President Muhammadu Buhari has advocated regional mechanism for evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS citizens abroad.
The President made the call at the opening of the 52nd ordinary session of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government held in Abuja on Saturday.
He said the mechanism, when functional, would assist in addressing the menace of irregular migration by citizens of ECOWAS member countries.
According to him, such mechanism will also address constant threat of violent terrorist groups in the region.
He enjoined ECOWAS leaders to step up dialogue with their European partners to jointly address the challenge, which he said had affected all.
He added that “in view of the enormity of this challenge, I suggest that we look into the possibility of putting in place a well-run regional mechanism for the evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS citizens abroad.
“We should also step up dialogue with our European partners to jointly address this challenge which affect us all.
“The long term solutions to these challenges are to create conditions for peace and security in our countries and ensure sustainable development of our economies.
“Only through this can we create jobs and other conditions in which our youths will have little or no excuse to embark on the suicidal venture of irregular migration.”
Buhari said there was growing reluctance from the region’s development partners to be more proactive in support of the regional efforts, stressing, however, that the region’s shared challenges made it imperative for intensified
The President revealed that Nigeria, in collaboration with International Organisation for Migration (IOM) had since commenced the evacuation of its stranded citizens abroad.
He noted that already he had instructed the National Emergency Management Agency to speed up evacuation of all Nigerians stranded in Libya and facilitate their resettlement.
He added that “in collaboration with the IOM, we in Nigeria, have been evacuating our compatriots stranded in Libya.
“Returnees have been receiving the needed support, including from state governments and some Non-Governmental Organisations.’’
On situation in Liberia, Buhari saluted the people of that country for the manner in which they conducted themselves during and in the aftermath of the just concluded general elections.
He expressed the hope that the same attitude would prevail in the coming run-off election scheduled to hold on Dec. 26, and a new president inaugurated in January, 2018 as per the provision of the country’s Constitution.
He commended the out-going President of Liberia, Mrs Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, for the leadership she demonstrated in the electoral process.
The President, however, appealed to the people of Togo to continue to embrace dialogue in efforts to resolve their political differences.
He urged the Togolese Government to widen the space for dialogue and mediation.
On Guinea-Bissau, Buhari noted with concern that the continued political deadlock was taking a toll on the people, on good governance and the resources of member states, particularly troops from contributing countries to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau.
He urged stakeholders in Guinea Bissau to respect their undertakings in plans to resolve the political impasse.
The Chairperson of ECOWAS Commission, Moussa Mahamat, said terrorism had continued to bereave many parts of the continent, including West Africa where the phenomenon was associated with all forms of crime, the circulation of illicit weapons, drugs and human trafficking.
He, however, lauded the efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin for the restoration of peace, protection of communities and rehabilitation of ravaged areas.
The Mauritanian President, Mohamed Abdel Aziz and his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi are special guests at the meeting.
Morocco’s proposed membership to the body is also on the agenda, but a final decision is not expected until 2018.
Morocco’s King Mohammed 6th is not in attendance although Moroccan diplomats are representing the nation at the summit.