The Presidents of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have expressed concern over growing terrorism and piracy in West Africa sub-region, even as they called on member nations to pay up their commitments to the fund set aside to fight terrorism in the region.
A communique issued on Monday after the 58th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which was held on 23 January 2021 via videoconference, under the chairmanship of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, and Chair of the Authority, stated that the act of terrorist attacks in frontline countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, despite the intense efforts deployed by these countries, has become worrisome.
It further noted with concern the increased spate of attacks, in the form of reprisals, against the civilian population as seen in the case of the attack perpetrated in Nigeria by Boko Haram on 29 November 2020, in the vicinity of Maiduguri, in Borno State, during which dozens of farmers and fishermen were killed, and in Niger, on 2 January 2021, when armed individuals killed around 100 people in attacks on two villages in the Tillabéri region along the border with Mali.
The Authority while reaffirming its determination to relentlessly combat this scourge, condemned the terrorist attacks in the region, and expressed solidarity with the affected member states and populations.
It deemed imperative the diligent and effective implementation of the 2020 – 2024 Action Plan to eradicate terrorism in the region, appreciating the contribution of Ghana and Nigeria to the Fund dedicated for the Plan but however appealed to all member countries to pay up their pledges in other to eradicate terrorism.
In the light of this, Ghana’s President and Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, were appointed to lead the financial and technical resource mobilisation efforts.
The presidents also expressed worry over maritime security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea, noting that the significant contribution of maritime activities to the economic and social development of member states in the region is jeopardize with the increase in the number of illegal activities at sea, including maritime piracy, toxic waste dumping, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
They urged member states to fully implement the measures adopted at national, regional and continental levels to ensure maritime security and safety in the Gulf of Guinea.
They also called on member states to ratify the African Charter on Maritime Security and Safety (Lome Charter), adopted on 15 October 2016, and promote maritime cooperation among themselves, urging host countries of the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centres (MMCCs) and the West African Regional Maritime Security Centre (CRESMAO), to make the necessary administrative and logistics arrangements to ensure the full operationalisation of the Centres, including the provision of accommodation for international staff deployed to the maritime centres in their respective countries.
They however welcome the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 1st January 2021 and ratification of the agreement by 12 out of the 15 ECOWAS member states, calling on member states that are yet to ratify the Agreement to accelerate the process of ratification in order to promote harmonious trade liberalisation in the region and maintain the integrity of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff.
They Instructed the Commission to continue to support member states in the development and implementation of national strategies for adaptation to the rules of the AfCFTA, while ensuring their consistency with the regional strategy developed to that effect;
They also urged the Commission to continue advocacy campaigns in member states to ensure greater involvement of all stakeholders (governments, private sector and civil society); and Instruct the Commission to continue to coordinate the positions and approaches of member states in negotiations under the AfCFTA.
The Head of Government however endorsed the Declaration on Zero Tolerance for Sexual and Gender Based Violence and the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women and Girls in the ECOWAS region, advocation for the promotion of cooperation and collaboration across national borders between ECOWAS member states and third countries, with a view to preventing and combating this scourge.
They congratulate the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the reopening of its land borders with its neighbours and also calls on member states to continue their efforts in the effective implementation of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment.