The Economic Community of West African States is currently facing hurdles in deploying counter-terrorism forces across the country due to daunting budget requirements.

This was disclosed during the ECOWAS Ministers of Finance and Defence meeting in Abuja on Thursday.

The meeting was convened to discuss the activation of a regional force against terrorism and unconstitutional government changes.

The gathering was convened following directives from the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, which called for urgent action to mobilise resources for a regional counter-terrorism force.

According to the 2024 Global Terrorism Index, the epicentre of terrorism has shifted from the Middle East and North Africa into the sub-Saharan African region, largely in the Sahel region.

The Sahel is the most affected region within the Sahara, accounting for over half of all deaths from terrorism and 26% of attacks in 2023.

The Minister of Defence, Mohammed Abubakar, highlighted severe financial implications, noting that the proposed deployment of a 5,000-strong brigade carries an annual price tag of $2.6bn, while a smaller alternative force of 1,650 personnel would cost $48m per year.

These figures have cast a shadow over the feasibility of the initiative, given the financial constraints plaguing many member states.

The urgency of the meeting stems from escalating security threats in West Africa, where cross-border terrorist activities have intensified internal security challenges.

“Our gathering here today is driven by the urgent need to consider the financing options in the memorandum to be presented by the ECOWAS Commission for deploying the proposed regional force.

“The financial implications of these proposals are significant. The overall estimated cost is $2,606,695,640 per year for a brigade of 5,000 men. The alternative proposal is for a brigade of 1,650 men, with an estimated annual cost of $481,459,335.

“These figures underscore the gravity of the task before us and the necessity of a robust and sustainable resource mobilisation strategy.

“It is therefore imperative that we critically review the options considering the current challenges confronting our region and the financial constraints facing our various member states,” Abubakar stated.

The ECOWAS Heads of State and Government had previously mandated the development of a detailed operational and financial plan during their 62nd Ordinary Session in Abuja on December 4, 2022.

Despite multiple sessions by the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff to devise a workable strategy, the budgetary demands presented at the 50th meeting of the Mediation and Security Council in July 2023 underscored the enormity of the task.

The financial burden has raised questions about the region’s capacity to sustain such a force without undermining other critical national expenditures.

The minister underscored the necessity of devising a robust and sustainable resource mobilisation strategy, urging his counterparts to provide actionable recommendations.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, emphasised the collective responsibility of all 15 ECOWAS member states in combating terrorism.

Touray noted that even those countries currently under suspension were invited to participate in the meeting due to the transborder nature of the terrorist threat and the necessity for a unified regional response.

“All 15 ECOWAS member states have been invited to take part in this important meeting. The reason is certainly the authorisation and the approval given to the commission’s proposal to this effect sometime in the future.

“In the past, it is believed that we cannot fight terrorism alone or while others are not participating. That is why the Commission proposed to the Authority, through of course the Council of Ministers, that although countries might be under suspension, they should be allowed to take part in meetings relating to security as well as in sectoral matters.