By Dipo Fashina
The treaty establishing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was signed in Lagos on 28 May 1975, after several years of painstaking efforts by General Yakubu Gowon, the then Head of State of the Military Government of Nigeria and his Togolese counterpart, General Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo. Owing to the enormous contributions of Nigeria to ECOWAS, it is the most active Regional Economic Community (REC) in Africa today. Thus, the establishment of the ECOWAS has been the most successful foreign policy initiative of the Federal Government.
Apart from her financial and diplomatic support, Nigeria has played a commendable role in the struggle for the restoration of democracy and rule of law in Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. With the support of Nigeria, ECOWAS has been able to end military rule in the sub region. On account of the influence of Nigeria, the ECOWAS has rejected the European-ECOWAS Partnership Agreement designed to turn West Africa into a dumping ground for manufactured goods from Europe.
However, due to policy inconsistency the influence has begun to wane in ECOWAS. For instance, due to the virtual absence of Nigeria at the 51st Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS which took place in Monrovia on 4 June 2017, Morocco’s request for membership of the ECOWAS was given favourable consideration.
No doubt, it was Nigeria that championed the admission of Western Sahara by the defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1984 which led Morocco to withdraw from the continental body. But due to the lackadaisical attitude of Nigeria the admission of Morocco by the African Union scaled through without opposition even though the Kingdom has continued to occupy the territory of Western Sahara. The same speed is being adopted by Morocco in pursuing her moves to join the ECOWAS.
Unlike her membership of the African Union the move by Morocco to join the ECOWAS is a direct challenge to the leadership of Nigeria in the sub region. Nigeria must rise to the occasion and ensure that the application of Morocco for membership is rejected on the following grounds:
- ECOWAS is for the states in the West African sub-region and in this regard, the revised treaty defined the “region” as “the geographical zone known as West Africa as defined by Resolution CM/Res.464 (XXVI) of the OAU Council of Ministers.
- Morocco is not classified among the member states of the ECOWAS by the United Nations and the African Union. The Kingdom is a member of Arab Maghreb Union States together with Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania and Tunisia.
- Morocco’s move to join the ECOWAS is a deliberate ploy to whittle down the influence and strength of Nigeria for her role in the body.
- There is no accession clause in the ECOWAS Treaty. To that, the planned admission to ECOWAS cannot be justified under the Revised Treaty of the ECOWAS.
- In line with the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance the member states of ECOWAS are under democratically elected governments whereas Morocco is a monarchical state.
- The opposition of Nigeria to the European – ECOWAS Partnership Agreement will be frustrated by Morocco which will flood West Africa with goods from Europe.
- The struggle of the people of Western Sahara for independence being championed by Nigeria will be seriously challenged by Morocco.
- All member states of ECOWAS have subscribed to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which has recognised the human rights of African people to independence and right to self-determination. Morocco has refused to recognise the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.
Dipo Fashina, Convener, Nigerian Movement For The Liberation Of Western Sahara, (NMLWS)