The Federal Government declared that it was prepared to hold talks with the governments of Mali, the Niger Republic, and Burkina Faso.
The objective is to guarantee that the people residing in these West African countries maintain access to the economic benefits and democratic values maintained by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
International relations experts Bolaji Akinyemi, a former minister of foreign affairs, and Bola Akinterinwa, a former director-general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, made statements that aligned with the government’s proclamation.
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They described these three countries’ exit from ECOWAS as a polarising trend that jeopardises trade, undermines regional unity, and impedes those countries’ progress towards democratic administration.
“Nigeria expresses its sadness over the pronouncement by the Military authority in the Republic of Niger indicating that the Republics of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have withdrawn membership of their countries from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement last night, which was signed by the spokesperson, Mrs. Francisca Omayuli.
“For half a century, ECOWAS has worked to promote peace, prosperity and democracy in the region. Nigeria stands with ECOWAS to emphasise due process and shared commitment to protect and strengthen the rights and welfare of all citizens of member states.
“Nigeria has worked sincerely and in good faith to reach out to all members of the ECOWAS family to resolve the difficulties being faced. It is now clear that those seeking to quit the community do not share that same good faith.
“Instead, unelected leaders engage in a public posturing to deny their people the sovereign right to make fundamental choices over their freedom of movement, freedom to trade and freedom to choose their own leaders.
”Nigeria remains open for engagement with Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger so that all the people of the region can continue to enjoy the economic benefits and democratic values that ECOWAS embraces. Nigeria further appeals to the international community to continue to extend its support for ECOWAS and the vision of closer partnership, co-operation and integration.”
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Remember how the three countries were suspended by ECOWAS after military takeovers toppled their democratically elected governments?
Akinyemi described the three nations’ withdrawal as a major crisis motivated by Russia’s desire to lessen Western influence in Africa. On the other hand, Akinterinwa saw the withdrawal as a sign of internal strife within the company.
In a similar vein, retired ambassador Ogbole Ode voiced fear that the development would cause the organisation to fall apart, while observers from West Africa were concerned that the three countries’ withdrawal might endanger trade and make it more difficult to restore civilian administration.
“We have got a major crisis on our hands,” Akinyemi stated yesterday in an interview with Arise TV. ECOWAS is in disarray, as seen by the withdrawal of Mauritania and the fact that Togo left yet heaven did not collapse.
”While Togo alone would go either way, it shows that only Togo is disobeying a collective decision. I see the hand of Russia in this.
”I think Russia is emboldening these three countries to break up ECOWAS as part of its efforts to weaken Western influence in this part of the world, and yet Russia has not shown the capability to help these three countries to combat the Jihadists, ISIS, who are roaming wild in the Sahel. So we have a confused situation on our hands.
“We have a crisis at hand, and the reason I call it a crisis is because, in terms of landmass, that’s about half of ECOWAS, so we’re not dealing with just a little hiccup on our hands.
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“ECOWAS is being turned into a confrontational field between Russia and the USA. The fact that this statement came just after U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, left Nigeria is significant and we should pay attention to it.
“Another issue is that Guinea has a military regime, but the country is not going along with these three, whether in the alliance that they have formed or kicking out the French.
“They said they’re leaving immediately. However, ECOWAS protocol says one year, and during that one year, you carry out all your responsibilities.
“With their decision to leave immediately, are you going to force them to stay or use the confusing situation to try to bring palliative into the situation?”
In an interview with Vanguard, Bola Akinterinwa, a professor of international relations at Achievers University in Owo and the former director general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, stated: “It is good and it is bad.” The Abuja Treaty of 1991, which created the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), views ECOWAS as a subregion in Articles 1B and E.
“While the United Nations considers Africa a region, for the purpose of integration, Africa was divided into five major regions: West, North, East, Central, and South Africa.
“West Africa should not be considered a region but a sub-region. In this case, in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, it is a house divided against itself. The way forward is the Africa approach. They should address what led to the problem – military junta.
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”But they never considered that it was the people’s coup. They should sit down and see how they can resolve a coup supported by the people.
”A constitutional change of government should not be over exaggerated. They should stop preaching a democracy of double standards.”
Reacting to yesterday’s events, retired Ambassador Ogbole Ode said that Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger’s decision to leave the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is the culmination of the diplomatic impasse that resulted from military interference in those countries’ democratic processes.
‘The announcement took most observers of the ECOWAS region by surprise. In the statement, Niger junta spokesperson, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, said ECOWAS ‘notably failed to assist these states in their existential fight against terrorism and insecurity.
”Article 91 of the ECOWAS Treaty provides that: Any member state wishing to withdraw from the community shall give to the executive secretary one year’s notice in writing who shall inform member states thereof. At the expiration of this period, if such notice is not withdrawn, such a state shall cease to be a member of the community.
”During the period of one year referred to in the preceding paragraph, such a member state shall continue to comply with the provisions of this treaty and shall remain bound to discharge its obligations under this treaty.
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“Did the governments of the three exiting states comply with these provisions?
Nonetheless, the ECOWAS response to this situation was conciliatory. “The ECOWAS Commission has not yet received any direct formal notification from the three member states regarding their intention to withdraw from the community. As directed by the Authority of Heads of State and Government, the ECOWAS Commission has been diligently collaborating with these countries to restore constitutional order.”
“Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali remain important members of the community and the Authority remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse.
There are numerous ramifications for the regional economic grouping. People living in the three departure states and vice versa will initially have a new immigration status with respect to the free movement of people and things.
This disintegrating action, in ECOWAS’s opinion, goes against the principles that led to the Community’s establishment. The organization’s goal is to unite the 15 member states’ economy. But it appears that political considerations have trumped economic goals.
IMPLICATIONS ON TRADE
Amidst their battles against poverty and acts of jihad, some analysts worry that the departure of the three original members of ECOWAS, which was founded in 1975, may compromise trade and impede the transition of the affected nations back to civilian governance. Following the imposition of sanctions by the 15-member bloc (which included the trio that was leaving) to hasten the transition back to democratic governance, the three denounced ECOWAS’ “irrational and unacceptable posture.”
“The Alliance of Sahel States (AES) states anticipated an upcoming debate on the end of the transitions,” said Fahiraman Rodrigue Kone, a regional analyst on the Sahel for the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), in an interview with AFP. It appears that leaving ECOWAS will put things on the back burner.
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Ivory Coast’s pro-government daily Le Patriote wrote, “Well-ensconced and enjoying the trappings of power, they (the AES leaders) wish to linger forever in their presidential chairs.”
The right to travel without a visa and the ability to live and work in member nations are guaranteed by ECOWAS, thus the withdrawal will have a big effect. Concerns about potential impacts on regional trade as well as the loss of such benefits will arise.
All three of these landlocked nations are members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), as are their main coastal trading partners, Senegal and Ivory Coast in particular. The eight members of this union are guaranteed “freedom of movement and residence,” tariff-free trade on specific goods, tariff harmonisation, and trade standards.
Nigeria, not a WAEMU member, could feel the effects of the triple withdrawal. Nigeria constitutes more than half of ECOWAS’ overall GDP and is the main economic partner for Niger, despite their poorly controlled border in terms of both security and trade. Chaibou Tchiombiano, secretary-general of Niger’s import-export and wholesalers’ union, remarked to AFP, “Even if it’s via smuggling, goods and people will return to Niger. You can’t separate Sokoto (northern Nigeria) from Konni (Nigeria)—it’s the same people.”
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