COVID-19: ECOWAS recommends gradual opening of borders

Adoba Echono, Abuja

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The ECOWAS Ministerial Coordination Committee on Transport, Logistics and Trade has recommended a harmonized and gradual re-opening of land, air and sea borders in the region.

The committee also called for the coordinated and gradual restoration of cross-border economic activities, especially for the movement of humanitarian personnel, medical supplies, equipment and essential goods in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recommendations were adopted for submission to the Co-Chairpersons of the ad-hoc Ministerial Committee, Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika and President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou for onward submission to President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, who is the champion of the regional COVID-19 response in the region for the subsequent presentation to the Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.

The Ministers discussed and agreed on practical modalities based on the report of the regional experts meeting held virtually on 8th and 10th June 2020 as well as the draft Guidelines for the Harmonization and Facilitation of Cross Border Trade & Transport in the ECOWAS Region on the Covid-19 Pandemic and Related Post-Recovery Actions.

After their deliberations which took place on the 12th and 16th of June, 2020, the Ministers recommended a gradual and coordinated opening of land borders and airports of ECOWAS Member States based on health data on the evolution of the pandemic and called for the appropriate fiscal measures by governments to support the effective implementation of the guidelines.

According to the meeting’s report, “the opening of the borders is to be hinged on the proposed Guidelines for the mitigation of health risks and the harmonization and facilitation of cross border trade and transport in the ECOWAS region in the context of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, amounting to a coordinated and progressive opening of air, land and maritime borders”.

They also held that the reopening has become imperative in view of the need to revive the economies of ECOWAS member countries.

The Ministers recommended a three-phased approach to the opening of land and air borders beginning with local internal domestic air and land transport within the ECOWAS Member States, then a second phase which involves the opening of land and air borders between the ECOWAS Member States, to allow the free movement of goods and persons on the basis of strict application of the proposed guidelines for the harmonization and facilitation of cross border trade and transport in the ECOWAS region.

The Ministers further called for accurate information sharing on opening-up measures among the Member States in the spirit of solidarity, collective self-reliance and inter-State cooperation through bilateral and multilateral consultations.

They also called for speedy and safer clearance of transit goods at the borders and minimize physical contact in customs, cross-border trade transactions through the rapid deployment of the new ECOWAS Interconnected Goods and Transit Management System popularly termed SIGMAT.

 

Zainab Sa’id