The Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government has constituted a committee, headed by President Roch Kabore of Burkina Faso, to study and make a full report on Nigeria’s land border closure with her neighbours.
The decision to set up the committee was agreed Sunday night in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at an extraordinary session of ECOWAS leaders convened on the margins of the 33rd AU Summit to discuss the issue and other pressing regional matters.
Nigeria closed its land borders last August mainly to check smuggling of agricultural and petroleum products.
The Nigerian government said the border closure has been positive for the economy as local production of food such as rice increased while local consumption of petrol has also reduced.
Nigeria has vowed to continue the border closure until its neighbours, mainly Benin, Niger and Chad, ensure they properly regulate their sides of the borders.
Critics says the border closure violates various ECOWAS and African Union protocols.
A PREMIUM TIMES investigation found that smuggling is still rife in many of the borders despite the closure.
Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, told journalists after the three-hour closed door ECOWAS session that ‘‘The President of Burkina Faso is charged with undertaking a full study of the situation, make a report and then we take it from there.’’
Asked when the report will be presented to ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, the Nigerian minister replied: ‘‘As soon as possible, there are no timelines. But he is supposed to start very quickly, study the situation from all the affected countries and present his report.’’
Mr Onyeama also said the meeting attended by President Buhari and chaired by the ECOWAS Chairman, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, also discussed West Africa′s new single currency, the Eco, and the situation in Guinea Bissau after the presidential election.
On the Eco currency, the foreign minister said: ‘‘Nothing has changed in respect of Nigeria’s position’’.
He added that Nigeria’s position was that the convergence criteria have not been met by majority of the countries, therefore there has to be an extension of time on the take-off of the single currency.
Nigeria and other English-speaking West African countries had condemned their French-speaking counterparts for agreeing to adopt Eco as their new currency later this year with or without their English-speaking counterparts.
That move caused a split within ECOWAS over the Eco, despite years of discussions and agreements on the issue.
On Guinea Bissau, the minister said ECOWAS leaders recognised that there was an appeal of the presidential election result and they are waiting for the Supreme Court decision on the matter.