The FG has disclosed that the nation’s land borders could be reopened soon, after being closed for over a year.
By Chike Olisah
The Federal Government has announced that the country’s land borders which have been closed since August 2019 may be reopened soon.
The country’s various borders were shut down to curtail the smuggling and illegal importation of drugs, small arms, food and agricultural products into the country and even the smuggling of petrol from Nigeria to neighbouring West African countries.
This disclosure was made by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, during a media chat with State House correspondents on Wednesday, November 25, 2020, in Abuja.
According to a report by Punch, Ahmed revealed that the presidential committee set up to look into the matter has completed its assignment and has recommended the reopening of the borders.
Although the minister did not disclose when the report will be submitted, she, however, said the committee would soon submit its report to President Muhammadu Buhari after which a formal pronouncement would be made on the matter.
Eight West African countries Saturday agreed to change the name of their common currency to Eco and severed the CFA franc’s links to former colonial ruler France.
The CFA franc was initially pegged to the French franc and has been linked to the euro for about two decades. Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo currently use the currency. All the countries are former French colonies with the exception of Guinea-Bissau.
The announcement was made Saturday during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer and France’s former largest colony in West Africa. Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, speaking in the country’s economic capital Abidjan, announced “three major changes”. These included “a change of name” of the currency, he said, adding that the others would be “stopping holding 50 percent of the reserves in the French Treasury” and the “withdrawal of French governance” in any aspect related to the currency.
President Macron hailed it as a “historic reform”, adding: “The eco will see the light of day in 2020.” The deal took six months in the making, a French source said. The CFA francs value was moored to the euro after its introduction two decades ago, at a fixed rate of 655.96 CFA francs to one euro.
The Bank of France holds half of the currency’s total reserves, but France does not make money on its deposits stewardship, annually paying a ceiling interest rate of 0.75 percent to member states. The arrangement guarantees unlimited convertibility of CFA francs into euros and facilitates inter-zone transfers. CFA notes and coins are printed and minted at a Bank of France facility in the southern town of Chamalieres.
The CFA franc, created in 1945, was seen by many as a sign of French interference in its former African colonies even after the countries became independent. The Economic Community of West African States regional bloc, known as ECOWAS, earlier Saturday urged members to push on with efforts to establish a common currency, optimistically slated to launch next year.
The bloc insists it is aiming to have the Eco in place in 2020, but almost none of the 15 countries in the group currently meet criteria to join. ECOWAS “urges member states to continue efforts to meet the convergence criteria”, commission chief Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said after a summit of regional leaders in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
The key demands for entry are to have a deficit of less than 3 percent of gross domestic product, inflation of 10 percent or under and debts worth less than 70 percent of GDP. Economists say they understand the thinking behind the currency plan but believe it is unrealistic and could even be dangerous for the region’s economies which are dominated by one single country, Nigeria, which accounts for two-thirds of the region’s economic output. Nigeria’s Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed told AFP “there’s still more work that we need to do individually to meet the convergence criteria”.
ECOWAS was set up in 1975 and comprises Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo — representing a total population of around 385 million. Eight of them currently use the CFA franc, moored to the single European currency and gathered in an organisation called the West African Monetary Union, or WAMU. But the seven other ECOWAS countries have their own currencies, none of them freely convertible. CPS
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The decision of West African nations to withdraw forex reserves from France, fraught with implications, warn experts
Felix Tih and James Tasamba
ANKARA / KIGALI
The proposal of eight West African nations to withdraw their currency reserves from the French central bank, has evoked a spate of reactions.
While it has been largely hailed in the African continent, experts fear, the move having implications on the French economy, is fraught with political ramifications.
The move also comes with the decision to replace the CFA franc – the euro-linked currency used in 14 West and Central African countries – with new common West African currency, named eco.
Even though these eight West African countries which include, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Niger and Guinea Bissau had gained independence years ago, they continued to vest their foreign exchange reserves with the French central bank. They have now decided to move their reserves to Senegal.
“We all agree on this, unanimously, to end this model,” Benin’s President Patrice Talon told French media last Thursday.
