President Muhammadu Buhari has called on West African leaders to exert more pressure on the military leadership in Mali to ensure that the transition process in the country is not aborted.
The president’s position was contained in his address on Saturday at the 59th Ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in Accra, Ghana.
Mali was recently suspended from the regional bloc due to a military coup in the country.
Buhari, who spoke extensively on the Malian situation, said, “At this Summit today, we are expected to review a number of important reports dealing with various issues of concerns to our organisation and people. In doing so, we must take realistic and practical decisions, which will positively impact our citizens.
“Some of those decisions, necessarily, will have to do with evolving political and security situations in our sub-region as well as evaluate the health of our organisation with the hope of repositioning to serve our people and sub-region better.
“While democracy continues to develop in our sub-region, recent events in Mali are sad reminders that vigilance remains a crucial imperative to protect people’s aspirations to freely choose the form of government they want. Pressures are needed to ensure that the transition process in Mali, which is halfway to its conclusion, is not aborted.
“A further slide in Mali could prove catastrophic to the Sub-region, considering that about half of that country is, unfortunately, under the grip of terrorists.”
The president appealed to the military leadership in Mali to understand the critical state of their country, which he described as “clearly under siege”.
Noting that the principal responsibility of the military must be to protect and guarantee the sovereignty of the West African country, Buhari cautioned them not to perpetrate acts that could destabilise and destroy their country.
“I urge our organisation to remain engaged with all stakeholders in Mali through our astute mediator, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who, I congratulate warmly for his untiring efforts thus far. I encourage him to sustain these efforts to ensure that the transition is completed as scheduled,” the president added.
On Libya, Buhari faulted the recent United Nations resolution to expel all foreign fighters in Libya without first ensuring that they were disarmed.
He stated, “On the security situation in the region, our organisation must note with serious concern the recent decision by the United Nations and its Resolution to expel all foreign fighters in Libya without, first, ensuring that they are disarmed and that neighbouring countries and the Sub-regions were engaged, to put in place modalities for containing or managing the movement of these fighters.
“While this action was aimed at bringing about sustenance of peace in Libya, non-collaboration with regional stakeholders on this critical decision has now created newer threats to peace, security and stability in the region, which could lead to lack of coordinated management of huge humanitarian crisis across the Sahel, North, Central and West Africa, including the Lake Chad region.”
The president said these regions faced a clear possibility of instability with the invasion of the fully armed foreign fighters.
“It is imperative that ECOWAS leaders, at this Summit, decide how the UN-Sub-regional organisations partnerships should be reviewed to address the dangers that this UN Resolution poses to the region,” he stated.
The speech by the Nigerian president at the Summit also addressed other issues of concern in the organisation, including the on-going institutional reforms in ECOWAS. He declared Nigeria’s unequivocal support to the reform process, saying he looks forward to an ECOWAS that is “fit for purpose”, delivering services to the satisfaction of the community citizens.
Buhari commended the President of the Commission and his team, the Ad-hoc Ministerial Committee on Institutional Reforms, as well as the Council of Ministers for the excellent report presented to the Authority of Heads of State.
He said, “We have clearly realised that operating a bloated administration with the current global economic collapse occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic will be to the detriment of services to our people, which is not sustainable. This positive action will certainly enable our organisation move on and deliver services to the satisfaction of our Community citizens.
“Let me remind us that this is only the beginning as the responsibility of streamlining operational costs as well as the modalities for the appointment of statutory positions of the incoming management are still outstanding. It is my view that paying attention to existing regulations that guide the appointment of statutory appointees will further guarantee the efficiency and sustainability of the organisation.”
Deji Elumoye in Abuja