President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government to take urgent action to stop illegal migration from the West African sub region.
Preaident Buhari’s call is sequel to the horrible situation of Nigerian illegal migrants to Europe, who are stranded in Libya, coupled with reports that some were allegedly sold for $400 recently.
Making the call during the 52nd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Abuja, President Buhari said a proper mechanism should be put in place for the evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of ECOWAS citizens stranded abroad.
He noted that in West Africa, citizens live in constant threat of violent terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, AQIM and Al-Qaida.
The president added that nearly every week, “we see and hear the horror of human trafficking perpetrated by trans-border syndicates, who lure our youths to slavery through irregular migration.”
President Buhari further said, “We see the consequences on our young men and women and on our economies, of drug trafficking and capital flight.”
“Accordingly, it is imperative that we take urgent action to address these challenges.
“In collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration, we, in Nigeria, have been evacuating our compatriots who are stranded in Libya.
“Returnees have been receiving needed support, including from state governments and some non-governmental organisations.
“I have instructed the National Emergency Management Agency to speed up the evacuation of all Nigerians stranded in Libya and facilitate their resettlement,” Buhari said.
President Buhari further said in view of the enormity of the challenge, he was of the opinion that a mechanism be put in place for the evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS citizens abroad.
“In view of the enormity of this challenge, may I suggest that we look into the possibility of putting in place, a well-runned regional mechanism for the evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS citizens abroad.
“Meanwhile, we should step up dialogue with our European partners in our efforts to jointly address this challenge which affect us all.
“The long term solutions to these challenges is to create conditions of peace and security in our countries and sustainable development of our economies.
“Only through this can we create jobs and other conditions in which our youths will have little or no excuse to embark on the suicidal venture of irregular migration,” Buhari added.
The president regretted the growing reluctance from the region’s development partners to be more proactive in support of its efforts.
The president however said the West African region’s shared challenges make it imperative for the cooperation to be developed and intensified.
“Thanks to the foresight of our predecessors, this Authority of Heads of State and Government adopted in 2001, the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. Since then, our region has been steadily developing the culture of democratic practice, including good governance and respect for the rule of law.
“This trend has just been demonstrated in Liberia. I salute the people of Liberia for the manner in which they conducted themselves during and in the aftermath of the just concluded general elections.
“It is my fervent hope that the same attitude prevails in the coming run-off election scheduled to hold on December 26, and a new president is inaugurated in January, 2018, as per the provision of the country’s constitution,” the president stated.
The president also appreciated the leadership demonstrated in Liberia by its President, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, with regards to the country’s electoral process.
He also appealed to the people of Togo to continue to embrace dialogue in efforts to resolve their political differences, even as he bemoaned the political situation in Guinea-Bissau.
“I therefore urge the government to widen the space for dialogue and mediation.
“With regards to our sister nation, Guinea-Bissau, it is worrisome that the continued political deadlock is taking its toll on the people, on good governance and the resources of member states, particularly troops from contributing countries to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau.
“I therefore strongly urge all the stakeholders in Guinea Bissau to respect their undertakings in plans to resolve the political impasse.
On the economic front, Buhari said in the wake of the recent recession and economic challenges faced by ECOWAS member states as evidenced by the severe drop in real growth rate for ECOWAS from 6.1 percent in 2014 and 3.3 percent in 2015, to an alarming rate of 0.2 percent in 2016, there was an urgent need to review the spending patterns of all the ECOWAS institutions to ensure that dwindling resources were put to good economic use for the optimization of strategic goals of ECOWAS.
“In this regard, I urge the commission leadership to practice probity and accountability in the management of our resources.
“Equally important is the need to consolidate the efforts made so far on the ongoing reform of ECOWAS institutions and specialized agencies, and to emphasize the importance of good governance, sound financial management and cost reduction as the underlying factors for a successful reform.
“In this regard, Nigeria welcomes the approved institutional reforms of our organisation, and we are looking forward to their comprehensive implementation. The gains and savings made should be invested on greater integration projects, as well as on security and development initiatives,” the President said.
In his remarks, President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel De Souza, said the economic difficulty experienced in the region occasioned by fall in commodity prices, effects of climate change and terrorists activities, had an impact on the performance of the regional organisation.
The ECOWAS Commission President, however, noted the bold recovery by member countries, particularly, Nigeria.
He said with Nigeria’s emergence from recession, the ECOWAS region was expected to grow by an average of 2.2 percent.
“In principle, countries that faced decline in 2016, recovered in 2017 and we hope they will do even better in 2018, with growth rates of up to 2.6 percent, thanks to exports and improved world prices for raw materials and demand,” the ECOWAS Commission president said.