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ECOWAS leaders keep mute on Morroco’s membership

The 52nd Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of State and government came to an end on Saturday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital with no mention of the status of the request sent by Morocco to join the region.

In a Statement released by ECOWAS Commission on the eve of the Head of government meeting, they said: “At the 51st Ordinary Session held in June 2017, in Monrovia, Liberia, the West African leaders agreed in principle to Morroco’s membership of the community, while requesting the Commission to consider the implications of such decision pursuant to the provision of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty and submit their findings to the 52nd session.

“To this end, a study of the impact of Morocco’s membership was carried out and the outcome due to be submitted to the Authority” the statement stated.

However, Daily Times observed that there was no mention of the issue of Morocco throughout the summit. It was also observed that prior to the opening Speech by the host President, Muhammadu Buhari, the Summit programme was altered and it commenced with a closed door session which lasted for four hours.

A source disclosed to Daily Times that the session was to allow the 15 ECOWAS member nations deliberate on the implications of Morocco joining the region.

According to the source, most of the Francophone countries supported the admission of Morocco while the Anglophone countries think otherwise.

It was learnt that because most of the francophone countries enjoy free import duties from France and other countries in Europe, they do not consider the entrance of Morocco as a major threat. They equally believe that the presence of Morocco will increase the trade relations between both continents.

However, the source also disclosed the Anglophone countries are of the opinion that the admission of Morocco will pose a major threat to the economy of the region as most of the Anglophone countries are industrial hubs in the region and major financier of ECOWAS. Although they are in the minority, the source said that they were able to get Portuguese speaking ECOWAS countries to their side and threatened to place economic blockade on the sub regional body if Morocco is admitted.

The source went further to state that Nigeria even threatened to quit from the sub-region if Morocco will be admitted.

The stakeholders in Nigeria are worried that should Morocco become a member of ECOWAS, it could have negative political and economic implications for Nigeria and warned against Nigeria exiting the body.

They also noted that Morocco and West Africa had no geographical closeness and that it would be a breach of the ECOWAS treaty to admit a non-regional country.

In their view, the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN), led by John Shinkanye, are of the view that the admission of Morocco will pose serious challenges for peace and security and will particularly affect the current regional efforts to fight and defeat terrorism adding that “it would be one of the most humiliating moments of our country’s foreign policy since Independence”.

In a presentation before the House of Representatives, they said that “Nigeria has spent $20 billion in the last 42 years of ECOWAS existence and observed that Morocco which became a member of Organization of Africa Union (OAU) in 1972 “ owed $2,185,158.77 and has still not paid these outstanding dues”.

Speaking in the same vein, the National Institute of International Affairs pointed out that there is no provision in ECOWAS treaty that allows Morocco to be admitted and stressed the need for alliance between member states to ensure that Morocco does not become a member.

The Representative of the institute, Prof. Fred Agwu warned that it will only end up destabilising the West African region and charged Nigeria as a country, to be very proactive, assert its leadership position and use the instrumentalities available to it to block Morocco’s admittance.

“I feel it is important for Nigeria to remain in ECOWAS and to make sure that it blocks this move by Morocco to come into Ecowas because it has the power to block it. ECOWAS treaty gives us the leverage to block it because ECOWAS treaty does not provide for ascension by people from other parts of West Africa sub-region”, he said.

The Human Right Activist, Femi Falana, warned that Morocco’s admission will expose Nigeria to ridicule and subvert its economic prosperity and gains recorded in the past, adding that Morocco would become a conduit pipe to flood the region with European goods. He warned that admitting Morocco into ECOWAS will amongst other things, also lead to alterations in the name and instrumentalities of the body.

Myke Uzendu, Abuja

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