Ghana’s Vice President John Dramani Mahama on Tuesday urged Nigeria to exert its influence and leadership to see through the integration of West African countries.
He said Nigeria, as the largest and most populated country in Africa, stood to benefit more in that regard in terms of trade and economic growth.
Mahama was speaking at the opening of a 10-day training seminar organized for members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) parliament in Accra that has brought together personalities and Speakers from the sub-region’s parliaments.
It is under the theme: “The role of the ECOWAS Parliament in the West Africa Integration Process.”
Mr Mahama said one major hindrance to trade in the West Africa sub-region had always been the unofficial check-points and barriers on inter-country highways.
He said a survey carried out by West African Trade hub revealed that on every 100 kilometers stretch of highway, there were 17 controls and an average of US$54 paid in bribes and about 55 minutes spent per control point.
He said this had slowed down trade to just about 10 per cent of total volume.
Mahama noted that although the protocol that allowed 90 days visa free movement of people between countries in the sub-region had been implemented unfortunately, when “you arrive at the borders of the fellow West African neighbour, immigration officers still maintain the discretion to decide how long one can stay in the particular country”.
The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Mrs Justice Joyce Bamford-Addo said there was the urgent need for ECOWAS states to create synergies in place of rivalries and commit to the cause of accelerated sub-regional integration.
She said ECOWAS members of Parliament were being challenged by their people to deliver on their mandate to give them that borderless mass of land upon which their forebears once traversed.
“You undoubtedly have an ardous task in talking and walking the people through the quest for integration. For the sake of future generations of West Africans, you cannot afford to fail otherwise, you have broken your part of the social contract with them,” Justice Bamford-Addo said.
She said many had questioned the relevance of ECOWAS since some of the major problems that wedged “us apart still linger on”.
Topics to be discussed include, The Role and Functions of ECOWAS Institutions; National Parliament versus Regional Parliament-Any Complementaries; National Parliament as a Vehicle Towards Promoting West Africa Integration; The meaning of Economic Integration-the ECOWAS Example; and The role of ECOWAS Parliament in the West Africa Integration Process.