JONATHAN URGES AFRICAN LEADERS TO JOIN HANDS AGAINST TERRORISM
BY HUGO ODIOGOR & EMEKA AGINAM
President Goodlluck Jonathan Thursday at the 40th ordinary session of Heads of States and government of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS in Abuja urged African heads of government to join hands in the fight against what he described as rising scourge of terrorism threatening the peace and security of the sub-region.
According to him, ECOWAS efforts to consolidate democracy in the sub-region paid off substantially in Liberia, Niger and Guinea Conakry during his chairmanship.
Although there had been success stories, he said there had also been serious challenges in the Sahel region, Gulf of Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
Citing examples, in the Sahel region, he said the country witnessed a proliferation of small arms and light weapons, now even more accentuated in the aftermath of the Arab spring.
As a result, he said countries in the region were threatened by insurgents and terrorists with dire consequences for peace, stability and prosperity of the sub-region.
Similarly, in the Gulf of Guinea, he lamented that increasing incidence of piracy had reached a worrisome dimension.
'In Niger, the attempts by the then incumbent President to alter the Constitution to elongate his tenure in office were averted.
Subsequently, elections were held which paved way for Niger to return to the ranks of democratic nations.
'In Guinea Conakry, where there had been a series of military interventions, ECOWAS has successfully guided the country to hold elections and a return to democracy.
'This is compounded with drug trafficking, oil bunkering and human trafficking. All of these require urgent and concerted actions.
'We must not forget that beyond politics, the economic integration of our sub-region remains the fundamental objective of our organisation. We must, therefore, accelerate our efforts toward monetary union by meeting the convergence criteria, and achieving the harmonisation of tariff regimes'.
'Internally, within the Community Institutions, there is an urgent need for structural reforms in order to enhance capacity and improve transparency.
Activities of our organisation must conform to global best practices to improve confidence and assure growth. 'It cannot continue to be business as usual if our organisation must fulfil the vision of our founding fathers.
According to him, there can be no overstating the imperative need that our efforts for integration and peace would be hard to achieve if unity and cohesion of the sub-region were not assured, adding that ECOWAS has been universally acclaimed as a role model in sub-regional integration.
' However, and unfortunately, this quality is now gravely imperilled as clearly demonstrated by what transpired during the election of the African Union Commission Chairperson in Addis Ababa at the 18th Session of the Assembly where some ECOWAS member states broke rank with the consensus position of the sub-region.
'We need to continue to demonstrate our cohesiveness and speak with one voice as a region. Of the five regions of Africa, West Africa has the highest number of member states. This is an important leverage in our hands.
' We need to demonstrate it and exploit it to advance the interest of our sub-region. We should not allow such leverage to slip through our hands through advancing individual consideration.
President Jonathan reiterated the avowed commitment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the integration objectives of ECOWAS .
'We will not relent in this pursuit. I call upon all member-states to come together in unity to serve our organisation. We should not allow any division in our ranks to be exploited to the detriment of our regional objectives'