ECOWAS Raises Committee on Closure of Nigeria’s Land Borders

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has constituted a committee to study the impact of Nigeria’s closure of its land borders on its neighbours and submit a report to the authority of the regional body for further decision.

The committee, headed by Burkinabe President, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, was, however, not given a deadline to submit its report.

The decision to raise the committee was taken on Sunday night by West African leaders at the margins of the ongoing 33rd African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered the closure of the borders on August 20, last year to check the influx of smuggled products, notably rice and arms, into the country. The move was also made to forestall illegal export of petroleum products out of the country.

The federal government said the border closure had been positive for the economy as local production of food such as rice had increased while local consumption of petrol had fallen.

It has also vowed not to reopen the borders until its neighbours, mainly Republic of Benin, Niger Republic and Chad, ensure they properly regulate their sides of the borders.

However, the neighbouring countries affected by the border closure have faulted Nigeria’s action, saying that the measure violates ECOWAS and African Union protocols.

But a statement yesterday by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, quoted Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, as telling journalists after the meeting that the gathering also discussed West Africa’s new single currency, the Eco, and the situation in Guinea Bissau after the country’s presidential election.

The meeting, which lasted for three hours, was chaired by the ECOWAS Chairman and Niger Republic’s President, Mahamadou Issoufou and attended by Buhari.

The statement quoted Onyeama as saying, ‘‘the President of Burkina Faso is charged with undertaking a full study of the situation, make a report and then we take it from there.’’

The minister said the report would be presented to the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government as soon as possible to decide on the next step.

“As soon as possible, there are no timelines. But he (Issoufou) is supposed to start very quickly, study the situation from all the affected countries and present his report,’’ Onyeama stated.

On the Eco currency, the minister said: ‘‘Nothing has changed in respect of Nigeria’s position,” adding that Nigeria’s position on the currency is that the convergence criteria have not been met by majority of the countries and hence, there has to be an extension of time on the take-off of the single currency.

“On Guinea Bissau, the Minister said ECOWAS leaders recognised that there was an appeal of the presidential election result and they are waiting for the Supreme Court decision on the matter,” the statement added.

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