Integration Of West African Countries Begins Jan. 1, 2016 – ECOWAS

Free movement of persons, goods, inauguration of Biometric Identity Cards and integration of West Africa countries begin on Jan. 1, 2016.

President of ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Kadré Ouedraogo, said this at the end of 48th Ordinary Session of Authority of Heads of States and Governments of the commission in Abuja on Thursday.

Ouedraogo also said the commission would prevent dress codes that obstruct identification of individuals by security personnel in order to detect terrorists/suicide bombers.

Ouedraogo said these were part of decisions of the summit, explaining that the implementation would be at national levels.

“The summit focused on security issues, mainly the fight against terrorism, and exchanged views and experiences on how best to tackle violent extremism.

Member states are encouraged to take measures to forbid dress codes that will not allow security personnel to be sure of an individual’s identity.

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These measures are to facilitate identification of individuals because sometimes some terrorists’ acts can be under the cover of certain dress codes that do not allow identification.

“Implementation is at the national levels, but ECOWAS has discussed the matter and the Heads of States and Government have recommended this measure to all member states”, he said.

Ouedraogo said the summit also agreed on the January 2016 deadline to launch the Biometric Identity Cards which is expected to enhance free movement and integration.

He said the issuance of the cards would be at the level of each member state.

It will be a common card to be used by all citizens and issuance would start from Jan. 1, 2016, but it is the responsibility of member states to issue the card to their citizens.

We hope that most of the states would start on the set date to issue the cards.

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These cards will also serve as travel documents and they will replace the resident permit and citizens can live and reside in any ECOWAS country without giving any other document.

“This is a new integration process,” he said.

The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo attended in persons while presidents of Niger, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Liberia were represented.

Other participants included representatives of United Nations, the European Union, and members of the diplomatic corps among other partner organisations.

Highlights of the two-day summit included the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of ECOWAS.

A presentation of the specimen of the ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card to the Heads of States and Government was also done by the commission’s president.