By Ben Agande, Abuja.
A cash crunch has hit the economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as one of its major financiers; Nigeria has insisted that other member nations who are in default in the payment of their dues meet their obligations before Nigeria makes further commitment in terms of payment of its dues.
According to an official of the commission who spoke with weekend vanguard, the worst hit department of the commission by the cash crunch is the ECOWAS court of Justice which is struggling to cope with the payment of its workers salaries.
The official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter said over the years; other members of the ECOWAS block have left the financing of the affairs of the commission to the three biggest economies of the region: Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana.
However, with the dwindling prices of oil which is the main stay of the Nigerian economy as well as the recent civil war in Ivory Coast and Ghana’s economic down turn, it was no longer possible for the three countries to continue to bear the cost of financing the sub regional body.
Speaking on the cash crunch being faced by the commission the source hinted that some of the problems being experienced by the commission are self inflicted.
“Like all civil service, ECOWAS is in a deep mess largely self inflicted. There is a large duplication of functions and unnecessary creation of offices that are not really relevant to the functioning of the commission. The consequence is that the bureaucracy is over bloated with a huge toll on the finances of the commission.
”For instance, from an initial six commissioners, the commission has increased the number of commissioners to fourteen with a retinue of aides and other support staff which has taken a huge toll on the finances of the commission.
The consequence is that the core duties of the commission are being ignored at the expenses of payment of emoluments of its staff. Even as the major financier of the commission, Nigeria is not well represented in terms of staffing. I think it is the combination of this and the dwindling revenue to Nigeria that it decided that other members of the commission should also contribute their quota.
That decision is affecting the core responsibilities of the commission and if nothing is done urgently, it may soon grind to a halt” the source said.
Weekend Vanguard gathered that some countries in the region have not paid their dues for up ward of five years yet their nationals occupy very high position in the commission.
“The reality is that the expenditure pattern of the commission is not sustainable and unless all member nations meet their financial obligations, the commission’s duties ill be severely affected. For now, the ECOWAS court of justice is struggling to pay its workers salaries.
It may soon extend to other department if nothing is done. It is a very serious matter” the source said.
Some of the projects of the commission that face imminent danger as a result of the cash crunch are the impending elections in Ivory Coast, Guinea and the suspended elections in Burkina Faso which Nigeria contributed hugely to it before it was truncated due to the recent coup in the landlocked West African country.
It was gathered that an emergency meeting of the commission is being proposed for later next month to address the financial challenge facing the commission and to impress on the defaulting countries to pay up their dues.