The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday appointed Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari as COVID-19 response “champion”.
As champion, Mr Buhari would coordinate the COVID-19 response and eradication process in the region.
“To ensure a high-level coordination of all the regional efforts to contain the pandemic, the Summit appoints H.E. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Champion to coordinate the COVID-19 response and eradication process,” the conference announced in its communique.
Also, the ECOWAS leaders constituted ministerial coordination committees on health, finance and transport to coordinate regional efforts to fight the pandemic, under the supervision of President Buhari.
Besides, the conference directed the President of the Commission, Jean Claude Kassi Brou, to ensure the implementation of the adopted decisions, while the Director General of West African Health Organization (WAHO) would update and implement the costed Regional Plan of Action for Response to COVID-19.
Mr Buhari’s appointment was announced during the videoconference of the extraordinary session of the ECOWAS authority of heads of state and government.
The conference was convened by the ECOWAS chairman and president of the Republic of Niger, Issoufou Mahamadou, to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the region.
The summit was attended by all the heads of state and government of member countries, or their representatives, with the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas as observers.
During the meeting, members reviewed the memorandum of the president of the ECOWAS Commission on COVID-19, particularly on the crisis and its economic, financial and social impact on the ECOWAS region.
Members expressed deep concern about the spread of the virus in the region, with a cumulative number of 6,083 cases reported as at April 22, consisting of 4,232 active cases, 1,793 recoveries and 158 deaths.
Wishing the sick a speedy recovery, the meeting expressed sympathy to the people and governments of all member states for the loss of some citizens so far as a result of the pandemic and reiterated their solidarity during this difficult period.
The summit was particularly concerned about the negative social, economic, financial and human security impact of the virus on all ECOWAS Member States, as well as the serious threat posed to the regional integration process and regional peace and security agenda.
On the economic impact, the meeting noted the grim forecasts by both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on the region’s economic growth rate.
Although the region’s economy was initially projected at the beginning of the year to grow at about 3.3 per cent, the World Bank and the IMF say that figure is projected to fall to 2 per cent if the pandemic were to end in June 2020.
Acknowledging early steps the region took to halt the spread, the meeting said if adequate measures were not taken to slow down the spread of the virus, the situation would have worsened with a fall in growth level to -2.1 per cent, should the pandemic continue beyond the second half of 2020.
Despite the estimated overall reduction of financial resources for the whole economy as a result of the pandemic, the meeting resolved that the containment, prevention and fight against COVID-19 would remain their major priority.
“In this regard, they reaffirmed their determination and willingness to do everything possible to protect citizens and residents of the Community and combine their efforts to find a lasting solution to the health crisis,” the communique said.
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