LOME, TOGO– President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has described as exemplary the cooperation and unity among West and Central African nations Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin in the fight against transnational crimes and proliferation of arms.

Buhari, who is here to attend a meeting between leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and gheir counterparts from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on Monday, also called for inter-regional collaboration on maritime security and in the fight against terrorism and other crimes through effective border controls.

The President made the call during the consideration and adoption of the Draft Declaration by the two sub-regional groupings in the Togolese capital, according to the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu.

Shehu quoted the president as saying that respect for rule of law, democracy and promotion of human rights are also vital as they are attributes of good governance, which would enhance the socio-economic development of the two regions”.

According to the Nigerian leader, Nigeria’s collaboration with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), which is mandated to protect the environment, is existential because of the imperative to preserve the Lake Chad.

The President said the lake, which had shrunk by 90 per cent, has directly led to economic hardships in the region, which has in turn created the enabling environment for the radicalization of the youth.

He, therefore, called for greater focus on the refilling of Lake Chad as a long-term solution to one of the root causes of this existential threat.

While noting that the Joint Summit was long overdue given the shared history and cultural ties of the two sub-regions and the common challenges facing them, President Buhari observed that Nigeria shared boundaries with two important ECCAS members, Cameroon and Chad.

We share the same security threats, especially terrorism, illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, human and drug trafficking, smuggling among others. Therefore, collaboration between our two sub-regions has become inevitable at this time to enable us effectively confront the existing challenges,” he added.

He said such proximity informed his engagement with the neighbouring countries as soon as he came to power in 2015, leading to the formation of a common front to combating Boko Haram insurgency through the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) by the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

The countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission are Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin.

Buhari reminded his fellow leaders of the African Union’s designation of 2018 as the Anti-Corruption Year under the theme, Winning the Fight against Corruption: the Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation, and his choice as Champion of the theme for the year.

He, therefore, called on them to join hands in this campaign against corruption, as one of the root causes of conflict and other societal ills.

He also commended the efforts of the Chairpersons of ECCAS and ECOWAS for bringing together leaders of the two groupings to deliberate on important issues that required urgent attention.

The President pledged that: Nigeria will continue to support any effort directed towards peace building, security and stability, as well as the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in our two sub-regions and the world at large as an active member of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF).

Regional leaders at the session underscored the imperative for collaboration to overcome regional security challenges.