Nigeria: ECOWAS fast tracking regional integration through free movement

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - The ECOWAS Commission has said it is irrevocably committed to facilitating regional integration through effective implementation of its flagship free movement protocol and programmes, which promote unfettered circulation of persons, goods and services.

The President of the Commission, Kadré Desire Ouédraogo, gave this indication when he visited the Noepe Joint Border Post (JBP) Construction Site on the Togo-Ghana frontier.

Saying that the programmes were aimed at improving trade and economic development in the region, Ouedraogo said "There cannot be integration without free movement of people, goods and services."

The 10.28 million-Euro Noepe project, being handled by an indigenous company and which has reached more than 90 percent completion, is one of the seven JBPs along the borders of nine ECOWAS Member States - Nigeria-Benin, Benin-Togo, Togo-Ghana, Ghana-Cote d'Ivoire, Benin-Niger, Ghana-Burkina Faso and Guinea Conakry-Mali.

The seven are being supported under the European Union (EU) Transport Facilitation Project for some African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries.

President Ouédraogo, who led an ECOWAS delegation that included the Commissioner for Infrastructure, Mr. Ebrima Njie, and his Finance counterpart, Mrs. Khadi Ramatu Saccoh, was joined by Togo's Minister for Public Works, Ninsao Gnofam, and Ghana's Deputy Minister for Roads and Highways, Mr. Isaac Mensah, during the pre-handover/takeover visit on 10 March 2014.

Commending the two countries for their cooperation and the EU for providing the grant, the ECOWAS chief also paid tribute to the Contractor, Societe GER Sarl of Togo, for the high quality of work in the project execution, adding: "we are proud and this shows what we can do working as ECOWAS and our partners."

He expressed optimism that the issues raised during the inspection would be addressed during an anticipated coordination meeting that would involve all the stakeholders towards rectifying any identified gaps.

"ECOWAS will take all the necessary steps required to put the project into meaningful use," the president added.

Noepe is to serve as a model for the JBPs, from the EU grant of 63.8 million Euros to ECOWAS under the EU Transport Facilitation Project covered by the ninth EU Development Fund (EDF).

Each JBP is divided into zones for passenger operations, freight/transit handling and livestock inspection.

The JBP programme was borne out of the desire by the ECOWAS and UEMOA Commissions to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of the main transport corridors in West Africa so as to boost inter- and intra-regional trade as well as international trade which is a key factor of growth and contributor to poverty alleviation.

A different but related JBP project for the Nigeria-Cameroon border is being supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) with a grant of US$ 26.5 million.

The overarching aim of the JBPs is to facilitate cross-border transport and movement by removing non-tariff barriers to transit,
reducing transport costs and minimising transit time for persons, goods and services.

Politically, this will also bring together border administrators from country pairs as well as give a sense of regional integration, unity and security.
-0- PANA PR/VAO 15March2014

15 march 2014 13:57:04

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