Accra, Nov. 9, GNA - Only four of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met the May 2005 deadline set in the year 2000 by ECOWAS Heads of State to issue ECOWAS passport to their nationals.
Benin, Senegal, Mali and Guinea have fully issued the ECOWAS passport that is meant to facilitate travelling and international trade and commerce.
This came to the fore during a discussion on problems and challenges of West Africa integration on the first of a two-day seminar organised jointly by the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Accra.
Mr Bonaventure Adjavor, Senior Economic Officer of the Ministry of Regional Cooperation and NEPAD, said the period for the implementation of the protocol ended this year, but Ghana was yet to issue such passports to its nationals.
Meanwhile, Ghana is considering issuing new national passports to replace the ones currently in use by 2006. Mr Adjavor recalled a protocol in 1979 that agreed the use of a Travelling Certificate to go along with a national passport, which had been implemented in member countries and enabled citizens to move freely within the Sub-Region.
Mr Adajvor said it should not be difficult to issue ECOWAS passports, as the process of acquisition was similar to that of acquiring a national passport and travelling certificate from a post office counter and endorsed by the appropriate authorities. The ECOWAS passport, which bore the identity and security mark of the issuing country, is similar to a national passport that could be used to travel globally with the exception of a few countries, he said, adding that there had been immense benefits for the countries that had issued the ECOWAS passports. The seminar noted that visa had been abolished within the ECOWAS Sub-Region, but according to Mr Adjavor the adoption of a common visa for ECOWAS in the form the European visa had not taken off because of the delay by most member countries in issuing the ECOWAS passports.
Dr Steve Tonah, Research Fellow of the Sociology Department of the University of Ghana, noted that more and effective interaction among West African nationals should be a prelude to regional integration and trade.
He called for more and frequent travelling of West African nationals within the Sub-Region for more exposure to the different cultures to build social and cultural contacts to solidify regional integration.
Dr Tonah said there must be public discussions on the protocols before they were signed, as well as the tracking of already signed protocols to ensure their effective implementation. Dr Yaw Benneh of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, said the implementation of ECOWAS protocols required institutional arrangements at the national level and pointed out that the establishment of the Ministry of Regional Co-operation and NEPAD was to serve as a focal point of implementation of ECOWAS protocols. Prof. Samuel Asante, a Regional Integration Expert, said NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) Ministry should establish a powerful inter-ministerial committee, headed by the Vice President to co-ordinate activities of that Ministry. He called for the establishment of ECOWAS desks within the individual government Ministries.