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ECOWAS Court confirms 60 cases filed in 2018

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice filed  over 60 cases in 2018, the highest number in a single year in the Court’s history,this is according to a statement issued on Friday in Abuja by the President of the Court, Justice Edward Asante.

The court’s president in a New Year message, said this was compared to the 47 cases filed in 2017 and 45 in 2016.He stated that a total of 115 cases were pending, by the end of 2018, compared to 89 in 2017 and 63 in 2016.

He added that this represented an increase in the number of pending cases before the court.

He said the number of judgments delivered by the court also increased to 31 in 2018, higher than the 19 delivered in 2017 and the 29 delivered in 2016. He further noted that there was an improvement in the number of court sessions held in 2018 which increased to 85 from 79 in 2017 although much lower than the 105 held in 2016, which was a historic high in the court’s history.”

Asante further added that the new threshold was evidence of the “increasing confidence in the court” by citizens in addressing their human rights violation.

He decried the decision to reduce the number of judges of the Court from seven to five at a time of increase in the number of cases pending before the court.

He, however, pledged the commitment of the judges, who assumed duty in August 2018, to faithfully discharge their responsibilities while adding that they would ensure that justice was done in a timely manner in spite of the reduction as well as the insufficient facilities.

“We have already lined up a host of cases to deliver judgments in January when the judges return from their Christmas vacation to demonstrate the resolve to make a difference,” he said.

He gave an assurance of the court’s determination to work with member states to resolve the issue of the enforcement of its decisions.

He further said the court was considering options for engaging with member states and the relevant authorities to address the concerns to enable the court’s effectiveness towards regional integration, peace and security.

He also said the court was holding engagements with Nigeria to provide a suitable accommodation for the court in line with its obligation under the headquarters agreement to host the court.

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Insecurity: EU, ECOWAS move to strengthen coordination

The European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has agreed to strengthen coordination in the security of the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea.This agreement was reached after a closed-door exchanges on the political situation in the West African region between the The European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Both bodies said it reached the conclusion that West Africa is one of the regions in the continent of Africa where democracy and the respect of human rights is the most advanced.

The EU and ECOWAS also agreed to pursue and maintain common political engagement, most importantly, in supporting free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in the West African region.

The Secretary of State, Finance, Republic of Austria and Chair of the Council of the European Union, Mr Hubert Fuchs, stated this during a press conference by the two regional bodies in Abuja at the end of the 22nd ECOWAS-EU Political Dialogue Meeting.

Fuchs said: “We have agreed that on regional security, there is a need for even greater coordination in the Sahel and to strengthen our common work in the Gulf of Guinea.”

The EU and ECOWAS also took into consideration, the economic life of the West African region and agreed to enhance further partnership.

Fuchs added: “On trade and economy, we agreed on the need to take our partnership even further.”

Fuchs further said since the EU recognised the need for more investments in West Africa, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, launched in September, the “Africa-Europe Alliance for sustainable investment and jobs.”

According Fuchs, “the West Africa region is particularly fit to benefit from this alliance, as it has resources, including people and talent, dynamism and drive.”

Fuchs further said, “This alliance also lends support to the effective implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and regional grouping in Africa, including ECOWAS.

“Together, they will help lay a firm basis for the African Continental Free Trade Area. The alliance, the Economic Partnership Agreements  and the African Continental Free Trade Area will provide opportunities to expand trade, encourage investment, diversify economies, promote industrialisations and create jobs.”

Earlier, Fuchs said the ministerial dialogue exchanged as well, challenge and opportunities over population growth, job creation, migration and mobility.

According to Fuchs, “These are phenomena, which need to be jointly managed, in mutual interest and in a balanced way.”

While saying that the EU is not a fortress, Fuchs added that the EU cannot be borderless either.

Fuchs further said the issue of irregular migration was an issue of high political importance in Europe which it took to ECOWAS in order to find common and constructive and mutually beneficial ways forward.

He said the EU hoped to go about it through solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility.

Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mustapha Suleiman, who represented the Chair of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, said the meeting discussed various areas of cooperation between the EU and the ECOWAS.

Suleiman said, “It has been a fruitful discussion ranging from security to economic cooperation that will enhance both regions. Essentially, areas of concerns have been raised and assurances and commitment have also been given in all those areas.

“We have discussed elections and political situation in some of ECOWAS countries, we have also isolated some challenges and proffer some solutions  that both EU and ECOWAS would pursue towards the resolution of political crisis in some of these countries.”

