"While acknowledging that many achievements may have been recorded in the area of democracy and economic growth, I must also admit that our sub-region continues to face many serious challenges," Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told an ECOWAS leaders' summit hosted by Abuja.
"Prominent among these challenges before us today is the ravaging Ebola epidemic," he told fellow leaders.
In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed 6,388 people, mostly in West Africa, according to figures from the World Health Organization.
The deadly virus has claimed 3,177 lives in Liberia, 1,768 in Sierra Leone and 1,428 in Guinea.
But Sierra Leone is ahead in terms of new infections, with 7,798, while Liberia is second with 7,719 cases and Guinea third with 2,283.
President Jonathan urged ECOWAS member states, development partners and the international community to "contribute generously" to ECOWAS' regional solidarity fund to fight Ebola.
ECOWAS, a West African regional bloc founded in 1975, seeks to promote economic, social and cultural integration among its 15 member states.
Ghana currently holds the rotating chair of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.
A new ECOWAS chairman is expected to be elected by the end of today's summit.
Jonathan, for his part, asserted that the region was also afflicted by "the rising scourge of terrorism, which now threatens the peace and security of our sub-region" with dire consequences for the people, economy and political stability.
He said the region had suffered from the increasing proliferation of "small arms and light weapons," as a result of which, he added, "countries in the region are today threatened by insurgents and terrorists."
Nigeria itself continues to battle a five-year Boko Haram insurgency in the country's northeast, where more than 13,000 people – mostly civilians – have been killed and the local economy crippled.
An emboldened Boko Haram recently stepped up its militant activity, seizing several areas across Adamawa, Borno and Yobe – the three states worst hit by the insurgency – which they declared to be part of a self-styled "Islamic caliphate."
The group, which first emerged in the early 2000s preaching against government misrule and corruption, became violent after the death of its leader in 2009 while in police custody.
President Jonathan also expressed concern about the increasing incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
"This is compounded by drug trafficking, oil bunkering and human trafficking," he told fellow ECOWAS leaders.
"All of these [challenges] require urgent and concerted actions from all of us," he insisted. "Nigeria calls for stronger and more effective regional, continental and global alliances to rid our region of terrorism, piracy and violent extremism."
Jonathan also called for efforts aimed at deepening economic development and integration as ECOWAS gears up for its 40th anniversary next year.
"We must… accelerate our efforts toward monetary union by striving to meet the convergence criteria and achieving the harmonization of tariff regimes," he said.
ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, for his part, said the regional bloc had illustrated the necessary will to overcome challenges through "the shared vision" of member states.
"I am confident since, over the past few years, we have all witnessed what the clarity of your shared vision, your sense of solidarity and force of your individual and collective determination have enabled us achieve," he told the assembled leaders.
"I am convinced that these qualities… will, at the end of your discussions, enable us find the best ways of applying your decisions on the fight against the Ebola virus disease, in complete solidarity with the most affected countries, namely, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone," added Ouedraogo.
"These qualities will also enable you to continue assisting ECOWAS in playing its rightful role mobilizing the assistance required from the international community to Guinea-Bissau for the success of the post-electoral phase," he asserted.