By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on West African leaders to exert pressure on the military leadership in Mali to ensure that the transition process in the country is not aborted.
The President’s position is contained in his statement delivered at the 59th Ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday.
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s spokesman in a statement, said the Nigerian leader spoke on the situation in Mali, which was recently suspended from the regional bloc due to a military coup.
Buhari said: ”At this Summit today, we are expected to review a number of important reports dealing with various issues of concerns to our organisation and people.
”In doing so, we must take realistic and practical decisions which will positively impact our citizens.
”Some of those decisions, necessarily will have to do with evolving political and security situations in our sub-region as well as evaluate the health of our organisation with the hope of repositioning to serve our people and sub-region better.
”While democracy continues to develop in our sub-region, recent events in Mali are sad reminders that vigilance remains a crucial imperative to protect people’s aspirations to freely choose the form of government they want.
”Pressures are needed to ensure that the transition process in Mali, which is half-way to its conclusion, is not aborted.
”A further slide in Mali could prove catastrophic to the sub-region, considering that about half of that country is unfortunately under the grip of terrorists.”
The Nigerian leader, therefore, appealed to the military leadership in Mali to understand the critical state of their country, which he described as being ”clearly under siege.”
While noting that the principal responsibility of the military must be to protect and guarantee the sovereignty of the West African country, the president cautioned them not to perpetuate acts that would facilitate the destabilization and destruction of Mali.
”I urge our organization to remain engaged with all stakeholders in Mali through our astute Mediator, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who, I congratulate warmly, for his untiring efforts thus far.
”I encourage him to sustain these efforts to ensure that the transition is completed as scheduled,” he added.
On Libya, Buhari faulted the recent United Nations Resolution to expel all foreign fighters in Libya, without first ensuring that they are disarmed and non-collaboration with regional stakeholders.
”On the security situation in the region, our organisation must note with serious concern, the recent decision by the United Nations and its Resolution to expel all foreign fighters in Libya, without first, ensuring that they are disarmed and that neighbouring countries and the sub-regions were engaged, to put in place modalities for containing or managing the movement of these fighters.
”While this action was aimed at bringing about sustenance of peace in Libya, non-collaboration with regional stakeholders on this critical decision, has now created newer threats to peace, security and stability in the region,” he said.
He further maintained that this could lead to lack of coordinated management of huge humanitarian crisis across the Sahel, North, Central and West Africa, including the Lake Chad region.
He reiterated that these regions faced the clear possibility of instability with the invasion of the foreign fighters that were fully armed.
”It is imperative that ECOWAS leaders, at this Summit, decide how the UN-Sub-regional organisations partnerships should be reviewed to address the dangers that this UN Resolution poses to the region,” he said.
The statement by the Nigerian leader at the Summit also addressed other pertinent issues of concern in the organisation, including the ongoing institutional reforms in ECOWAS.
While declaring Nigeria’s unequivocal support to the reforms process, the president said he was looking forward to ”an ECOWAS that is fit for purpose”, delivering services to the satisfaction of the community citizens.
He commended the President of the Commission and his team, the Ad-hoc Ministerial Committee on Institutional Reforms as well as the Council of Ministers for the excellent report presented to the Authority of Heads of State.
”We have clearly realised that operating a bloated administration with the current global economic collapse occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic will be to the detriment of services to our people which is not sustainable.
”This positive action will certainly enable our organisation move on and deliver services to the satisfaction of our Community citizens.
”Let me remind us that this is only the beginning as the responsibility of streamlining operational costs as well as the modalities for the appointment of statutory positions of the incoming management are still outstanding.
”It is my view that paying attention to existing regulations that guide the appointment of statutory appointees will further guarantee the efficiency and sustainability of the organization,” he said.
In his capacity as the ECOWAS champion on the fight against COVID-19, Buhari also drew attention to the need for more citizens in the region to be vaccinated.
He also stressed the need for adherence to other non-pharmaceutical interventions.
He said the West African region was in the grip of a third wave, warning against complacency in national and regional initiatives to address the pandemic.
”The region has experienced two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the second wave being more prevalent with higher death rates.
”Although we appear to have come out of the second wave, there is a very strong possibility that we may experience a third wave similar to what is going on in other parts of the world, particularly as vaccination levels are still very low.
”It is therefore critical to maintain vigilance and deploy smart non-pharmaceutical public health measures as necessary.
”We must not relent; our Ministers of Health in collaboration with WAHO should intensify their regular Coordinating Committee meetings to maintain the unified regional approach in the fight against Covid-19.”
Buhari reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to the noble objectives of the ECOWAS, saying:
”I encourage us to take bolder steps towards ensuring that the Organisation fulfils the aspirations of its founding fathers, which include a truly integrated sub-region, economically, politically, socio-culturally united and secured to permit its sustainable development and growth.”