Civil society organisations and media outlets have urged Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger’s military juntas to avoid transitioning to civilian rule and instead allow democrats to return to power.
They stated this in a communique issued at the conclusion of a CSO-Media interactive meeting on the state of ECOWAS and regional integration in West Africa.
The communique signed by CSOs and media organisations lamented: “The stability of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as a regional bloc of economic, human, and political development has been threatened in recent years by political instability and security challenges in some member states.”
“Since August 2020, the region has recorded several coup d’etats where democratic governments have been toppled and constitutional procedures trampled.”
To address these challenges, civil society organisations (CSOs) in West Africa, particularly in Nigeria, including the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the Transition Monitoring (TMG), the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP-Nigeria), Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGOs), and Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), organise
The meeting which was held in Lagos on Monday, 5th February 2024 centered on the state of affairs within ECOWAS and measures required to avoid further instability and possible disintegration of the regional bloc which before now had been regarded as the template for regional integration in Africa.
It also acknowledged the relevance of ECOWAS to the integration of the region with notable achievements among which include the free movement of persons, the trade liberalization scheme and, above all, the establishment of the Customs Union, with the entry into force of the Common External Tariff (CET) in 2015 which have contributed to furthering integration of the region.
The CSOs and media organisations group observed the following; Given the security challenges in the region, the withdrawal of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger from the ECOWAS will cause set back to the gains of peace and security efforts under the direction of regional authority especially in the fight against terrorism; the withdrawal defeats the purpose of regional economic corporation within the ECOWAS bloc including the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area. It will have a negative impact on the lives and livelihoods of West African citizens; it will exacerbate corruption, illegal financial flows (IFFs), and drug and human trafficking across borders.
They also stated that democracy in West Africa has become more fragile despite the principles of zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government, tenure elongation, fraudulent elections and bad governance contained in the 2001 ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, the culture of impunity and disregard for the rule of law by political elites in West Africa have continued to weaken state institutions.
They recommended at the end of the meeting the following; ECOWAS should urgently call for an emergency extra ordinary summit to look into the state of affairs in the region in order to prevent further threats of disintegration; immediate dialogue must be pursued with the affected countries and all sanctions be removed to pave the way for genuine reconciliation, asking the Authorities of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso to rescind their decisions to withdraw from ECOWAS because of obvious beneficial reasons, calling on state and non-state actors in the region to intensify engagements towards ensuring a more united ECOWAS.
Other recommendations include that ECOWAS should work with the authorities in these countries to urgently adopt transition plans with a clear roadmap for a quick restoration of democratic order:
urged the military authorities in the affected countries to refrain from attempts to transform themselves from military to civil rulers; ECOWAS should work with the Authorities in these countries to ensure free, fair, and credible elections; asking CSOs and media to engage positively and ensure electoral transparency, popular participation and inclusion in the electoral process.
They also recommended that in the spirit of the ideals of ECOWAS VISION 2050, ECOWAS should speed up the review of the ECOWAS supplementary protocol on good governance to prevent tenure elongation, electoral manipulation and rigging, curb unconstitutional changes of government; with the adoption of Vision 2050, ECOWAS Parliament should begin to have elective representatives rather than appointive representation. This will contribute to making it a truly ECOWAS of the peoples; ECOWAS should operationalize the consultative aspects of the functions of the ECOWAS National Units so as to ensure connection with the citizens of Member States in the implementation of ECOWAS Agreements at the national levels, in line with the spirit of the ECOWAS Vision 2050; civil society and media should embark on peace missions to consult key stakeholders in the affected countries to provide support. They should also condemn the arbitrary arrest and banning of political opposition from contesting the election; and after successful resolution with the aggrieved countries, ECOWAS should support the member countries to strengthen their capacity in responding to present and emerging threats including activation of early warning and response capabilities.
Kop’ep Dabugat – West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF); Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) – Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Solomon Adoga – Transition Monitoring (TMG); Patience Ikpeh-Obaulo – West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP-Nigeria); Ayo Adebusoye – Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGOs); Sina Odugbemi – Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA); and Ezeobi Chiemelia.
Canadian Embassy, NIDCOM Collaborate To Manage Migration
Dr. Jamie Christoff, Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, has emphasised the importance of collaborating with Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) to achieve mutually beneficial migration management outcomes.
The Canadian Envoy made the statement during a visit to NiDCOM Chairman/CEO Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa in Abuja.
