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General News of Monday, 22 June 2009

Source: GNA

Yar' Adua calls for infrastructure development in West Africa

From Benjamin Mensah, GNA Special Correspondent, Abuja

Abuja, June 22, GNA - Nigerian President Omaru Musa Yar'Adua, on Monday called on member countries to redirect resources to building regional infrastructures that would enhance trade and drive economic development.

He said it was sad to note that 30 years after the signing of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Goods and Services, member countries were yet to significantly remove the bottlenecks at their borders which continued to encumber effective economic integration. President Yar' Adua, the ECOWAS Chairman, said this when he opened the 36th Ordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of Government Meeting.

President John Atta Mills is also attending the summit. President Yar'Adua said the meeting was being held at a time of great political and economic challenges, which called for an abiding obligation to provide strong leadership within the ambit of ECOWAS. "This Summit therefore provides us a platform to collectively interrogate those issues which impede growth and development within our region and work out sustainable solutions," President Yar' Adua said. He added: "The reality of the global economic situation today makes it crucial for us to recommit to investing the relevant protocols with the requisite political will."

The ECOWAS Chairman announced that under his chairmanship the focus would be on the imperatives of socio-political and economic stability and meaningful integration.

He therefore called for a re-evaluation of the current structure of the ECOWAS Commission in the overall desire to have a Commission that is compact, efficient and focused on actualizing the vision of the founding fathers for a peaceful and economically prosperous region. President Yar'Adua said ECOWAS had set up two committees to specifically look into the issues of energy and infrastructure in the region.

He urged member states to start mobilising the requisite experts to come up with feasibility studies that meet international best standards to enable member states access that fund when it becomes operational. President Yar'Adua stressed the entrenchment of peace, stability and security across the region as pre-requisite for sustainable development, adding, "We especially need to continue to drive the peace process in Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau."

"I have, in conjunction with the ECOWAS Commission in the past few months, dispatched high powered delegations to help mediate the crises in these countries," he said. President Yar' Adua gave a favourable report on the ECOWAS peace process in Guinea Bissau, which had culminated in a schedule to hold elections on June 28 as well as in Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire later in the year.

"We are committed to ensuring the success of the upcoming elections in Guinea Bissau. To this end, we have not only decided to provide the gap in funding for the security needs for the election, but we have also decided to effect payment of three months salary arrears for the Armed Forces in Guinea Bissau."

"In addition, we are also providing vehicles and communication equipment to facilitate a hitch-free electoral process." the President said.

Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, President of the ECOWAS Commission, said ECOWAS in collaboration with the international community is determined to demand full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of the former Guinea Bissau President Nino Vierra. Full investigation would also be demanded into the death of the former Chief of Staff, a presidential candidate, Minister of Interior and former Minister of Defence and his two aides. Dr Chambas urged member nations to improve on their production capacities and become less dependent on the proceeds from export of unprocessed agricultural and mineral resources. He urged ECOWAS member countries to commit themselves to the regional integration process to strengthen their economies and address challenges of the global economic downturn.

"We must continue to seek mutually beneficial partnerships with others in order to take maximum advantage of the opportunities of globalisation, " Dr Chambas said.

Dr Chambas called on ECOWAS and The West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) to accelerate the convergence of their regional integration policies and programmes so that they would not be left behind by the East and Southern African colleagues. A message from the United Secretary General condemned the resurgence of the scourge of unconstitutional adventures which was affecting the peace in West African and called on the nations to build solid structures for peace unity and success.