The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), has called for a comprehensive economic costs and benefits analysis of the ECO single currency before activating its full usage.
Mr Ken Ukaoha, President of the association made the call on Saturday in a statement made available to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Abuja.
Ukaoha said the economic costs and analysis would help the population to understand ECO currency’s rationale and the overall implications of such an unknown step that was being collectively taken.
NAN recalls that eight West African countries had agreed to change the name of their common currency to Eco, thereby effectively severing the CFA franc’s links to former colonial ruler France.
The countries include Benin republic, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
“Our attention has been irresistibly drawn to the subject of an ECOWAS Single currency (ECO) as recently approved by the Authority of Heads of States and Government in the West African region on Dec. 21, 2019.
“And the subsequent announcement jointly made by President Alassane Quattara of Cote d’Ivoire, Chairman of Economic Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) and President Emmanuel Macron of France,’’ he said.
Ukaoha noted that the analysis and its public presentation would ignite possible constructive debates that would strengthen the potential acceptability or fine-tuning of the processes leading to a viable single currency operation and Monetary Union.
“This will further enable and activate the needed democratic process which has unfortunately been lacking in the preparation and enactment of virtually all ECOWAS laws and regional instruments.
“We must learn to subject processes such as legal instruments including regional protocols and policies to the public domain so as to benefit from criticisms, dissent opinions and/or endorsements by the citizens as these are necessary for buy-in and ownership.
“We strongly argue that if the ‘common’ citizens have the right to an ECOWAS Passport no matter how vulnerable they might be, they also deserve the right to know and participate in actions that touch their livelihoods,’’ he said.
The trade expert added that following the understanding that currency was a legal instrument meant to serve the purposes of trade, NANTS held the opinion that a single currency would be used to drive increased commercial activities.
He decried that till date, ECOWAS had yet to have a Common Trade Policy in place, which the common currency was expected to serve.
“It is our strong view that we cannot as a people and governments be faced with the horrendous acts and infractions that impede trade, support and enable uncontrollable smuggling, drug peddling and trafficking in human, small arms and light weapons.
“In the process pretend to be facilitating trade and working towards speedy integration while the resultant border closures stare at us with debilitating implications that ultimately drive long nails into the head leading to a collapse of our private sector.
“We must, therefore, rise to primarily address numerous trade challenges at the borders and along the corridors and treated as a priority in the scheme of ECOWAS integration efforts,’’ he said.
He, however, stated that the challenges gave a wrong signal to the impending African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement implementation.
NANTS boss urged ECOWAS Member States and relevant Authorities to devote more time, resources and political will to the removal of impediments to regional trade while discussions were ongoing for a credible Monetary Union.
“This is the only way that the benefits of a Monetary Union will trickle down to the citizens located even at the lowest ebb of the ladder,’’ he said.
He advised governments to apply every caution, noting that many countries in ECOWAS were unable to consistently meet all the convergence criteria set out for the purpose of a common currency notwithstanding all efforts made.
He also empahsised the need for proper coordination among Ministries, Departments and Agencies of governments charged with the responsibility of managing Member States’ political economy.
This, he said was necessary so that the government actors would be viewing from the same level of knowledge, speaking from the same point of view and applying the same level of appraisal of the subject.
He, therefore, advised the authorities to constitute strong economic teams to continuously monitor the proceedings and outcomes that could play out in the entire process of negotiations.
“The current spate of insurgency/terrorism which has visited the region and was not originally envisaged but appears to be escalating should be placed side by side while considering the single currency and the entire Monetary Union process.
“Therefore, economic stability, growth, budget and current account deficits, balance of trade, inflation trends and government debts are key elements that must not be sidelined or circumvented along the road to a single currency and Monetary Union,’’ he said.