by OLUSHOLA BELLO, Lagos
The decision of Morocco to join the ECOWAS did not come to those familiar with the International politics as a surprise. What is however surprising was the veiled support Nigeria as a country seems to be giving to the initiatives.
Immediately the deal was announced, many expected Nigeria to frown at it and ensure it was never given a thought, especially as the country remains the domain figure in the ECOWAS bloc, contributing more than 60 per cent of its total revenue.
Though Nigeria was not present at the 51st summit of the regional body held in Monrovia, Liberia when the decision to approve in principle Morocco’s application to the ECOWAS was taken, the country was expected to have voiced its opposition to the idea. Rather, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama only said, “The principle of course is one of non-hostility to Morocco. There’s no enmity there that would mean an immediate and automatic negative response to such a request. What has to be looked at a bit more is all the technical ramifications.”
Worried by the lackluster attitude of the government and the impending consequences of admitting Morocco into the ECOWAS, so many organisations and Trade Union in Nigeria have voiced their opposition and urged the government to be very affirmative in rejecting the idea, which they all claimed will spell doom for Nigeria as a country.
Last week, at the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) 45th Annual General Meeting (AGM), held in Lagos, the Association vehemently opposed the admission of Morocco into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) union, warning that such move will have a disastrous effect on the nation’s economy.
Speaking through its president Frank Jacobs at the AGM, MAN, said admission of Morocco into ECOWAS will be equivalent to signing the EPA through the back door. “We therefore urge the federal government to vehemently oppose the move as it would spell doom to the productive sector of the economy”
He further explained, “We are aware that Morocco and European Union (EU) have trade agreement, which means if they become part of ECOWAS, products that come into Morocco from EU will end up in Nigeria, after all Nigeria is the biggest market among all these countries in the ECOWAS, so we are vehemently oppose to Morocco being admitted into ECOWAS, it will really affect us badly, so we are telling our government not to allow them become part of ECOWAS because it will badly affect the productive sector of our economy. Come to think of it, why should they be part of ECOWAS? They are too far, ECOWAS is Economic States of West Africa, Morocco is not part of West Africa and they should not be part of ECOWAS.”
Also on the Morocco joining the ECOWAS, it would be recalled that the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) yesterday called on the Nigerian government to resist any attempt by other member countries of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to admit Morocco into the regional body.
Noting that Morocco, by reason of its geographical location, does not qualify to be admitted into the regional organization, the association, through its founding chairman and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ignatius Olisemeka, however warned that Morocco’s motive was political and aimed at whittling down the strength of Nigeria for her role in the admission of Western Sahara into the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
The association however wondered why the federal government has so far, not engaged in a vigorous campaign against Morocco’s move, stressing that the government owes Nigerians an explanation.
According to ARCAN, the admission of Morocco in principle, if true, would have been one of the most humiliating and lowest points in Nigeria’s foreign policy since independence.
“We say so because ECOWAS as a sub-regional economic association of only West African states was the brainchild of Nigeria under the government of General Yakubu Gowon and the government of Togo under President Gnassingbe Eyadema
“Morocco is coming to whittle down the power of Nigeria, not only in ECOWAS, African Union but also in the United Nations. Morocco has a political agenda and the agenda is that Nigeria spearheaded the admission of Western Sahara into the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) then.
“Morocco took offense and left the OAU. So, right from the word go, it will look as if Morocco does not care about the feelings of other people. It is only its own interest and nothing else.
“If Morocco comes into ECOWAS, it is not only going to destabilize the organization, it will work very hard to get them not to continue with their support for the Western Sahara,” ARCAN stated.
The association however expressed fear that Anglophone West African countries would be easily swayed by whatever argument Morocco will make since they are less than the Francophone countries.
With Nigeria paying over 60 per cent of ECOWAS annual budget, ARCAN flayed Nigerian government for watching at a move to ruin its investment in the Commission. The association further argued that admitting Morocco into the regional body would mark the end of ECOWAS, as a new name would be introduced to accommodate countries beyond the border of West Africa.
Rather than seek to destabilize ECOWAS, ARCAN has called on Morocco to go back to the regional organization it originally belonged and reconcile its difference with its brother nations.
In the same vein, among many others, The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) have jointly condemned and rejected the move by the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) to admit the Kingdom of Morocco, a country in North Africa, into the commission.
Beside the fact that the treaty establishing ECOWAS in 1975, or its subsequent amendments, did not permit a geographically non-West African State to become a member of the organisation; the NLC warned that ECOWAS cannot be hobnobbing with a monarchy which has continued to illegally occupy Western Sahara and holding on to it as a colony.
This, according to the NLC is against the wish of the international community, the United Nations and African Unions (AU). President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and the President of OTUWA, Comrade Mademba Sock, spoke at a workshop organised by OTUWA on a theme; “Rebuilding and Consolidating OTUWA and the Challenges of Implementing its five-Year Strategic Plan,” in Abuja recently
According to Wabba, “permit me to use this occasion to comment on the report that the Kingdom of Morocco has applied to become a member of ECOWAS.
“For us in the NLC, we do not know where in the treaty establishing the organisation either in its original form in 1975, or the subsequent amendments, says that we can find a clause permitting a geographically non-West African State to become a member of the organisation.
“Our concern in the NLC is that Morocco has a record of quarreling with its neighbours and even the entire continent. That’s why it stayed away from the OAU, later AU for over 30 years. It is on the basis of this quarrelsomeness that the Arab Mahreb Union, whose headquarters is in Morocco has been unable to function because the Kingdom is not in good terms with Algeria and its other member states.”
The NLC president added: “Similarly, we cannot be hobnobbing with a monarchy which against the wish of the international community, the UN and the AU, to be specific, has continued to illegally occupy Western Sahara, and is holding it as a colony.
“We will be asking our government and our National Assembly not to vote for the admission of Morocco into ECOWAS for the above reasons. We urge you, our colleagues in OTUWA member countries to ask your governments and national legislatures not to endorse the application of this kingdom to become a member of our ECOWAS.”
Also, Comrade Sock also said, “This application we understand is being considered by the member states and the relevant Council of ECOWAS. The public in the sub-region have not been told the rationale behind this application given that Morocco is in North Africa, and not geographically part of West Africa.
“Questions have been raised by observers whether this is good or bad for the economic integration in the sub-region. Unless, and until, a clear explanation is put in the public space, the controversy around this move will continue.
“The question is, will ECOWAS be ready, for instance, to accept South Africa or Egypt into the community if they choose to apply?”
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