Buhari Advocates Mechanism For Stranded ECOWAS Citizens

The President made the call at the opening of the 52nd ordinary session of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government held in Abuja on Saturday.

President Muhammadu Buhari has advocated regional mechanism for evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS citizens abroad.

He said the mechanism, when functional, would assist in addressing the menace of irregular migration by citizens of ECOWAS member countries.

According to him, such mechanism will also address constant threat of violent terrorist groups in the region.

He enjoined ECOWAS leaders to step up dialogue with their European partners to jointly address the challenge, which he said had affected all.

He added that “in view of the enormity of this challenge, I suggest that we look into the possibility of putting in place a well-run regional mechanism for the evacuation, resettlement and empowerment of stranded ECOWAS citizens abroad.

“We should also step up dialogue with our European partners to jointly address this challenge which affect us all.

“The long term solutions to these challenges are to create conditions for peace and security in our countries and ensure sustainable development of our economies.

“Only through this can we create jobs and other conditions in which our youths will have little or no excuse to embark on the suicidal venture of irregular migration.”

Buhari said there was growing reluctance from the region’s development partners to be more proactive in support of the regional efforts, stressing, however, that the region’s shared challenges made it imperative for intensified
cooperation.

The President revealed that Nigeria, in collaboration with International Organisation for Migration (IOM) had since commenced the evacuation of its stranded citizens abroad.

He noted that already he had instructed the National Emergency Management Agency to speed up evacuation of all Nigerians stranded in Libya and facilitate their resettlement.

He added that “in collaboration with the IOM, we in Nigeria, have been evacuating our compatriots stranded in Libya.

“Returnees have been receiving the needed support, including from state governments and some Non-Governmental Organisations.’’

On situation in Liberia, Buhari saluted the people of that country for the manner in which they conducted themselves during and in the aftermath of the just concluded general elections.

He expressed the hope that the same attitude would prevail in the coming run-off election scheduled to hold on Dec. 26, and a new president inaugurated in January, 2018 as per the provision of the country’s Constitution.

He commended the out-going President of Liberia, Mrs Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, for the leadership she demonstrated in the electoral process.

The President, however, appealed to the people of Togo to continue to embrace dialogue in efforts to resolve their political differences.

He urged the Togolese Government to widen the space for dialogue and mediation.

On Guinea-Bissau, Buhari noted with concern that the continued political deadlock was taking a toll on the people, on good governance and the resources of member states, particularly troops from contributing countries to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau.

He urged stakeholders in Guinea Bissau to respect their undertakings in plans to resolve the political impasse.

The Chairperson of ECOWAS Commission, Moussa Mahamat, said terrorism had continued to bereave many parts of the continent, including West Africa where the phenomenon was associated with all forms of crime, the circulation of illicit weapons, drugs and human trafficking.

He, however, lauded the efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin for the restoration of peace, protection of communities and rehabilitation of ravaged areas.

ECOWAS Summit Holds In Abuja December

Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, will host the next meeting of the Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, on December 16, 2017.

This was revealed by the President of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, on Tuesday after he held a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Presidential Villa.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, the visiting president said apart from discussing ECOWAS matters, he also discussed bilateral and multi-lateral issues.

“We also reviewed the security situation in our sub region and these range from situation in Liberia, Guinea Bissau and Togo,” he said.

Mr. Gnassingbe said Mr. Buhari and himself also discussed energy and trade.

“We also spoke about the reform of the ECOWAS which used to have 15 commissioners and now scaled down to nine commissioners for efficiency and cost efficiency,” he said.

Mr. Buhari will on Thursday also host Heads of States from the Gulf of Guinea countries during the 4th meeting of the leaders under the Gulf of Guinea Commission.

The meeting will hold at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja under the theme “ a vibrant Gulf of Guinea Region For Sustainable Development.”

ECOWAS Gets $31.6m Funding From USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Friday signed an agreement with ECOWAS to make 31.6 million dollars available for projects development in the sub-region.

The agreement was signed between USAID West Africa Mission Director, Mr Alex Deprez and President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Marcel Alain de Souza in Abuja.

Deprez said that the 31.6-million-dollar fund was part of the 298-million-dollar Development Agreement signed with ECOWAS in Nov. 2015, for a five-year-period of 2015 to 2020.