He claimed that Paris has also agreed to release their reserves, which will now be vested with the Senegal-based Central Bank of West African States.
The CFA, which was specially created in 1945 for the French colonies of Africa, is linked to the euro and its convertibility is guaranteed by France.
According to the arrangement, described by analysts as a colonial relic, these African countries, had to deposit half of their foreign currency reserves, in the French central bank.
A Uganda based analyst Fred Muhumuza said the arrangement was linked to colonial ties with France. Muhumuza, who teaches economics at the Makerere University — one of largest and oldest institution of higher learning – said that depositing currency in developed countries was aimed to insulate it from political instabilities back home.
“They [developing countries] also keep their reserves in the central banks of developed countries, to get good returns, “he said. Many countries prefer to keep their reserves with the Federal Reserve System or the central banking system of the U.S., as international trade mostly uses the U.S. dollar as exchange.
“It is also true, that these reserves act as a good resource for developed countries and not for their real owners,” Muhumuza told Anadolu Agency.
Move to hit French economy
He, however, said the move was fraught with political implications, as it will hit French economy. “Loss of a pool of resources and control of the economies of these countries will have cascading effects on France, which may not take the move lightly. It will be difficult to transfer reserves. There were similar proposals before. They never materialized,” said the experts, adding that he was keeping his fingers crossed.
President Talon agreed that the decision may take time, but it has been adopted at the meeting of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
In July, the leaders of the region also adopted a proposal to introduce single currency — eco, for the entire region by 2020.
In the first phase, countries with their own currencies (Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) will launch the eco.
In a second phase the eight UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union) member countries that have in common the CFA franc (Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo, Niger, Benin and Guinea-Bissau) will be covered by eco.
The introduction of the eco was initially planned in 2003, but was repeatedly delayed due to various factors.
Chadian President Idris Debby said the move will clear injustice heaped on the African countries for too long. “The injustice has gone for too long. It is time to discuss issues with France to clarify many things, to allow us to have our monetary sovereignty. We do not have it today,” he told a media briefing on Monday.
The West African Economic and Monetary Union consist of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo from West Africa. The Central African Economic and Monetary Union consists of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.
“The success of the monetary union will depend on the dispositions of member states especially the Francophone countries who still rely on France for many things,” Bashiru Animashaun, an expert on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), told Anadolu Agency.
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The Federal Government has urged the Community Court of the Economic Community of West African States sitting in Abuja to dismiss a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed by the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
It stated that Kanu having been granted bail and allegedly escaped from his ongoing trial before the Federal High Court in Abuja, the judgment of the ECOWAS Court on the suit would serve no purpose.
Kanu had filed the suit on March 3, 2016 demanding $800m as compensation from the Federal Government for his alleged unlawful arrest in 2015 and continued detention.
But the lawyer representing the Federal Government, Mrs. Maimuna Shiru, stated in an objection to the suit that Kanu having been granted bail by the Federal High Court in Abuja where he is being tried alongside others on charges of treasonable felony, on April 25, 2017, it was unnecessary for the ECOWAS Court to adjudicate on the IPOB leader’s suit.
She also noted that Kanu having allegedly jumped the bail granted him by the Federal High Court, Abuja, event had overtaken the suit.
The three grounds of the application stated, “Having regards to Article 88(2) of the Rules of the Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, this suit has become devoid of purpose and unnecessary to adjudicate upon.
“The result of a judicial decision in this suit will serve no purpose. There are no live issues in controversy between the parties for the court to determine.”
Mr. Thomas Etah, who deposed to an affidavit filed in support of the Federal Government’s motion, stated that Kanu filed his notice of registration before the ECOWAS Court on March 3, 2016, while the plaintiff was granted bail by the Federal High Court on April 25.
He added, “That the plaintiff/respondent has now jumped bail and his whereabouts are unknown.
“That further to paragraph 8 above, it is public knowledge that the Federal High Court of Nigeria has ordered Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe and two other sureties to produce the plaintiff/respondent or forfeit their bail bonds.
“That the plaintiff/respondent and the group he represents, the Indigenous People of Biafra have been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the defendant/applicant (Federal Government).
