The abolition of Visas among ECOWAS member-states, right of residence and establishment, construction of regional roads, as well as the maintenance of peace and regional security have been highlighted as some of the significant achievements of the regional body.
The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo who made the disclosure at the 40th anniversary commemoration event of the organization recently, also said the region is closer than ever before, towards the realization of its vision of an ECOWAS of the people rather than of states.
The elaborate event which was at the instance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, afforded a rare opportunity for some of the founding fathers of ECOWAS, diplomats and international bureaucrats to ventilate on the ECOWAS project and point at the way forward.
Speaking on the theme: “Nigeria, ECOWAS: Celebrating the Economics of Unity”, President Ouédraogo noted that despite initial challenges, the highlighted achievements were in furtherance of the desire to engender a borderless, peaceful and cohesive region built on good governance where citizens will have the capacity to create opportunities for sustainable development.
ECOWAS, he said, experienced its own share of political crises which led the organization to intervene in order to restore peace and stability; especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) played a commendable role in bringing about the needed stability.
According to President Ouédraogo, ECOWAS is highly impressed by the role which the out-going President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan played in the restoration of peace after the political crises in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Burkina Faso respectively, and the significant intervention during the recent Ebola outbreak. He said that Nigeria did not only get rid of the virus but also helped other West African Countries by sending teams of volunteers.
Also speaking at the event, His Excellency, General Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State, Federal Republic of Nigeria and a founding father of ECOWAS, attributed the successful formation of the Community to all the West African Heads of State and Government who appended their signatures to the Treaty of Lagos on 28th May, 1975.
The elder Statesman, who was the Chairman of the event, said the cooperation received from other West African Leaders determined to foster the economic well-being of their citizens despite challenges of differences in ideology and language was instrumental in building ECOWAS as successful regional integration.
On his part, the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali stressed that ECOWAS has been transformed from a Community of Peoples coming out to integrate themselves, into a Community of Economy and Peoples rather than being just an inter-governmental organization. Ambassador Wali said that ECOWAS has been a pace-setter in the integration agenda of the African Continent.
Delivering a Keynote address entitled: ‘ECOWAS at 40: The Driving Philosophy of Multinationalism’, former Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, said ECOWAS “institutionalized and concretized the integrationist tendencies in West Africa.” He stressed that ECOWAS will lead to a West African Union if it responds to external stimulus of a cataclysmic proportion.
In his welcome address, the minister of state II for Foreign Affairs, Senator Musliu Obanikoro said Community Citizens have a cause to celebrate the achievements of ECOWAS at 40, which he said was the reason, the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized the event.
The event was attended by Ambassadors of ECOWAS Members States in Abuja, other Diplomats and top government and military officials.
Merit awards were presented to Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State of Nigeria and Chief Ernest Shonekan, former Head of Nigeria’s Interim Government.
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