Nigeria’s leadership of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was extended for another year last night as Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was elected the new chairman of the sub-regional body.
Ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had steered the ship of the association for a year until he fell ill, a development which had twice forced the postponement of the 37th Summit of the body.
Meanwhile, in his address at the summit of ECOWAS Heads of State and Gover-nment at the Hilton Hotel Abuja, Jonathan talked tough, condemning what he described as the undemocratic efforts by some elements at carrying out political change in the sub-region.
He warned that henceforth the West African sub-region would no longer tolerate any acts of political mis-adventure.
The re-election of Nigeria to chair the West African sub-region for the next one year, according to a communique read at the end of summit by the out-going President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, was in solidarity with the country and in recognition of her significant contributions to the survival of the organisation.
The Heads of State paid glowing tributes to President Yar’Adua for displaying great qualities of a statesman, particularly his total and ready disposition to the ECOWAS causes and positive contributions to the consolidation of the regional integration process as well as to the entrenchment of democratic culture in West Africa.
The leaders also wished Yar’Adua speedy recovery.
While welcoming Jonathan to the helm of affairs of ECOWAS, the leaders expressed their conviction that under Jonathan’s guidance, Nigeria would continue to demonstrate her interest and leadership in deepening the regional agenda.
In a seeming reference to the unconstitutional change of government in the Republic of Guinea in 2008 and the killing of about 300 protesting civilians by the Guinean soldiers in 2009, Jonathan said: “Your Excellencies will recall that we were confronted with a number of most undemocratic efforts at political change. In a few of our countries the will of the people and their genuine aspiration for democracy were trampled upon with impunity.
“Let it be stated again that no place exists in this sub-region for such rape on the rights and indeed dignity of our people. No more will there be comfort zone for such political mis-adventure.”
On the emerging trend of terrorism and drug trafficking in the sub-region, the Acting President appealed to the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to evolve joint strategies to stem the ugly trend.
Jonathan called on the leaders to take advantage of the summit to explore ways and means of harnessing their collective energies in partnership with the international community to put a halt to the ugly tide.
The Acting President in addition expressed concern at the deliberate breaching of the full implementation of the sub-region’s protocol on free movement of persons, goods and services and the right of residence by his colleague presidents in the region.
He warned that ECOWAS might be compelled to sanction any of the countries’ officials found to be deliberately flouting the letter and spirit of the protocol.
On the issue of the proposed ECOWAS common currency, the ECO, Jonathan said he was optimistic that all hands would be on deck to ensure that the project, which he described as long overdue would soon be actualized.
On the Customs Union for the sub-region, the Acting President expressed delight that the Common External Tariff (CETT) had witnessed substantial progress, particularly in the re-classification of products that will fall under the 5th band tariff classification.
He said the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiation with the European Union (EU) offers ECOWAS countries an important platform to re-state the need for a firm financial commitment from the EU on funding the EPA development programmes.
He said it was gratifying that regional and national agricultural investment programmes had been finalized, which culminated in the international donors conference that held in Abuja in November last year.
He expressed confidence that all the stakeholders would fulfill the pledges made at the conference.
Out-going President of ECOWAS Commission who was last year elected Secretary-General of the 79 member countries of African Carribean Pacific (ACP) was replaced by a fellow country man, Ambassador Victor Gbeho as the new President of ECOWAS Commission.
The Heads of States congratulated Chambas for the outstanding achievements recorded in the sub-region during his tenure in office, particularly the impressive and brilliant contributions he made in opening the ECOWAS integration avenues.
Those who attended yesterday’s summit included Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi of the Republic of Benin, Blaise Compare of Bokino Faso, Pedro Pres of Cape Verde, Professor John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana and Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea Republic.
Others are Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone and Faure Gnassingbe of Togo. Three countries including the Republic of Gambia, Cote d’Voire and Mali were represented.