Saturday, May 30, 2009

West Africa border officials blamed for torpedoing ECOWAS protocol

Participants at a day's forum on the ECOWAS Protocol on the free movement of people and goods have criticized sub regional border officials for harassment and extortions in contravention of the ECOWAS agenda.This and lack of political will by regional leaders, the participants contended, are the burdens that must be off-loaded towards the realization of the intentions of the protocol to achieve rapid economic well-being of the sub-region and its citizens. Participants therefore appealed to the ECOWAS leadership and the various organizations to live up to the task of actualizing ECOWAS trade liberalization.The forum on the theme, "the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of people" was organized by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) in collaboration with the West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) to coincide with the 34th ECOWAS Day celebration which fell on May 28.It was to engage key implementers and stakeholders in the protocol at the grassroots levels in conjunction with the media to create awareness towards the building of a local capacity. Mr Emmanuel Impraim, Assistant Commissioner of Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) Aflao conceded that non-adherence to agreed protocol by member states and non-compliance of nationals to approved procedures and smuggling and tax evasions remained obstacles to the implementation of the protocol.He was speaking on the role of the CEPS in implementing the protocol. Mr Impraim stated however stated that Ghana Customs had been consistent with the implementation of the protocol on trade liberalization since its introduction about 20 years ago. That consistency he said were in the areas of printing of Custom documents consistent with ECOWAS requirement, the Ghana Customs Tarrif Book, reduction of duties, harmonization of Custom regimes in line with the World Custom Organization and the Kyoto Convention on the standardization and harmonization of procedures and the free movement of vehicles.Mr Impraim called for a stronger political will for full implementation of all ECOWAS protocols, education of the public on their rights and responsibilities that are needed for a smooth implementation of the protocols.Mr Mathias Homey, Commander in-charge of Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) Aflao, speaking on the Sub-Regional Immigration procedures said despite the protocol on free movement, citizens still required valid travel documents to travel across borders in the sub-region He said the GIS is at war with extortion and harassment and appealed to the public to assist in cleansing the system by promptly reporting any deviant personnel from the Service who extorted money or harassed them for action. Miss Gertrude Adu Yeboh, an executive member of WACSOF urged ECOWAS citizens to get interested in the goal of creating a borderless ECOWAS with enormous economic benefit for all.

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