The Nigerian Permanent Representative to the ECOWAS, Amb. Musa SaniNuhu has reaffirmed that the landmark decisions arrived at during the 59th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS will make the regional bloc to be a much stronger, united and efficient organization.
Speaking with Diplomatic Vista at an exclusive interview, Amb. Nuhu opened up on the historic and strategic decisions arrived at by the Heads of Government of the ECOWAS in the areas of Covid-19, the issue of institutional reform, political situations within the ECOWAS, Council of the Wise, maritime situation and single currency (ECO).
On the Institutional Reforms, AmbNuhu said, “a very key decision that was taken by the summit which for us as Nigerians is a landmark decision, is on the issue of institutional reform. Since 2006, Nigeria has been calling for ECOWAS to carry out institutional reform in order to make the organization more efficient by having a lean, compact, and smart structure that will allow the organization to work effectively.
ECOWAS commission itself as you may be aware has a very top-heavy structure with fifteen Commissioners. Each country has a representative at the Commission, which affects service delivery at the Commission.
He continued, ‘during this 59th Ordinary session of the ECOWAS, the Heads of State took a decision on the institutional reforms. It was a very herculean task that Nigeria had to undertake. Ghana too did very well and we must commend the President of Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo who happens to be the current Chair of ECOWAS. Also, President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire and other Heads of State all agreed on consensus.
A consensus was reached that the ECOWAS Commission should now have only five (5) Commissioners with the President and Vice-President making a total of seven (7) Statutory Appointees. The Heads of Government of the ECOWAS have now agreed with it and adopted it.
The Ambassador also answered questions on the area of Preventive Diplomacy; highlight Nigeria’s effort to resuscitate the Council of the Wise as part of the Commission’s Conflict Preventive Mechanism. He explained, ‘As you may be aware, Nigeria has been advocating that ECOWAS must strengthen its mechanism for Preventive Diplomacy. One of them is this Council of the Wise’.
He explained, ‘the Council of the Wise is eminent personalities that are carefully selected to form the Council. ECOWAS uses them for Preventive Diplomacy. Whenever there are issues in the Member States, they are sent as envoys to engage the relevant stakeholders, political class, whether military or civil societies before the crisis gets out of hand. There are 30 of them because each country has 2 representatives. The Council has not functioned for a while but a new one has been inaugurated and the summit adopted it as part of its decisions’.
“Nigeria is represented by former President Goodluck Jonathan and the former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs.Salamatu Suleiman, who was also at one time, a Commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security for ECOWAS”.
On the impact of President Buhari and inputs of the key principals at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Nigeria’s milestones at the ECOWAS, Amb. Nuhu said “if you recall, when President Muhammadu Buhari came in 2015, the first countries he visited were our neighbors. He visited Chad, Cameroon, and Niger and he mentioned it without mincing words that he’s going to engage more with our neighbors because he needs that cooperation for him to stabilize Nigeria, and as the saying goes ‘our foreign policy is an upshoot of our national policies’.
I believe it’s a very good strategy for him, and to be honest with you, President Buhari has put so much effort in stabilizing the ECOWAS region, showing great leadership, compassion, and direction for the region”.
Also describing the efforts of Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Nuhu said “Well I think Mr. President describe him better than all of us: remember when the Minister had Covid-19 and was in isolation, Mr. President wished him a quick recovery and he described him as one of the pillars of his administration. I think Mr. President said it all for us”. We also have very effective Ministers in the Honourable Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Zubairu Dada, Honourable Minister of Defence, Gen Bashir SaihiMagashi (Rtd), and Honourable Minister of Finance, Hon. ZainabShamshuna Ahmed is part of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers.