A group, ECOWAS Community Citizens, on Saturday urged the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments to take urgent steps to rescue the region from the insecurity and economic woes ravaging the area.
The group made the call in a statement jointly signed by Dr Ken Ukaoha, President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) and Dr Cheikh Tidiane, Executive Director, African Centre for Trade, Integration and Development (CACID) after a virtual meeting.
More than 300 organisations in West Africa comprising private sector actors, civil society groups, trade unions, youth, women, political and religious associations made up the group.
The coalition also called for sustainable integration of member states and appealed to national governments in the sub-region to rescue the area from climate change, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and food insecurity facing the 15-member states.
The group expressed regret at the rapid loss of confidence in the ECOWAS integration process by citizens owing to the flagrant disregard for ECOWAS laws and policies by member states.
The ECOWAS community citizens said it was regrettable that the ECOWAS Commission and its relevant organs appeared to be handicapped in the implementation and enforcement of its laws.
According to the coalition, its representatives are on their way to Niger Republic to officially hand over the outcome of their meeting to the Authority of Heads of State and Governments at its Sept. 7 summit holding in Niamey.
The group said the meeting also reviewed the prospects of realising the collective “Vision 2020” seeking a transformation “from an ECOWAS of member states to an ECOWAS of Peoples.”
“The group is demanding for, among other things, caution over being manipulated by ‘external and unseen hands’ in the conduct of the affairs of the region including insurgency/terrorism and the ECO common currency.
“It also emphasises the need to refrain from heavy burden of economic sanction on the already economically depressed people of Mali, but to ensure the popular voice of citizens prevails under their current political situation.
“It equally frowns at the bogus number of political appointees with President, Vice President and 15 commissioners with paraphernalia of office which are huge “budget eaters” that end up leaving the ECOWAS Commission with no funds for regional infrastructure and other development projects.
“It urges the Heads of State to learn from the African Union by reducing the number of these political heads to five, constituting of President, three Vice Presidents and an Auditor-General, recruited through a competitive process among the Member States on a rotational basis.
“This is save funds out of the available meagre resources to give way to projects that would benefit the Community Citizens, especially in the face of the nagging coronavirus pandemic which has shrunk national and Regional budgets,’’ he said.
It called for prompt consideration and actions that would lead to sustaining and moving ECOWAS forward, learning from the lessons of Vision 2020 poor implementation.
The group urged the authorities to be motivated to resolutely address the current nagging issues of the day in order to build a strong and resilient ECOWAS capable of facing the multifaceted challenges.
According to the coalition, urgent action is needed in order to sustain some important milestones and progress already made, such as the Common Passport, the ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card, among others, which citizens still proudly display.