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Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso’s Withdrawal Will Cost ECOWAS US$1billion, Says President of ECOWAS Commission

In January 2024, the three countries announced their withdrawal from the ECOWAS, citing “illegal sanctions” attracted by an unconstitutional change of government

The president of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, has warned that the withdrawal of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso from the bloc puts ECOWAS’ investments worth nearly US$1 billion at risk.

In January 2024, the three countries announced their withdrawal from the ECOWAS, citing “illegal sanctions” attracted by an unconstitutional change of government.

But Touray, speaking at the inauguration of the sixth ECOWAS Parliament held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, on Thursday, April 28, 2024, warned that on the economic and financial front, the withdrawal of the three states could result in default or suspension of all ECOWAS projects and programmess in these countries, worth more than US$500 million.

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“It should be noted that…the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development currently has 27 ongoing public sector projects in the three countries valued at approximately US$321.6 million.

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“38% of this is in the form of investment in the public sector, while 61% is constituted by investment in the private sector,” Touray said.

Touray, therefore, tasked the new representatives of the ECOWAS Parliament to take their role seriously in keeping the nearly five-decade-old bloc together and stronger.

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The ECOWAS Parliament, also known as the Community Parliament, was established under Articles 6 and 13 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993.

The initial protocol establishing the Parliament was signed in Abuja on 6 August 1994, providing for the structure, composition, competence and other matters relating to the Parliament.

The Parliament is composed of 115 seats. Each member state has a guaranteed minimum of five seats, while the remaining 40 seats are shared based on population.

However, only 97 members, comprising lawmakers from various member states, were sworn in on Thursday. They include 35 members from Nigeria and five from Benin Republic, Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo. Others include eight members from Ghana, seven from Cote d’Ivoire and six from Senegal and Guinea.

Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have no representatives in the Sixth Parliament, despite receiving invitations to send representatives.

Citing Touray’s remarks, the chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Bola Tinubu, appealed to the three countries to reconsider their stance, as their exit could spell far-reaching consequences for their citizens as well as the sub-region.

He called on ECOWAS member states to come together, strengthen ties and reject forces bent on causing division within the community.

Tinubu argued that regional solidarity is imperative to strengthen the bloc’s resilience and effectiveness at this critical juncture as he said member states cannot afford to remain passive spectators while the community faces the threat of disintegration.

“We stand united against such forces and are committed to ensuring our unity remains unshaken.

“We must ensure that cooperation amongst us is strengthened to build a sense of common destiny and purpose. No one can do this for us. We must come together,” he said.

Tinubu reasoned that reinforcing the legitimacy of the decisions taken by the Authority of Heads of State is critical in conveying the message that ECOWAS is one indivisible body.

He said it is crucial that the executives, on the other hand, show similar confidence in the Parliament, which would deepen democracy in the region.

“Meanwhile, in the midst of ongoing challenges, our partnership can be a driving force for stability, growth, and prosperity in our region,” the Chairman, ECOWAS Authority and Heads of State, stated.

He reaffirmed Nigeria’s unwavering commitment to the aspirations of the community and, by extension, the fundamental objectives upon which the ECOWAS Parliament was established.

Affirming the important role of the ECOWAS Parliament in the bloc’s journey towards a future of peace and prosperity for all, President Tinubu said success cannot be achieved without the loyal contribution and hard work of the community’s legislative agency.

President Tinubu also stated that Nigeria, as the host of the community’s institution, will continue to support the Parliament to achieve its objectives.

“I am aware of the plan to have all ECOWAS institutions in one complex and of the good progress that has been made.

“Nigeria is also working to meet its responsibilities in constructing the ECOWAS Parliament’s Headquarters in Abuja within the same complex,” he affirmed.

Swearing in the 97 members of the Sixth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament, President Tinubu said he would support a proposal for direct election into the Parliament of ECOWAS, stating that the move would give citizens of member states a say in who represents them at sub-regional levels.

“As a one-time legislator myself, I look forward to reviewing a proposal regarding this matter, and we stand ready to support direct elections into the ECOWAS Parliament,” he said.

He expressed hope that members of the Sixth Legislature, will, in their deliberations, address the prime concerns of the region and come up with resolutions that will lead to the attainment of peace and the advancement of all.

“You can stand assured that Nigeria is always ready to support the ECOWAS Parliament, in whatever endeavours you are engaged, to move the ECOWAS mission forward,” Tinubu avowed.

Speaking earlier, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, who chairs the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, thanked members of the outgoing Fifth Legislature, especially its Speaker, Dr Sidie Tunis for their “invaluable contributions to the ECOWAS Parliament and the organisation as a whole.”

Tuggar urged the new members of the Parliament to harmonise their positions on key issues with the decisions of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.

At the swearing-in ceremony, Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President, Senator Barau Jibrin, emerges as acting Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament.

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