24th January, 2021
By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has called for a trimmed ECOWAS, saying that the organisation needed to streamline its management to adjust to current realities.
”A situation where ECOWAS has 23 statutory appointees, of which 13 are Commissioners for this Commission is totally unsustainable”, the president said in his presentation to the virtual 58th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, in Abuja, on Saturday.
He stressed that there was need for a lean and compact leadership in ECOWAS, to enhance the efficiency and performance of the organisation.
President Buhari has also directed the immediate release of $20 million dollars, earlier pledged by Nigeria, to the pool account of the ECOWAS Action Plan to fight terrorism across the sub-region.
”We have already directed the immediate remittance of the sum of $20 million pledged by Nigeria to the pool account of the ECOWAS Action Plan to fight terrorism, while the sum of $80 million is to be disbursed for the fight against terrorism in the Northeast and banditry in the Northwest of Nigeria for the year 2021.
”We are also committed to meeting our obligations for the remaining period of the action plan,” Buhari said.
On the need to restructure ECOWAS, Buhari said the move would eliminate overlap and the tussle between the large statutory appointees, as well as reduce personnel and overhead costs that could be channelled to the execution of projects.
”The African Union, our larger continental organization of 55 members, has pruned down its commissioners to only six, hence, there’s no basis whatsoever, for ECOWAS, with only 15 members, to maintain 13 commissioners and 10 other statutory appointees.
”Accordingly, Nigeria recommends the immediate appointment of a ministerial adhoc committee to review the proposal of the Maxwells Temp Report and submit a recommendation, at the mid-year summit for our consideration and adoption.
”If, however, some countries are not in favour of this, then each country must sponsor its own statutory appointee as is practiced by other organisations, such as the European Union and other regional organisations”, President Buhari told the meeting.
”Going by the recommendation of the Maxwells Temp Report, it is envisaged that even with the lean number of statutory appointees, each member country will still have a representative on the management of ECOWAS.
”We believe that this should satisfy our desire to have a sense of belonging in the community’s institutions and also to enhance our spirit of solidarity”.
The Nigerian leader drew attention of the meeting to the fact that at 45, ECOWAS was expected to be an accomplished regional organization, and for that reason, the right and bold decisions to enhance its performance must be taken.
”This is to fulfil the aspirations of its founding fathers and effectively serve the citizens of our community, to consolidate our prime position as the best sub-regional organization in the African continent.” he said.
On the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the ECOWAS region, Buhari called on all member states to ensure that they prioritised procurement of the vaccines for their citizens, while increasing efforts to develop vaccines locally, so that member states could build herd immunity against the pandemic.
”Now that vaccines are soon to be available, I call on all member states to ensure that we prioritise the acquisition of the vaccines for our citizens ,while at the same time increasing efforts to develop our own vaccines so that we can build herd immunity against the COVID-19 pandemic in West Africa,” he said.
He also urged the ECOWAS Commission, to work with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), to assist member states in acquiring the vaccines and storage facilities, ahead of the distribution of the vaccines within the region.
The President said efforts should also be accelerated for the production of rapid diagnostic test kits, of international standards in the region, to be made available to all member states.
”It is important for the region to evolve effective measures and avoid total lockdown at this critical time, that our economies are gradually recovering from the first wave of the pandemic”, he said, adding: ”The economic challenges that our region faces, because of the pandemic, will no doubt manifest this year,