The fund made available by the USAID is to support programmes aimed at strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing economic growth, promoting peace and security, and development in the sub-region.

He, however, said that the 31.6 million dollars would address three major objectives which are health, peace and security and economic growth.

“Under each one of these objectives, there are quite a large number of activities funded by USAID but implemented in partnership aligning with the priorities of ECOWAS.

“We have the five-year agreement that totals 298 million dollars and in each year, we incrementally fund it.

“The 31.6 million dollars we signed today is part of the initial commitment of 298 million dollars.”

The USAID mission director further said that 143.3 dollars of the initial fund had so far been made available and also expressed satisfaction with progress made so far.

“We have made a lot of strides; ECOWAS has made a lot of strides.

“We are there to support ECOWAS and we believe that with our support there have been very good results.

“There are all kinds of people and systems and mechanisms to ensure that the money is properly utilised and we pretty confident that the money is well used.”

In his address, ECOWAS commission president said that the funds made available would provide support for programmes aimed at fighting terrorism, ensuring security and health.

“There is no good communications system and we have to develop the sub-regional radio station in Liberia that will cover all member-states.

“So we need to train people and develop content aimed at fighting terrorism and sensitising the citizenry.

“We also need to develop our early warning system to cover not just politics, but health. We also need to come up with a plan of action to address insecurity and strengthen our forces.

“We will do everything to ensure that priorities defined are implemented,” he said.

He further commended USAID for its continued support to development in the West African region.

ECOWAS And Challenges Of Single Currency

By Akinkuolie Rasheed

A single currency for the ECOWAS region is the ultimate objective of member-states. It is, however, the most difficult part of the integration process because of the various national currencies, some of which are not under the control of their respective governments. Others are weak, prone to inflation, low gross national production and minimal natural resources to back their value.

The eight Francophone countries in ECOWAS already have a common currency, the CFA, which is controlled by the French treasury, to which it is attached to the EURO zone and, as such, convertible.

The other strong currency in ECOWAS is the Nigerian naira, which for now is facing the challenges of instability and inability to meet all foreign currency demands for imported goods.

When the ECOWAS community was founded in 1975, the naira exchanged for about 70 kobo to 1 USD and the expectation was that the naira would eventually replace the CFA or both would be used freely within the region and for foreign trade transactions.

The circumstances of the naira have changed in the past 40 years, with the exchange rate now around N350 to one dollar, and the CBN is struggling to keep the naira from going down further downhill.

The way forward for ECOWAS to achieve a common currency may depend on upgrading the value of the Nigerian currency by taking measures which will cut down the current high level of importation, especially such goods as can be produced locally. This should begin with refining petroleum products in the country. Nigeria should not be importing petroleum products and food.

The constraints before the Franc CFA (Communite Financiere Africaine) translated as African Financial Community is the limited control over the currency by the Francophone ECOWAS countries. The monetary policies are set by the European Central Bank and executed by BCEAO, the Francophone West African Central Bank in Dakar. This arrangement seems to suit these countries for now, because it has stabilized their economies and encouraged the French government to build critical public utilities, such as water, electricity, roads and railway systems. But for how long would this continue?

There are other currencies in the sub-region; the Ghanaian Cedi, the Gambian Dalasi, and the Guinean Franc ( GF).
Guinea Conakry was in the CFA zone until 1958 when it opted out of the CFA arrangement on gaining independence. The first President of the country, Ahmed Sekou Toure wanted both political and economic freedom and decided to float the Guinean Francs or Sylis against all the odds.

President Sekou Toure took some survival measures that were crude but effective. He unilaterally pegged the exchange rate of the GF at 2,3/ 1 USD, but did not bother about the parallel market or black market rate which was about 200 GF/1USD.

He focused more on the welfare of the people so that they did not miss out on being part of the Francophone family.

I witnessed how Sekou Toure did it from 1982-84 on my second posting abroad. Conakry was a hardship post because of the minimal and spartan utility facilities in the country, which were often in short supply. France had removed virtually every semblance of an infrastructure in the country and collapsed the rest to deter other countries, which may be tempted to follow this path of economic independence.

Toure issued ration cards to every family in the country, including international persons and diplomats with which rice, fish, meat, sugar and vegetable oil were supplied via government warehouses at affordable prices. A 50 kg rice was sold for about 8 USD. It was similar to the services rendered by the Nigerian National Supply Company (NNSC) around this same period.

