The Nigerian government on Saturday demands the immediate restructuring of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, as the current structure is “totally unsustainable.”
President Muhammadu Buhari made the demand by Nigeria known in his presentation to the virtual 58th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, in Abuja on Saturday
“A situation where ECOWAS has 23 statutory appointees, of which 13 are Commissioners for this Commission, is totally unsustainable”, the president said.
Nigeria, the most prominent of the 15-member regional body, with over 200 million population and gross domestic product (GDP) of $448.1billion, accounts for about 65 percent of its funding obligation.
The total population of ECOWAS is about 376.8million and aggregate GDP of $614.9billion.
Despite the huge financial burden, apart from being the host of key ECOWAS institutions, including the Secretariat and the ECOWAS Court, Nigeria routinely ignored in the sharing of political powers of the group, as smaller member countries with lesser contributions appear to be in control.
President Buhari demand for the restructuring of the Commission and streamlining of its management and organizational processes to align with current realities appears to suggest the country is fed up with being relegated and made to play a second fiddle in the scheme of affairs in the group.
In his speech, President Buhari stressed the need for a lean and compact leadership in the ECOWAS Commission to enhance the efficiency and performance of the organization.
He said the call for the restructuring of the Commission would eliminate overlapping roles and responsibilities; curb the tussle between the large statutory appointees, and reduce personnel and overhead costs that could be channeled to the execution of projects for the benefit of the people.
“The African Union, our larger continental organization of 55 members, has pruned down its commissioners to only six. Hence, there’s no basis whatsoever, for ECOWAS, with only 15 members, to maintain 13 commissioners and 10 other statutory appointees.
“Accordingly, Nigeria recommends the immediate appointment of a ministerial ad hoc committee to review the proposal of the Maxwells Temp Report and submit a recommendation, at the mid-year summit for our consideration and adoption.
“If, however, some countries are not in favour of this, then each country must sponsor its own statutory appointee as is practiced by other organizations, such as the European Union and other regional organizations”, President Buhari told the meeting.
Going by the recommendation of the Maxwells Temp Report, President Buhari said it was envisaged that even with the lean number of statutory appointees, each member country will still have a representative on the management of ECOWAS.
He expressed the believe that the proposal would satisfy the desire of member countries to have a sense of belonging in the community’s institutions and also to enhance their spirit of solidarity.
The Nigerian leader reminded his colleagues in the meeting that at 45, ECOWAS was expected to be an accomplished regional organization, and for that reason, the right and bold decisions to enhance its performance must be taken.
“This is to fulfill the aspirations of its founding fathers and effectively serve the citizens of our community, to consolidate our prime position as the best sub-regional organization in the African continent.” he said.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has directed the immediate release of $20 million, earlier pledged by Nigeria, to the pool account of the ECOWAS Action Plan to fight terrorism across the sub-region.
Apart from the directive for the immediate remittance of the money to the pool account of the ECOWAS Action Plan to fight terrorism, President Buhari said another $80 million is to be disbursed for the fight against terrorism in the Northeast and banditry in the Northwest of Nigeria for the year 2020.
“We are also committed to meeting our obligations for the remaining period of the action plan,” the President said.
On the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the ECOWAS region, President Buhari called on all member-states to ensure they prioritized procurement of the vaccines for their citizens,
Besides, he called for increased effort to develop vaccines locally, so that member-states could build immunity against the pandemic.
He urged the ECOWAS Commission to work with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) to assist member-states in acquiring the vaccines and storage facilities, ahead of the distribution of the vaccines within the region.
The President said efforts should also be accelerated for the production of rapid diagnostic test kits, of international standards in the region, to be made available to all member states.
“It is important for the region to evolve effective measures and avoid total lockdown at this critical time, that our economies are gradually recovering from the first wave of the pandemic”, he said, adding: ”The economic challenges that our region faces, because of the pandemic, will no doubt manifest this year, 2021.
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