President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday assured that Nigeria remains steadfastly committed to supporting peace and stability in the West African Region, in the belief that a politically stable West Africa will safeguard the vital interests of all our peoples and be a viable partner in the search for global peace.
President Jonathan gave this assurance at the 46thOrdinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government here in Abuja.
He said it was gratifying that West Africa today is one of the fastest growing regions in Africa, recording an economic growth rate of an average of 7% in 2013 compared to 6.6% in 2012.
According to him, “In this regard should be glad that our region is also acknowledged as a leading investment destination in Africa following the rising inflow of Foreign Direct Investment in the recent past.
“This situation is a result of our huge market and various integration programmes that continue to attract regional and foreign investors. The ECOWAS Commission should continue to coordinate the full implementation of the various economic integration programs of the Community in order to fast track the economic development of our region in the years ahead.
“While acknowledging that many achievements may have been recorded in the area of democracy and economic growth, I must also admit that our sub-region continues to face many serious challenges. Prominent among these challenges before us today is the ravaging Ebola epidemic. The last six (6) months have witnessed the negative impact of the Ebola Virus Disease(EVD) on the region.
“ Since its outbreak in March, this year, the disease has resulted in over seven thousand (7,000) deaths apart from negatively impacting our economies. I, therefore, call on member-states as well as our development partners and the international community, at large, to contribute generously to the ECOWAS Regional Solidarity funds to fight the Ebola Virus Disease.
“Equally worrisome, Your Excellencies is the rising scourge of terrorism which now threatens the peace and security of our sub-region. In the Sahel Region, we have witnessed the increasing proliferation of small arms and light weapons. As a result, countries in the region are today threatened by insurgents and terrorists. Their actions have dire consequences for the continuing peace, stability and prosperity of the region.
“In the Gulf of Guinea, the increasing incidence of piracy has reached a worrisome dimension. This is compounded by drug trafficking, oil bunkering and human trafficking. All of these require urgent and concerted actions from all of us. Nigeria calls for stronger and more effective regional, continental and global alliance to rid our region of terrorism, piracy and violent extremism.
“ As we prepare to mark the 40th anniversary celebration of our community in 2015, we must not forget that beyond politics, the economic development and integration of our region must remain the fundamental objective of our Organisation. We must, therefore, accelerate our efforts toward monetary union by striving to meet the convergence criteria and achieving the harmonization of tariff regimes.
“Internally, within the Community Institutions, there is an urgent need for structural reforms in order to enhance capacity and improve transparency. Activities of our Organisation must conform to global best practices to strengthen confidence and assure growth. More importantly, we must diversify our revenue base and reduce our imports in the face of rapid changes in the global arena. It cannot continue to be business as usual, if our Organisation is to fulfill the vision of our founding fathers.
“Our Organisation has been universally acclaimed as a model in regional integration. It is my hope that we would be able to sustain this standard and continue to demonstrate our cohesiveness. We must act and continue to speak with one voice as a region. Of the five regions of Africa, West Africa has the highest number of Member-States of our continental organization, the African Union. This is an important leverage for us. We must utilize it and exploit it to advance the overall interest of the region.
“Finally, I wish to reiterate the avowed commitment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the core integration objectives of our Organisation. We will not relent in their pursuit. I call upon all member-states to work together and to serve our Organisation faithfully, especially in these challenging times for our region and continent.”