By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has stressed the need to review the ECOWAS Treaty in order to make the regional organisation more responsive to new national, regional and global challenges.
The president made the call at the opening of the 50th Ordinary Session of the Authority and Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, held in Abuja on Saturday.
He also called for the speedy conclusion of the reforms of all ECOWAS institutions to put ECOWAS on a much stronger footing and to prepare member nations for the challenges of such Institutional reforms.
President Buhari also stressed the need to make conscious efforts to improve on governance and accountability at all levels.
“We also need to make conscious efforts to improve on Governance and accountability at all levels.
“This calls for the speedy conclusion of the reforms of all ECOWAS institutions to put ECOWAS on a much stronger footing and prepare us for the challenges of such Institutional reforms.
“To this end, we should ensure that priority is given to the implementation of development programmes, while the ECOWAS Parliament should be entrusted with more functions.
“In addition, the cost of governance must be reduced across all ECOWAS Institutions while resources should be devoted to programmes and projects that will have direct bearing on the lives of ordinary citizenry and create jobs fast enough to absorb our teeming youth population.
“In this regard, it is necessary that measures be taken to review the ECOWAS Treaty in order to make ECOWAS responsive to new national, regional and global challenges.
On economic integration, Buhari observed that the modest achievements in regional integration were being challenged by globalisation.
According to him, most member countries continue to record low volume of trade, occasioned by declining level of economic activities, caused by the sharp fall in commodity prices.
He said: “While oil prices fell by an astounding 57 percent between June 2014 and January 2015, other commodity prices have also weakened sharply thereby putting pressure on the current account and fiscal balances of our countries.
“This ugly situation demands that we diversify our respective economies from commodities into other sectors such as banking, construction and telecommunications and most importantly agro–processing, manufacturing and services.
“As we adjust to a more challenging globalised environment, stronger efforts are required to increase domestic revenue mobilisation in our countries and Community Institutions.”
He said that Member States must diversify their economies away from trade in commodities towards developing robust infrastructure that would support manufacturing and industrialisation.
Buhari, therefore, urged the Community to invest more in infrastructure and human resources so as to unleash the potentials that exist in our respective economies and in our peoples.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 15 member states of the ECOWAS are currently attending the summit with The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso being represented by their foreign ministers, while Cape Verde is being represented by Ambassador of Senegal to Nigeria.
The summit will be discussing behind closed doors, the political situation in Gambia and Guinea Bissau while the 2016 Annual Report of the President of the ECOWAS Commission (Report of the 77th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers would be presented and considered).
The Report of 37th Session of the Mediation and Security, date and venue of the 51st Ordinary Session of the Authority as well as signing of Community Acts and Decisions will be discussed and considered at the summit