Experts, others oppose Morocco admittance into ECOWAS


November 9, 2017 | 5:12 pm
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Experts on international relations, legal luminaries, captains of industry, organized labour, academia, civil society groups and Members of Nigeria’s Parliament (MOPs) on Thursday expressed stiff opposition to the proposed admittance of Morocco into Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

They specifically noted that Morocco has been become fertile ground for the ISIS terrorist group as well as European Union (EU) to push for the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), thereby eroding the successes recorded against terrorism, socio-economic development and, employment and local industries.

The stakeholders who stated their positions during the public hearing on the request for Morocco’s membwrship of ECOWAS held at the instance of joint House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Integration in Africa, chaired by Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, alleged that officials of Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs should not mislead the President into taking volatile decision that will impact negatively on the country as in the case of Bakassi Peninsula.

While giving the position of over 2,500 members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and organized private sector, Ibrahim Usman, argued that the Morocco’s membership is “a direct attempt to reducing the influence and strength of Nigeria as a strategic political and economic force in ECOWAS.

ECOWAS treaty which promotes the reign of democratically elected president in all member states with a maximum of two terms by interpretation has no room for the monarchical system of government of Morocco.

“Admitting Morocco has dire consequences on the region considering the fact that ISIS is gaining ground in Morocco. The security as regards the activities of ISIS in the Maghreb region and the likely effect could have on our already challenged economy through the activities of Boko Haram is an issue of concern,” he warned.

With Morocco’s membership of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) and associate country of EU, Arab League and the Union for Mediterranean, the country has high antecedents of disputes with her neighboring countries and associations she belongs to previously, including the AU at a time. It can undermine the peaceful coexistence of ECOWAS states.

The Group further punctured Morocco’s promise to build infrastructure if admitted into the ECOWAS regional bloc “needs to be technically appraised, as the country’s unemployment level and debt-to-GDP ratio of 64.7% as contained in the 2016 international monetary fund (IMF) report against the IMF benchmark of 40% for developing and emerging economies clearly reveals the likelihood of a mere wishful thinking.

“Moroccan economy is not industrialised and so, one wonders where it will get industrial goods to trade with ECOWAS. The obvious is that it would further interest of EU by becoming a strategic channel for pushing EU goods that Nigeria is currently challenging through the backdoor,” the OPS maintained.

On their part, John Shinkanye, chairman, Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) unanimously frowned at the final communique issued by the ECOWAS leaders in which they expressed general support for Morocco’s admission as well as the invitation extended to King Mohammed VI to attend the forthcoming 52nd Ordinary session of ECOWAS slated for December 2017 in Lome, Togo.

He said: “the admission of Morocco will pose serious challenges for peace and security and particularly will affect the current regional efforts to fight and defeat terrorism. ARCAN is of the view that free movement of peoples, goods and services will further open up the corridor between North and West Africa to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, human trafficking, increased nefarious activities of terrorists and other non-state actors.

“There will also be negative consequences for Nigeria’s economic if Morocco is allowed to join ECOWAS. Morocco would take full advantage to flood the huge ECOWAS market of 350 million consumers with its goods at the expense of Nigeria. Morocco’s products will enjoy tariff-free access throughout the community. As an offshore manufacturing hub of many EU countries, this prospect would be to the obvious benefit of Morocco. Furthermore, custom duties and other taxes currently being paid on Morocco’s exports (goods and services) to ECOWAS will be lost to states in the region,” he said.

While noting that Nigeria has spent $20 billion in the last 42 years of ECOWAS existence, he observed that Morocco which became a member of Organization of African Union (OAU) in 1972 “was owing $2,185,158.77 and has still not paid these outstanding dues.”

While disagreeing with the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs that Nigeria stands to benefit immensely from economic, trade and infrastructure development, the OPS representative argued that the romance with Morocco will adversely impact negatively on industries, employment and regional integration among ECOWAS member states.

On his part, Femi Falana, Human Right Activist and Lagos based Lawyer, noted that admitting Morocco into ECOWAS will also open door for other Francophone countries such as Tunisia.

According to him, such move if adopted by Nigeria and other ECOWAS member states, will necessitate the amendment of all instruments and treaties signed with other African countries and other foreign countries, adding that the move was a opposed to the provisions of African Charter on human rights will also not be ratified.

He argued that AU is in trouble over Morocco’s admission, adding that Morocco is bribing some countries to stage walk-out at the Summit, stressing that citizens of Morocco cannot attend ECOWAS court in protecting the rights and human rights.

According to him, the UN charter does not allow mineral resources taken out of sub-Sahara territory will not be mined or exported adding that Nigeria which constitute 70% of the economic strength of ECOWAS will be impacted with massive job losses, while all our industries are going to collapse.

To this end, he urged National Assembly to impress it on the Executive not to commit Nigeria by signing treaties without domestication adding that similar lapses led to the crisis with Bakassi Peninsula.

While giving NLC’s position, Uche Ekwe, a former member of House of Foreign Affairs (1999-2003) alleged that France directly controls the francophone votes to even buy tickets for massive mobilization to vote attending those meetings.

“They are beginning to feel that Nigeria is controlling the West African countries hence the plan to bring Morocco to rubbish the gains recorded in the region. If we have not said No, we have conceded. If we have said no, those 11 countries wouldn’t have voted at all,” Ekwe said.

He alleged that key decision makers within the Executive are fond of being absent where international issues of great consequences are discussed, noting that Nigeria merely sent those who cannot take responsibility to the summit where the 11 countries voted in support of Morocco’s admission.

“I’m sure this message will be the position sold to Mr President. How do you ascribe that Nigeria will be working against the position of African Union,” Ekwe said.

Oladele George, who sponsored the motion on Review of Nigeria’s continued membership if the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in view of the clamour toe admit Morocco into the Community.”

While noting that Nigeria has been under severe pressure on Nigeria from the Francophone countries, he queried why the Minister of Foreign Affairs did not oppose the Summit where the resolution was passed.

While speaking, Elendu-Ukeje who presided over the public hearing noted that the House is passionate about the development of the private sector.

Ukeje noted that recommendations of the Committee will be transmitted to the House where the final resolution will be passed.

Also speaking, Frederick Egbedi (PDP-Bayelsa) noted that the presentation of the Minister claimed and alluded to the fact that this is beneficial to us.

“He (Minister) alluded that this is a very important decision that was how he ended but other participants who opposed the Minister,” Egbedi noted.

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November 9, 2017 | 5:12 pm
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