BY CHUKS NNOCHIRI in Abuja•
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it plans to remove the obstacles to free movement of goods and persons in the sub-region by 2020. This, the regional body said is in line with the target of a four year timeline given to a committee set up in that regards.
Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS had on December 2016 agreed to the setting up of a Presidential Task on free movement among member states of the regional block
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel de Souza, who disclosed this, while responding to questions from newsmen, added that the taskforce, which immediately swooped into action, had in the last one year covered eight countries in the ECOWAS region.
He was speaking Wednesday, at the ECOWAS Annual Development Partners’ Meeting in Abuja.
“The task force has a four-year mandate and it has been about a year now since they started. They will be looking at corrupt practices in the course of implementing free movement at the borders, challenges to implementing the right to residency and the right to establishment.
“They have gone around eight countries and have seven countries left and essentially, they look out for obstacles to free movement on roads, ports and also the borders”, he explained.
The president however noted that once the taskforce completes its assignment it is expected to come up with an action plan that will facilitate free movement in the region.
De Souza further said that the taskforce would continue to sensitise border officials to understanding and implementing the requirements of the protocols on free movement.
He applauded Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari for coming out of recession and its recent elevation 24 places up in the list of countries with ease of doing business, adding that the feat is worthy of commendation since according to him, “Nigeria’s GDP makes up 70% of the region’s GDP”.
He nevertheless, identified the activities of Boko Haram, agitation for Biafra and drop in oil prices as some of the challenges affecting the economy of Nigeria.
In goodwill, UN Resident/ Humanitarian Coordinator and UN Development Programme Representative Edward Kallon, reiterated the support of the UN to the implementation the protocols of free movement.
Kallon said both the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) supported free movement to develop policies and guidelines on border management, free movement, labour migration and labour migration information system, adding that 11 out of 20 UN agencies are in partnership with ECOWAS.
“ILO is currently supporting the commission in developing its sub-regional Decent Work Programme and elimination of Trafficking in Persons by developing a tool to strengthen Law Enforcement coordination.”
Ambassador/ Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ketil Karlsen, said the EU in further demonstrating its commitment to development in the sub-region set aside the sum of 1bn Euros to support peace, security, trade and agricultural development from 2014 to 2020.