ECOWAS Leaders Constitute Committee on Closure of Nigeria’s Land Borders

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By Omololu Ogunmade

The concern generated by the closure of Nigeria’s land borders was a subject of serious attention on Sunday at the margins of the ongoing 33rd African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia as the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments constituted a committee to study the situation and make a full report to the body.

The decision to raise the committee, chaired by the President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, was the fallout of a resolution reached by the ECOWAS leaders at an extraordinary session called to discuss Nigeria’s land border closure and other pressing regional matters.

Nigeria’s federal government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the closure of the borders on August 20, last year to check the influx of smuggled products, notably rice, into the country. The move was also made to forestall illegal export of petroleum products out of the country.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs’ Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, told journalists after the meeting which lasted for three hours behind closed doors that the meeting, chaired by the ECOWAS Chairman and Niger Republic’s President, Mahamadou Issoufou,was attended by Buhari.

According to the statement, Onyeama told journalists that the meeting also discussed West Africa′s new single currency, the Eco, and the situation in Guinea Bissau after the country’s presidential election.

The statement quoted Onyeama as saying, ‘‘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.’’

It also said the minister disclosed that the report would be presented to ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments as soon as possible even though no specific timeline was given for its submission.

“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,’’ Onyeama reportedly said.

Speaking on the Eco currency, the minister also said ‘‘nothing has changed in respect of Nigeria’s position,” pointing out that Nigeria’s position on the currency is that the convergence criteria have not been met by majority of the countries, and hence, there has to be an extension of time on the take-off of the single currency.

“On Guinea Bissau, the Minister said ECOWAS leaders recognised that there was an appeal of the presidential election result and they are waiting for the Supreme Court decision on the matter,” the statement added.