Ghana is spearheading the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) plan to provide Biometric Identification Cards to the community’s citizens in 2016.
This is to facilitate the free movement of community citizens, goods and services in line with the revised ECOWAS treaty.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, is organizing series of workshops across the country to sensitize relevant stakeholders and the general public on the ECOWAS protocol arrangements.
Addressing participants in Tamale, the Director/Africa and Regional Integration and Head of the ECOWAS national unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mrs. Sena Siaw-Boateng, reaffirmed ECOWAS’ commitment to create a single regional market for the free movement of goods.
“The West African region has defined its priorities with regards to integration in economic and trade matters. These priorities are the creation of a single regional market for the free movement of goods of ECOWAS origin as well as the introduction of ECOWAS Biometric ID Cards to facilitate free movement of community citizens.”
“The main objective of ECOWAS is to promote co-operation and integration of the national economies and accelerate the economic development of member states in order to improve the living standards of the people. The creation of a single market is largely dependent upon our ability to establish a free Trade Area, Common External Tariff and Customs Union,” she explained.
Mrs. Sena Boateng however observed that some community citizens are ignorant of the integrative arrangements.
“Ghana has an enviable record where African integration is concerned. She has always been at the forefront of the efforts made towards integration both at the sub regional and continental levels: one major observation however is that, ordinary citizens are usually not aware of ongoing integrative arrangements and they do not form part of the process.”
She thus entreated the mass media to highlight ECOWAS’ transformational agenda.
“It is therefore important that you from the public sector and the media are sensitized and informed so that you will feed the populace with accurate information about ECOWAS, its achievements and challenges,” Mrs. Sena underscored.
The Northern Regional Minister, Alhaji Mohammed Muniru Limuna, lauded the workshop’s theme dubbed, “Enhancing public sector participation in regional integration (ECOWAS).”
He called for concerted efforts to consolidate ECOWAS’ success on the implementation of the macro-economic convergence criteria and effective surveillance mechanism.
Alhaji Limuna urged the participants to take advantage of the workshop and deepen their knowledge on the workings of ECOWAS and regional integration.
The Northern Regional Commander of the Ghana Immigration Service, Eric Afari, said personnel of his outfit are committed to the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of people.
The Assistant Director of Immigration said, “We want to once again re-emphasize the commitment to ECOWAS protocol and engender the fact that we need to do everything as a people and as public officials to push for the full realization of the objectives of ECOWAS.”
“On our part as immigration officers, we are supposed to implement the protocol on free movement of persons, residents and establishments, and its important that we once again commit ourselves to this course,” Mr. Afari stressed.
Mr. Afari called for enough logistics to fast track the movement of personnel of the Border Patrol Unit of the Ghana Immigration Service, who constantly police some unapproved entry routes into the country.
“We have the Border Patrol Unit that has been created within the Ghana Immigration Service since 2006. What is left now is for the unit to be empowered so that they can give out their very best.”
He revealed, “The Border Patrol Unit personnel are not armed and it makes it a bit difficult because these are trans-national organized criminals and they come very sophisticated. In the face of the challenges we are doing our very best.”
Mr. Afari gave the assurance that the service will flush-out foreign illegal miners operating in the country.
The workshop brought together participants from the nation’s law enforcement agencies, the media, public servants and a cross section of the general public.
By: Abdul Karim Naatogmah/citifmonline.com/Ghana