ECOWAS moves to boost trade, free movement

Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- Seven of the 15-member States in the sub-regional economic group ECOWAS, have set up a free trade zone as part of measures to boost trade among them, the Nigerian Co-operation and Integration in Africa Minister, Bimbola Ogunkelu has said.
The development came as Nigeria announced it was now ready for the issuance of the ECOWAS passport, to enhance the free movement of citizens within the sub-region.
At a meeting with members of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in Lagos, Ogunkelu said the free trade initiative was part of efforts being championed by President Olusegun Obasanjo to encourage the integration of the people of the continent by fostering smoother economic relations among the countries.
Under the free trade zone programme, goods and services originating from signatory countries would no longer attract any tariff.
The seven countries that have so far implemented the programme are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.
Ogunkelu said ECOWAS member States had already dismantled all illegal checkpoints on the highways linking them, as part of measures to ensure free movement of persons, goods and services.
In a related development in Abuja, his Ministry's Director-General Brownson Dede, said Nigeria would soon commence issuance of three categories of ECOWAS passports - Diplomatic, Service and Ordinary.
He said Obasanjo has directed the Ministry of Internal Affairs to issue the passports to Nigerians.
"I am sure the Ministry will begin the issuance of the passport before the end of the year because the President is committed and determined to facilitate the free movement of ECOWAS citizens across the borders of the member States of the sub-region," the News Agency of Nigeria quoted Dede as saying Tuesday.
ECOWAS Heads of State and Government approved the issuance of the passport at their 2000 Summit in Mali.

06 november 2001 13:15:00

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