By Omoh Gabriel
THE Economic Community of West Africa States ECOWAS,’ farmers have called on African leaders to resist the pressure being put on them by the European Union to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement. The farmers group said the pressure and the strategies implemented by the EU to achieve the EPA put serious doubts about the real objectives.
It said that the reciprocal market opening asked by the European Union that is the world’s premier economic trade zone, will weaken different economic sectors, including emerging industries, by subjecting them to fierce and unfair competition with products of European economies.
In a letter signed by Djibo Bagna to President Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him for refusing to sign the agreement, the farmers group said “Is it really for the sole purpose of economic development of our countries and our region? The EU cannot exert such pressure on our governments to sign an agreement in our own interest. It was obvious it will be to the detriment of our producers.
“The basis of the EPA is to preserve the EU’s economic interests and undermine our economic development. The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo declared in March 19th 2012 that the EPA in West Africa would be like a second slavery.”
It further stated: “The planned competition between our agricultural products with those of the European Union will undermine the objectives of our agricultural policy and commitments by Heads of State. The Economic Partnership Agreement is part of the business strategy of the European Union to stem losses from markets that it suffers in Africa.”
The letter to Mr. President read in part: “On behalf of the members and Board of Trustees of the Network of Farmers Organisations and Agricultural Producers in West Africa (ROPPA), we extend our sincere greetings, congratulations and support for your Excellency’s continued commitment and initiatives to ensure peace, security, economic development and sustainable growth in Nigeria and the entire ECOWAS region.
“Your Excellency, ROPPA is working in 15 ECOWAS countries with governments, development partners and civil society organisations in the formulation and implementation of sectoral policies affecting agriculture and rural development. Our network also facilitates access of family farms to services and facilities to ensure economic development of our region.
“As part of its objectives, ROPPA is following with interest the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Commission, ECOWAS, UEMOA and Mauritania. On behalf of West African farmers organisations and civil society groups, we extend our support for your consistent position in defence of our region and its citizens in the EPA negotiations.
“We support the position taken by Nigeria under your leadership by refusing to sign the EPA. Your Excellency had reiterated this position by declaring to the plenary of the European Parliament on 3rd February 2016 that Nigeria could not sign the EPA because it would threaten the industrialisation of your great country. We all know whatever affects Nigeria affects the entire region. Your Excellency, Nigeria accounts for 51.6% of the West African population and 78.3% of West Africa’s GDP. Abuja is the ECOWAS headquarters and it represents the symbol of the West Africa’s economic and political integration.
“The integration of our region is a great potential for improved productivity, economic growth and gains. We do not need commercial partnership agreements that will weaken our economic growth. The reciprocal market opening asked by the European Union that is the world’s first economic trade zone, will weaken our different economic sectors, including emerging industries, by subjecting them to a fierce and unfair competition with products of European economies.
“The farmers of the region were invited through a participatory methodology in the development of both agricultural policies in our region (AUP and ECOWAP), and we appreciate their guidance towards reclaiming our food markets and our food security and sovereignty. Through the consolidation guidance processes of our agricultural policies towards food sovereignty, our region has truly consensual instruments for agricultural development, with a legitimacy that engages all stakeholders.
“West African Farmers Organisations welcome the commitment and reforms implemented in recent years by the Heads of State and Governments in the ECOWAS region to enable our region meet the challenges of food security and food sovereignty, tackle malnutrition, hunger, poverty, youth employment and ensure sustainable management of natural resources.
The vision is sustained by the Malabo Declaration to strengthen public investments in agriculture to increase productivity and supply in the food sector. It will also strengthen the determination of our policymakers in agriculture, forestry, pastoralism and livestock production and fisheries.
“These are the real levers for the development of the region. The planned competition between our agricultural products with those of the European Union will undermine the objectives of our agricultural policy and commitments by Heads of State. Your Excellency, the pressure and the strategies implemented by the EU to achieve the EPA puts serious doubts about the real objectives. Is it really for the sole purpose of economic development of our countries and our region? The EU cannot exert such pressure on our governments to sign an agreement in our own interest.
“It was obvious it will be to detriment of our producers. The basis of the EPA is to preserve the EU’s economic interests and undermine our economic development. The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo declared in March 19th 2012 that the EPA in West Africa would be like a “second slavery.
“The doubts of EU’s real intentions are verified through all alternatives to the EPA that it refuses to adopt. For example the EU may request a waiver at the WTO to maintain its trade preferences with West Africa. But the EU does not wish to renew non-reciprocal agreements with the ACP countries because it is pursuing a strategy to increase its access to developing countries markets through the multiplication of free trade agreements.
“Your Excellency, a look at the development in the world shows that all countries that have developed began by creating the necessary conditions for doing so. This is done by first securing their production sectors, investing to increase production and dissemination of productions and only after they are open to others. These conditions put together can ensure increased productivity, competitiveness and community preference.
We cannot expect Africa to be the first example that will first open its market so that it will develop. Your Excellency, we are not against international cooperation and free trade agreements, however this Economic Partnership Agreement that the EU is seeking by hook or by crook for last 14 years is one of Europe’s many initiatives or attempts to exacerbate the underdevelopment of Africa and increase its dependence.
“Your Excellency, the West African farmers’ organi-sations and Civil Society thank you for your worthy position on the EPA and its disastrous consequences on our economies. Your Excellency has put the interests of your people and our community in front despite the pressures and short-term political goals. The history of our region and all the people will recognise this great role that you played.
“We request your Excellency to continue the dialogue and create awareness with other Heads of State in ECOWAS so that Nigeria’s position will be supported by other policy makers in the region and ensure the non-ratification of the EPA in the collective interest of our region. West Africa has the human and material resources to sustain itself and promote intraregional trade and economic growth. We wish to thank and congratulate Your Excellency for this great position you took and urge you to continue this great effort and initiative.”