He stated, “I understand the impact of large diaspora groups and their contributions to Canada. The Nigerian diaspora is one of our top five migrant groups and a major contributor to Nigeria’s economy. We must assist these Nigerians in migrating on a regular basis.
Christoff went on to say that the two must work together to bridge the gap in Nigerians’ expectations, particularly those who are acting with good intentions, in order to showcase the best of Nigeria.
The envoy stated, “This can be accomplished through regular engagements with Nigerians, knowledge and information sharing on the proper steps to regular migration, and what to expect in Canada.”
According to the Ambassador, he and his team are ready to assist the commission with opportunities, time, and expertise to achieve a better-managed migration.
Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO NiDCOM, welcomed the delegation and expressed her appreciation for the visit, as well as the offer of partnerships, revealing some of the Commission’s ongoing projects with the Nigerian Diaspora in Canada.
She recalled her time in Canada meeting with Nigerian groups and the many positive developments that resulted from the interactions.
The NIDCOM CEO stated, “This year, we will host the Nigeria-Canadian Business Summit in Canada, as well as a Nigeria Day, to bring together this large diaspora group to explore ways to make an impact, both in the host country and back home.”
Dabiri-Erewa reiterated that both countries have numerous opportunities to capitalise on, adding that the Commission, with the assistance of a Councillor in Canada, is working on a Canada Pull Factor as a pilot project to harmonise Nigerian data in Canada with the Diaspora Data Mapping portal.
She also mentioned other strategies implemented by the Commission to engage Nigerians in Diaspora, such as the National Diaspora Policy, the National Diaspora Day Celebration/National Diaspora Merit Award, the Diaspora Investment Trust Fund, the Diaspora Door of Return Festival, and Diaspora Medical Missions, among others.
Don’t Judge Our Performance By Present Political Situation, ECOWAS Insists
Dr. Alieu Touray, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, has expressed concern that the current political situation in the subregion has overshadowed the regional bloc’s efforts to address the needs of its citizens.
He said this while lamenting the low trade volume among member states, which is around 12%.
Touray also said the trade volume within the larger African continent was not also impressive as it stands under 20%.
Speaking at the maiden briefing on the activities of the sub-regional body on Wednesday in Abuja, Touray said: “There is so much more that ECOWAS is engaged in, because ECOWAS is present in virtually all facets of human development in the region, planning and providing
for the contemporary needs of the community.
“Unfortunately, these laudable strides in the region’s relentless march towards
an economic union have been overshadowed by contemporary political developments.”.
He said with the strategies and policies in place to encourage trading and movement of goods and people within the subregion, it is disheartening that trade amongst member states is abysmally low, noting that: “At the moment, our intra community trade stands around 12%. On the whole in Africa, intra continental trade is under 20% which is extremely low.”
He stated, “When you look at developed countries, countries that are sufficiently integrated, or regions that are sufficiently reintegrated, intra-continental trade alone is around 60 to 70%.
” So we have a long way to go. Very long way to go and this is why it is important that we open our markets for our own produce, our own manufactured items.”
He also emphasised the importance of having a sufficient local content in subregional production.
Russia Praises ECOWAS’ Partial Lifting Of Sanctions On Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso
Russia has praised the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) decision to lift some sanctions imposed on departing members of the bloc, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, as a result of military intervention in civilian governance.
An official statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said: “The window for dialogue between the Sahel States Alliance (SSA) and ECOWAS remains open, and the decisions made at the Abuja summit can be seen as a demonstration of political will in the interest of maintaining Community unity.”
The statement said, “On February 24th, an extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was held in Abuja, Nigeria, where the most pressing regional issues were discussed. The forum resulted in a series of important decisions, including those addressing the preservation of ECOWAS unity in light of the recent announcement by the leadership of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso of their “immediate” withdrawal from its membership. These countries, amidst the Community’s imposed restrictions, established a new integrative alliance in September 2023, named the “Sahel States Alliance” (SSA), aimed at consolidating efforts in national defense and security.
The forum resulted in a series of important decisions, including those addressing the preservation of ECOWAS unity in light of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso’s recent announcement of their “immediate” withdrawal from the organisation.
“The Russian side emphasizes that the West African states should determine their own ways to resolve the current situation. The window for dialogue between the SSA and ECOWAS remains open, and the decisions made at the Abuja summit can be seen as a demonstration of political will in the interest of maintaining Community unity.
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