President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria would remain steadfast in its commitment and support to democracy and good governance in Africa.
He spoke at the opening of the 48th Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) in Abuja.
He said that the successful conduct of elections in Nigeria, Togo, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso had completed the cycle of 2015 presidential elections in the region.
According to him, this remarkable achievement reflects the member states’ collective resolve to entrench democracy and good governance in the region.
“Let me recall that the election in Burkina Faso completed the cycle of 2015 presidential elections in the region, successfully conducted in my country-Nigeria, Togo, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire.
“This remarkable achievement reflects our collective resolve to entrench democracy and good governance in the region.
“As we prepare for more general elections in the coming year, I assure Your Excellencies that Nigeria will remain steadfast in its commitment and support to democracy and good governance.
“We believe that a politically stable West Africa can only be strong and prosperous.
He said that the convening of the Summit in Abuja was a great honour and privilege for the Government and people of Nigeria.
”I sincerely thank my brothers, Heads of State and Government for accepting Nigeria to host this unique Summit, which is taking place as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the founding of our Organization.
”I would like to express my warm appreciation to my brother, H.E. Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal and Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority for his statesmanship and able leadership since he took over seven months ago.
”Let me also thank the President of the ECOWAS Commission, the Commissioners and staff members for efforts deployed in the preparation of this Summit.”
Buhari said that over the years, the ECOWAS had recorded concrete achievements which had made it a universally acclaimed regional economic community model.
According to him, in spite of the significant achievements, the Community still faces numerous challenges.
“While some militate against the integration drive, others continue to pose risks to peace and security, as well as political stability in the region.
“There are also structural and administrative challenges in running the Commission that equally require serious attention.
“Security challenges persist in our region as we continue to be confronted with the daunting scourge of transnational organized crime including arms trafficking, drug trafficking, as well as piracy and criminality at sea.
“Equally worrying is the rising scourge of violent extremism and terrorism. All this constitute serious threats to peace and security in the region, and therefore require our urgent and concerted actions.”
The president said that regional and global solidarity was vital in the ongoing efforts to counter these threats.
He also stressed that member states must continue to enhance their system of governance and, working with development partners, accelerate the implementation of their joint initiatives and mechanisms created to address these ”daunting but not insurmountable risks.
“ As we do so, we should not relent in our effort to engage with member states coming out of crises, in order to help them to consolidate on the achievements made.’’
On Climate Change, Buhari observed that the catastrophic consequences of climate change were manifest in the region.
“A number of fragilities, conflicts and environmental degradation that affect our countries today with serious negative impact on peace, security, economy and livelihoods are either directly or indirectly triggered by climate change.
“Alone, we will not be able to reverse or stop some of these consequences, as it requires huge investment of resources far beyond our capabilities.’’
Buhari, therefore, enjoined the member states to continue to press for international assistance and to work with the rest of the world to protect the environment.
He, however, stated that they should do so without loosing focus on their industrial development objectives.
“Our efforts to fast track regional integration should also be informed by the requirement for clean source of energy.
“In this regard, I welcome the agreed outcome of the just concluded COP21 in Paris, which aims at reducing global warming and providing for financial support to developing nations.’’
The president also urged member states to continue to cooperate with development partners, and take advantage of their willingness to support the initiatives to address the region’s challenges in the most appropriate and beneficial ways to global peace and security.
He expressed optimism that the on-going reforms in ECOWAS institutions would be concluded and firmly entrenched to ensure greater effectiveness in leading the integration process.
He also expressed the hope that the resources of the Community would continue to be devoted to the implementation of economic programmes that would enable member states build a prosperous region.
“I remain confident that under the leadership of the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, our Community will continue to make steady progress towards achieving the goals for which it was founded.
“A community that gives hope to the present and future generations.’’
President Buhari also expressed gratitude to the Community’s bilateral and multi lateral partners for their continued support and cooperation.
In a message to the occasion, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Kimoon, pledged that the continuous support of the UN in the ongoing fight against religious extremism and terrorism in the region and beyond.