Nigeria and 14 other West African countries constitute 40 per cent of the 70 million refugees in the world, the Secretary-General of ECOWAS Parliament, John Azumah, said yesterday.
Azumah spoke in Abuja at the inauguration of the West African Parliamentary Press Corps and Senate Press Corps Day.
He regretted that the humanitarian crisis in the region was mostly caused by “bad and unimaginative governance”.
The ECOWAS scribe, who painted the picture of the region on humanitarian crisis and poverty level in his key note address, noted that in Nigeria alone, 2.1 million people have been displaced by Boko Haram insurgency.
The address was read on his behalf by the Director of Parliamentary Affairs and Research of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Azumah said: “It is regrettable that despite the efforts being made in West Africa, the region is plagued with multiple crises.
“For instance, Nigeria’s Northeast, Northwest and Northcentral are ravaged by Boko Haram terrorism and farmer-herder clashes, which have resulted in the killing of over 20,000 people and with about 2.1 million people displaced.
“This carnage has caused huge humanitarian crisis, such that there appears to be lethargy in addressing the crises with funds by the international agencies.
“In Mali, insurgency has run down the country and displaced many. These crises are replicated in many parts of the region.
“According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), West Africa is one of the regions of the world with the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), estimated to constitute about 40 per cent of the 70 million refugees and displaced persons in the world.”
The ECOWAS chief blamed the poor state of the region on bad governance, saying this had rendered many affected countries financially impotent to the point of depending on funds from donor agencies to implement their yearly budgets.
He said: “The political crises that trigger these humanitarian situations in the region are products of bad and unimaginative governance, which has plunged a great number of our citizens into poverty and untold hardship.
“The poverty level is so high in the region such that many member-states largely depend on donor agencies and international humanitarian agencies to fund their activities and programmes because their streams of revenues can no longer fund the national budgets,” he said.
On the way out of the situation, Azumah tasked the media and civil society organisations across the 15 countries in the region to hold their various governments accountable.
The vibrancy of the media, according to him, is evaluated based on the degree of consciousness of the citizens in challenging leaders to live up to their duties and obligations.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who was represented by his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege, assured the gathering that the ninth National Assembly had put on ground a feasible template for populist synergy with the Executive arm of government towards addressing the problems of insecurity, unemployment and high poverty level among the populace.
“These, we believe, can be effectively tackled with required synergy with the Executive arm of government and effective oversight duties by the Parliament.”
“The press, as the fourth estate of the realm and society’s watchdog, is expected to focus more strongly on the imperative of legislative independence,” he said.