ECOWAS to Dismantle Obstacles to Free Movement by 2020

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*Commends Nigeria’s elevation on ease of doing business

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said all obstacles to free movement of goods and persons in the region would be uprooted by the year 2020; in line with the target of a four-year timeline given to a committee set up in that regard.

Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS had in December 2016 agreed to the setting up of a Presidential Taskforce on free movement among member states of the regional bloc.

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 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 said.

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.

In addition, De Souza said the taskforce would continue to sensitise border officials to understanding and implementing the requirements of the protocols on free movement.

He commended 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 was worthy of commendation since according to him, “Nigeria’s GDP makes up 70 per cent of the region’s GDP”.

He, however, identified the activities of Boko Haram, Biafra and drop in oil prices as some of the challenges affecting the economy of Nigeria.

In a goodwill message, the UN Resident/ Humanitarian Coordinator and UN Development Programme Representative Edward Kallon, reiterated the support of the UN to the implementation of the protocols of free movement.

According to Kallon, both the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) support 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 region, set aside the sum of Euros 1 billion to support peace, security, trade and agricultural development from 2014 to 2020.