Alex Enumah in Abuja
A forum of critical stakeholders thursday called on the federal government to resist the admission of Morocco into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the grounds that the admission of Morocco might likely create unnecessary tension in the region as well as impact negatively on the economy of member states, particularly, Nigeria.
The stakeholders gave the advice yesterday in Abuja, at a one-day High Level Policy Dialogue organised by Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in conjunction with the Freidrich Hebert Stiftung (FES).
The dialogue which has as its theme: â€˜Morocco Ascension to ECOWAS: Opportunities and Threats,â€™ brought together an array of stakeholders from the academia, diplomatic corps, civil society, ECOWAS, multilateral organisations, and government institutions and agencies to critically interrogate the economic, security and foreign policy implications of Moroccoâ€™s ascension to ECOWAS.
The forum in a communique read at the end of its meeting by Senior Program Officer, Centre for Democracy and Development, Shamsudeen Yusuf, was of the position that ascension of Morocco would do more harm than good to the healthy relations that have existed among members over time.
â€œNigeria has been playing â€œmother gooseâ€ role within the regional body for several years. Ascension of Morocco to ECOWAS might create tension between the country and Nigeria which may invariably affect effective operations of the regional blocs, particularly in facilitating the process of economic development and democratic deepening in West Africa,â€ Yusuf stated.
The forum also expressed concern over the current state of the Moroccan economy noting that it is been faced with serious challenges that may likely translate to more economic challenges for the region.
â€œCurrently, the Kingdom of Morocco is plagued by high unemployment, public and foreign debt, and she is predominantly an agro-based economy which places it more as a burden to the regional body than stimulant of economic growth and development,â€ the forum stated.
Another reason the forum gave for its call for the rejection of the ascension of Morocco into ECOWAS is the fact that the country has a multiplicity of membership, and is alleged to be a potential proxy for Franceâ€™s neo-liberal preoccupation in West Africa, a situation the meeting agrees portend more danger than good to the political and economic development of West African countries.
In her keynote address, the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, stated that apart from the economic and political consideration listed above for the singular fact that Moroccoâ€™s system of government is not in tandem with ECOWAS principles makes the idea uncomfortable.
â€œToday, all the 15 States that makes up the ECOWAS are practising democracy so why allow a monarchy to come into play? So based on that alone, beyond the issue of economy, beyond the issue of the pride of place we occupy in history as the big power in West Africa and the world, we should actually oppose the ascension of Morocco into ECOWAS .
She disclosed that while most Nigerian experts believe that the ascension of Morocco into ECOWAS is not a positive development for the country, majority of ECOWAS members are favourably disposed to the move.
â€œAnd the body language, as we love to say in Nigeria, of almost 12 state parties suggests they are favorable to the ascension of Morocco into ECOWAS. The Ivorian Minister of Finance, Adama Kone has been quoted as saying Moroccoâ€™s membership of ECOWAS would â€œonly give a greater economic weight to the region.
â€œDo not also forget that there are religious and cultural affinity with Senegal, in particular, Mali and Cote dâ€™Ivoire,â€ she added.