ECOWAS Chairman: What are Tinubu’s responsibilities?

ON Sunday, July 9, 2023, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu was elected as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of States and Government.

His election was announced at the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Authority held in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. Tinubu is taking over from President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embaló.

Upon his emergence as Chairman, Tinubu promised to actualise the goals of the ECOWAS.

“We will take Democracy seriously, Democracy is very tough, but it is the best form of government.

“On peace and security, the threat has reached an alarming level, and needs urgent actions in addressing the challenges. Indeed, without a peaceful environment, progress and development in the region will continue to remain elusive. In this regard, we must remain committed to the utilisation of all regional frameworks at our disposal to address the menace of insecurity,” Tinubu said.

As Chairman, he is to oversee all ECOWAS affairs for one year and preside over statutory meetings.

The Chairman’s role differs from that of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, who only heads the organisation’s Executive Arm for a non-renewable period of four years, and is appointed by the Authority of Heads of State and Government, which Tinubu now leads.

Authority of Heads of State and Government, the supreme institution of ECOWAS, comprises leaders of states and governments of member states.

This means that Tinubu oversees the functions of the Authority, including general direction and control of the ECOWAS Community and determination of policies and significant guidelines within the organisation.

His duties also include coordinating the economic, scientific, technical, cultural, social and other guidelines for member states, overseeing institutions within the Community and implementing the Community’s aims and objectives.

According to the ECOWAS Treaty, the aims of the Community, whose implementation Tinubu should oversee as Chairman, are “to promote co-operation and integration leading to the establishment of an economic union in West Africa in order to raise the living standards of its peoples, and to maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations-among member states and contribute to the progress and development of the African Continent”.

The objectives are “harmonisation of national policies and promotion of integration programmes, projects and activities; co-ordination of policies for the protection of environment; establishment of a common market through liberalisation of trade by the abolishing customs duties levied on imports and exports, and non-tariff barriers in order to establish free trade among member states,” among others.

Previous Nigerian leaders who have held the office

Nigeria’s former Head of State Yakubu Gowon was one of the founding fathers of the ECOWAS Community in 1975. Since then, the country has produced chairmen for the Community nine times.

While serving as Nigeria’s Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo was ECOWAS Chairman between 1978 and 1979, while Muhammadu Buhari headed the Community in 1985.

    Nigeria’s former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida was also Chairman between 1985 and 1989, while Sani Abacha led the ECOWAS between 1996 and 1998.

    After Abacha died, Abdulsalami Abubakar succeeded him as Head of State and took over his role as ECOWAS Chairman till 1999.

    In 2008 during civilian rule, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua became Nigeria’s first democratically elected President to be ECOWAS Chairman. He died in 2010, and his successor Goodluck Jonathan continued leading the Community till 2012.

    Buhari, again, was elected ECOWAS Chairman in 2018 and served till 2019.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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    1. whoever is ECOWAS chairman and is the president of any African country literally has the authority to control the ECOWAS as though he was the President, he has more authority over the ECOWAS President.


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