Education at all levels was free, including health services. The children of the President and Ministers mingled freely with the children of ordinary people in the same class and schools.

The government funded these schemes from the foreign exchange earned from the exportation of bauxite. He did not allow free access to foreign currency at the official rate of 2,3 GF/ 1 USD except for very critical needs.

The people were not exposed to exotic tastes which could lead to desires to acquire such by force and violent crimes.

About two and half decades after leaving Conakry, I was in Paris, and I went to check, out of curiosity, if there were Guineans among the ‘sans papier’ the illegal immigrants from Africa who were taking refuge in churches in France to prevent their repatriation. There was no single Guinean among them. Those who went abroad, were usually trained professionals, such as engineers, doctors, and scientists, who added value to the host societies. Guinea was able to fashion out a home-grown policy by thinking out of the box and it worked.

Guinea became immune to the gale of rebellions, instability and civil war that swept through several countries in West Africa in the past two decades. It remained stable, moving from one democratic transition to another. This may be a policy which other countries should emulate.

The profligacy by the elite of several African countries is responsible for the dire economic situations of ordinary citizens who inevitably are forced into rebellion. I have seen more Rolls Royces in Nigeria than in the United Kingdom.

The accessibility to foreign exchange by individuals to buy aircraft, yachts and expensive cars, either officially or through BDCs is responsible for the high pressure on the naira and its value. The efforts by the CBN to meet these insatiable demands are more like trying to fill a basket with water, which is a futile exercise.

Nigeria cannot emulate the big and developed economies that are run on heavy deficits. The largest economy in the world, USA, has a debt which is close to 18 trillion USD and the EU countries are not faring better. Nigeria does not belong to the league of nations that can open the coffers of its foreign reserves to frivolous importations. Why should a lizard pull ranks with a crocodile?

ECOWAS’ common currency has quite a journey before it. The effort to revive the West African common currency by Anglophone countries in the region is invariably the shortcut to a common currency and Nigeria must take the lead by revaluing the naira as suggested. The road to a common market and common currency by 2031 may not look very bright for now. There is, however, hope. And there is time to make necessary economic changes which will accelerate the process towards the economic unification of the continent.

ECOWAS: Buhari Cautions Against Single Currency

The President of the Federation Muhamadu Buhari has urged ECOWAS member countries to tread carefully in pushing for a single currency in the sub-region by 2020, drawing attention to the challenges faced by the European Union in realising the same goal.

Buhari said in a speech he delivered on Tuesday in Niamey, Niger, at the 4th Meeting of the Presidential Task Force on the ECOWAS Currency Programme, he said the necessary economic fundamentals among countries continue to differ over the years, making it more difficult to pull through with the project by 2020.

He said: “Nigeria advises that we proceed cautiously with the integration agenda, taking into consideration the above concerns and the lessons currently unfolding in the European Union. To that end, Nigeria will caution against any position that pushes for a fast-track approach to monetary union, while neglecting fundamentals and other pertinent issues.”

President Buhari noted that some of the obstacles to realising the roadmap for the implementation of a single currency include diverse and uncertain macroeconomic fundamentals of many countries, unrealistic inflation targeting based on flexible exchange rate regime and inconsistency with the African Monetary Co-operation Programme.

The President said domestic issues in ECOWAS member countries relating to their constitutions and dependence on aids continue to affect the framework for implementing the single currency in the sub-region.

He added: “Although the ECOWAS Commission has anchored its pursuit of the new impetus to monetary integration on “the information presented to the Heads of State which were the basis for their recommendations”, we are concerned that we have not properly articulated and analyzed a comprehensive picture of the state of preparedness of individual countries for monetary integration in ECOWAS by 2020.

“In previous meetings, we had specifically raised observations on the state of preparedness of the member states, the credibility of the union if anchored on watered down criteria, and the continuing disparities between macroeconomic conditions in ECOWAS countries, amongst others. And I would like to reiterate this concerns.’’

The President told the Heads of State that the conditions that pushed Nigeria into withdrawing from the process in the past had not changed.

According to him, “Nigeria had earlier withdrawn from the process because its key questions and concerns were ignored and till date, none of the issues has come up as an agenda issue to be considered by the Taskforce. Consequently, the Roadmap which did not involve widespread consultation with national stakeholders is not sufficiently inclusive.”

