ECOWAS: Tinubu begins new mandate, tasked to return break-away States

• Urged member-States on meeting financial commitments
• Offers Nigeria’s counter-terrorism centre for use by region
• ‘ECOWAS needs security, stability to achieve potential’
• Bloc risks disintegration if junta-led States leave, Touray warns
• Report: Sit-tight leaders in 24 countries made 35 constitutional amendments in 21 years

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), yesterday, renewed the mandate of President Bola Tinubu to remain as its Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government.

This came up at the 65th Ordinary Session, held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

President Tinubu’s one-year tenure as Chairman of the Authority would have elapsed tomorrow.

In his acceptance speech, Tinubu appointed the President of Senegal, Bassirou Faye, to join in the mediation to bring back the leaders of Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad who had exited the bloc.

President Faye, according to Tinubu, would run the new task alongside Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar.

He said: “Having a new mandate, I will request Faye of Senegal to please become our special envoy alongside Tuggar, to do round-the-clock work with our brothers Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger and coordinate with me, if necessary, and with the commission.”

President Tinubu said: “Now that I’ve accepted to continue in the service with great members and great minds that are committed to democratic values in the region, I’ll continue my utmost best to serve our interests and build on the democratic values and the structure that we inherited.”

Tinubu called on Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS to work towards the establishment and sustenance of a regional standby force for the security and economic advancement of the community.

Speaking during the opening of the 65th Ordinary Session, Tinubu highlighted the expediency of such a force in the face of growing security threats.

“The Regional Action Plan against Terrorism has enhanced cooperation on training, intelligence sharing, and humanitarian interventions. In addition to this, the Ministers of Finance and Defence met recently in Abuja to raise funds for activating the ECOWAS Standby Force to boost counter-terrorism efforts.

“Member countries are also displaying their commitment to combating insecurity by individually increasing their defence budgets to acquire necessary equipment and ensure preparedness,’’ the President said.

Nevertheless, Tinubu urged member states to commit more to providing needed resources for securing the region.

“Let me underscore that a peaceful and secure society is essential for achieving our potential. As we move to operationalise the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) in combating terrorism, I must emphasise that the success of this plan requires not only strong political will but also substantial financial resources.

“We must, therefore, ensure that we meet the expectations and recommendations set forth by our Ministers of Defence and Finance to counter insecurity and stabilise our region,’’ the President added.

Tinubu advised ECOWAS leaders to leverage the capabilities of Nigeria’s National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), which has been widely acknowledged as one of the best on the continent.

The President said his government decided to make the NCTC a regional centre to enable all ECOWAS member states to benefit from capacity building and other related opportunities it offers.

While calling for unity within the community, the President emphasised that to elevate the people from poverty to prosperity, it is imperative for ECOWAS to develop innovative approaches to unleash the region’s vast economic potential.

“We must continue to identify and develop partnerships that promote investment in key sectors and promote regional trade. Furthermore, we must invest in our infrastructure and cultivate a suitable business environment to empower our communities to stimulate growth and build resilience against external shocks. Together, we can pave the way for a prosperous future for all of West Africa,’’ the President said.

Tinubu also called for support in the re-election of Ambassador Bankole Adeoye as AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security in February 2025.

Also, welcoming the new member of the Authority, Senegalese President, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, Tinubu extended “warm congratulations to the government and people of the Republic of Senegal for their steadfastness in the consolidation of democratic governance.”

He added: “Their recently concluded presidential election has been widely judged as free, fair, transparent, and credible. This achievement is a testament to our region’s commitment to the principles of democracy, good governance, and rule of law.”

IN his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, applauded President Tinubu’s purposeful leadership, affirming that the bloc should not be defined by conflicts, elections, and coup d’états, but by development.

Touray said the exiting of ECOWAS by Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger could affect citizens of the countries, and other ECOWAS member states in the area of visas, and the review of all trade and development agreements, including ongoing regional projects in those countries.

Touray said the region has proven that democracy is alive, given the successful transition in Senegal, Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Liberia, in recent times.

He said: “We look forward to the consolidation of this trend in the region as we prepare for a major election in Ghana later this year.”

He however warmed that the region was still being confronted by multidimensional challenges, which seem to overshadow modest achievements.

“Our region is still confronted with multiple interlocking threats, including existential ones. This includes climatic and man-made crises, leading to terrorism and violent extremism and food insecurity. Livelihoods continue to be threatened by illegal and unsustainable exploitation of our land, forest and marine resources.

“Governance deficit and marginalisation have strained social contracts, engendering bitter rivalries and unhealthy competition. To complicate the situation, our region has become the arena of geo-strategic and geo-political rivalries and the theatre of misinformation and disinformation that engender mistrust among and within communities and undermine social cohesion.”

HEADS of ECOWAS began their summit in Abuja without their counterparts from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

The three had, on Saturday, July 6, formally inaugurated their own group which they named Sahel Alliance.

The military rulers took the step a day before ECOWAS was to begin its own meeting.

This was in spite of the main focus of the summit being to discuss ways to pacify the rebelling three, after several West African leaders called for a resumption of dialogue with them.

Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger announced their pact, known as the Alliance of Sahel States, last September.

The three countries committed to cooperation in the event of external aggression against them.

They left ECOWAS in January after the regional body moved against the respective military governments that toppled constituted democratic leadership in the countries.

Speaking during their summit in Niamey on Saturday, Niger’s General Abdourahamane Tchiani described ECOWAS as a threat to the military-led countries.

He said the three would run an alliance free of foreign influence for their people.

Burkina Faso had its coup, toppling the civil democracy in place, in September 2022; Mali in August 2021; and Niger in July 2023.

The Economic Community of West African States said yesterday that the region risked disintegration and worsening insecurity after junta-led Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger made clear their intentions to leave the bloc by signing a confederation treaty.

Touray said freedom of movement and a common market of 400 million people were some of the major benefits of the near 50-year-old bloc, but that these were under threat if the three countries left.

Funding of economic projects worth over $500 million in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger could also be stopped or suspended, Touray told the summit.

He said: “Considering these benefits, it is evident that disintegration will not only disrupt the freedom of movement and settlement of people, but it will also worsen insecurity in the region.”

The three countries’ withdrawal will be a major blow to security cooperation, particularly in terms of intelligence sharing and participation in the fight against terrorism, he noted.

MEANWHILE, a report by the West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS) has revealed that between 2002 and 2023, there have been 35 amendments to constitutions in 24 Africa countries by leaders seeking to extend their stay in power.

The report pointed out that the amendments were successful in 29 cases in 18 countries but failed in only six cases in five countries.

Advocacy Officer, WADEMOS, Austin Aigbe, in the presentation disclosed that 26 successful military coups have occurred in Africa, with 13 occurring in West Africa, 12 in Central Africa, four in Northern Africa, Eastern Africa experiencing three, and one in Southern Africa.

“Since 2019, 10 successful military coups have occurred in seven countries in Africa. In West Africa, constitutional manipulation of term limits has taken place in Côte d’Ivoire (2020), Guinea (2020), and Togo (2019/2024), causing violence due to protest and closing of the space for competitive electoral politics,” he said.

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