ECOWAS ministers meet to discuss region’s challenges, solutions



 The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Ministers has listed reviewing thematic issues concerning the region as one area of focus during its ongoing 87th ordinary session.

Mr Zubairu Dada, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said this on Thursday in Abuja at the opening of the bloc’s 87th ordinary session.

According to Dada, the council of ministers meeting remains a very important platform to discuss and review thematic issues in the region in order to advise ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments as appropriate.

“Indeed this year’s agenda is a testament to the commitment of ECOWAS and its institutions as well as members in the development of the region in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At this august gathering, we will consider as we did in the past several issues affecting critical areas of the community through reports and memoranda that have been placed on our agenda.

“This meeting is also expected to adopt guidelines, protocols and revised draft supplementary act on the community levy, customs union, among other critical issues,” he said.

The minister of state urged the council to discuss the issues with open mind towards finding sustainable solutions to the numerous challenges bedeviling the region, “especially the new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, humanitarian services, climate change and youth unemployment.”

“The interest of the citizens of our community is paramount.

“So we must be seen to articulate positions that will advance the achievement, economic intervention and development in our region.”

Dada urged the management of ECOWAS to continue to work toward the implementation of policies, guidelines, projects and programmes meant to improve the effectiveness of the organisation.

He also urged institutions of ECOWAS to be prudent in the management of the community’s resources to achieve the fundamental objectives of the regional body.

Mrs Shirley Botchwey, Chairperson, ECOWAS Council of Ministers called on member states to build resilience against terrorism, health crises, and climate change to advance regional integration in West Africa.

Botchwey, also Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration said 2021 had been a particularly busy year at the regional level, with several extraordinary councils of ministers and summits.

This, she said, indicated that the region was faced with challenges which all organs and institutions of the community are working assiduously to address.

“In order to advance our regional integration agenda and transform the lives of community citizens, we need to continue to build resilience and enhance our integration programme.

“This is particularly necessary with respect to the following threats: The health crisis of the Coronavirus which persists and has completely changed our way of life.

“With the new variant and the risk of a new wave and several countries closing their borders, we must rely more than ever on our regional solidarity.

“The recurrence of terrorist attacks in the frontline countries of the Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria) with its many victims.

“And to which the response at this time is the diligent implementation of our plan of action against terrorism to support and complement national efforts”, she said.

The chairperson said by working together on all the issues confronting the region, the prospects for success were significantly enhanced and would create the conditions for a thriving region.

According to her, the ECOWAS region has recorded significant achievements in the area of democracy and governance.

She also said the recent elections in Cabo Verde and The Gambia, after those of Niger and Benin, were examples of the dynamism of the region’s democracy.

She however, said the breaches in constitutional order in Guinea and Mali have undermined the progress of the region and pose significant risks.

“In this regard, the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS have taken very strong measures to ensure the restoration of constitutional order in those countries,” Botchwey said.

Also, Dr Jean-Claude Brou, President, ECOWAS Commission said ECOWAS would continue to work toward the betterment of the region for community citizens.

Brou decried the insecurity, new strain of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and political instability in some member states. (NAN)