Nigeria: ECOWAS to abolish resident permit for member states' citizens

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) –  The ECOWAS Commission Monday announced the abolition of the ‘Residence permit’ requirement which confers legal rights to citizens of the sub-region to reside in any other member nation without molestation or being tagged ‘illegal alien’.

ECOWAS Commission President, Dr. Kadre Desire Quedraogo, said in Abuja that ‘Residence permit’ will be replaced by a biometric registration of citizens of ECOWAS member countries for purposes of identification.

The implication of the new immigration policy is that a citizen of any member country would no longer require going through the process of obtaining documents of any sort to move freely or settle in any part of the ECOWAS sub-region.

The new policy, he said, is to foster the free movement of citizens within the sub-region and to upscale the level of intra-trade within the sub-region as part of measures to fast-track the elusive monetary union which has remained on the drawing board for than three decades.

The ECOWAS Commission President was speaking at the opening of the 2014 mid-year statutory technical meetings of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), comprising Permanent Secretaries of finance and Economic planning of the various ECOWAS member States, Deputy Governors of the respective member Central banks, consultants and experts drawn from the sub-regional monetary institutions namely the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM) and the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI).

Quadraego declared that this landmark decision was adopted 10 July in Accra, Ghana, at the last Ordinary session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government aimed at accelerating the establishment of the single monetary zone in ECOWAS by 2020.

The last targeted time for the kick-off of the ECO, the planned single currency for the Region, was 2015. But as it appears, it has again been shifted by another five years.

Quadrego, represented by ECOWAS Acting Director of Multilateral Surveillance, Dr. Nelson Magbagbeola, also gave further insights as adopted by the ECOWAS leaders to include ensuring the realization of the planned singe monetary union by the next agreed date of 2020.

According to him, “the Authority endorsed the recommendations of the two Presidents (President of Niger, Mahaamadou Issoufou, and President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama) relating to the review of the macroeconomic convergence criteria, rationalization of the institutions and revision of the roadmap on the ECOWAS single currency programme.

Specifically, the Authority adopted the creation of a fiscal union to complement the Monetary Union and reduction of macroeconomic convergence criteria from eleven criteria (four primary and seven secondary criteria) to six criteria (three primary and three secondary criteria).

The three primary criteria are as follows: Budget deficit (including grants and on commitment basis) GDP of less thab three per cent, average annual inflation of less than 10 per cent with a long term goal of less than five per cent by 2019 and gross reserves of not less than three months of imports.

The three secondary convergence criteria adopted by the authority are: Public debt/GDP at less than 70 per cent, Central Bank Financing of Budget Deficit at less than 10 per cent of previous year’s tax revenue and nominal exchange rate variation plus minus 10 per cent. In addition, the authority decided that the institution (WAMA) and WAMI should be retained subject to re-definition of their roles pending the creation of an ECOWAS monetary Institute by 2018 in accordance with a well-defined roadmap.

Also addressing the technical committee meeting, the Central Bank of Nigeria Deputy Governor, Economic Policy, Dr. Mrs Sarah Alade, said the technical meetings would provide a platform for the experts to thoroughly and frankly examine the issues listed on the agenda and distributed in the source documents and proffer directions that would create a sustainable monetary union.

She listed some of the key points to include the WAMZ Macroeconomic Development and Converge Report, WAMZ State of Preparedness for Monetary Integration, Review of Contribution Coefficients to the WAMI Budget, Proposal for the Transformation of WAMI into a WAMZ Commission, WAMZ Payments System Development Project Progress Update, West African Capital Market Integration Progress Report and administrative issues.

Alade added that in pursuit of the agenda, the meeting has pooled together, a team of highly resourceful and knowledgeable professionals from member countries, to deliberate on the issues, leaving nothing undone and adumbrate the way forward.

She said: “it is important to recall at this juncture, that the deadline for WAMZ countries to achieve monetary integration is January 1, 2015. Also, the Modified Gradualist Approach under the aegis of ECOWAS as approved by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government to replace the two track approach to monetary integration in ECOWAS remains fixed at 1st January 2020.

"It is therefore imperative for this Technical Committee to thoroughly interrogate the issues and identify the key challenges that need to be addressed in order to achieve the objective of single currency in our sub-region.

"This exercise is of utmost importance given the state of macroeconomic convergence in the WAMZ where Nigeria was the only member-State that satisfied all four primary criteria in 2013 while Liberia and Sierra Leone satisfied three each. Besides, there has been a challenge of consistent year-to-year compliance by all member countries. It is therefore my fervent hope and belief that the deliberations and recommendations of this Technical Committee would, when implemented, lead to sustained progress towards our ultimate goal of monetary integration in the Zone.

"It is also important to remind you that decisions and recommendations emanating from this meeting would form the agenda of the meeting of the Committee of Governors of the West African Monetary Zone slated for 16 July 2014.”
-0- PANA MON/VAO 14July2014

14 july 2014 18:31:42




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