“That this suit before this honourable court has been overtaken by events and has become devoid of purpose.”
Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, told the ECOWAS Court on November 21 that he needed to respond to the application by the Federal Government.
He alleged that the Federal Government deliberately delayed the filing of the motion in order to frustrate the hearing of the case.
But the Federal Government’s lawyer denied the allegation insisting that the motion was filed early enough.
The presiding judge of the ECOWAS Court panel, Justice Hameye Mahalmadane, also noted that the court paper filed by the Federal Government had to be interpreted to the panel members who were all French-speaking.
The court adjourned until February 7 for hearing. (Punch)
In a move aimed at humiliating Nigeria and diminishing its influence in the West African Sub region, Morocco a northern African country has been admitted as a member of ECOWAS.
President Buhari’s uncolourful foreign policy has contributed to the lowering of the image of the country as he has refused to pay Nigeria’s financial responsibility to the sub regional organization which currently stands at about $700,000.
With Morocco as a member of ECOWAS, the strategic place of Nigeria in West Africa as a Big Brother can no longer be guaranteed.
President Buhari had declared his support for Western Sahara which is pushing independence from Morocco, saying that Nigeria would ensure the realization of their self-determination.
Without considering the of import of what he was saying and the support he was pledging, he boasted that he will ensure the secession of Western Sahara from Morocco would be pursued in full recognition of the several extant resolutions of the African Union, AU, on the right of the Sahrawi people for self-determination.
In a retaliatory move, the North African country applied to join ECOWAS as a strategic political game aimed at checkmating Nigeria’s influence in the Sub region and Africa. It is also believed that such move will neutralize the influence Nigeria may have in the actualization of the Western Sahara nation in Africa.
To finalize Morroco’s membership of ECOWAS, the parliament of each of the member state is expected to rectify its inclusion. That may not be a problem as most member nations approve of it apart from Nigeria.
No one can tell if Nigeria will succeed in lobbying other member nations against the rectification of Morroco’s membership of ECOWAS.
However, Members of the Committee of Retired Diplomats have threatened to mobilise Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to begin a protest against the inclusion of Morocco in ECOWAS.
President of Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA), Prof. Shuaibu A. Ibrahim, who made the assertion Morocco’s inclusion, “permission and recognition would not be healthy for ECOWAS and others.”
But he failed to state what makes it unhealthy apart from his argument that “Can America accept Nigeria in its regional organisations? This means there is a failure in our foreign policy as far as the proposal is concerned. We are going to take legal action against ECOWAS.”
Mr.lbrahim didn’t state what Nigeria Labour Congress and Civil Society Organizations stand to lose by mobilizing against Morocco’s inclusion in ECOWAS and why they should even get involved in a matter that does not concern or affects them.
Following the UN experts’ report, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held its 93rd session between July 31 and August 25, 2017. Acting under its “Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure,” the Committee said it was deeply concerned “by the rise of racist hate speech and incitement to violence against the Igbo people, including through the recording and wide distribution of a song and audio message in Hausa language which describe the Igbos in hateful and derogatory terms.” It added that the Committee was “Alarmed by the public ultimatum issued by a number of northern youth groups, forums, and coalitions on 6 June 2017 calling all Igbos in northern Nigeria to leave their homes by 1 October 2017,” noting that the ultimatum “may have been recently withdrawn.”
The Committee decried “reports that other local elders and leaders have endorsed the ultimatum and expressed their support for such racist hate speech targeting and threatening the Igbos,” adding that it was “deeply worried by the information that some Igbo families have already started moving out from their villages and homes in northern Nigeria to avoid any possible harm to their personal integrity.”
The UN body drew attention to Nigeria’s membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and of the African Union as well as a State party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It stated that Nigeria must “increase its efforts in systematically rejecting and condemning, including by high-level and local public officials and leaders, any form of racist hate speech, incitement to hatred and violence, and the dissemination of ideas of ethnic superiority.”
