President Mohammadu Buhari has promised the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) of delivering free and fair elections in the 2023 general elections.
Recall that the independent National Electoral Commission has scheduled the the President and Vice President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives for February 25th 2023 and March 11th for the Governorship election.
Buhari made the declaration at the opening session of the 2022 Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja which is sitting to consider the 2023 financial proposals of the community.
According to him, “As this Second Session of the ECOWAS Parliament is expected to consider the Community Budget among others, let me emphasize that the global economic downturn has deeply affected the economies of our sub-region and resulted in dire economic hardships for the citizens of the Community.
“I, therefore, urge you to perform your sacred responsibility of considering the Community budget with diligence, while bearing in mind the sacrifice of various countries in the payment of Community Levy. I urge you to remain conscious of the many challenges besieging the region and be sensitive to the needs of the people.
“Since the formation of ECOWAS, 47 years ago, the Organization has evolved in many aspects. We have recorded changes that have affected our demographic composition, as well as the social fabric of our population. We have seen our challenges increase in the face of growing aspirations and the expectations of our people. The good news, however, is that we have continued to wax stronger as a Community and have remained strong and resilient and shining examples of regional integration and solidarity.
“At the moment, the biggest concerns of our region are threats to peace and security, political instability and the adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic on our economies as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine.
‘It is on record that the region has not rested on its oars as we have always striven to evolve effective regional mechanisms to address these challenges.
“For example, at the height of the pandemic, Heads of State of ECOWAS appointed me as the ECOWAS champion on COVID-19. Working with three Ministerial Committees comprising Member States’ Ministers of Health, Finance and Transportation, we developed an effective response by mitigating the effect of COVID-19 on our citizens.
“Our efforts yielded positive results as the ECOWAS region became one of the sub-regions least affected by the pandemic, in terms of mortality rate.
‘Let me reaffirm Nigeria’s commitment to ECOWAS efforts, with the support of our Partners to keep the region peaceful, secure and politically stable. In this regard, Nigeria remains committed to supporting ECOWAS to restore democratic rule in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
“We are convinced that the sustenance of democracy and the rule of law should remain the norm in this promising region. As you are aware, there will be multiple political activities in some ECOWAS Member States, including Nigeria, where general elections are due to be held in February and March 2022. Let me seize this opportunity to reiterate my commitment to free, fair and transparent elections and smooth transitions. This is one legacy that I want my administration to bequeath, not only to Nigeria, but to the region as a whole.
“At the regional level, Sierra Leone and Liberia are also preparing for elections. As in the past, Nigeria is ready to stand by any country in the region that is committed to organising free and fair elections.
‘On the issue of election of Members of the ECOWAS Parliament by Direct Universal Suffrage, Mr. Speaker will recall that I gave Nigeria’s assurance to support the process, provided it is conducted with minimum or even at no cost at all, to the Community.
“Let me underscore that the ECOWAS Parliament can only fulfill its true mandate when it has a set of directly elected and dedicated Members. I believe that a membership of the ECOWAS Parliament, not drawn from serving members of Parliaments of Member States, would be a good step towards injecting our regional integration with new energy and initiative.
“As a country that believes strongly in regional integration and cooperation, let me emphasize that Nigeria will continue to support all the ECOWAS Institutions domiciled within the country. Our pledge to construct a new permanent headquarters for this Parliament remains as irrevocable and strong as ever. I had hoped for the completion and formal commissioning of the project before leaving office.
“The desire to create an ECOWAS complex, housing the Commission, the Parliament and the Court all in one arena, led to the delay. I have been informed that harmonization in drawings and other technicalities have been concluded and that the ground-breaking ceremony of the ECOWAS Commission’s headquarters to be constructed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China has been scheduled to take place on 5th December 2022.
“Let me remind us that the vision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS was to have a West Africa that is integrated economically with harmonized policies and enjoying free movement of persons, goods and services, as well as seamless right to establishment. We must continue to strive harder to attain those objectives.
“Let us take advantage of existing mechanisms and our enterprising population to turn our dreams into reality. We have the capacity to do so. Let us collaborate more and remove our outdated physical and psychological boundaries and other colonially-inspired differences so our region can fully attain its full potential. “