By Temitope Ponle
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called for investment in conflict prevention in member states, as it put its overall estimated cost at over 2.6 billion dollars.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, said this in his address on the Status of Implementation of the Community Work Programmes at the ongoing First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja on Wednesday.
Touray said that deploying the ECOWAS Standby Force to fight against terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government in the region had expensive options.
“On the regional action against terrorism, we have been advised by experts from the national security agencies to prioritise the deployment of assistance to existing regional arrangements such.
” Among the arrangements are the Accra Initiative, the G5 Sahel, and the Multinational Joint Task Force, all within the framework of the ECOWAS Action Plan.
“The Concept of Operations for the deployment of ECOWAS Standby Forces to fight against terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government has two options.
“Option one provides for a Brigade of 5,000 personnel with its structure, composition, and the necessary logistics to conduct kinetic operations. Its estimated annual cost is USD2,253,862,306.00.
“Option two consists of the deployment of critical capabilities in support of affected member states upon request with an estimated annual cost of USD352,833,334.00. The overall estimated cost is USD2,606,695,640.
“This shows the cost involved in security and reminds us of the need to invest in conflict prevention.”
The president also said the commission was working with the national commissions on small arms in the region’s efforts to tackle the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
He, however, said the Authority of Heads of State and Government gave directive regarding enhancing the role of the ECOWAS Standby Force for deployment to fight terrorism and anti-constitutional changes in government.
In his response to questions raised by some parliamentarians on the security situation, Touray said there were a number of drivers including terrorism, unconstitutional change of government, organised crime, armed rebellion, environmental crisis, among others.
“These drivers account for the food insecurity our region is facing. So, food insecurity goes hand in hand with general insecurity.
“In my view, certainly, we are not self sufficient in food but our inability to provide food security is mainly related to the insecurity that we are facing in the area of peace.
“To summarise, we have indicated that we are working to revitalise our regional standby force so that they can support member states to respond to the threats of terrorism as well as threats posed by unconstitutional change of government.”
Also speaking on human development and social affairs, he said the key actions undertaken were in the areas of food security, education, voluntary return of migrants, human security.
Moreso, he said ECOWAS, together with all its regional and international partners, had provided responses to food and nutrition insecurity in 2022 and the first quarter of 2023.
He said this was done specifically in seven countries, namely Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Chad.
“In addition to the use of stocks from the Regional Food Security Reserve, nearly 1.1 million dollars, or 66 per cent of the total projected budget of 1.64 billion dollars of the response plans that were prepared by the member states in July 2022, has been mobilised.
“As a result, as of 30 March 2023, unfortunately, despite good production, about 29.5 million people needed emergency food and nutritional assistance.
“If appropriate measures are not taken, this figure could rise to 42.5 million people during the lean season between June and August 2023.
“In addition, 107.5 million people are estimated to be food insecure and could, therefore, fall into crisis in the event of shocks, notably in Nigeria (64 million), Niger (7.3 million) and Burkina Faso (5.1 million).
“The nutrition crisis also persists in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad, where nearly 16.5 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition.”
Touray further said the increasing trend of needs and the scarcity of resources to finance these response plans had continued.
He, however, said the situation reminded the region of the urgency of changing the paradigm in the management of food and nutrition issues by all actors.
The commission’s president said this should be done by implementing an intervention approach based on the “Humanitarian-Peace-Development” Nexus in the fragile zone. (NAN)