By Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel, Abuja
Stakeholders and Experts in international relations Thursday vehemently kicked against attempts to admit Morocco into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
This is as the minister of foreign affairs posited that Morocco’s inclusion will be economically beneficial to the region but added that it would not work legally.
These positions were made yesterday at a public hearing of the House of Representatives joint committees on Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Integration in Africa.
Recall that the House mandated the joint committees of Foreign Affairs to review Nigeria’s continued membership of ECOWAS in view of the clamor to admit of Morocco into the regional body following a motion by Hon. Olatunbosun George.
The stakeholders expressed concern that Morocco has been become a fertile ground for the 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 local industries.
In his presentation, the chairman, Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN), John Shinkanye, bemoaned the final communiqué issued by the leaders of ECOWAS states wherein general support was given for Morocco’s admission as well as the invitation extended to King Mohammed VI to attend the forthcoming 52nd Ordinary session if ECOWAS slated for December 2017 in Lome, Togo.
According to him, the admission of Morroco will pose serious challenges for peace and security and will particularly 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”.
Shinkanye who noted that Nigeria has spent $20 billion in the last 42 years of ECOWAS existence, also observed that Morocco which became a member of Organization of Africa Union (OAU) in 1972 “was owing $2,185,158.77 and has still not paid these outstanding dues.”
Similarly, the National Institute of International Affairs representative, opposed the proposal even as he warned against Nigeria’s exit from ECOWAS. Representative of the institute, Prof. Fred Agwu who noted that there is no provision in ECOWAS treaty that would allow for morocco to be admitted stressed the need for alliance between member states to ensure that Morocco does not make it into ECOWAS.
Recounting Morocco’s antecedents Agwu added that it was a very controversial country which will only destabilize the west African region and called on Nigeria to be very proactive, assert its leadership position and use the instrumentalities available to it to block Morocco’s admittance.
On his part, Human Right Activist, Femi Falana, berated Nigeria for absenting itself at the last summit during there was an admission in principle.
While noting that admitting Morocco into ECOWAS will amongst other things encourage other countries such as Tunisia and also lead to alterations in the name and instrumentalities of the body, Falana warned that Morocco’s admission will amount to exposing Nigeria to ridicule and subvert its economic prosperity and gains recorded in the past and Morocco will become a conduit pipe to flood the region with European goods.
Representative of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and organized private sector, Engr. Ibrahim Usman, posited 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 the region.
“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 of Mediterranean, the country has high antecedents if disputes with her neighboring countries and association she belongs to previously including the AU at a time and can undermine the peaceful coexistence of ECOWAS states.
MAN further took a swipe at 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.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema hinted that the admittance of Morocco into ECOWAS will be decided by the Heads of Government in the ECOWAS region but added that their inclusion will be an economic win to ECOWAS.
“Morocco’s inclusion will be a trojan horse into the region considering its link with some European countries”.
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