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Nigeria, Ecowas, and EU dialogue on strengthening of partnership — By Paul Ejime

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The Abuja ‘Road to Schuman Forum,’ jointly organized by the EU Delegation in Abuja and Nigeria’s National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), Office of the National Security Advisor, was held in the Nigerian capital on Wednesday, 15th May 2024 as part of efforts for the strengthening of regional partnerships.

Held under the title: Reducing vulnerabilities through partnerships, the Forum attended by diplomats accredited to Nigeria and ECOWAS, EU and ECOWAS Commission officials, independent experts, civil society representatives and opinion leaders is a precursor conversation to the main ‘Schuman Forum on Security and Defence’ scheduled for 28-29 May 2024 in Brussels, Belgium.

The Abuja meeting was sub-themed: Conflict dynamics in West Africa; ECOWAS as a regional peace-building actor and stability provider; and strengthening regional partnerships.

In their opening remarks, Mr. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Ambassador Samuela Isopi, the Head of the EU Delegation in Nigeria, the Nigerian Minister of Defence, Hon Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, represented by Permanent Secretary, Dr Ibrahim Abubakar Kana, and Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security underscored the primacy of the EU-ECOWAS-Nigeria partnership in cross-cutting development issues, especially, in fighting the root causes of insecurity, counter-terrorism, violent extremism and drawbacks to economic prosperity in West Africa.

Maj-Gen Adamu Laka, of the NCTC, made a presentation on Nigeria’s peace and security situation, while Mr Ruben Alba Aguilera, of EU Delegation, spoke on the EU-Nigeria Security Partnership.

The presentation by Dr Pawoumothom Cyriaque Agnekethom, Director, Peacekeeping and Regional Security, ECOWAS Commission, was on ECOWAS security policies, while Mr Charles Andrew Stuart, Chief Advisor on Security for Africa, European Affairs Service, spoke on EU partnership with ECOWAS on peace and security.

The participants noted that despite progress in the area of peace, security, and defence, Nigeria still faces security threats of various forms, in different geographical areas.

EU officials reiterated the organization’s willingness to engage with Nigeria, to address the threats, through a coordinated approach.

Ms Miriam Uben Adah, of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, moderated the discussion on Effective partnerships in changing security dynamics, with the panellists discussing the challenges posed by terrorism and extremism, maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and new emerging hybrid threats.

They also reflected on the reassessment of security policies and defence strategies and priorities for more effective partnerships.

The panellists were Mr Hassan Yahaya Abdullahi – Director of Internal Security, ONSA, Commodore VB Gbaranwi, Deputy Director of Defence Affairs, ONSA, Mr Zakari Mijiyawa, Special Adviser to the NSA on Strategic Communications, a Representative of the Ministry of Defence, Ambassador Juan Sell Sanz, Spain and Commodore Usman Mainasara Bugaje, Deputy Director Strategy, Naval HQ.

Others were Mr Jean Francois Hasperue, from the Embassy of France, Mr Hervé Auffret, Head of Advisory Field Support, Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, and Ambassador Fatima Bala, from the Nigerian Working Group on Peace-building and Governance.

Mr Kabir Adamu, of the Beacon Security and Intelligence Limited, moderated the panel discussion on Rethinking regional security engagement, which featured panellists Dr Cyriaque Agnekethom, Ambassador Ibrahim Babani, Director of External Security (ONSA), Ambassador Pieter Leenknegt, from Belgium, Ambassador Kalilou Traoré, from Cote d’Ivoire, Dr Paul Andrew Gwaza, from the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution, and this writer.

The panel discussion centred on the unprecedented challenges faced by ECOWAS and the EU and the need to redefine the security architecture in the region.

It was noted that as key regional players, the EU and ECOWAS have a common interest in working together to overcome common challenges in the peace, security and defence areas and the need to redesign their security policies.

The discussion also touched on the current Sahel situation, the erosion of democracy, and the epidemic of military coups in the region with four ECOWAS member States now under military dictatorships. Three of the four countries have served ECOWAS notice of withdrawal.

In their interventions, the participants agreed on the need to restore unity, cohesion and solidarity in ECOWAS and the reinvigoration of the mutually beneficial partnership cooperation between ECOWAS and the EU.

They also stressed the need for a pro-African approach and ownership of the partnership programmes and projects such that the citizens will be positively impacted.

The outcome of the Abuja Forum will feed into the agenda of the ‘Schuman Forum on Security and Defence’ coming up end of this month in Brussels.

Ejime is an Author, Global Affairs Analyst, and Consultant on Peace & Security and Governance Communications

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