The 46th Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has opened in the Nigerian capital Abuja with focus on politics, security and Ebola.
According to a Foreign Ministry dispatch, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan as the host of occasion, outlined both successes and challenges the regional body has encountered as it prepares to observe its 40th anniversary in 2015.
At the opening ceremony Monday at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, the Nigerian leader spoke of the improved economic growth in West Africa which, he noted, is one of the fastest growing economies on the continent.
He however lamented the over 7,000 deaths in West Africa resulting from Ebola which he identified as one of the many very serious challenges facing the sub-region, adding "In the last six months, I have witnessed the negative impact of the Ebola virus disease on the region.”
Liberia's Foreign Minister, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, is representing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who could not attend the occasion because of the frontline role she is playing in the crucial fight against Ebola in meeting the zero-case target before Christmas.
The Nigerian leader appealed for more support towards the Ebola fight, and called on member states as well as development partners and the international community to contribute generously to the ECOWAS Regional Solidarity Fund to fight the Ebola virus.
President Jonathan also expressed concern about the rising trend of terrorism in West Africa, noting that it threatens the peace and security of the sub- region which, he said, results to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Also speaking at the Session, the current Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority, Ghanaian President John Mahama, asked for "all hands on deck to contain the Ebola scourge" which, he said, has created socio-economic setbacks in the three most-affected West African countries.
"We acknowledge that Ebola is a threat to our regional integration process and to our regional peace, security and economic development," Chairman Mahama said.
He cautioned Heads of State that despite progress in Liberia and Guinea against the virus, reports from Sierra Leone are a cause for serious concern, stressing "Let me warn that Ebola is still a serious challenge and we cannot entertain any complacency until the last infected person is cured of the disease.”
Other officials who spoke at the opening session include Mohammed Ibn Chambers, the United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative for West Africa and the head of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo.