Group: By Trading with Morocco, Buhari in Breach of AU Position on Western Sahara

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• Falana, NIIA, others caution against admission of N’African nation into ECOWAS

James Emejo in Abuja
There are indications that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is currently flouting the African Union legal opinion on Western Sahara by engaging in trade with Morocco.
President of the Nigerian National Movement for the Restoration of Western Sahara, Prof. Dipo Fashina, said Nigeria was putting its integrity at stake for money.

 The AU had regarded as illegal, the exploitation and exploration of resources from Western Sahara which was recently liberated from Morocco and Mauritania which took control of the country after Spain was forced to give it up.

But while Mauritania had reportedly vacated the Western Sahara, Morocco is still laying siege and exploiting the country.
Buhari, who had committed to the freedom of the liberated economy, has allegedly turned back to breach the AU declaration by allowing trading between Nigerian conglomerates, including Dangote and Morocco, which continued to perpetrate illegality in Western Sahara.

 The group alleged that Morocco is alleged to be exporting phosphate and other materials used for construction projects to Dangote in clear breach of AU stance.
Fashina said the current administration should defend the integrity of the country and halt business deals with Morocco.

 However, renowned human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN); the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) as well as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) yesterday registered their opposition against the clamour to admit Morocco into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Also opposing the admission of the North African country into ECOWAS are the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) and Bolytag Centre for International Diplomacy and Strategic Studies.
Falana blamed the Nigerian Government for exhibiting weakness in its leadership capacity in the ECOWAS, prompting Morocco to capitalise on Nigeria’s lapses to seek admission into the community.
He said the African continent appeared confused over the status of Western Sahara because Nigeria refused to act at a critical moment when the decision on whether or not to admit Morocco was taken by other member countries.

 Nevertheless, he warned that the entry of Morocco into ECOWAS could result into unprecedented problems for the community and Nigeria.
Falana pointed out that the North African country is not even qualified to join the community given that it’s not within the vicinity of ECOWAS going by the latter’s treaty.
He said Morocco cannot afford to accede to the legal instrument of ECOWAS given that it operates a monarchical system of government and can’t conduct free and fair elections as required by member countries of the community.

 Furthermore, the legal luminary said if allowed to join the community, Morocco can’t access ECOWAS courts as it does not recognise the ECOWAS Charter.
He said the current administration must take step to stop the admission and save Nigeria from ridicule in the international community.

 Falana, who spoke at a one-day public hearing on the review of Nigeria’s continued membership of ECOWAS in view of the clamour to admit Morocco into the community, added that Morocco’s entry could subvert the economic prosperity of the community, Nigeria in particular, because the North African state has trade liberalisation agreement with the European Union and could serve as conduit for EU to flood ECOWAS countries with finished goods.

 It was organised by Joint Committees on Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Integration in Africa chaired by Hon. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje (PDP, Abia).
Meanwhile, Director-General, Nigeria Institute for International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Bukar Bukarambe counseled against Nigeria exiting the ECOWAS as a result of Morocco’s entry bid, cautioning that this could be catastrophic for the country as it would give room for interventionist opportunity by Morocco.

 Represented by Research Professor of NIIA, Fred Awgu, he said the North African country is still nursing animosity against Nigeria following the latter’s role in the liberation of Western Sahara.
He said to allow for its admission would be a great undoing to the Nigerian economy, especially in the area of Insecurity as the global terrorist group, ISIS, is beginning to have a traction in Morocco, and  by allowing for free movement could be dangerous for the country.

All the stakeholders who spoke voiced their frustrations over earlier comments by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, who said data from the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment showed trade between Nigeria and Morocco was increasing and should be encouraged as it will aid wealth creation and develop the economy.

He, however, admitted that Morocco could nevertheless be a Trojan horse if admitted as the EU could use it to penetrate the ECOWAS markets and effect dumping.
President of Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC), Ayuba Wabba, also blamed Nigerian Government for having poor representation at international engagement which led to the current problem.

Eleven member countries, except Nigeria which was not present at the meeting, reportedly voted in support of Morocco’s entry into the community.
Wabba, represented by Head, International Relations of NLC, Uchenna Ekwe, said Nigeria would lose economically as there’ll be a lot of job cuts should the country be allowed into ECOWAS.
“We are opposed to the admission of Morocco,” he said.