Going forward with the project, President Buhari suggested a thorough review of the convergence roadmap and the constitution of an expert committee on each of the subject areas to come up with the acceptable time frame, defined cost and funding sources identified.

He further said: “This should also consider stakeholders such as the Ministries of Finance, Customs, Parliamentary groups, Tax Authorities, Immigration authorities to achieve comprehensiveness.”

The President said there should be a push towards ratification and domestication of legal instruments and related protocols, while fiscal, trade and monetary policies and statistical systems, which had not gone far, could be harmonised.

President Buhari noted that the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) countries should make a presentation on a clear roadmap towards delinking from the French Treasury.

He also advised an examination of the African Union position on the same issue, which the African Central Bank Governors, in line with the African Union programme of monetary convergence, recommended a convergence deadline of 2034 for the establishment of Regional Central Banks in all sub-regions.

In his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel Alain de Souza, said the single currency for the West African sub-region was a laudable and historical project, but regretted that it had taken too long to be actualized.

The President said the creation of a Central Bank for the West Coast would accelerate the process.

He noted that Nigeria constitutes more than 70 percent of the GDP of the West African region, with a population of 180 million, and would play a significant role in facilitating the process of realising a single currency for the sub-region.

Morocco: ECOWAS Membership Controversy

By  Akinkuolie Rasheed

The kingdom of Morocco left the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now (AU) about 33 years ago to protest against the admission of Saharaoui Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) into the union. In January 2017, the Alawite Kingdom made a surprise return to the African Union (AU) and at the last summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) indicated its interest to join the community. Tunisia is also interested in joining ECOWAS while the return of Mauritania is almost imminent, as soon as all the formalities are concluded.

The sudden interest of these countries in the African Union and ECOWAS is no surprise. The organisations have become a success story. The AU had won the political struggle for the liberation of the continent from colonialism and imperialism and it has been tackling the daunting challenges of economic freedom in diverse ways, one of which is the creation of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to address the economic, political and security challenges of the continent at the regional level, before they merge to form an African Economic Community and Market.

The ECOWAS is one of these regional economic communities. Others are the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) for Central Africa, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) and South African Development Community (SADC). These RECs are not exclusive clubs, but units of an entity which would come together, progressively with adjacent RECs fusing into a unit, until all the Regional Economic Communities subsume into a continental African Economic Community.

ECOWAS had turned out to be model and a good example of a successful community. It had maintained peace in the region through the ECOMOG, security arrangement, established ECOWAS Parliament and Court, adopted common fiscal policies, common passport and removed restrictions on the movement of goods and citizens in the region. Some of the RECs have not lived up to expectations. The unfortunate Arab Maghreb Union could be considered as technically defunct because of irreconcilable differences between member states, especially between Morocco and Algeria over Western Sahara. The collapse of Libya virtually ended the community.

The trio of Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania, erstwhile members of the defunct UMA are isolated and left in the lurch. This challenge may have influenced the quest of Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania to join ECOWAS. This demarche does not contradict the charter and vision of the AU, which supports the integration of adjacent RECs as a way of accelerating the eventual full integration of the continent.

The other states in the Maghreb should be encouraged to join ECOWAS to complete the absorption of UMA to ECOWAS. Trans regional organisations which cut across regions within the continent are not unusual, but common.

The Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) -with 24 state membership cuts across ECOWAS, ECCAS, COMESA, and UMA, countries. UEMOA, the Francophone monetary Zone cuts across ECOWAS and ECCAS. There are economic communities of nations which share common interests and challenges at the international level, and inter-continental levels.D-8 countries which is an economic association of developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East is another good example. It is the same with the South America- Africa Forum (ASACOF), which links the two continents to promote economic cooperation which hitherto was insignificant, but increased exponentially since the creation of the Forum.

In conclusion, Africa had won the political war of liberation from colonialism and imperialism, but, the challenges of economic freedom and Human Development Index (HDI) is a battle which must be won and can only be won, through concerted cooperation, foresight and inclusion. The application of Morocco and Tunisia to join ECOWAS is not an anomaly, but a reasonable desire to overcome the daunting challenges of underdevelopment which should not be treated with cynicism.

 

 

Nigeria Allure American Investors, Targets $25b FDI

The Nigerian Government have assured U.S. investors of the favorableble investment climate, promising the highest returns on investments, more than anywhere else in the world.

The Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment Okechukwu Enelamah and his Foreign Affairs counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama, stated this at the Nigeria-U.S. Business and Investment Forum in New York.

Yewande Sadiku, the executive secretary of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council said $25billion in Foreign Direct Investment is the target of the country in 2020.

Enelamah explained that the Federal Government is building the Nigeria of the future where things would be done differently from the way they were done in the past.

Some of the participants at the Nigeria-US Business Forum

 

“Nigeria of the future will be dramatically different from the past and that is what this government is trying to build.

“We are building infrastructure; we are providing the enabling environment and we are improving on the ease of doing business.

“There is a sense of urgency for Nigeria’s industrialisation and we are providing the enabling business and investment environment for investors,” Enelamah said.

Onyeama said that the Federal Government would not betray the confidence the U.S. investors already reposed in Nigeria through the forum.

“What we are offering the investors is a much more stable environment, a lot of enabling business environment, one stop shop for registration of names, forgetting passport, for coming into the country.

“We are offering them customs clearances, all the elements that go into making much more enabling. A welcoming business environment is what we are offering.

“And of course we are offering them a huge market of almost 193 million people; we are offering them a bigger market with ECOWAS that they can get access to through Nigeria.

“And we are offering them good governance. Those are things they also welcome. We are trying to offer them more security in the country because that’s a point that was also raised.”

Onyeama said the high level representation of the government demonstrated the commitment of the Federal Government to making the partnership really work.

“We believe that Nigeria and Africa in general, you get probably the best returns on investment more than anywhere in the world.

“We are doing everything possible to rebrand our country so that you can know that you are dealing with a reliable partner.

“We want to turn all our embassies around the world including here in the U.S. as hubs for businesses and to provide you all the information you need on Nigeria to invest in Nigeria. And to meet with business partners on the one-stop shop right here without leaving the United States,” Onyeama said.

Ms Yewande Sadiku, Executive Secretary for the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), said the Federal Government was aware of the bottlenecks in the ways of investors and businesses.

Sadiku, however, assured that the problems are being addressed. She said NIPC is working to achieve a 25 billion dollar Foreign Direct Investment by 2020, surpassing the Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan set target.

Mr Anthony Orji, Managing Director of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, said the agency had in the last one year, successfully executed one of such partnerships in agriculture.

“We put 25 million dollars in a fund alongside an agriculture fund in South Africa which also put 25 million dollars and we are raising 150 million dollars.

“This is to be invested in primary production from crop farming to dairy farming and the first investment we have actually closed is a maize and soy farm integrated feed mill in Nasarawa state for expansion.

“Some of the people in this room are looking at the opportunity in power, real estate, agriculture, healthcare and our role was to say NSIA is your partner of choice,” Orji said.

The forum was also attended by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Solid Minerals, Minister  of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed and representatives of the Nigerian private sector and US Business.

Regional Ministers Adopt Plan to Eradicate Boko Haram

The Council of Ministers of defence of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and the Republic of Benin have adopted a new plan “to completely eradicate” the Boko Haram terrorist group in the region.

The draft document prepared by military experts, chiefs of defence staff and heads of intelligence and security services of the LCBC was validated in Yaounde on Thursday, though the content was not made public.

Cameroon Defence Minister, Joseph Beti Assomo said the meeting has brought them closer to their “common strategic objective; the complete eradication of Boko Haram.”

The Yaounde meeting also focused on assessing the security and humanitarian situation of the region and preparing for post-conflict stabilisation and rehabilitation of the areas affected by the Boko Haram militants.

Boko Haram launched its insurgency in 2009 aiming to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, but has spread its mutiny to countries of the Lake Chad Basin – Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

An 8,700-man regional Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) comprising troops from the four countries has been fighting to bring the terrosrist group to its knees since 2015.

The executive secretary of the LCBC, Sanusi Imran Abdullahi said thanks to the efforts of the force, Boko Haram has been weakened.

He announced that a new commander has been appointed to head the force.

Despite strides recorded, experts say it will take a while to eradicate the threats posed by the terror group in the region.

The outgoing commander of the MNJTF Nigerian-born Major Gen. Lamidi Adeosun said Boko Haram has been defeated militarily but it was “a little more difficult” to completely eradicate terrorism.