 

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Nigeria emerges chair of ECOWAS Group at UN

Nigeria has emerged the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Group at the United Nations.

The Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Tijjani Bande, took over from his Togolese counterpart, Frank Kpayedo, at the sub-regional group’s meeting in New York.

Mr Bande said Nigeria had always worked with other member-states of the group as ‘brothers’, including agreements on candidatures at the UN without conflicts.

He noted that on July 28 at Lome, President Muhammadu Buhari was elected chairman of ECOWAS, recalling Mr Buhari was very thankful to his colleagues who urged him to take the lead for this year.

“Nigeria wants to make sure that we continue to work for the stability and general wellbeing of the sub-region and the region, and as much as possible, we should speak with one voice.

“We should also speak with one voice outside the continent because West Africa works collaboratively with all other sub-regions on the continent.

“Nigeria will do the best it can to strengthen the bonds of friendship within the region and do the work we are here to do at this very important platform in a better way and with more assured results for the benefit of all.

“The West African sub-region has seen better coordination than most sub-regions that operate here at the UN.

“We have dealt, like at the ECOWAS Commission back home, with matters, particularly to do with stability of the region to the satisfaction of all, even for difficult situations.”

Mr Bande pledged that Nigeria would continue to do all it could to help coordinate the Group’s work adding, throughout its tenure, the country would provide leadership on all issues.

He stated that it was a standard practice that ambassadors at the UN would chair the Group just as their heads of state.

According to him, since Mr Buhari is chairing the ECOWAS heads of state, it follows that Nigeria at the UN should chair the group also.

“The basic issue is simply to consult with our colleagues from the sub-region to see how the agenda of ECOWAS can be brought and made alive at the UN.

“Our issues are peace and security, development, technology, agriculture, and speaking also in line with African region because ECOWAS coordinates what we do but we also work very well with the African Group here.

“President Buhari’s discussion when he took over in Lome, was the same thing we have been discussing, whether as it relates to Guinea or whatever country.

“As soon as there is an understanding within ECOWAS, we take it here at the UN as part of what we should also push forward; we have a very strong group of ambassadors here.

“They (ECOWAS ambassadors) are very clear and they are also very strong within the UN’s various platforms, pushing our issues in terms of our priorities; this is what we intend to do as Buhari is also doing at the level of heads of state.”

The ambassador of Togo, Kpayedo, thanked his colleagues for their support during his one-year tenure, and pledged support to Bande to succeed.

The ECOWAS Permanent Observer to the UN, Kone Tanou, congratulated Mr Kpayedo on a successful tenure and commended the ambassadors for their trust in Nigeria’s envoy to lead the Group.

“In few years of service in New York, you have shown great interest on multilateral diplomacy by investing yourself in preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and mediation,” Mr Tanou said of Mr Bande.

Mariame Fofana, Deputy Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso to the UN, commended Togo for its coordination of the group, and congratulated Nigeria for assuming the Group’s head, pledging her country’s support.

The representative of the Permanent Mission of Ghana, Solomon Korbieh, said “Nigeria is the pre-eminent power house in the sub-region”, adding in chairing the Group, “Nigeria will make us proud and also carry Africa’s light forward”.

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Tension soars in Togo ahead of parliamentary election

A coalition of 14 opposition parties has said it will not take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections in  Togo, citing “irregularities” in preparations for the vote and calling for an overhaul of the electoral commission.

It has also called for more transparency and constitutional reforms to limit the number of presidential terms.

Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 after succeeding his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the country with an iron first for 38 years.

Ahead of the December 20 parliamentary elections, the opposition called for 10 days of protests to halt the ballot while urging supporters to follow them in a boycott.

Earlier this month, at least four people were killed when opposition supporters clashed with the security forces in the capital Lome and several other cities across the country. The opposition put the figure at six dead.

Faced with rising tensions, all religious groups in Togo have called for the polls to be postponed but the ruling party will not budge: the legislative elections will take place with Gnassingbe’s Union for the Republic (UNIR) expected to win.

The main challenge for UNIR is to secure four-fifths of the parliament’s 91 seats — or 73. It currently holds 62.

That would allow it to pass reforms unchallenged in parliament, including changes to the constitution that would pave the way for Gnassingbe to run for office in 2020 and 2025.

Elections instead of reforms

The polls come after months of talks to solve Togo’s political crisis led by Ghana and Guinea, mediators for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The regional bloc had pushed for elections to be held by the year’s end but the recommendation was dismissed by the opposition as rushed.

