President Goodluck Jonathan has said the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) must speed up efforts towards the emergence of its monetary union by meeting its convergence criteria, and achieving the harmonisation of tariff regimes.

His comment at the 40th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority in Abuja on Thursday came at a time that a monetary union like the Eurozone is in crisis.

“We must not forget that beyond politics, the economic integration of our sub-region remains the fundamental objective of our Organisation.  We must, therefore, accelerate our efforts toward monetary union by meeting the convergence criteria, and achieving the harmonisation of tariff regimes.”

“Internally, within the Community Institutions, there is an urgent need for structural reforms in order to enhance capacity and improve transparency.  Activities of our Organisation must conform to global best practices to improve confidence and assure growth.  It cannot continue to be business as usual if our Organisation must fulfil the vision of our founding fathers.” He said.

President Jonathan, who ended his tenure as Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS also said the rising scourge of terrorism now threatens the peace and security of the sub-region.

Nigeria held the position since May 2007 when late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, took over the mantle of leadership as Chair of ECOWAS upon his assumption of office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He said “Under my Chairmanship, our Organisation faced numerous political and economic challenges, most of which we resolved successfully; thanks to our collective commitment and dedication to the cause of peace.  This was helped by the cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship between our Organisation and international organisations, including the African Union, United Nations, and the European Union.”

The Nigerian President noted that there are serious challenges in the region despite the region’s success stories. “There have also been serious challenges in the Sahel Region, Gulf of Guinea and Guinea Bissau.  Equally important to mention is the rising scourge of terrorism which now threatens the peace and security of our sub-region.” He said.

“In the Sahel Region, we have witnessed a proliferation of small arms and light weapons, now even more accentuated in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.  As a result, countries in the region are threatened by insurgents and terrorists with dire consequences for the peace, stability and prosperity of the sub-region.

“In the Gulf of Guinea, the increasing incidence of piracy has reached a worrisome dimension.  This is compounded with drug trafficking, oil bunkering and human trafficking.  All of these require urgent and concerted actions.” President Jonathan said.

He warned member states not to allow any division in their ranks to be exploited to the detriment of regional objectives.

“There can be no overstating the imperative need that our efforts for integration and peace would be hard to achieve if our unity and cohesion are not assured.  Indeed, our Organisation has been universally acclaimed as a role model in sub-regional integration.” President Jonathan said.

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