The UN body recommended that Nigeria “take immediate action to stop and prevent the continued circulation and dissemination of the hateful song and audio message mentioned above,” and “to exercise due diligence to halt, prevent and investigate acts of racist hate speech and incitement to hatred and violence against the Igbo people, in accordance with international human rights standards, with a view to bringing perpetrators to justice, punishing them adequately if convicted, and compensating victims.”
The UN Committee urged Nigeria to “ensure the protection of all its citizens from ethnic hatred, and take effective measures to ensure that Igbo people can fully exercise their rights stipulated in the Convention, including the right to security of person and protection against violence or bodily harm, the right to freedom of movement and residence, and the right to own property.”
It finally called on “all local and national authorities in Nigeria to promptly and firmly address the underlying causes of the ethnic tensions in Nigeria, with a view to avoiding repeated ethnic-based violence, and to promote intercultural dialogue between different ethnic groups based on diversity, respect, and inclusiveness.”
According to the Committee, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had been mandated “to draw the attention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to the human rights situation of the Igbo in northern Nigeria.”
•A needed upgrade to check illegal and undesirable immigrants
The Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retired), has launched The Immigration Regulations 2017, which is to operationalise the Immigration Act 2015. The new policy updates the structure and functions of the country’s immigration service in relation to immigration, passport, visa, resident and work permits, and smuggling of migrants by land, sea, air, etc. Highlights of the new policy include modernising migration management in response to changes arising from technology, human trafficking, terrorism, etc.
In the words of the minister, the “objective of the Immigration Regulations 2017 is to provide the legal framework for the effective implementation of the Immigration Act, 2015 and consolidate existing immigration regulations. This new document therefore replaces the outdated Immigration Act of 1963…The Immigration Act, 2015 made some profound provisions such as the establishment of migration directorate, dealing with issues bordering on smuggling of migrants and so on. I can assure you that with the Immigration Regulation 2017, NIS has been strategically positioned to combat all cases relating to transnational organised crimes.”
Without doubt, the new immigration regulation has come at a very good time. Given its size and population, Nigeria is a very important country within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). As the region’s largest economy, regardless of its many challenges, Nigeria is perceived by many as the economic hub of the region and promises to remain so as Nigeria becomes better managed. For example, the country has been in recent times a target for many herdsmen who, according to Nigeria’s security and law enforcement agents, have been responsible for killing of many Nigerian farmers in different parts of the country: Enugu, Benue, Southern Kaduna, Ondo, etc. It has also been a destination for groups engaged in cross-border human and drug trafficking, as well as movement of illegal weapons across national borders within the ECOWAS region.
We, therefore, believe that updating the Immigration Act 2015 is a right step toward enhancing peace and security in the country and in the West African region as well. However, unveiling of the regulation should not be viewed as an end. It is equally crucial for those charged with implementing the policy to remain committed to its goals by ensuring adequate funding of the programmes of the policy, especially new initiatives for migration management through divisions of regular and irregular immigration. More specifically, provision of additional well-trained staff for border control, particularly for those who access the country by land must be a priority. From recent experience, the population of those who enter the country from official and unofficial routes has grown phenomenally, to the extent that it has been possible for herdsmen to enter and exit the country with droves of cattle with or without knowledge of immigration officers.
The Ministry of Interior should seize the advantage of the new immigration policy to seek policy harmonisation within the ECOWAS region on review of the ECOWAS Protocol on Right to Free Movement of Persons, Goods, Services, and Capital in response to the dynamics of post-colonial inter and intra-regional mobility. Even though ECOWAS has not been declared a Borderless Country yet, the swell in the number of undocumented violent herdsmen from other countries in Nigeria gives the impression that West Africa is a borderless community. Such worldview or vision is dangerous to peace, law, and order in the community at large and individual countries as well. There is thus an urgent need for deployment of biometric ID cards for ECOWAS citizens that need to cross borders.
In addition, undocumented foreigners already in the country should be identified as required by the new regulation. Such persons should be prosecuted and punished, if they have violated any law of the land and be deported and marked as “Inadmissible Migrants.” On the home-front, the interior ministry ought to insist that every street in the country be named and every house be numbered and each citizen and resident in the country be given, as a matter of urgency, biometric identity cards to yield data that can facilitate modern migration management. (The Nation)