“ECOWAS made a mistake of not appreciating the socio-political situation in Togo and prescribed elections instead of reforms,” said Raphael Kpande-Adzare, spokesman for the FCTD, an umbrella organisation of civil society groups.

“ECOWAS is responsible for the victims in the recent days because of its superficiality and complacency.”

Despite the absence of the PNP and the National Alliance for Change (ANC), two opposition heavyweights, some 850 candidates from 12 political parties will take part alongside several independents.

As well as the ruling UNIR, those running include the Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development (MPDD) of former premier Agbeyome Kodjo, and the Union of Forces for Chance (UFC), led by veteran politician Gilchrist Olympio.

Political renewal

Those opposition parties that are running say they want to take the ruling party head on.

“The major challenge is to have a bigger presence in parliament in order to have real power to meet the huge needs of the population,” UFC spokesman Isaac Tchiakpe said.

Togo, he said, had a “compelling need for renewal in its political life, notably by limiting the presidential term.”

Some 8,000 soldiers and police have been deployed across the country to ensure the safety of the vote, with Security Minister Yark Damehane warning against any efforts to disrupt the vote through violence.

“When you decide to boycott a poll, you stay at home. You don’t go out to smash up ballot boxes or prevent other citizens from casting their vote,” he warned on national television.

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Obey court orders, Falana tells Buhari, other ECOWAS leaders

Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to “comply with judgments and orders of municipal courts and regional tribunals in the interest of public accountability and political stability.”

The call was made by the lawyer during the “ECOWAS Consultative Meeting on Access to Justice and Respect for the Rule of Law” in Accra, Ghana. Mr. Falana traced “the lack of respect for court orders to prolonged years of military rule and the belief of African leaders that they are as powerful as the emperors and kings who ruled many communities in Africa before colonialism.”

According to Mr Falana, “The intervention of the President is a welcome development in view of the growing culture of impunity in Nigeria. But with respect to the President, it is not sufficient to recognise the court as a civilized forum for the amicable resolution of disputes in a democratic society. The aggrieved litigants require a firm assurance that the party leadership will not follow the bad example of the federal government by treating the judgments and orders of the court with contempt.”

Mr Falana said, “Having now embraced the rule of law, President Buhari ought to direct the State Security Service to release Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife from custody in line with the orders of Federal High Court of December 2, 2016. In the same vein, the orders of the Nigerian courts and the ECOWAS Court for the release of Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) on bail pending trial should be complied with without any further delay.”

Mr Falana’s paper read in part: “Other high-profile judgments that President Buhari must obey without further delay include at least four judgments obtained by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered.”

“The second judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, while the third judgment, also by Justice Idris, ordered President Buhari to act on reports of investigations into allegations of padding and stealing of some N481 billion from the 2016 budget by some principal officers of the National Assembly, and to ensure prosecution of indicted lawmakers.”

“The fourth judgement by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja also obtained by SERAP ordered the Nigerian authorities to provide free and quality education to all Nigerian children without discrimination.”

“Nigeria has a duty to show leadership by example in the region since President Mohammadu Buhari is the current Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Governments of the ECOWAS. Such leadership has just been demonstrated by the Nigerian leader who has been reported to have distanced himself from the decision of the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressive Congress (APC) to expel its aggrieved members who sued the party in court over their grievances against the outcome of the recently concluded primaries of the party.”

“President Buhari should equally show leadership in the region by ensuring that all judgments of the ECOWAS Court against Nigeria are fully and unconditionally obeyed.”

“The hostile disposition of African states to courts is essentially the same. African governments including Nigeria are yet to move away from the era of military and apartheid regimes when martial law was the order of the day. The rule of law is substituted for the rule of rulers. Not only are orders of courts disregarded, judges who rule against governments are harassed by security forces. The same attitude has been extended to regional and international courts.”

“Even though majority of African States have ratified the Rome Statute, the African Union (AU) recently attempted to pull Africa out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to prevent the Court from holding leaders accountable for gross human rights abuse, aggression, crimes against humanity and genocidal acts. The ICC has been accused of targeting African leaders notwithstanding that most cases of crimes against humanity were referred to the Prosecutor of the ICC by the governments of some African States.”

“Although the AU has come up with the Malabo Declaration aimed at clothing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights with criminal jurisdiction not a single member state has ratified the Declaration. African leaders are not prepared to respect human rights under the rule of law as only 9 out of the 54-member states of the African Union have made the Declaration accepting the competence of the African Court”.

