Vice-president of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has enjoined African leaders and opinion moulders on the continent to build unity and prosperity within ECOWAS and African Union.
He said just as physical highways were built, there was need to build a highway of unity, brotherhood, and prosperity for people within ECOWAS and Africa Union.
Osinbajo made the submission at the 9th Ministerial Steering Committee of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Development Project in Abuja on Friday.
This was contained in a press statement made available to journalists by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-president on media and publicity, Mr Laolu Akande.
He averred that the corridor will definitely open up new economic opportunity and hope for inhabitants in and around border regions.
“Nigeria is highly honoured to host the 9th Ministerial Steering Committee meeting of the Abidjan-Lagos Development Corridor project.
“The Steering Committee’s meeting on the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor development is a testament to the strong relationship among ECOWAS Countries.
“We may live in different countries, speak different languages, spend different national currencies, but we share a common history, and common goals and aspirations: which include taking the progress and development of our countries and the sub-region into our own hands, and ensuring that all of our people enjoy ever-increasing levels of peace, prosperity and security.
“The development of Abidjan-Lagos Corridor is one of the flagship projects of the entire ECOWAS enterprise and we believe that we will promote regional integration; enable trade, tourism and other forms of economic activity in our sub-region; and create much-needed jobs for our teeming youth populations.
“There is no doubt that connecting West Africa by means of an efficient road network is one of the easiest and most direct ways of boosting our local and national economies, and by extension, the regional economy.
“This corridor will inevitably open up new vistas of economic opportunity, and hopefully set the stage for the formalisation of the vast informal economies that exist in and around our border regions.
“The government of Nigeria is very enthusiastic and excited by the possibilities that this project holds for small businesses in particular and this constitutes the primary drivers of our national economies.
“We are equally excited by what this project portends, from an Ease of Doing Business perspective. You will recall that barely two weeks ago, the World Bank released the latest Doing Business rankings, in which Nigeria moved up 24 places to 145th position and was adjudged one of the top 10 improved economies in the world.
“One of the indicators used in determining the rankings is ‘Trading Across Borders’ indicator. This corridor project will go a long way in resolving the hindrances to cross-border trade in West Africa, with obvious positive implications for our business environments.
“And beyond linking the major economic centers in West Africa, it is our hope and desire that it will go on to spur the connection of the regional economy to other regional blocs across the continent.
“Nigeria attaches great importance to the development of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Project and will ensure that it is realized within the time frame set for its completion. The Federal Government under the leadership of his Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) is fully committed to the realization of this project; we have made our commitment manifest through Nigeria’s recent ratification of the Treaty.
“As you commence your deliberations, I would like to ask that you keep in mind that beyond the ‘hard’ infrastructure that is the highway – and which is the main priority of this committee, we must also pay attention to the development of the requisite soft infrastructure; neighborliness, mutual respect, security and the rule of law. As we build the physical highway we must also build a highway of unity, brotherhood, and prosperity for all of our peoples within ECOWAS and the African Union.
“I would like to commend the efforts of our development partners, African Development Bank (AfDB), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and other financial institutions for their commitment towards the realization of this project. You still need to intensify efforts to complete ongoing studies, and commence the physical construction of the corridor.
“The tremendous effort of the ECOWAS Commission and ECOWAS Project and Preparation Unit (PPDU) towards the realization of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Project is highly commendable. I thank you all for the efforts you are making in the development of Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Project.
“Let me also note that this 9th Session of the Steering Committee Meeting offers member countries of ECOWAS the opportunity to strengthen existing brotherly relations.
“Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, I extend to you all, the good wishes of the His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and the good people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I wish you happy and successful deliberations.
Endeavour to enjoy the warmth and calm of the beautiful city of Abuja during your stay.
“I now have the honour and privilege of declaring open the 9th Ministerial Steering Committee meeting for the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Development Project,” the statement said.