His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has received a high-powered delegation from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Commission and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria following Sunday’s security breach and attack on the armoury at Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown.
The team, which included Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff, General Christopher Musa, its Chief of Defence Military Intelligence, Major General Emmanuel Udiandeye and President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, had paid a solidarity visit to the President.
The delegation conveyed a message of solidarity from the Chairman of the ECOWAS Committee of Heads of State and President of Nigeria, His Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as well as that of the other ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.
It further reiterated the ECOWAS Member States’ commitment toward preserving democracy and good governance across the sub-region while assuring of their readiness to work with the Government of President Bio toward forestalling any future security occurrences.
Special envoy, Nuhu Ribadu said the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria, conveyed their deep gratitude to His Excellency Julius Maada Bio, for standing with the people of Sierra Leone, and for democracy.
He also gave assurance that he would stand by President Bio and his people, adding that the deep friendship between Nigeria and Sierra Leone would continue as it had always been.
“President Tinubu is a life-long defender of democracy and will always stand by what is right. He will defend democracy, good governance, justice and freedom. The events yesterday have touched Nigeria directly. Nigeria is with Sierra Leone, ECOWAS is with Sierra Leone,” he assured.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, renewed ECOWAS’ condemnation of the security breach and appealed to the people of Sierra Leone to support the efforts of government to pursue and bring to justice those responsible. He reiterated the zero tolerance by ECOWAS for unconstitutional changes of government in the region.
“ECOWAS stands ready to support Sierra Leone’s national security, including deploying a standby force if need be. I want to call on the people of Sierra Leone to be law-abiding. I will also appeal to the security forces to follow the rule of law and don’t engage in witch-hunt. ECOWAS calls on all stakeholders to promote dialogue,” he urged and entreated the government to ensure that security measures instituted did not infringe on fundamental rights and freedoms and did not impact negatively on national cohesion.
In his response, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio welcomed the special envoy and ECOWAS delegation and conveyed warm fraternal greetings to H.E. President Tinubu, Nigeria and ECOWAS.
“It is not surprising that Nigeria is here, and ECOWAS is here. This is not the first time. If Sierra Leone is a peaceful nation today, we owe it to Nigeria and ECOWAS.
“My government’s commitment to democracy, justice, the well-being and safety of our citizens remains unwavering. Sierra Leone’s leadership position in key institutions across the globe will be preserved. We are deeply thankful for the tremendous outpouring of support from key allies around the region and world. We shall continue to work towards preserving and promoting the priceless peace that we have enjoyed as a country since the end of our unfortunate decade-long civil war 21 years ago,” he said.
“Some of us have fought for this country and must protect it. We have seen the consequences of war and when I see people creating the conditions for war, it saddens me. Ever since I won in 2018, it has been one issue after the other. We have made gains in so many areas despite the binding constraints we have been confronted with as a nation, including our deep-seated politics.
“My party campaigned extensively and won the 2023 elections, but when the results were announced, the main opposition could not accept it. We agreed to dialogue all in the name of peace, and yet again, they decided to cause mayhem. This is not the first time, they did it on August 10, holding weapons and killing police officers, and yet, called it a civil protest.
“Our combined forces, together with the good people of Sierra Leone, stood firm yesterday in defence of peace, stability and democracy. That is the legacy we must protect, and our national security matters most. The focus of my administration is food security, which is a development imperative,” he concluded.