ECONOMIC Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) leaders are launching a billion-dollar plan to fight terrorism across the region.
The project is expected to become effective next year and will span four years, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic announced at the end of the Extraordinary Summit of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government on Counter-Terrorism in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
President Muhammadu Buhari who addressed the session appealed to his fellow leaders in ECOWAS not to allow terrorist groups destabilize the region.
ECOWAS, according to Issoufou, had decided to mobilise “the financial resources of up to a billion dollars for the fight against terrorism.”
The fund is planned to help reinforce the military operations of member nations and the joint military operations the type that is engaging Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Niger Republic.
Lack of funds is a major problem in the fight against terrorism in the continent.
Details of the plan are to be presented to the next ECOWAS summit in December.
Buhari: It’s time to stamp out terrorism
Addressing Saturday’s summit, Buhari said that although West Africa has made commendable progress in the realization of its regional integration, it “must not allow terrorist groups to destabilize our Community and undermine the aspirations of our people for a safe, secure and prosperous environment.”
‘’It is, therefore, our collective responsibility not to let up but to win the fight against terrorism and stamp out the scourge from our region,’’ the President’s Special Adviser on Media and publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted him as saying.
Terrorism, according to him, has become a major security threat across the globe, and warned that the activities of terrorist groups constitute a grave danger to peace and security in West Africa, the wider Sahel and the global community.
His words: ‘’the frequency of attacks, the determination and resilience of the terrorist groups as well as the ease with which they raise funds and acquire sophisticated weapons are matters of serious concern which should engage our attention as a Community.
‘’Equally worrisome, is the continuing spread of the menace of terrorism in the region and the growing link between terrorism and organized crime.
‘’This is why we must not relent in our efforts until we defeat the monster completely.
‘’And the best way to achieve this objective is through coordinated regional actions and responses against terrorism, insurgency, banditry, inter-communal disputes while we also put in place policies and measures that will address their root causes including the re-establishment and protection of livelihoods.’’
Sharing the experience of Nigeria in fighting the scourge, the President said: ‘’as a major victim of Boko Haram terrorist activities, Nigeria has remained resolute in efforts to combat and eradicate them in all their forms and manifestations.
‘’Our counter-terrorism strategy which includes prevention, prosecution and reconstruction is also in full compliance with the Yamoussoukro counter-terrorism strategy adopted by ECOWAS Member States.
‘’In combating terrorism and addressing the resultant humanitarian crisis, through regional and international collaboration, ECOWAS as a Regional Economic Cooperation, would need in partnership with the African Union, to galvanize international support and solidarity to combat and defeat this menace in our region.”
Apprising the regional leaders about the situation in the Lake Chad Basin and the operations of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), Buhari said it has become an abode for terrorist groups and extremists whose primitive intent is wanton destruction of lives of innocent citizens and properties as well as public infrastructure.
The situation, he said, has tragically affected the rich culture and civilization of the area that was famous for its abundant natural resources providing livelihoods to tens of millions of people.
On MNJTF, the President reported that the achievements recorded so far in the operations remain an exemplary model of regional collaboration.
He said: ‘’MNJTF has largely succeeded in degrading the Boko Haram terrorist group. This could not have been accomplished without the recognition by the affected Lake Chad Basin Countries and Benin Republic, of the need to harness our efforts and resources to confront our common enemy which has now been substantially weakened.
‘’While much still remains to be done, I encourage MNJTF to stay steadfast in their mission, as I urge the political leadership of the LCBC countries to continue to preserve our solidarity and commitment towards achieving durable peace and sustainable development in these areas.
‘’In this regard, it is imperative that we continuously strive to provide the necessary resources and tools to the MNJTF, the G5 Sahel Joint Force, the Accra Initiative and similar initiatives, to lead the war on terrorism, violent extremism and trans-border crimes across the region, ‘’ he said.
President Buhari said he expects that the adoption of the road map, priority areas and other recommendations to the Ouagadougou Summit, if properly implemented, would go a long way in addressing the spread of terrorism and violent extremism in the region. [THE NATION]