West Africa: No Compulsion in Ecowas Membership – Tuggar

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, has said there’s no compulsion in the membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Tuggar was alluding to three Sahelian states of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso that exited the regional bloc late January citing misgivings with the bloc.

He said it is up to the regimes in the countries to make a decision as: “ECOWAS is a union of a community of people and the emphasis is on the community, on the people, on the citizens.”

He stated this in an interview he granted Qatar broadcaster – Al Jazeera in Doha.

He was visiting Qatar as part of a delegation led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Nigeria and Qatar signed a series of memorandums of understanding and discussed potential collaboration in sectors such as energy, trade, labour, agriculture and more.

Asked if there might be a need to reinvent ECOWAS in any way after the three Sahelian states announced withdrawal of membership of ECOWAS, he said, “No, there isn’t. There’s a process [for leaving] and it takes about a year. It’s one thing to pronounce that you’ve left; it’s another to really disengage from ECOWAS itself because every citizen of ECOWAS carries a passport. (An ECOWAS passport guarantees visa-free travel within the bloc).

“We’re waiting to see if they’re even going to print the passports which are going to cost millions of dollars.

“We’re talking about 30 per cent of, let’s say, Cote d’Ivoire, coming from Burkina Faso, and Mali, which means they would need new residencies or they will have to leave Cote d’Ivoire and the same thing with Nigeriens in Nigeria, in several other places.

“So, it’s not as simple as it’s made out to be. The process of them leaving takes a lot more than just a simple pronouncement and there are certain procedures that have to be followed.”

Tuggar added that ECOWAS has shown clearly that there’s no bellicosity towards those countries because sanctions were removed out of humanitarian considerations.

“Fasting during Ramadan is coming up, and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the Chairman of ECOWAS, heads of state and government pushed for the removal of sanctions. The ECOWAS leaders endorsed it and the sanctions have been removed, borders have been opened,” he said.

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