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Last Updated on December 24, 2019

West Africa Leaders meet in Abuja for ECOWAS summit

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Heads of state and governments across West Africa met on Saturday in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, for the latest round of discussions on pressing matters in the bloc. Discussions held include regional integration and a concerted effort to tackling armed rebellions.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the summit of 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He urged his fellow leaders to forge a stronger partnership in addressing the challenges of the region.

On the top of the ECOWAS Summit agenda is the Security in the Lake Chad region and the wider Sahel. Buhari also called for a minute of silence in honour of the victims of an armed attack at a military base in the Tilabari region of Niger earlier in December.

Terrorism in West Africa remains a concern

Armed group Boko Haram’s campaign began in 2009 and has displaced more than 2.2 million people across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon since, with no signs of slowing down despite counterattacks by a joint multinational force across borders.

Boko Haram’s faction, the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), has also gone on a spree of violence, attacking military formations in those countries. The Tilabari attack was the deadliest in recent times in Niger.

In Mali and Burkina Faso, groups such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) have followed suit, killing thousands of people in recent years.

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There was a total of 4,776 reported fatalities in the Sahel between November 2018 and March 2019, according to the non-profit Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).

In September, ECOWAS convened an extraordinary summit on terrorism in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Some of the bloc’s members have now called for a swift implementation of the resolutions agreed to at that summit.

Speaking at the ECOWAS Summit, the President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou said Niger has been hit hard by terrorist attacks every passing day, threatening almost all the national and regional achievements we have made. He further said that he hopes that the implementation of the recommendations from the summit on terrorism held on September 14 in Ouagadougou will help the region collectively meet this challenge.

Common currency

Also featuring on the agenda was the presidential election in Guinea Bissau and the matter of a common currency in West Africa.

The idea of a single ECOWAS currency and the West African monetary zone was first introduced decades ago with 2000 set as the initial launch date.

The currency, known as the Eco, is now expected to be launched in 2020.

Some of the other leaders in attendance included George Weah of Liberia and Gambia’s Adama Barrow.

Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank and former Nigerian agriculture minister, was also present at the ECOWAS summit.

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