“The African people should not be deceived by the attempt of the AU to cover up the grave crimes against humanity and gross violations of the human rights committed by some African leaders. Nigeria and other African governments should emulate the governments of Benin, Cote D’ivoire, Ghana, Mali and The Gambia that have empowered their citizens to access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights sitting in Arusha, Tanzania.”

“Notwithstanding the commitment of the member states of the ECOWAS to fight impunity by protecting human rights under the rule of law, compliance with decisions of the court by some of the member states has not been encouraging. The Governments of Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone must without further delay comply with the judgments of the ECOWAS court and their domestic courts.”

“The Nigerian government should emulate the government of The Gambia that has promoted accountability in all its ramifications. Apart from paying the damages awarded by the ECOWAS Court to two victims of human rights abuse, the government of The Gambia has returned to the ICC and instituted a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission to inquire into the gross human rights abuse that characterized the Yayah Jameh regime.”

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Nigeria contributes $710m to ECOWAS, more than 13 countries

Nigeria has contributed more money to the Economic Community of West African States than 13 other Members states put together in the last 12 years, statistics have shown.

Statistics on payment of the Community Levy obtained  showed that between 2003 and 2015, Nigeria paid $710, 497,352, equivalent to 480, 355,205 West Africa Units of Account.

The West Africa UA is the official nominal monetary unit of measure or currency used to represent the real value.

The document was presented by the ECOWAS Commission as part of the Status of the Community report during an Extra-Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament.

In the same period, 13 other countries contributed a cumulative amount of 697. 947 million dollars.

The countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal Sierra Leone and Togo.

Out of the 13 countries mentioned, Guinea Bissau contributed the least amount of  3, 107  million dollars followed by The Gambia with 11, 171 million dollars and Cabo Verde with 12, 879 million dollars.

Within the period, Sierra Leone contributed 19, 632 million; Liberia 29, 988 million dollars, Guinea 31, 101 million; Niger 37, 788 million, Togo $48, 961 and Cote d’Ivoire $54, 173 million.

The Benin Republic contributed a total of $76, 147 million; Mali paid $93, 538 million; Burkina Faso with $105, 278 million; while Senegal paid $174,177 million.

The highest paying country after Nigeria is Ghana which paid $327. 976 million within the same period.

According to the statistics, a total of $1, 736 billion was contributed within the period by all 15 member states, with Nigeria paying 40.9 per cent of the amount.

The national customs administrations of member states are responsible for “assessment and collection” of the levy and daily record “accounts of amounts received”.

However, the contributions by Nigeria is not equivalent to the weight it pulls in the sub-regional body, especially in the Parliament.

For instance, out of the 35 seats allocated to Nigeria in the Parliament, many of the representatives are usually absent during plenary.

At the plenary in May 2018, only four members out of 35 were present on the day Nigeria presented its Country Report.

Also, during its recent ongoing Second Ordinary Session, less than 10 were present for the aforementioned presentation.

The absenteeism by Nigerians also got the attention of the Bureau of Parliament and other members who expressed displeasure at the attitude of Nigerians to the business of parliament.

Some representatives from Nigeria also admitted that the attitude had become worrisome and needed to be addressed.

 

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ECOWAS single currency: Countries yet to meet macroeconomic criteria-…

President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS), Jean Claude Kassi Brou has disclosed that many member-states of the sub region have not met the macroeconomic convergence criteria required for the much touted single currency for the region.

Brou disclosed this while presenting the Community Work Programme at the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja. He noted that the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments have also reaffirmed the decision that was taken earlier to allow the countries which are ready to begin the process in 2020 and those not ready will be given time to join.

According to him, the Presidential Task Force set up by ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Governments to achieve a monetary union for the sub region would meet in December on the modalities to achieve the 2020 target for West Africa, which would promote economic integration.

He stated that the meeting will allow for a discussion on the progress of the roadmap for the single currency but specifically focus on the issue of the monetary policy framework harmonisation.

“They will also discuss the issues of the next regional central bank, the main logo for the single currency; these are very important issues that they will discuss early next month, ” Brou said.

The ECOWAS authority had approved the reduction of the macroeconomic convergence criteria from 11 (four primary and seven secondary) to six (three primary and three secondary).

The three primary criteria  being used are a budget deficit of not more than three per cent; average annual inflation of less than 10 per cent with a long term goal of not more than five per cent by 2019; and gross reserves that can finance at least three months of imports.

The three secondary convergence criteria that have been adopted by ECOWAS are public debt/Gross Domestic Product of not more than 70 per cent; central bank financing of budget deficit should not be more than 10 per cent of previous year’s tax revenue; and nominal exchange rate variation of plus or minus 10 per cent.

Brou also said a 3.4 per cent growth rate was projected for the ECOWAS region in 2019 against three per cent experienced in 2018, which was a significant progress, adding that six member-states recorded growth rates of more than six per cent in 2018. These are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Niger, Ghana and Senegal.

Furthermore, on the Common External Tariff (CET), he said the tariff was being implemented in all member states except Cabo Verde, which he noted a study to assess the impact was being carried out by its government.

 

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EU envoy wants end to gender-based violence in Nigeria

The European Union (EU) Ambassador to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ketil Karlson, has advocated an end to gender-based violence in Nigeria.

Speaking in Abuja after 16 days of activism against gender-based violence organised by the EU, Karlson stressed the need for more women and youth involvement in activities to tackle the challenge. He urged relevant stakeholders and authorities to engage in aggressive campaign and measures to put a stop to the menace, stressing that it was committed to ensuring that gender violence ends in the country through activism.

He explained that the event did not in any way suggest activism against the menace within the period in question but for the rest of time on earth.

“Our message is that gender-based violence must stop, and of course we have to say this now but we have to remember it for the rest of the year and for many more years to come because our daughters, wives and mothers don’t really deserve to experience violence,” he said.

The event, which was attended by the United States (U.S.) and Swedish ambassadors to Nigeria, Stuart Symington and Mrs. Inger Ultvedt, also presented an opportunity for some abused persons to share their experiences.

Dorothy Njemanze, 34 and a victim, survivor and founder of Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, said she had been raped for over 22 times in her lifetime.

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ECOWAS Court Bars NBC from Censoring Political Broadcast

 The Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Court of Justice has barred the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) from censorship of political programmes by broadcasting stations across the country.

The Court’s delivered this judgment on Tuesday, 11th December,2018 in Abuja.This comes nearly three years after a Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner, Mr. Festus Oguche, and Crownfield Solicitors, dragged the NBC before the community court, challenging what the NBC called “Additional Regulations for Live Political Broadcast.”

The said regulation dated May 30, 2014, was contained in a letter to all broadcasting stations across the country, directing that it must be notified by broadcasting stations in writing, at least 24 hours, before a live transmission of a political programme.

Delivering its judgment in the matter, the three- man panel led by the ECOWAS Court of Justice President, Justice Edward Asante, upheld all the seven -point declarations sought by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the suit had sought for “an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the Federal Government, its agencies, servants and proxies from further doing anything, either by way of official policy, directive, instruction and/or investigation that will in anyway impede against the existence and operations of free press in a democratic society, which is guaranteed as fundamental freedom”.

The court held that the action of the defendant in directing that all live political broadcasts by broadcasting stations in Nigeria be referred to it was tantamount to censorship of free press and contrary to the fundamental freedom enshrined and guaranteed under African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

The court also declared that the NBC’s directive was against the provisions of the fundamental freedom enshrined and guaranteed under Sections 22 and 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The court reportedly stated that the National Broadcasting Commission was reckless to have issued such instruction to broadcasting stations and subsequently ordered that the NBC make a retraction of the May 2014 directive in a letter to all the broadcasting stations in the country and publish same in national newspapers.

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Nigeria assures ECOWAS, UN a credible 2019 Polls.

  The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama,has assured the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations election monitoring team of credible elections in 2019 during the 41st Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council which held in Abuja on Thursday,the 13th November.

Onyeama, who is also the Chairman of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, commended several member states in the region on efforts made in the various political, constitutional and security sector reforms to improve democracy.

“We welcome the positive developments in several West African countries including steps being taken to promote human rights and encourage national stakeholders to continue to engage in dialogue in the spirit of tolerance and inclusivity.

“To this end, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured the ECOWAS/UN team on the election monitoring in Nigeria that his government will organise a credible election in 2019,” he said.

The minister noted that security challenges were a source of “grave” concern despite successes recorded. He added that security and sustainability could only be achieved through the promotion of good governance and the adoption of liberal policies that would enhance greater economic cooperation in the region.

He further assured the audience of continued efforts by the ECOWAS to sustain peace in the region.

“On the political front, we will continue to accompany Guinea Bissau to ensure the conformity and the full implementation of the Conakry Accord as well as a support for the successful conduct of parliamentary presidential election in 2019.

“Furthermore, positive strides have been attained towards the resolution of the political crisis in Togo. ECOWAS will continue to support the government of The Gambia for successful transition programme,” he said.