President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday called on West African leaders to exert pressure on the military leadership in Mali to ensure that the transition process in the country is not aborted.
He made the call in his statement delivered at the 59th Ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in Accra, Ghana.
The Nigerian leader spoke on the situation in Mali which was recently suspended from the regional bloc due to a military coup.
“At this Summit today, we are expected to review several important reports dealing with various issues of concerns to our organization and people. In doing so, we must take realistic and practical decisions which will positively impact our citizens,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu.
President Buhari added, “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 organization 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 Nigerian leader, therefore, appealed to the military leadership in Mali to understand the critical state of their country, which he described as being ‘clearly under siege’.
Noting that the principal responsibility of the military must be to protect and guarantee the sovereignty of the West African country, the President cautioned them not to perpetrate acts that would facilitate the destabilization and destruction of Mali.
“I urge our organization 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,” he said.
In Libya, President Buhari faulted the recent United Nations Resolution to expel all foreign fighters, without first ensuring that they were disarmed.
He lamented that while the decision was aimed at bringing about the sustenance of peace in Libya, non-collaboration with regional stakeholders has created newer threats to peace, security, and stability in the region.
The President warned that this could lead to a lack of coordinated management of huge humanitarian crises across the Sahel, North, Central, and West Africa, including the Lake Chad region.
He said, “It is imperative that ECOWAS leaders, at this Summit, decide how the UN-Sub-regional organization’s partnerships should be reviewed to address the dangers that this UN Resolution poses to the region.”
The statement by the Nigerian leader at the Summit also addressed other pertinent issues of concern in the organization, including the ongoing institutional reforms in ECOWAS.
Declaring Nigeria’s unequivocal support to the reforms process, he said he looked forward to an ECOWAS that would be ‘fit for purpose’, delivering services to the satisfaction of the community citizens.
He 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.
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In his capacity as the ECOWAS champion on the fight against COVID-19, President Buhari also drew attention to the need for more citizens in the region to be vaccinated, stressing the need for adherence to other non-pharmaceutical interventions.
He said the West African region was in the grip of a third wave, warning against complacency in national and regional initiatives to address the pandemic.
President Buhari reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to the noble objectives of the organization, saying, “I encourage us to take bolder steps towards ensuring that the organization fulfills the aspirations of its founding fathers, which include a truly integrated sub-region, economically, politically, socio-culturally united and secured to permit its sustainable development and growth.”