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Buhari, ECOWAS leaders flag off $31.6m new ECOWAS secretariat in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari alongside other leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on Sunday, flagged off the construction of the $31.6m new headquarters of the organisation, in Abuja.

The building, which will be completed by 2025, will house the ECOWAS Secretariat, the Parliament and the Community’s Court of Justice.

The ceremony took place at the permanent site located along the airport road, Abuja, and was witnessed by the president of the Republic of Guinea Bissau and chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Umaro Embalo.

Others include President Julius Bio of the Republic of Sierra Leone; Omar Touray, president of ECOWAS Commission; Mohamed Tunis, speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, and Ibrahim Gambari, chief of staff to President Buhari, among others.

Buhari at the event, said it was a great day for the sub-regional organisation and for China-ECOWAS partnership.

The president noted that ECOWAS had waited since July 10, 2019, when the organisation and the Peoples Republic of China signed an implementation agreement for this diplomatic gift to the West African States

The building which is christened as “EYE OF WEST AFRICA”, represents China’s commitment to ECOWAS, according to President Buhari

“I am, therefore, delighted for the singular honour to welcome everyone to this important day in our regional organisation’s history, as we celebrate the official ground-breaking ceremony of our new ECOWAS headquarters building. Permit me to express our profound gratitude to the government of the People’s Republic of China for committing to building a befitting new complex to house our sub-regional organisation.

“This arena, where today’s ceremony is taking place, when completed, would house the three major ECOWAS institutions, namely the ECOWAS Commission, the Community Court of Justice and the Parliament, which China is committed to building.

“The agreement between the Peoples Republic of China and ECOWAS had been a long and slow process, which started with a vision, to build the EYE OF WEST AFRICA.

This was envisioned as an all-inclusive architectural phenomenon. The building would represent the three hundred and eighty million West African citizens. It will be a befitting edifice to the region and the continent,” Buhari said.

He assured that ECOWAS institutions in Abuja had agreed to consolidate ECOWAS operations in one complex, a departure from operating at three different locations.

“The new complex will represent the unity and brotherhood of the member-states, as well as signify a re-commitment to progress and regional integration. It will be our home and a regional rallying point.

“I want to extend my warmest appreciation to the Government of the People’s Republic of China, for their financial and technical contribution to ensuring that a monument of this nature is built on behalf of our region.

“I also want to thank the previous and current management of the ECOWAS Commission for working in collaboration with China and Nigeria towards the realisation of this project.

“I wish to confirm to you that I have given directives to the various relevant Nigerian ministries, departments, and agencies, under the coordination of the Nigerian ambassador and permanent representative to the ECOWAS to ensure smooth facilitation of the project.

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“The contractors have informed us that “The Eye of West Africa” will be ready in 26 months. I have no doubt in their ability to deliver as promised. We look forward to its commissioning in February 2025, God – Willing,” Buhari said.

President Umaro Embalo, in his welcome address, expressed gratitude to the government and people of China for the new ECOWAS secretariat complex, which he said signified true commitment to partnership and friendship.

“We thank the government of Nigeria for its support to ECOWAS and the government of China for this unique support to this project which ECOWAS needs for its success.

“I am convinced that with this new headquarters, the staff shall function in the best condition so that they are able to deliver their duties. I wish we will all be alive to witness the inauguration,” Embalo said.

President of the ECOWAS Commission, Alieu Toray, said the building of the secretariat housing the community institutions in one building will result in operational efficiency, reduced cost and increased productivity.

“Currently, the commission itself operates in three separate buildings within Abuja. Operating in these separate buildings have brought about many operational, financial and logistical challenges.

“It was, therefore, considered necessary to have a modern building fit for purpose office accommodation that will enable the commission to accommodate all its staff in one complex which hopefully will result in operational efficiency, reduced cost and increased productivity,” Touray said.

Also speaking at the occasion, Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, applauded ECOWAS leaders for their foresight, even as he believed that the ceremony will open a new chapter of the friendship and cooperation between China and Nigeria, ECOWAS and the whole Africa.

Cui also said since its establishment in 1975, ECOWAS, with 15 member states and nearly one-third of Africa’s total population, has pursued strengthening regional integration and promoting development and cooperation among the region and has become a driving force to foster lasting peace and sustainable development of the region and Africa at large.

The Chinese ambassador also assured ECOWAS of steadfast proponent and committed partner of ECOWAS.

“The past decades have witnessed strong growth of our cooperative relations. To sponsor and construct the new ECOWAS headquarters is a vivid reflection of China’s support to the work of ECOWAS, as well as the traditional friendship between China and the West African countries. Moreover, following the African Union headquarters in

Addis Ababa, the new ECOWAS headquarters is the second building of African inter-governmental organisations’ headquarters, that is sponsored by the Chinese government.

Just 10 years ago, the African Union Headquarters was inaugurated, not only on the completion of construction work, but also with the technical and professional training on its daily operation.

“Now, we are proud to see that this building complex has turned into an intra-continental discussion, negotiation and mediation center, contributing a lot to the continental development and integration.

“Therefore, I am confident that this project will become a milestone for the development of West Africa. This building demonstrates China’s sincere aspiration and resolved determination to support the unity, peace and development of Africa, along with China’s efforts to promote the Belt and Road Initiative and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation,” Cui said.