Nigeria/ECOWAS: Church leaders demand ''full transparency'' on EPA negotiations

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - Ahead of the ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments Summit in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, 28-30 March, Nigerian Church leaders have demanded for full transparency and accountability in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.

They made the demand during a meeting with Nigeria's Minister of State for Foreign Affair Mohammed Nurudeen and the ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade Ahmed Hamid in the nation's capital, Abuja.

''We, the people of faith, oppose the hasty push for conclusion of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between ECOWAS Commission and the EU Commission during the forthcoming ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments summit,” the Most Reverend Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, President of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA) and Primate of the African Church Worldwide, said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Udofia led a 12-member delegation comprising of senior church leaders from Nigeria and the FECCIWA Secretariat to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ECOWAS Commission.

“Hurried EPA conclusion will send wrong signals to ECOWAS member states on the importance of people’s participation in economic and social development. The ECOWAS Commissioner must publish the text of the agreement on its website to avoid further discrediting of ECOWAS at national levels,” the statement said.

Dr Nurudeen assured the church leaders that ''Nigeria will not enter into an Economic Partnership Agreement without national consultations and that the present agreement in its format is unacceptable by the Nigerian Government.”

He also alluded to the fear that the agreement in its present state will negatively impact on peace and security, job creation and protection of nascent industries, and promised that Nigeria, as economic powerhouse in West Africa, would pave the way forward for balanced outcome on the EPAs.

For his part, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade agreed that the ECOWAS commission will not be able to conclude an agreement against the will of national governments, and expressed the regret that consultations with governments, trade unions, civil society and especially the public were not held in order to convince all stakeholders.

However, he argued in favor of the present deal, which would provide sufficient protective measures for existing ECOWAS industries.

“Revenue losses caused by liberalisation will be outweighed by economic gains stimulated by decreasing consumer costs and foreign investments,” Hamid said.

In an earlier statement, Secretary-General of FECCIWA, Rev. Tolbert Thomas Jallah, Jr.,  expressed disappointment over the fast-track conclusion of the EPA deal.

Rev. Jallah, a well-known anti-EPA campaigner, also criticised the ''secrecy'' of the agreed text, and stressed the need for the document to be made public.

PANA recalls that the EU and West Africa have reached a compromise on EPA, following over 10 years of negotiations.

The trade pact is meant to provide 16 West African countries with long-term access to the European market, without being subjected to tariffs or quotas.

The 16 African countries included in the deal are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Mauritania.

According to the European Commission, West African countries account for 40 percent of all trade between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
-0- PANA SEG 25March2014

25 march 2014 21:34:25

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