Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday warned against failure to comply with laid-down rules in the pursuit of Eco regional currency by some member countries as it could put the agenda in ‘serious jeopardy.’
Speaking at a virtual extraordinary meeting of the Authority of Heads of States and Governments of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), Buhari expressed concern about the decision of Francophone countries to form the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) to replace the CFA Franc with Eco without carrying other member states along.
A statement by the president’s media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the meeting discussed the implementation of the ECOWAS Monetary Cooperation Programme (EMCP) as well as the ECOWAS Single Currency Agenda.
The president said: ‘‘We have urged our ministers towards an expeditious path to success. It, therefore, gives me an uneasy feeling that the UEMOA Zone now wishes to take up the Eco in replacement for its CFA Franc ahead of the rest of the member states.
‘‘This is in addition to deviating from the Community Act on a consistent attainment of convergence in the three years running up to the introduction of the currency, and our subsequent reinforcing directives.”
The president also expressed concern that ministers from French speaking West African countries had evolved a bill aimed at reforming CFA Franc, which had been passed in their various parliaments.
He noted that the Francophone countries had decided to outrun other member countries without engaging them in any discussion.
‘‘I am informed that the French ministers have approved a bill to reform the CFA Franc and most, if not all of the UEMOA member states, have already passed legislations in their various parliaments to that effect.
‘‘It is a matter of concern that a people with whom we wish to go into a union are taking these major steps without trusting us for discussion,’’ he added.
However, he assured ECOWAS leaders of Nigeria’s commitment to the ECOWAS single currency, imploring them to critically consider the recommendations made by the Convergence Council and take a common position to safeguard the West African Monetary Zone from the pitfalls of a questionable union.
According to him, Nigeria’s support for a monetary union with the right fundamentals, which guarantee credibility, sustainability, overall regional prosperity and sovereignty remains constant.
The president told the forum that following the potential contractions and even losses from the global COVID-19 pandemic, member states ought to be cautious and ensure compliance with the set standards.
He emphasised the need to be cautious in the pursuit of this agenda, noting that it will be ridiculous if the union disintegrates barely a moment after they entered into it.
He added: ‘‘We cannot ridicule ourselves by entering a union to disintegrate, potentially no sooner than we enter into it. We need to be clear and unequivocal about our position regarding this process. We must also communicate same to the outside world effectively.
“We have all staked so much in this project to leave things to mere expediencies and convenience. My dear colleagues, heads of state and government, it is obvious that we are at a crossroads.
‘‘We must proceed with caution and comply with the agreed process of reaching our collective goal while treating each other with utmost respect. Without these, our ambitions for a strategic Monetary Union as an ECOWAS bloc could very well be in serious jeopardy,’’ he said.
However, following calls for caution by Buhari along with leaders of some other West African countries at the meeting, ECOWAS leaders resolved to convene an enlarged meeting of the regional bloc on the single currency issue.