Member states of ECOWAS are yet to implement the protocol on free movement of persons and economic integration which they signed more than three decades ago
More than three decades after the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, adopted the free movement protocol, member-states are yet to fully implement it. This has affected effective economic integration among member states and as a result, the movements of goods and services are hindered by counter laws and policies from member- states countries. This has also affected the informal sector in particular with the masses in members worse hit because they are largely involved in the informal trade within and through the land borders in ECOWAS region.
The inability of member states to fully implement the free movement protocol negates Article 27 of the ECOWAS treaty, which affirms the need for economic integration, which includes free flow of persons, goods and services. The Article calls on member states to ensure gradual removal of all obstacles to free movement of persons, services and capital.
ECOWAS member states were, as a matter of fact, required to stop demanding visa and residence permits and, therefore, allow West Africans to work and undertake commercial and industrial activities within their territories. The re-creation of borderless West Africa was in consonance with the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the UN human rights.
The implementation of the ECOWAS flagship Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Goods, and the Rights of Residence and Establishment, which makes the region the only one with a visa-free regime in Africa, faces some impediments mostly extortions and multiple road blocks mounted by security officials of member states along the regional road corridors.
But today, the protocol has been implemented in the breach as some ECOWAS member-states still erect obstacles at border posts to hinder free movements of persons and goods. This explains why the ECOWAS Commission is still urging member-states to fully implement the protocol. It has also recently organised an information and sensitisation workshop for government officials and non-state actors in Accra, Ghana, to x-ray the problems and find lasting solutions.
The workshop was attended by governmental and non-state actors, officials of Ghana immigration and customs services, ministry of foreign affairs and integration, ECOWAS Commission, Community Court of Justice and Parliament, ECOWAS Health Organisation, representatives of non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, traders, market women, student associations and the media among others.
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