The Government of Nigeria (GoN) has progressed to consolidate its long-awaited cross-border relations with neighboring countries, with the inauguration of the National Platform on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) support programme (2021-2025).
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and Chairman, International Boundaries Technical Committee, Zubairu Dada, while carrying out the inauguration on August 17, 2021 in Abuja Nigeria, noted that the overall goal of the new ECOWAS Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) programme is to strengthen cooperation and good relations among ECOWAS member states in order to ensure free movement of people, goods and services.
He noted also that there is a consensus understanding that cross-border cooperation is superior to unilateral action in the development of border regions and the facilitation of the much-desired regional integration, adding that this fact has necessitated the need to establish a national platform to serve as a springboard for the facilitation of the much-needed cooperation.
Dada said: “Many protocols, treaties and decisions have been adopted by the ECOWAS member states to bring down barrier among us, key among which is the decision to adopt the concept of Cross Border Cooperation.
“This framework between inextricable and contiguous neighbors was adopted by the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in January 2006 as a necessary mechanism for the transformation of border areas into zones of exchange and bridges of cooperation.”
The Minister of State added that the national platform is expected to play a vital role in the coordination of the programme at the national level, while listing part of the roles and responsibilities of the platform to include coordinating and managing national cross border cooperation, and multi-sectoral actions at local and national levels.
Others are to serve as technical steering committee at the national level and as framework for consultation, guidance and coordination to validate cross border cooperation initiatives selected for financing and implementation at local and national levels; to ensure better coordination of cross border cooperation initiatives between regional, zonal, national and local levels as well as prioritise actions.
He emphasized that Nigeria would continue to work with the ECOWAS sub -region in accomplishing not only the objectives of the initiative but also greater economic integration in line with the vision of the founding fathers.
“It is on this note that I have the honour and privilege to inaugurate this National Platform to the glory of God and for the benefit of Nigeria and the entire sub-region,” the minister said.
In his remarks, the representative of the ECOWAS Commission, Ismail Dangu expressed gratitude to the federal government for inaugurating the platform, emphasizing that it would promote cross border cooperation.
Earlier, the Director-General, National Boundary Commission, Adamu Adaji, highlighted the importance of the programme in integrating the African States.
He said that ECOWAS endorsed the CBC to facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services across the sub-region.
“In exemplifying the endorsement of the concept of cross-border cooperation, ECOWAS in collaboration with member states launched the first four (4) cross-border pilot initiatives, which includes the Kano Katsina-Maradi Corridor (K2M) which is now expanded to include Kano-Jigawa-Zinder (K2M-KJZ).
“The outcome of the pilot initiatives ushered in the development of additional trans-border corridors.
“The newly adopted cross border cooperation Support Programme (2021 — 2025) will cut across 15 member states of ECOWAS with the new corridors to include: Ghana-Togo—Benin-Nigeria (GHATOBENN), Burkina-Ghana-Céte d’Ivoire (BGCT), Benin-Niger-Nigeria (BNN), and Benin-Burkina-Togo (BBT)” he said.
He stated also that “the acceleration of globalization of economic as well as cultural exchanges, and the consolidation of supranational integration mechanisms such as the European Union (EU) and the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), has led to the increasing permeability of state borders”
He further itemized the objectives of the programme to include: strengthen cooperation; promote integration and development across borders; promote regional peace and security; manage migration dynamics and free movement; and support joint socio-economic development initiatives.
On the effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) he noted that Nigeria as the giant of Africa has responsibility to ensure that the trade bloc succeeds
“It is widely expected that ECOWAS would play a critical role in the evolving success of the African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) and Nigeria as a major player in the West African sub-region has it a duty that the project succeeds.