Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been elected to preside over the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community West African States (ECOWAS). He replaced Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé. The leadership of the bloc revolves annually among heads of state of the member countries.
Buhari was chosen to lead the regional political bloc at the end of the 53rd Summit held on Monday, 31 July 2018, in Lomé, Togo, and which was attended by 12 of the 15 Heads of State of ECOWAS. Only Presidents Patrice Talon of Benin, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali and George Manneh Weah of Liberia were absent.
In addition to the election of Buhari, West African leaders decided to hold their 54th regular session in December 2018, Abuja, Nigeria.
Other decisions of the summit relate to the free movement of persons and goods, Economic Partnership Agreements between West Africa and the European Union (EPA), ECOWAS institutional reform, security challenges in the community area, and the creation of monetary union.
On the creation of monetary union, the conference urged member states to pursue the implementation of virtuous economic policies in order to meet the convergence criteria for the creation of the single currency.
With regard to the free movement of persons and goods, heads of state asked the ECOWAS commission to take initiatives to reduce obstacles to the movement of West African citizens and to report to the political authorities of the member states concerned.
The Lomé meeting noted that the non-signing of the regional EPA by all member states and the implementation of interim EPAs posed significant challenges to the regional integration process. To this end, it appealed to the European partners for more flexibility on the issue of EPAs, particularly on the timetable for its interim implementation.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), the meeting welcomed its launch, and took note of the signing of the agreement by several African countries. It invited member states that have not yet signed it to speed up the process of accession.
The conference welcomed the urgent mobilization of the regional food security reserve, and called on the beneficiary member states to honour their commitment to the replenishment of the mobilized stock.
The summit expressed concern over the proliferation of violent conflicts between farmers and farmers as a result of transhumance, and strongly condemned the many loss of human life related to these conflicts and the stigmatization of specific categories of populations.
At the security level, the conference reiterated its condemnation of terrorist attacks in the region and expressed solidarity with affected countries. It reaffirmed its determination to effectively combat terrorism and violent extremism.
Preceding the 53rd ECOWAS Heads of State summit was a joint meeting of ECOWAS and the Central African bloc, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
A communiqué issued at the close of the summit said its aim “was to create conditions for sustainable peace and a secured environment in the common area of the two regions.”