General Adeosun will hand over the baton to his fellow Nigerian, Major Gen. Lucky Irabor later this month in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena.

According to Crisis Watch, a monthly bulletin of the International Crisis Group that provides updates on conflicts around the world, the month of June was bloody in the region.

In Cameroon, Boko Haram ramped up attacks in the Far North region against civilians and security forces with 18 suicide bombings recorded, and at least 22 people including civilians and soldiers killed.

Africa Review

ECOWAS, World Bank to Inaugurate Scorecard

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the World Bank Group plan to inaugurate the economic investment climate scorecard, to remove barriers to cross-border trade.

Mr Traore Kalilou, ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Promotion disclosed this at the opening of a two-day ECOWAS Investment Climate Scorecard Roundtable in Lagos.

The scorecard is to address a range of investment policy issues.

The scorecard is also an innovative instrument for ECOWAS and policymakers of its member states to address the barriers militating against the private sector across the regions.

Kalilou said the scorecard was targeted at three strategic goals of reducing investment entry barriers, improving investment incentives administration transparency and building capacity for member states in Transfer Pricing regulation.

He said the ECOWAS Investment Climate (IC) would identify investment barriers both nationally and regionally, as well as track the progress of national investment-climate and investment-policy reforms.

The commissioner said that IC would encourage the creation of a transparent and attractive investment climate to enhance private sector-led development in West Africa.

“ECOWAS is committed to implementing programmes that will facilitate regional integration and making it work for private sector operators and the people of West Africa.”

“The IC Scorecard standard benchmark criteria were derived from international good-practices and the balanced approach of the scorecard will encourage national reforms that will foster regional policy harmonization,” he said.

Ambassador Michel Arrion, Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria, said the project was to support the ECOWAS Commission in its regional integration agenda.

Arion said the objective was to incentivise ECOWAS member states to adhere to the good-practices standard benchmark criteria or indicators by integrating the same into their investment-reform agenda.

“The fact that the European Union is financing this project is a testimony of the commission’s commitment to improving regional private sector competitiveness through the facilitation of trade and investment.”

“Our support to improving investment conditions is part of the overall EU priority support to ECOWAS and West Africa.”

“This has been ongoing for quite some time and we are committed to continue under our new development cycle which covers 2014-2020,” he said.

Ms Eme Essien, Country Manager, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank Group, said the agenda was to establish a strong Regional Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) mechanism.

Essien said the first PPD forum was initiated through an inaugural technical workshop in Dakar in June 2015, adding that there had been advanced initiatives at the national level.

According to her, a national reform action plan was obtained from six pilot countries of Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone towards the formal commitment to the regional monitoring scorecard.

She said that non-pilot countries had also been invited as observers, to help them prepare for future work.

Essien noted that an expected, the outcome from the roundtable was to get agreement from the six pilot countries on the specific national reforms to be monitored by the scorecard.

“West Africa has enormous potential to strengthen their competitiveness and increase investment flows, which can drive growth, reduce poverty, and deliver jobs to the region.”

“The World Bank Group is pleased to be working in partnership with regional organisations, member states, the private sector and development partners.”

“This will help these countries unlock investment challenges along key trade corridors, and improve their competitiveness within the global economy,” Essien said.

NAN

Admission of Morocco into ECOWAS is an Anti-Nigeria Move, By Bolaji Akinyemi

Since I left the office of the Minister of External (Foreign) Affairs in December 1987, I have refrained from making direct comments or I can count on the fingers of one hand, the number of times I have made comments on issues which are of direct concern to Nigerian foreign policy. I did this because I believed and still believe that having had my own opportunity at batting, the present ministers at the crease should be allowed unfettered room during their innings.

However, this issue of the admission of Morocco (and possibly Tunisia) into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organisation midwifed by Nigeria and Togo, an organisation on which Nigerian regional security construct has been based for the past 40 years, an organisation on which Nigeria’s claim to be a regional medium power is based, is such an existential issue for Nigeria that every other thing pales into insignificance.

Firstly, the creation of ECOWAS was one of the most fundamental post-civil war strategic policies arising out of the lessons of the civil war which is that it is in the strategic interests of Nigeria to lock its West African neighbours into an area of co-prosperity and co-stability. Since then, Nigeria’s security policies in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’ Ivoire and The Gambia had been anchored on ECOWAS. When South Africa tried to be an interloper in Cote d’Ivoire, it was on the platform of ECOWAS that the South African attempt was seen off. That also explains why Nigeria bears a substantial cost of the ECOWAS.

