President Muhammadu Buhari has praised past and current leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for their contributions to the development of the sub-region to its present enviable status.
President Buhari, who made the commendation at the 40th anniversary of ECOWAS in Abuja on Thursday, expressed gratitude to the founding fathers of the Community.
According to him, the achievement of ECOWAS’ common external tariff and trade liberation scheme is a vital sign post in the convergence for a common currency regime.
“Records and reality on the ground indicated that considerable progress had been achieved.
“We have gone beyond the protocol on free movement of persons and goods, realizing incrementally the harmonization of trade and our customs codes.
“The achievement of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff and Trade Liberalisation Scheme is a vital sign post in the convergence criteria required for our Common Currency regime.
“Our people can now reside in and freely move from one country to another in our region without the stress of visas, thanks to the Protocol on Free Movement that was signed in 1979; and the region’s infrastructure deficit has been substantially reduced.
“These and many other achievements are clear indication of the community’s resolve to shift emphasis to economic integration, while still keeping focus on peace and security, another area where tremendous achievements were also recorded.
“It would be recalled that ECOWAS demonstrated commitment and leadership in the successful resolution of the crises in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau.”
He, however, stated that the community has a lot more work to do in the realization of the community’s integration processes as well as attracting foreign capital to the region.
President Buhari, particularly, enjoined the member states to boost power supply in their respective countries to create additional employment opportunities for unemployed youths.
He also urged them to accelerate the provision of critical infrastructure such as the West African Gas Pipeline project while remaining committed to the promotion of alternative and renewable energy sources.
The President also stressed the need to encourage intra-regional trade among member states to generate more employment opportunities in the region.
“We need to fast track the integration process, and the most effective way to do so is through accelerated and focused investments in key development sectors including but not limited to energy, transportation, as well as road and rail networks.
“We should therefore push existing initiatives and adopt new ones. Insufficient power supply has been identified as a major obstacle to investments in the region.
“As we make individual efforts to boost power supply in our respective countries, we should accelerate the implementation of critical infrastructure such as the West African gas pipeline project, while remaining committed to the promotion of alternative and renewable energy sources.
“Urgent steps need to be taken to encourage intra – regional trade among member states in order to boost employment generation and trade relations.”
On mitigating the effect of climate change in the continent, Buhari spoke of the need for the community to continue to synchronize its actions with that of other African countries through the African Union.
He urged them to work closely with the rest of the world to reduce global warming without compromising their industrial development drives.
The highpoint of the event was the presentation of Biometric Identity Cards to Heads of State and Government by the President of ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo.
The event also witnessed the inauguration of the 40th Anniversary Stamp and presentation of Plague to former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon by the Chairman of Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, Macky Sall Diouf of Senegal.
The participants at the event, including the Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS, congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari on his 73th birthday with a song.