The ongoing ECOWAS Trade Fair gained momentum on its third day in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on Saturday, when community citizens were urged to exercise and protect their rights under the instrumentalities provided by the 38-year-old regional economic bloc.
Speaking to a gathering in the auditorium of the Ghana International Trade fair Centre, venue of the regional fair, ECOWAS Commission Vice President Toga McIntosh reminded community citizens of the numerous opportunities and mechanisms available to them through their countries’ membership of the 15-nation organisation with a combined estimated population
of more than 350 million
He cited the Community Court of Justice where citizens can take their cases against organisations or their own state after exhausting domestic legal options.
There is also the ECOWAS Parliament, an assembly of lawmakers currently chosen from the legislature of member states, with the Vice President expressing the hope that in the next two years members of the regional parliament would be elected directly by community citizens
This is in line with the New Vision of an ECOWAS of people, as against an ECOWAS of States, he said, and urged the citizens to show more commitment and proactive engagement around the issues of regional integration under the ECOWAS agenda.
PANA quoted the ECOWAS Commission as saying Dr. McIntosh also challenged the citizens, particularly the youths, to take advantage of the promising business opportunities and the community’s huge market, potentials that make the region a major player in the global space.
Expressing similar sentiments, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Free Movement and Tourism, Mr. Hamid Ahmed, said the citizens should not be shy of protecting or defending the sacred rights granted them by their Heads of State and Government, Ministers and Parliaments under different protocols and legal instruments.
The Commissioner noted that it is by exercising, defending and protecting their rights that the citizens can contribute to the entrenchment of democracy and good governance in the region, adding that it “takes more than one person to commit corruption.”
In an earlier presentation, the ECOWAS Acting Director of Communication, Mr. Sunny Ugoh, took the gathering through the organisation’s structure, objectives, programmes and activities as well as achievements, challenges and prospects.
The Auditorium event was preceded by the hoisting of the ECOWAS flag at a brief ceremony witnessed by Vice President McIntosh, ECOWAS Commissioner Ahmed, Acting Director of Trade, Dr. Gbenga Obideyi and members of the Local Organising Committee of the Trade Fair.
Benin and Burkina Faso observed their National Day at the fair on Friday, while other member states will take their turns during the two-week event, which will also feature Business to Business Meetings and a Regional Workshop on the theme of the Fair: “Regional Integration through Trade.”
Twelve ECOWAS member countries along with hundreds of companies, traders, manufacturers, investors and industrialists are showcasing their products and services during the regional fair.
The fair was instituted to boost intra-community trade which presently hovers between 11 and 15 percent, and also to facilitate the implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) as well as empower local producers and stimulate regional economy.