By Samson Echenim
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has set up a committee to probe closure of land borders by Nigeria, the region’s biggest economy.
The committee, headed by Roch Marc Christian Kabore, president of Burkina Faso, is to study and make a full report on Nigeria’s land border closure with her neighbours.
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The Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government agreed on the decision to set up the committee on Sunday night in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at an extraordinary session of ECOWAS leaders convened on the margins of the 33rd AU Summit to discuss the issue and other pressing regional matters.
This is as Nigeria says implementation of a single currency for the region, called “Eco” should be extended.
Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs, told journalists after the three-hour closed-door session attended by President Muhammadu Buhari and chaired by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, ECOWAS chairman that, ‘‘The President of Burkina Faso is charged with undertaking a full study of the situation, make a report and then we take it from there.’’
On when the report will be presented to ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, the Onyema replied: ‘‘As soon as possible, there are no timelines. But he is supposed to start very quickly, study the situation from all the affected countries and present his report.’’
Garba Shehu, a senior presidential aide on media and publicity, further disclosed that the meeting also discussed West Africa′s new single currency, the Eco, and the situation in Guinea Bissau after the presidential election.
On the Eco currency, the foreign minister said: ‘‘Nothing has changed in respect of Nigeria’s position’’.
He added that Nigeria’s position was that the convergence criteria had not been met by majority of the countries, therefore there has to be an extension of time on the take-off of the single currency.
Meanwhile, the federal government has insisted that the time for the implementation of “Eco”, the proposed single currency for ECOWAS, be extended.
In July, ECOWAS members agreed that eco will be launched in January 2020. They also agreed that a flexible currency regime would be adopted.
While eight, mostly francophone countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau (Portuguese-speaking), Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo — announced that they would be changing from the CFA to eco in December, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia and Gambia, who are all English-speaking, as well as Guinea, a francophone country, rejected the adoption of eco.
In a tweet on Monday, the presidency said certain criteria are yet to be met, hence the need for the extension.
The tweet was posted during the ongoing African Union summit in Ethiopia.
The Presidency tweeted, via its official handle, @NGRPresident “Nigeria’s position on the ECO Currency is that the convergence criteria have not been met by majority of the countries. There therefore has to be an extension of time on the take-off of the single currency.”
After a stakeholders meeting held in Abuja in January, delegates had recommended that an extraordinary general meeting of ECOWAS heads of state and governments in the West African monetary zone be convened to discuss the matter.