Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make this Statement, congratulating the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, on his election as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) last Saturday, the 29th March, 2014, at the just ended 44th Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in Yamoussoukro, la Cote d'lvoire, for a one year term.
One year may seem to be a short period in the life of a nation. However, with effective and well-focused leadership, a lot can be achieved, particularly where the leader has the full backing and support of his compatriots.
It is therefore, gratifying to note that the President was elected by consensus, a signal that he has the total support of his colleague Heads of State.
It is my firm conviction that with this unalloyed support of his compatriots, the President will rise to the occasion in dealing with the daunting challenges that face the sub-region.
In his acceptance speech, the President gave an indication that he has full grasp of the challenges by outlining how he was going to pursue his leadership agenda.
He said he would focus on three thematic areas of peace and security, economic integration, and infrastructural development.
I dare say that the President could not have made any better choice.
Mr Speaker, I crave your indulgence to make a few comments on these thematic areas.
Touching on peace and security, the situation in Mali readily comes to mind. Fortunately, a lot has been achieved under the leadership of his predecessor, President Alhassan Ouattara of la Cote d'lvoire, in stabilising the volatile situation, and I hope the President will work to consolidate the peace in Mali and the entire sub-region.
Another challenge as far as peace and security are concerned, is the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria, and I hope the President will support Nigeria in dealing with this problem.
Mr Speaker, a lot of lip-service has been paid to the free movement of goods and people in the sub-region. More meaning will be given to this project if there is a huge infrastructural develop- ment in the sub-region, particularly in the road and rail sectors.
It is therefore, gratifying to note that the President has given the assurance, that under his leadership, attention will be given to the development of the Abidjan-Lagos Highway, and the expansion of ports and harbours, that serve not just individual countries, but all of West Africa.
Mr Speaker, in my opinion, the high point in his acceptance speech is his pledge to promote intra sub-regional trade.
With your indulgence, I beg to quote his words:
“We will also do more to promote trade among the member nations of ECOWAS, recognising that increased trade among ourselves would significantly enhance our collective economic prosperity.”
In the light of this statement, I am beginning to wonder where our salvation lies as a sub-region, and what our priority should be. Is it in West African Economic Integration or in an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union?
Negotiation over the Economic Partnership Agreement stalled two (2) years ago. This is because of fears that lifting tariff barriers could hamper the growth, if not crash completely nascent industries, which were unable to cope with imports from Europe.
Nigeria has also voiced lingering concerns over the potential negative impact of the Economic Partnership Agreement deal on its industrial sector, if certain products were allowed tariff-free into its market.
In Ghana and other West African countries, civil society organisations, religious and farmer-based groups have opposed the signing of the Agreement by
As the debate rages on, I humbly urge our President and ECOWAS Chairman to listen to the arguments on all sides before a final decision is made.
On this note, I wish the President, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, a successful one year term as ECOWAS Chairman.
Mr Speaker, once again, I thank you for this opportunity.