Tinubu canvasses support for establishment of ECOWAS standby force

Tinubu canvasses support for establishment of ECOWAS standby force

President Bola Tinubu has called on Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS to work toward the establishment of a regional standby force for the security and economic advancement of the community.

He made the call during the opening of the 65th Ordinary Session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government on Sunday, in Abuja.

Tinubu, who is the Chairman of the regional bloc, also highlighted the expediency of a standby force in the face of growing security threats.

”The Regional Action Plan against Terrorism has enhanced cooperation on training, intelligence sharing, and humanitarian interventions.

”In addition to this, the Ministers of Finance and Defence met recently in Abuja to raise funds for activating the ECOWAS Standby Force to boost counter-terrorism efforts.

”Member countries are also displaying their commitment to combating insecurity by individually increasing their defence budgets in order to acquire necessary equipment and ensure preparedness,” the President said.

He urged member states to commit more to providing the needed resources for securing the region.

”Let me underscore that a peaceful and secure society is essential for achieving our potential.

”As we move to operationalise the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) in combating terrorism, I must emphasise that the success of this plan requires not only strong political will but also substantial financial resources.

”We must, therefore, ensure that we meet the expectations and recommendations set forth by our Ministers of Defence and Finance, in order to counter insecurity and stabilize our region,” the President added.

Tinubu advised ECOWAS leaders to leverage the capabilities of Nigeria’s National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which has been widely acknowledged as one of the best on the continent.

The President said his government had decided to make the NCTC a regional centre to enable all ECOWAS member states to benefit from capacity building and other related opportunities it offers.

He also advised the management of ECOWAS to re-align and reposition its priorities by reducing overheads and setting up in-country steering committees.

”Difficult economic conditions and inconsistent payment of financial commitments to ECOWAS have contributed to the current plight.

”To ensure ECOWAS has adequate resources for its programmes and activities, I urge all member states to ensure full compliance with the Protocol on the Community Levy.

”Nigeria, under my leadership, is committed to leading by example in remitting its collected levies to the organisation,” he said.

He added that the ECOWAS management must also reduce its overhead expenditures and focus on programmes and activities that directly impact the lives of citizens of the region.

”I am aware of the progress report on the implementation of the ECOWAS Institutional Reforms.

”I, therefore, call on the President of the ECOWAS Commission to resume and expedite the conclusion of the second phase of the Institutional Reforms, aimed at reducing the organization’s operational costs,” Tinubu said.

Tinubu said the 65th session would review the concerns in the region, adding: ”We are aware of the enormous challenges, including terrorist activities and violent extremism threatening to spread from the Sahel region towards the coastal states.

”The political landscape remains fragile in some member states, especially those that witnessed unconstitutional changes of government.”

While calling for unity within the community, the President emphasised that to elevate the people from poverty to prosperity, ECOWAS must develop innovative approaches to unleash the region’s vast economic potential.

In his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, thanked President Tinubu for his purposeful leadership, affirming that ECOWAS should not be defined by conflicts, elections, and coup d’états, but by development.

Touray said the exiting of ECOWAS by Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger would affect citizens of the countries, and other ECOWAS countries, following the need for visas, and the review of all trade and development agreements, including ongoing ECOWAS projects in those countries.