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Don’t despair in midst of COVID-19 – President urges ECOWAS members

BY: Donald Ato Dapatem

The Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has asked member states not to be despaired in the face of the devastating effect of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the continent.

Rather, he said, they must learn lessons from such calamities by becoming self-reliant and also strengthening their bonds of unity and solidarity to battle the virus.

“The COVID-19 has provided us with the avenue to be self-reliant, and it is also a clarion call for us to remain faithful to the main objective of ECOWAS, which is to promote cooperation and integration for the well-being of our citizens,” the President added.

President Akufo-Addo was addressing the 58th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government last Saturday via video conferencing from the Jubilee House with his colleagues in their home countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the two-day summit, the leaders considered the report of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and also deliberated on the political, economic, social and other issues affecting the region.

Resilience

President Akufo-Addo said members of the regional bloc had shown considerable resilience and solidarity since the outbreak of the pandemic, as evidenced in the decisions taken at an extraordinary summit on April 23, 2020 which, he said, had helped to contain the spread of the virus in the region.

He expressed appreciation to the ‘ECOWAS Champion’, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, for his fight against COVID-19 through the provision of medicines and equipment and the deployment of human resource to various member countries.

Challenges

The President said the subregion continued to face security challenges, such as deadly terrorist attacks in Mali, north-eastern Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger.

He condemned the attacks and expressed the condolences of the subregional bloc to affected countries and the families of victims, adding that such occurrences must reinforce the conviction of member countries to pursue the implementation of the decisions taken at their extraordinary summit on terrorism held on September 14, 2019.

“This concerted effort, which must be a major priority objective of the community, is the best way for us to collectively address the security challenges, and give ourselves the means to ensure the security of the populations of our community. Our dignity and our sovereignty are at stake,” he added.

Commendation

President Akufo-Addo commended member states who were making efforts to contribute to the $1 billion ECOWAS Regional Security Fund (ERSF) to support the 2020-2024 Anti-terrorism Action Plan of the body.

According to him, West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) countries committed to contribute $500 million, while Nigeria also pledged $350 million, leaving a balance of $150 million for the six remaining countries and other sources to top up.

He said so far, $100 million out of the $500 million pledged by the UEMOA countries had been disbursed directly to Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to assist them in their anti-terrorism activities, adding that “we are yet to be informed of the status of the balance of the pledge”.

Ghana, he said, had pledged $50 million over a five-year period, out of which $10 million would go into the fund and the remaining $40 million for the enforcement of its border security against potential terrorist incursions.

“Half of the $10 million, that is, $5 million, has been paid by Ghana into the ESRF account and confirmation of transfer instructions for this payment has been received,” he said.

 AfCFTA

President Akufo-Addo further urged member countries to remain focused on the implementation of its programmes and projects to ensure the well-being of their people.

“We can best attain this objective by strengthening our regional integration. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which began trading on January 1, this year, presents us with additional opportunities to reach our objectives.

“The AfCFTA, as we all know, is arguably the most important initiative launched by the African Union. We all have a duty to ensure its success,” he added.