By John Okeke
As the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) marks its 40 years of existence, the Honourable Minister of State II for Foreign Affairs, Senator Musiliu Mohammed Obanikoro has highlighted some of the achievements it has recorded so far.
Obanikoro who made the disclosure Thursday in Gombe State at the opening session of the media sensitization programme to flag-off ECOWAS 40th anniversary with theme; “The Role of the Media in Deepening Democracy and De-escalating Violent Conflicts”, said peace was a pre-requisite for sustainable development.
According to him, “I strongly have the opinion that community citizens should be proud of the many achievements recorded by ECOWAS commission so far.
“In the area of peace support operations and the fight against trans-national organised crimes, the sub-region has not only recorded commendable results but has also developed models that have remained a point of reference for other Regional Economic Cooperations (REC).
“Furthermore, in the area of democracy and good governance, the sub-region has continued to demonstrate, in practical terms , its zero tolerance to undemocratic ascension to power and further assisted member states in ensuring that democracy and its processes are sustained.
“In the area of conflict prevention, management and resolution, the commission has equally recorded great achievements. In fact, it has put in place functional mechanism in terms of legally binding protocols and institutional frameworks to understanding and addressing the ever-changing dynamics and trends of violent conflicts.”
Obanikoro said “Some of these laudable initiatives and institutional capabilities include the protocol on the mechanism for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peace-keeping and security, the convention on small arms and light weapons as well as a conflict early warning and early response centre, among others.”
“These structures have been deployed , at various occasions, to help member states in tackling related challenges, and have equally been utilized for preventing events that would have jeopardized peace , security and stability of the sub-region in particular and the integration efforts in General.” He said.
He posited that Nigeria remains a role model to the sub-region in practice of democracy taking cognizance of the last elections which went peacefully.
“Nigeria is a very strategic member of ECOWAS. Also , it has recent experience to share , lessons to learn and best practices to propagate as far as the concepts of democracy and violent conflicts are concerned .
“And therefore, the media is in a better position to tell the story to enable us ( Nigerians) in particular and other community citizens in General appreciate our contributions and roles in the sustenance or otherwise of the democracy and violent and conflict. This is therefore the background and context for organizing this sensitization Programme.”
“In the light of the above, as we commence the activities to mark the 40th Anniversary of ECOWAS , my ministry serving as a focal point for implementation of ECOWAS programmes, consider it pertinent to re-emphasis the role of the media in democracy and violent conflict prevention in the sub-region .”
“The choice of this theme was informed by the need to appreciate the relevance of democracy , peace and security in regional integration , thus , the media Remains pivotal in sustaining them .” He added .
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. B. Lolo who was represented by Amb. Saleh Manu said one of the greatest achievements of ECOWAS was the sustenance of the integration arrangement over the decades.
“We are proud and highly elated to be part of this success story , and Nigeria’s participation and commitment has remained incredible.” He maintained.
Also speaking, the Governor of Gombe State, Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo who was represented by his deputy governor Jason Rubainu thanked the Federal Government for choosing the state to flag-off the commemoration of the anniversary.
Meanwhile, the fifteen countries that make up ECOWAS are Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia and Ghana.
Others are Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Cape Verde, Guinea and Niger.