ECOWAS member states urged to eliminate barriers to implementation of regional free movement protocol

An ECOWAS information and sensitization workshop for government officials and non-state actors has ended in Accra, Ghana with the participants calling on Member States to ensure effective implementation of the regional free movement protocol, through reducing and ultimately eliminating “harassment, corruption and
extortion by border agents.”

The implementation of the ECOWAS flagship Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Goods, and the Rights of Residence and Establishment, which makes the region the only one with a visa-free regime in Africa, faces some impediments, mostly extortions and multiple road blocks mounted by security officials of Member States along the regional road corridors.

As a solution, the three-day workshop which ended on Friday, 22nd June 2012 recommended that Member States should install security cameras at border posts to check the extortion of monies from travellers.

Information and complaints desks should also be created at entry points to address issues of violations and abuse of Community citizens’ rights, while trans-border traders should be educated on various Community protocols.

In addition, Member States are urged to harmonize their laws and policies in conformity with ECOWAS protocols and decisions to facilitate compliance and implementation.

They should also integrate the values of ECOWAS into their educational curricula to inculcate the sense of Community into citizens while efforts should be expedited towards the early introduction of a single currency, in view of its critical role in fostering intra-regional trade.

The workshop participants called on the ECOWAS Commission to adopt the bottom-up approach with greater involvement of ordinary citizens in the formulation and implementation of its programmes.

The Commission is further urged to pursue efforts at reviewing the mandate of the ECOWAS Parliament to “enhance its process with a view to transforming it into a legislative body” and in regards to its role in regional peace and security.

The participants equally called on the Commission to address the challenges of youth unemployment, promote cultural exchanges among Member States and consider the establishment of radio and TV networks to promote ECOWAS ideals.

The Commission is also urged to institute award schemes for journalists reporting ECOWAS issues and to give serious consideration to the mainstreaming of gender into its policies.

The workshop, co-sponsored by the ECOWAS Commission and the ECOWAS National Unit, Ghana was opened by Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Honourable Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, who called on Community citizens to assume ownership and participate actively in the implementation of ECOWAS regional integration programmes.

For implementation of regional integration programmes to succeed, Honourable Mumuni, represented by Ambassador Leslie Kodjo Christian, the Chief Director in the ministry, said it must be “people-driven and people-centred.”

In his welcome address, the ECOWAS Acting Director of Communication, Mr. Sunny Ugoh, said the workshop, which was started some 15 years ago, was part of ongoing efforts to engage citizens so as to encourage and promote their ownership of regional programmes in line with the objectives of a citizen-driven Community and Vision 2020.

The workshop was attended by governmental and non-State actors, officials of Ghana Immigration and Customs Services, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Integration,  ECOWAS Commission, Community Court of Justice and Parliament, ECOWAS Health Organization,  representatives of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, traders, market women, students associations and the media, among others.