Immigration operatives urged to work for borderless ECOWAS region

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency James Victor Gbeho on Monday, [22nd August 2011], called on immigration operatives in Member States to work toward the achievement of a borderless Community through effective implementation of the regional protocol on free movement.

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“In seeking to accelerate the attainment of a borderless Community, the ECOWAS Commission is disposed to activate public participation in the protocol implementation with the use of enormous human resources”, the President said at the opening of a train-the-trainers workshop for Nigerian immigration officials on the ECOWAS Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Goods and Right of Residence and Establishment.

Ambassador Gbeho, represented by Mr. Tony Elumelu, Principal Programme Officer at the Commission’s Directorate of Free Movement and Tourism, told the participants that the sustenance of the regional integration drive was contingent on free movement of Community citizen.

This, he said, would complement the Commission’s on-going initiative to introduce in West Africa, a Shengen-type visa regime operational in some European Union Member States, adding that on-going sensitization of the operatives and citizens was part of sustained efforts to reduce, if not eliminate, the hardship and cases of harassment and intimidation of Community citizens in the hands of security operatives in the common borders.

Opening the workshop on behalf of the Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service, Mrs. Rose Uzoma, the Assistant Comptroller General, Training, Ayotunde Oredipe, told participants to assume the responsibility as the new drivers of emerging migration trends in the ECOWAS region.

Immigration operatives, he said, should give meaning to the concept of Borderless Border by opening up their operations in line with international best practices.

The Assistant Comptroller General also called on the Commission to address the challenge of dearth of information by sponsoring joint sensitization seminars with emphasis on the new approach to passenger clearance.

Addressing the participants, Air-Vice Marshal Terry Okorodudu (retied), Chair of the ECOWAS Free Movement Monitoring Team, said the essence of the Community protocol on free movement “rests squarely on immigration, (and) without immigration there will be no ECOWAS”.

He stressed the need for the creation of a reliable database that will be
accessible to all stakeholders on immigration issues.

The ECOWAS free movement protocol was signed on May 29th 1979 by regional leaders as an instrument for promoting unfettered movement of Community citizens within the region as part of the process of creating a single regional economic space where citizens can avail themselves of the opportunities that abound in Member States and contribute to the region’s development.

The text also seeks to enhance intra-Community trade, which presently hovers between 11 and 13 per cent, and contribute to the stimulation of the regional economy.

The 22nd to 26th August 2011 training for the immigration operatives being held at Koroduma, Nasarawa State is one of the activities being pursued by the ECOWAS Commission to address the challenges identified with the implementation of the Free Movement Protocol, including harassment, corruption, indiscriminate road blocks and erection of non tariff barriers.