five hundred million United States dollars ($500 million) pledged by the UEMOA countries, one hundred million ($100 million) has been disbursed directly to Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to assist them in their anti-terrorism activities. We have yet to be informed of the status of the balance of the pledge. Out of the Nigerian pledge of three hundred and fifty million ($350 million), one hundred million United States dollars ($100 million) was pledged for 2020, out of which eighty million dollars ($80 million) was to be used directly by them in their fight against terrorism on their northern border, and twenty million dollars ($20 million) was to go to the Fund. The Commission is awaiting confirmation transfer instructions for this amount, which will then leave a balance of two hundred and fifty million dollars to be contributed to the Fund by Nigeria,’ Akufo-Addo added.
The Ghanaian President further said Ghana, on its part, has decided to pledge $50 million over the five year period of which $10 million is destined for the fund and $40 million for the domestic empowerment of its border security against potential terrorist incursions.
‘Half of the ten million dollars ($10 million), i.e., five million dollars ($5 million), has been paid by Ghana into the ESRF account, of which confirmation transfer instructions for this payment has been received by the commission.
‘The remaining one hundred million dollars ($100 million), which is to be paid by the other five (5) countries, will complete the establishment of the entire fund. We need to do this as quickly as possible,’ Akufo-Addo also said.
Akufo-Addo further said there was the need for ECOWAS to engage on the growing menace to the maritime security of the region.
“Acts of piracy and maritime destabilization are on the rapid increase in the Gulf of Guinea, illustrated by the data, which indicate a forty per cent rise in pirate activities in the Gulf in 2020 over 2019. This calls for a strong regional response,’ Akufo-Addo stated.
On the single currency for the sub-region, Akufo-Addo recalled that member states agreed on a revised convergence policy.
He said he was of the view that the difficulties involved in meeting the convergence criterion should not stand in the way of the rapid establishment of payments and settlement system in ECOWAS, which will enable a rapid expansion of trade and investment in the Community.
Focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, Akufo-Addo expressed appreciation to ECOWAS’ foreign friends for their invaluable support, which ensured that the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) were able to broaden their scope of support to member states as a complement to their efforts.
He said the time had come for ECOWAS to work earnestly towards the vaccination of its populations.
‘We need to send a strong signal to them, from this summit, of our determination to protect them,’ he stated.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, said in the area of security, the ECOWAS region continued to face the challenges posed by the terrorist threat in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Northern Nigeria, with its attendant loss of life, displacement and destruction of property.
‘In this regard, it has become increasingly urgent to implement the Action Plan to combat terrorism approved in December 2019 by the Authority,’ Brou said.