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ECOWAS Commission restates commitment to strengthening regional customs union and infrastructure upgrade
Group photograph of Finance ministers and other officials

Abuja, 2nd November 2018. The President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Jean-Claude Kassi Brou has restated the commitment of the Commission to strengthening regional Customs union and an infrastructural upgrade that can sustain the renewed integration efforts within the community.

Declaring open the 4th meeting of the Ministers of Finance holding on the heels of the convergence of Directors-General of Customs Service of ECOWAS Member States in Abuja, Nigeria on the 2nd of November 2018, President Brou held that the main idea of establishing ECOWAS is to foster an economic union in order to raise the living standards of citizens while maintaining and enhancing the economic stability of the region.

Speaking through the Commission’s Commissioner of Finance Mrs. Halima Ahmed, President Brou noted that the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government remains unshakeable and resolute in its “determination to make regional integration a potent, viable and appropriate tool for accelerating and achieving the sustainable development of West African countries”

He maintained that in keeping alive the ECOWAS vision 2020, what is envisaged is an ECOWAS which has a dynamic regional economy driven by a regionally-inclined business community that operates in an efficient and diversified regional production system.

President Brou stressed that the leaders are working hard for a region that is sustained by modern infrastructural networks. He noted however that the vision may not be easily attainable if the requisite regional economic instruments are not adopted and effectively operationalized in Member States.

The President recalled that the adoption of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) by the Heads of States and Government of our Community in January 2006 marked an important milestone in the West African integration effort. This, he said is because the ECOWAS revised Treaty, in line with accepted theory of economic integration, has made the creation of a customs union, a critical building block for the achievement of an economic union.

He stressed that while it is imperative to move into the fifth year of the implementation of the ECOWAS CET, appropriate procedures towards the achievement of optimal tariff levels in our fiscal and external trade regime should be put in place “to ensure that this critical integration instrument is not overtaken by the economic realities and aspirations of our region”.

Commissioner Ahmed (R) Minister Zainab Ahmed (M) andDCG Ronke Olubiyi

President Brou maintained that the role of customs administrations is central to the success of the regional economic integration agenda while “the level of professionalism exhibited by the administrations in revenue collection, trade facilitation, protection of our industrial sector, and the general protection of our society is a major determinant of their effectiveness in delivering on their mandate”.

He further disclosed to the ministers, participants and experts that following the adoption of the ECOWAS Customs Code by the Heads of State in December 2017, the ECOWAS Commission has begun a capacity building programme of training, sensitization and dissemination of the provisions of the code to the various stakeholders in the trade and fiscal space of the region.

As the Community moves to consolidate its customs union, President Brou stressed the importance of harmonizing tax laws of Member States in order to guarantee equal treatment of economic operators and minimizing the negative effects of tax competition within the Community.

He also made a passionate appeal to the ministers for their support of the Community through the efficient collection and remitting of the ECOWAS Community Levy which he noted, “is the life-blood of the ECOWAS integration process”

The chair of the meeting and Nigeria’s Minister of Finance Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed made a detailed presentation on consolidating the ECOWAS Customs union including allied fiscal matters.

She opined that the regional regulations being fashioned out in this regard will also assist in the “deepening of integration of the region with the global strategies to improve public revenue through the elimination of tax malpractices”.

She stressed in this regard that Nigeria’s current economic policies, in several aspects, seek to identify with, and actively participate in the effort to achieve regional economic development through cooperation, hence the country effectively commenced the implementation of the ECOWAS CET in April 2015, with additional measures under the ECOWAS approved Supplementary Protection.

During the meeting, several texts to facilitate the operationalization of the Customs code will be presented for examination and validation. These relate to mutual administrative assistance in customs matters and customs cooperation as well as the harmonization of customs duty reliefs in the ECOWAS region.

The implementation of the ECOWAS CET, which began in January 2015 effectively ushered the Community into a customs union on the road to consolidating the West Africa regional market.

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