When on 28th May 1975, a bloc was birthed in Lagos to promote regional integration and trade among countries of West Africa; never did it once strike the minds of the founding fathers of a possibility of extending its membership beyond the demesne of the sub-region.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which was co-founded by the former Nigerian head of state, Gen.Yakubu Gowon and his Togolese counterpart, Gnassingbe Eyadema drew membership across the 15 countries of West Africa. The regional bloc has in its 42 years of existence remained focus in its mission of promoting trade and fostering peaceful co-existence among member-countries with Nigeria as its leading light. It is on record that Nigeria has contributed immensely in its funding and for peace missions.
ECOWAS has successfully forged ahead because of the cultural affinity and geographical contiguity of its component states. For instance, the Yoruba and the Hausa languages are spoken by indigenous population in some of the member countries of the region.
The history, formation and operation of the organization would not make the news here but what is stirring the hornet’s nest is the news about the Morocco’s application to become a member of the bloc.
Speaking on the development, the president of ECOWAS Commission, Marcel de Souza harped on the need to interrogate and discuss the intention and motive behind the move. The call to be cautious becomes pertinent, as ECOWAS has tentatively agreed to its application pending full admittance during the December meeting of Authority of Heads of States and Governments.
This unprecedented quest by the monarch of Morocco, King Mohammed 1V has left tongues wagging and minds wondering, as the apparent lack of clear purpose for this curious emprise only informs the imperative of applying caution.
While other North African countries like Libya and Egypt are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa , their desires for economic and business expansion in such a foray was never in doubt. The Morocco’s proposed ascension to ECOWAS appears to be driven by ulterior motive.
Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama should not be carried away by King Mohammed’s billion dollars business proposal with Nigeria. It is advisable to x-ray such proposition as it could as well be Greek gift of some sorts.
There are many opposing voices especially by Nigerians against this North African’s ECOWAS membership bid, but one can certainly not ignore the Association of Retired Carrier Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN ). Nigerian Labour Congress has equally expressed its diametrical aversion to the development. The Nigerian House of Representatives has also expressed its opposition to this in no ambiguous term, but they would need to explore opportunities in ECOWAS Parliament to sensitize members on the need to scuttle such move by Morocco, in the hope that their position may influence decisions of the executives of their respective countries.
There are many reasons why Morocco’s application should be rejected; accepting it as a member of ECOWAS would contravene provisions of Article 2.2 of the Revised 1999 ECOWAS Treaty which clearly restricts its membership to the countries of the region that signed the treaty.
Secondly its admittance would negate the OAU resolution of 1976 which divided the countries in the continent into five sub-regions of South Africa, North-Africa, East-Africa, West-Africa, Central-Africa and Morocco belongs to North-Africa.
The third reason is the fact that Morocco has always been intransigent and has divisive tendency. Its intractable problems with Arab Maghreb Union and obdurate occupation of Southern Sahara which necessitated its withdrawal from OAU are cases which suggest that it may not be a cooperative ally.
The fourth case against it, is about its free trade status and non-tariff partnership with European Union which would eventually work against Nigeria’s productive and manufacturing sector of the economy. This would flood the Nigerian markets with foreign goods, a development that would frustrate the much vaunted resolve to patronize ‘make in Nigeria goods’
Another point here is the possibility of how a monarchical regime like Morocco would be able to adapt to ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance which entrenches separation of power, democracy and independence of judiciary among others.
Also, the country already maintains bilateral trade relations with countries in the sub-region which fuels the suspicion that its mission is not economical but political. This has also confirmed the fears that Nigeria’s influence in the region may be reduced by the presence of Morocco as an active member of ECOWAS.
Another angle to this based on its antecedent is the fear of exploiting the majority Francophone countries to create division in the bloc for selfish gains. Already the move by Senegal and Cote D’voire in underpinning its membership pursuit is ominous.
Nigeria should therefore mobilize a formidable opposition against Morocco’s ECOWAS membership bid and ensure that it does not see the light of day beyond the said December meeting.
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (local news)