Secondly, the geographical boundaries of regions have acquired a legal status internationally. The United Nations, the African Union and all international institutions now use the concept of regionalism in the distribution of both appointive and elective posts. ECOWAS cannot unilaterally expand the boundary of West Africa to the Mediterranean. What is the legal or moral or historical justification? How does this dovetail with the acceptable international norms and usage?

Thirdly, how well-thought-out is this move? If ECOWAS now shifts West African boundary to the Mediterranean, does it mean that not only Morocco and Tunisia, but Egypt, Libya, and Israel (shares a boundary with Egypt) and Palestine are eligible for membership in ECOWAS?

Fourthly, in whose interests is this move? Definitely, not in the interests of members of ECOWAS. When elective and appointive posts and resources are being allocated by international institutions, does Morocco now benefit from the West African quota?

This is not just a theoretical issue. Elections to seats at the Security Council, the World Court, various commissions of the United Nations are distributed on regional basis. Morocco, as a member of the Arab League, will benefit from the Arab League quota, and then have another bite at the West African quota, without other West African states benefiting from the Arab quota.

If ECOWAS decides to invite Angola, Mozambique, South Africa or even Ethiopia to take up membership, my concern will be exactly the same.

Having failed to find any rational benefit to ECOWAS by expanding membership to Morocco, I can only conclude that the move is motivated by bad faith driven by the desire to whittle down Nigerian influence in ECOWAS, and by extension in the world, as Nigeria status as a regional power is facilitated by its role in ECOWAS.

Nigeria has only one option: Let the West African Heads of State and Presidents drop this whole issue of expansion to the Mediterranean or Nigeria should serve notice that it would terminate, NOT SUSPEND, TERMINATE its membership of ECOWAS.

This issue is the biggest challenge to Nigerian foreign policy since the civil war.

Prof. A. Bolaji Akinyemi is a former Nigerian Foreign Minister and Deputy Chairman, 2014 National Conference

Adama Barrow Sworn In

Adama Barrow has taken the oath of office as Gambia’s new president.

He was sworn-in about 5pm Senegalese time at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal.

He succeeds Alhaji Yahya Jammeh, who lost in the 1 December presidential election and has refused to vacate office when his term expired midnight yesterday.

“This is a victory of the Gambian nation. Our national flag will fly high among those of the most democratic nations of the world. #Gambia,” read a tweet after the ceremony.

Western ambassadors to Senegal, the UN envoy for West Africa and top officials from the regional bloc Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) attended the ceremony, while hundreds of Gambian expatriates gathered outside the compound.

“I, Adama Barrow, do swear that I’ll well and truly prosecute the functions of office the president of the Republic of The Gambia. That I will preserve and defend the constitution,” he said.

In his inauguration speech, he ordered all members of The Gambia’s armed forces to remain in their barracks.

“Those found illegally holding arms will be considered rebels,” he warned.

West African military forces, stationed at the border, say they are ready to enforce a transfer of power in The Gambia, a popular beach destination among European holidaymakers.

Nigeria said on Thursday that its “armed reconnaissance air force are over Gambia”, the AFP reports.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS troops halted their march into Gambia Thursday night to give former president Yahya Jammeh, one more last chance to leave Banjul. Jammeh has up till noon to leave, in the new deadline given by ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc.

If he fails to do so, the troops under Operation Restore Democracy, will continue their march into the capital. There was no resistance by Gambian troops at the border when the West African soldiers entered Thursday.

“We think that up until the last minute there is still a solution through dialogue,” said Marcel de Souza, head of the ECOWAS commission, explaining the decision to suspend the advance to reporters in Dakar late on Thursday.

ECOWAS will send a team led by Guinea’s president, Alpha Conde, and including the presidents of Liberia and Mauritania to Banjul on Friday, de Souza said.

If the mission succeeds, Jammeh will travel to Guinea before choosing a country of exile.

“It’s out of the question that he stays in place. … We propose that he leaves in an honourable manner and with respect,” said de Souza, who added that regional leaders were open to the possibility of an amnesty as part of a deal.

*With reports by BBC