ECOWAS seeks gradual reopening of borders 

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The Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Ministerial Coordination Committee on Transport, Logistics and Trade has recommended harmonised and gradual re-opening of land, air and sea borders for restoring cross-border economic activities in the West African sub-region.

This, it said, would facilitate the movement of humanitarian personnel, medical supplies, equipment and essential goods in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministers held that the re-opening had become imperative in view of the need to revive the economies of ECOWAS member countries.

The recommendations were adopted for submission to the co-Chairpersons of the ad hoc Ministerial Committee; the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika; and President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, for onward submission to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Buhari, who is the champion of the regional COVID-19 response, was expected to present the recommendations to the summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.

A statement from the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja on Thursday said the ministers agreed on practical modalities based on the report of the regional experts’ meeting held virtually on June 8 and 10, 2020 as well as the draft ‘Guidelines for the Harmonisation and Facilitation of Cross Border Trade and Transport in the ECOWAS Region on the COVID-19 Pandemic and related Post-Recovery Actions.’

It stated, “After their deliberations, which took place on June 12 and 16, the ministers recommended a gradual and coordinated opening of land borders and airports of ECOWAS member states based on health data on the evolution of the pandemic and called for the appropriate fiscal measures by governments to support the effective implementation of the guidelines.

“According to the meeting’s report, the opening of the borders is to be hinged on the proposed guidelines for the mitigation of health risks and the harmonisation and facilitation of cross-border trade and transport in the ECOWAS region in the context of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, amounting to a coordinated and progressive opening of air, land and maritime borders.”

The committee recommended a three-phased approach to the opening of land and air borders, beginning with domestic air and land transport within ECOWAS member states, and a second phase, which involves the opening of land and air borders to allow the free movement of goods and persons on the basis of strict application of the proposed guidelines.