As 50th Assembly Opens in Abuja, ECOWAS Chair Challenges Colleagues to Transform the Sub-regional Organization from ECOWAS of States to ECOWAS of People

Saturday, 17th December 2016

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Abuja, Nigeria-Saturday, December 17, 2016: The President of Liberia and Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has challenged her colleagues to continue to transform the sub-regional organization from what she called "ECOWAS of States to ECOWAS of People” so as to continue to enjoy the respect of the international community.

According to a dispatch from Abuja, Nigeria, President Sirleaf made the call when she delivered the opening address of the 50th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Abuja, the seat of the ECOWAS Commission.

She reminded the Assembly about her pledge at the Dakar ECOWAS Summit to tackle institutional reform as one major priority during her tenure as Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority and confirmed that the President of the ECOWAS Commission is taking strong actions to rationalize the structure of the Commission and to contain cost through more efficient financial management and effective use of resources consistent with the current economic situation.

President Sirleaf stressed that the reform process is driven by Maxwell Stamp consultants, who have proposed concrete reform processes to decentralize functions and introduce business-like services, which are consistent with the institution’s vision of providing services that impact lives of community citizens.

“We commend the decision of the Commission’s President to embark on Phase II of the deliverables of the Maxwell Stamp Report dealing job classifications and staffing needs,” she indicated.

She noted that the success of regional integration rests largely with the collective resolve of ECOWAS to fully implement the protocol on free movement of people and goods.

The Liberian President congratulated Benin, Niger, Cape Verde and Ghana on recent peaceful, free, fair and transparent democratic elections held in each country and further noted the successful referendum held in Cote d’Ivoire and the spirit of national renewal which has been integrated into its body politic.

The ECOWAS Chairperson also reported on the political situation in Guinea Bissau and the Gambia. She briefed her colleagues about a presidential mission, which was headed by her, and included the Presidents of Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana as well as Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas of the United Nations.

She applauded the innovation of Guinea’s President, Professor Alpha Conde and the people in the political class of his country for embracing the Guinean Political Dialogue Reform, which has deepened inclusiveness and opened opportunities for the ordinary citizens to be a part of the Guinean governance process.

The Liberian leader noted the recent Burkina Faso Donor Conference held in Paris to support the country’s economic recovery program for sustainable growth and development and regretted a terrorist attack on the security forces in Burkina Faso yesterday.

President Sirleaf expressed concern about Boko Haram recurring attacks in Nigeria and other countries of the Lake Chad Basin as well as regarding terrorist attacks on civilians and military targets in Mali.

In Mali, she said the negative impact of the attack does not take away from the significant progress of President Keita and his government in the implementation of the Malian Peace and Reconciliation Agreements. She also acknowledged the Strategic Security Intervention formulated by the Chiefs of Defense Staff of ECOWAS at recent regional meetings to address terrorist attacks.

The Liberian leader expressed appreciation to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H. E. Marcel Alain de Souza, Vice President, Mr. Edward Singharty for their dedication and commitment, and to the Commissioners, and staff for their steadfastness.

She briefed the Assembly on her visit to the ECOWAS Commission, the Community Court and Parliament. “The visit provided me an opportunity to better understand the internal workings of the Commission and other principal community institution. I left pleased and encouraged, with deeper insight into the operations of the Commission”, President Sirleaf noted.

President Sirleaf also expressed gratitude to President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Mr. Muhammadu Buhari for the warm hospitality and facilities put at her disposal on her recent visit and for her work as the current Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority and since taking over as Chairperson.

Speaking earlier, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari welcomed the ECOWAS leaders to Abuja and congratulated the leaders of Ghana, Cape Verde and others for the holding of successful democratic elections.

He pointed that ECOWAS should be proud of its achievements, particularly in convention management and prevention and the combat against terrorism.

President Buhari also noted that efforts are required to improve domestic resource mobilization and requested the community to invest in infrastructure and human capacity development.

“We must make ECOWAS to be responsive to global challenges because we are an envy of other regional organizations. We must also entrust the ECOWAS Parliament with more functions,” he emphasized.

Also speaking, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Mr. Marcel Alain de Souza welcomed the West African leaders and thanked Presidents Sirleaf and Buhari for their tremendous support to the Commission.

He commended President Sirleaf for her visit to the ECOWAS Commission, the first in recent history and provided updates on various activities of the Commission. Mr. de Souza indicated that the sub-region was not spared of the global financial crisis and reflected on the general economic situation in the region.

For his part, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr., Mohammed Ibn Chambas, expressed support for the intervention in the Sahel and committed that the United Nations support to ECOWAS in confronting transnational crimes.

He also expressed concern about the current political situation in The Gambia and promised to support ECOWAS in efforts aimed at resolving the crisis.