ECOWAS:Tasks Ahead Of Tinubu As Chairman

By Suleiman Umaru

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who incidentally was a former governor of Lagos state appears to  have won the heart of the fifteen member – countries of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, in Bisau, Capital of Guinea –Bisau, to be elected unanimously as the Union Chairman at a first meeting.

 Diplomatic analysts had said that his emergence as the Chairman of the sub-regional body may not be unconnected to some of the tough economic decisions taken in the early stage of his Administration: Removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Sprit, PMS, popular, Petrol importation into the country and unification of the counry’s multiple exchange rats which past Admirations had failed to do.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu: Chairman ECOWAS

The ECOWAS Leaders may have followed every steps taken since his inauguration on May 29, 2023, including the recent suspension of the five percent taxes on Telecommunication facilities, Green tax, escalation of tax on locally manufactured products to reduce the suffering of Nigerians as well as the suspension of the Import Adjustment tax and levy , IAT,  on imported vehicles to have found him worthy to leady the economic bloc and give it a direction .

Former President Muhammadu Buhari and a –one time Chairman of the ECOWAS  Sun-region  had approved  the implementation  of the 2022 Fiscal Policy  Measures made up of the Supplementary  Protection Measures, SPM,  for the implementation  of the ECOWAS, Common External Tariff, CET, 2022 -2026 and Excise duties  on non- alcoholic, alcoholic, Cigarettes  and Tobacco products .

The former Katsina state born Nigerian President may have damned the consequences of the economic policies which gave rise to’’ the introduction and implementation of the Import Adjustment tax and levy on 172 tariff lines of the extant ECOWAS CET’’. He could do that because it was what was said to have been agreed by the ECOWAS leaders in their 2020 meetings.

Many of the West African Leaders believe that if the Nigerian Leader could take such a bold economic initiatives which the World Bank, in the past had consistently said that ‘’it impeded investment and undermanned efficiency of Monetary and fiscal policies in the most populous African country and there was o uproar,, he could do much better at the sub-regional level to improve trade among the 15-member states.

Recall that   the authority of Heads of States and Government  of the  ECOWAS Sub-region, had agreed  ‘’to launch  a new currency, ECO,  in January 2020  that will  ‘’free cross-border traders  and travelers within the sub-region  from the hassles  of exchanging  currencies,  and to boost intra-area trade  and an integrated and prosperous region’.

The argument in both official and unofficial quarters was that  a monetary union  with a single currency  for the 15  member states  would mean  that  the countries   would transfer  their  political  authority  to ECOWAS  institution but the  member states, according to informed sources  were not willing  to subordinate  their national   and regional interests to the ECOWAS Institutions   because of ineffective and weak Leadership.

President Umaro: Immediate Past Chairman, ECOWAS

The Lagos state born Nigerian President had succeeded   Umaro Embalo  Guinea –Bisau to pilot the affairs of the West African sub-region for the next one year is expected to introduce some innovations as obtained in Nigeria and ensure that the ECO currency become a reality.

The new ECOWAS Chairman, is expected also to ensure the full implementation of the   Economic bloc Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS. The ETLS, which  according to a retired senior Customs officer, who spoke to The Value News on condition of anonymity  had said that the objective  of the scheme   is ‘’to liberalise  trade within the sub-region   by abolishing  of Customs duties  levied on imports  and exports  and the elimination  of non-tariff  barriers  among member  states for the establishment  of a  free trade  area at the Cmmunity level.

The ECOWAS protocol which was said to have been first implemented in 1979, had remained a major   as member-states had failed to implement it. As a prelude to giving the ember States a soft landing to implement the scheme, the union had adopted in 2022, a new agreement   on rules of origin initiated by the Ngozi Okonjo-Iwala, a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy, during Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration led World Trade Organisation, WTO.

 The Union was said to have agreed to comply with the same rules of origin under the ETLS but that was how far it could go.  The ECOWAS protocol of January 31, 2023, had defined ‘’the concept of originating products and criteria applicable to ease the process for approval of industrial products.

It was not surprising why a National Approvals Committee, NAC, responsible for examining application for approval of companies and their products traded within the sub-region was established to ensure that the products actually   meet the originating criteria. Notwithstanding, the moves by past Chairmen of the ECOWAS sub-region to ensure the implementation of the Economic bloc protocols, trade between the 15-member states was not encouraging.  

Take for instance, trade between Nigeria and the neighbouring country of Benin Republic is was sad to be as low as two percent.    The Nigerian President, who could not hide his feelings had said that for trade between the member States to be improved, he had told his Beninois Counterpart, Patrick Talon, in Paris, Capital of France, during the New Global Financing Pact signing summit that he has appointed Wale Adeniyi, as the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, NC, for the countries to relate with him. This an indications that he meant well for union, even when he has not been elected as Chairman.

As the Chairman of the sub-regional economic body, the Nigerian President may have come to come to the conclusion that improved trade among the 15- member States  could only be achieved by  embracing Democracy   which he has described as  ‘’very tough  but  remained the best  form of  government’’.

Talking tough, he has warned  that ‘’the threat to peace  in the sub-region  had reached  an alarming  proportion  with terrorism  and emerging  pattern of military  takeover  that  now demand  urgent  and concerted actions’’.

 Tinubu, the  new ECOWS Chairman, was said to have  called for  a collective  action  from  member- States , pledging that giving the responsibility of the office  and his desire to run  an inclusive administration of  the sub-regional organization, all ‘’frameworks  to actualise the dreams  of the economic bloc would be harmonised’’.

He HAD SAID that without a peaceful environment, ‘’the much expected progress and development within the sub-region would continue to be truncated’’. This may have informed why he has urged member –states ‘’to remain committed to the utilization of all regional frameworks and proposals to address the menace of insecurity’’. He may have alluded to the security challenges in Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Niger Republic and Nigeria, his home country.

Acoording to the Nigerian President, the Sub-regional body has no reason to fail because it had developed a security architecture, which covers a wide range of areas that involve kinetic and non-kinetic operations, including preventive diplomacy.  He was said to have to have made  areference to ‘’the regional plan  of action against terrorism  2020-2024 as well as the operationalization  of the ECOWAS Standby  Force  on Fight Against Terrorism’’.

He may have gladdened  the heart of the  West African countries Leaders when he  declared that he  will hit the ground running  by going ahead to harmonize  all the plans  , mobilise available resources as well as  muster the political will  towards  the actualization  of the ECOWAS, initiatives.

 He had asserted given that terrorists do not respect boundaries,the authority of ECOWAS Heads of States and Government must work collectively ‘’to have an effective regional  counter-terrorism  measure’’. While  decrying the emerging pattern of  coup-d’etat  in the sub-region  where soldiers  have truncated  the popular mandate of the people, the Nigerian President  was said to have  charged  the ECOWAS Leaders  ‘’to stand firm  in defence of democracy ‘’, insisting that  ‘’there is no governance , freedom  and rule of law  without democracy’’. 

He may have sent a message to the coup plotters who had succeeded in truncating democracy in their respective countries that’’ the region will no longer accept coup after coup’’. This is bad news for the coup leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Hear him: We didn’t give our soldiers resources, we didn’t invest in them, in their booths, in their raining to violate the freedom of the people to freely vote for their leaders in elections He asserted that ‘’to turn their guns against the civil authorities is a violation of the principles upon which they were hired, which is to defend the soverignity of the nations’’. We must not sit in ECOWAS as toothless bulldogs but must bark and bite’’, he insists.

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