Ghana is firmly committed to the implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, the Right of Residence and the Right of Establishment as well as the Protocol on Community Citizenship.
Mr Charles Owiredu, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, said the two Protocols together, aims to create a single ECOWAS Regional Community, devoid of obstacles and impediments to free movement of people, goods, services and capital.
“Indeed, it is our steadfast conviction that free movement, constitute the cornerstone of our Regional Integration efforts, and serves as the basis for unlocking the dividends thereof, with an immense potential to advance the sustainable development of our Region,” Mr Owiredu stated
The Deputy Minister said this at the inauguration of the National Steering Committee in Ghana of the Regional Monitoring Mechanisms for Free Movement of Inter-State Passenger Vehicles, Persons and Goods within ECOWAS.
The two-day meeting is being organised within the framework of the ECOWAS-Swiss Agreement for the removal of harassment along ECOWAS highways and the joint ECOWAS EU funded 10th European Development Fund (EDF) -Project “Support to Free Movement of Persons and Migration in West Africa”.
The ECOWAS Commission has selected Ghana as one of the eight pilot countries to establish a National Steering Committee to operationalise the Regional Monitoring Mechanism for the Free Movement of Inter-State Passenger Vehicles, Persons and Goods within the ECOWAS sub-region.
The eight pilot countries were selected at the 46th Session of the Council of Ministers and 73rd Session of the Conference of Heads of States and Government.
The piloting countries include: Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria and Togo.
The Regional Mechanism aims to contribute in finding effective and sustainable solutions to obstacles to the free movement of persons and goods within the ECOWAS space.
It also seeks to improve the safety of the people and the free flow of interstate buses in the sub-region; strengthen regional coordination on the free movement of persons and goods; and minimize time and reduce red tape for transporters and passengers.
The launch of the National Steering Committee in Ghana therefore, completes the circle of National Steering Committees in the eight pilot countries to support the operationalisation of the Regional Mechanism based in Abidjan.
Mr Owiredu said: “It is our expectation that, the National Steering Committee, which would be the entity responsible for overseeing activities related to Regional Mechanism, would pave the way for enhanced intra-regional interactions, particularly the regional effort to facilitate movement of persons along the Lagos-Abidjan Corridor.
“This will complement arrangements put in place by the Government of Ghana to secure our international road corridors and ensure the free flow of goods and services across our borders”.
He said the event was a major achievement in their collective efforts to reduce harassment along their international road corridors and at their borders with their neighbours, while bringing them a great deal closer to the full realisation of their objective of free movement.
Mr Albert Siaw-Boateng, the Director, Free Movement and Tourism at the ECOWAS Commission, said aside the eight countries currently implementing the pilot phase, there were plans to extend the project to other countries within the ECOWAS sub-region.
He said the Regional Mechanisations aims to achieve two general objectives: “Simplify and facilitate the movement and crossing of land borders and eliminate intermediate road side checks, delays and perceived illegal benefits; while ensuring the safety of people in a safe environment”.
Madam Mojisola Sodeinde, the Coordinator/Team Leader of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) West Africa Office, lauded the efforts of the Swiss Government in supporting the removal of obstacles to the free movement of persons along the Lagos – Abidjan Corridor, including Mali, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
She said the project model, which was instituted by the Ivory Coast from which this Mechanism draws inspiration had proven to be a great success; and that, expanding this imitative to cover other corridors of mobility was a positive step towards the achieving of Regional Integration.
“With the full participation of Ghana, we expect the mechanism to yield even greater benefits.
“If we get it right, it will mean that millions of the citizens of ECOWAS member states will be able to exercise their rights of free movement, without any discrimination or incidence of unnecessary harassment,” she added.