President Goodluck Jonathan has told the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), that this is the time to stop the movement of youths from the sub-region to Europe through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea, which has resulted is several avoidable deaths.
He made the call in his farewell address to fellow leaders during the 47th meeting of the Authority which took place at the International Conference Centre, Accra, Ghana on Tuesday, urging them to look into the issue at the next African Union meeting in June, even though he won’t be there with them.
The President, who received a standing ovation from colleagues during the close door session said, “Your Excellencies, while we are making real progress in many core areas, there are issues that require our attention. In the past few years, we have witnessed a growing wave of young men and women from our sub-region undertaking very perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
“The phenomenon, given its hazardous nature, has claimed many lives and assumed humanitarian crisis.
“ECOWAS in the first instance, should earnestly address this problem. I also urge that this matter be tabled at the forthcoming 24th Summit of the African Union in June in South Africa. At the level of member states, we should take necessary action to address the root causes of the crisis.”
The President regretted that some ECOWAS countries did not adhere to agreements reached as many important decisions have not been upheld.
He cited as example the agreement to present one candidate for the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) where there are now four candidates from the sub-region.
He stated: “Occasionally, our decision-making mechanisms which should, naturally, inform our consensual positions on matters that touch on our collective and sub-regional interests is not always upheld.
“Occasionally, our solidarity seems to face severe tests in the face of individual discretions on critical issues. I recall here our disparate positions and actions at crucial moments on the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire in 2011, and also, the choice of a candidate for the post of President of the African Union in 2012.
“Again, at our last session in Abuja, it was resolved, after due deliberations, that ECOWAS should adopt a single candidate for the post of President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
“Today, we have no less than four candidates from our sub-region alone vying for the post as against four candidates representing the other four regions of the continent. Our experience with the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) is yet another example.
“This recurring disposition elicits negative signals from our partners and other regions of the continent. It goes against the grain of the solidarity we all too often, display in dealing with other challenges. We must rise above it in the larger interest of our sub-region.”
Jonathan urged them to extend the same support they gave him to his successor, General Muhammadu Buhari who will take office on May 29.
“Your Excellencies, as you are no doubt aware, this is the last Summit that I will be attending as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In 10 days time, precisely on the 29th of this month, my successor, President-elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, will assume the mantle of leadership of my country.
“I feel deeply satisfied that the tree of democracy planted in my country and in our sub-region, has taken roots and is blossoming. I have, no doubt whatsoever, that under the watchful guidance and nurturing of Your Excellencies, that tree will continue to bear abundant fruits.
“Let me, therefore, seize the opportunity to express my profound appreciation for the understanding and cooperation that you accorded me all these years, especially during my tenure as the chairman of our organisation between 2010-2012.
“The personal rapport and chemistry that I have enjoyed with each one of you, my brother and sister Presidents greatly facilitated the decisions that we were able to take and the concrete measures we took on behalf of our sub-region.
“As the new administration takes over, I am confident that the bonds of friendship between Nigeria and each member states of our cherished organisation and Nigeria’s role within ECOWAS, will grow even stronger. I urge you all to extend the same friendship and fraternal cooperation that I have received from you to my successor.”
Recalling some of his activities as a key member of the sub-regional body, the President said: “I recall that as acting president, I became the chairman of ECOWAS in 2010. This was a unique honour from my colleagues for which I remain grateful. The first challenge that we confronted was the situation in Niger.
“Happily, through dogged efforts on our part, we were able to resolve it and the country returned to democratic rule. General Salou Djibo who oversaw the return to constitutional rule in Niger is today a student at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna State.
“In Cote d’Ivoire, ECOWAS followed through in its commitment to enduring democracy by standing firm behind the winner of the presidential elections in 2010. We are pleased that our brother, President Alassane Ouattara took his rightful place and went on not only to provide leadership to his country, but also as chairman of ECOWAS.
“Similarly, in both Guinea and Guinea Bissau, we remained focused on the goal of ensuring that viable political solutions were found for the political and security challenges that they were experiencing.
“That peace and stability and democratic governance have returned to these brotherly countries underscore our commitment to finding viable solutions to the problems of our Sub-region.”