Abuja – Journalists in West Africa have been urged to sensitise citizens on ECOWAS integration policy before 2055.
Germany’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Michael Zenner made the call at a training programme “Get to Know ECOWAS,’’organised to sensitise journalists on their role in the actualisation of ECOWAS vision.
Zenner said there was the need for enhanced participation of the citizens within ECOWAS to promote integration in order to advance the sub-regional vision of tagged “ECOWAS of the People.’’
“We need to sharpen the perception of the public for the work of our communities in Africa as in Europe.
“Participation arises when one understands something and it does not remain abstract and strange and this is where the role of the media and journalists begin.
“Explain to the people in your countries how the community works, who it works for; competent advantage from journalists is essential to the work of ECOWAS.
“An ECOWAS of the people can only grow if knowledge about it grows and that knowledge depends on good politics and good media work’’, Zenner said.
The German envoy said that citizens of the ECOWAS countries relied so much on the media and that Europe would partner with the journalists to ensure the realisation of the vision of ECOWAS founding fathers.
He commended the efforts made in achieving peace, security and integration in the sub-region in the last 41 years of ECOWAS, noting that stakeholders’ collaboration would attract his government and Europe’s support.
“ECOWAS has succeeded in opening the borders; it has recognised that transnational problems cannot be solved by one nation alone.
“It has recognised that you must pull your strength in order to enable the West African economy to flourish.
“The history of the ECOWAS families of nations sounds familiar to us in Europe; the European Union also began as an economic community.
“What Europeans and West Africans also have in common is the experience that integration is always a gradual process even though member states may disagree on some reforms at first.
“The experience of the past years has thought us that by the end we succeed with reforms and further integration; we must defend our common values and principles again and again,’’ he said.
According to Zenner, it is only by working together that one can pave the way to growth and development.
“It is only by working together that you can build a West African house strong enough to withstand the storms of the future.
Also speaking, Mrs Seija Sturies, Resident Representative, Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) Nigeria, said the media had a role of bridging the information gap between governing bodies and the general public.
Sturies said the role of the media was important in the enhancement of relationship between different governing bodies.
“The media sets the agenda for the citizens to engage, empower and enable the citizens to participate in public debates on key issues to better their lives.
“As you are already aware, ECOWAS has accomplished some milestones in the areas like common ECOWAS passport as well as free movement of goods, persons and services, among others.
“This year’s “Get to Know ECOWAS” is being organised for young journalists (not more than 35 years) in West Africa because they are the channel through which citizens can access information,” she said.
Sturies further said that collaborations must be strengthened between ECOWAS institutions and the media in all member countries if ECOWAS must achieve its vision.
Mrs Sandra Oulate, Director, ECOWAS Communications, said the training would cover a range of issues relating to the operations and programmes of ECOWAS.
“The training should trigger intensive discussions within participants and lead to innovative suggestions for addressing some of them as well as citizens support,” she said.
The training organised by the FES, Nigeria and the ECOWAS Commission is aimed at providing an opportunity for young West African journalists drawn from the 15-member states to discover ECOWAS better.
It is also aimed at providing a better insight into the role of the media in nation building in the sub region. (NAN)