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ECOWAS citizens stranded abroad: Buhari seeks urgent action


President Muhammadu Buhari with other Heads of State at the 52nd ECOWAS Heads of State and Government Summit in Abuja, yesterday. PHOTO: Phillip Ojisua

• Wants Member States To Put Countries In Order
President Muhammadu Buhari has called for a well-run regional mechanism for the evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) abroad.

Buhari, who harped on the consequences of irregular migration on young men, women and on economies, as well as, consequences of drug trafficking and capital flight on the region, contended that it is imperative that urgent action be taken to address these challenges.

In his remarks at the 52nd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the ECOWAS, yesterday in Abuja, Buhari informed the heads of government that he has instructed the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) of Nigeria to speed up the evacuation of citizens stranded in Libya and facilitate their resettlement.

While announcing that returnees have been receiving needed support, even from state governments and non-governmental organisations, he added, “In collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), we in Nigeria have been evacuating our compatriots, who are stranded in Libya.

“In West Africa, we live with constant threat of violent terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, AQIM and Al-Qaida. Nearly every week, we see and hear the horror of human trafficking perpetrated by trans-border syndicates, who lure our youths to slavery through irregular migration,” he stated.

The President, who spoke of the need to step up dialogue with European partners as part of efforts made by ECOWAS to jointly address the challenge, which affects all, stressed that long term solutions to these challenges are to create conditions of peace and security in countries and sustainable development of economies.

“Only through this can we create jobs and other conditions in which our youths will have little or no excuse to embark on the suicidal venture of irregular migration,” he added.

He regretted the growing reluctance from the region’s development partners to be more proactive in support of the country’s efforts, noting however, “our shared challenges make it imperative for the cooperation to be developed and intensified.”

Buhari praised the foresight of the Authority of Heads of States and Governments, which in 2001 adopted the “ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance saying, “Since then, our region has been steadily developing the culture of democratic practice, including good governance and respect for the rule of law.”

His words: “This trend has just been demonstrated in Liberia. I salute the people of Liberia for the manner in which they conducted themselves during and in the aftermath of the just concluded general elections.

“It is my fervent hope that the same attitude prevails in the coming run-off election scheduled to hold on 26 December, and a new president is inaugurated in January 2018, as per the provision of the country’s constitution.”

Similarly, Buhari appealed to the Togolese to continue to embrace dialogue in efforts to resolve their political differences, even as he urged the government to widen the space for dialogue and mediation.

In the case of Guinea-Bissau, he expressed worry over the toll that the continued political deadlock is taking on the people, on good governance and the resources of member states, particularly troops from contributing countries to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau.

He therefore, urged all stakeholders in Guinea Bissau to respect their undertakings regarding plans to resolve the political impasse.

In the wake of the recent recession, he noted, economic challenges faced by ECOWAS member states, as evidenced by the severe drop in real growth rate for the regional bloc, from 6.1 per cent in 2014, and 3.3 percent in 2015, to an alarming 0.2 per cent in 2016, saying there is an urgent need to review the spending patterns of all the community institutions.

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