On Thursday 4th October 2016, Senegal became the first country to issue freely, in a period of time, the ECOWAS Biometric Identity Cards to its citizens. H.E Macky Sall was the first citizen to acquire this important card. By this act, Senegal has demonstrated its commitment to the integration of the sub-region- a necessary condition to achieve sustainable development.
It will be recalled that the 46th ordinary session of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in December 2015 adopted the biometric identity card to replace the resident permit. The issuance of the cards was projected to start in January 2016 and it is the responsibility of each member state to deliver it to its citizens.
Acquiring the biometric identification card is expected to facilitate the free movement of community citizens within the sub-region and to remove the requirement for residence permits for ECOWAS nationals migrating to any of the member states. This card is equally to promote the security of migrants and data management within the sub-region.
On its part Ghana has been engaged, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (MFA/RI), in sensitization campaigns on the decision of ECOWAS to provide Biometric Identification Cards to the community citizens in 2016. The MFA/RI organized series of workshops across the country to sensitize relevant stakeholders and the general public on the ECOWAS protocol arrangements.
In fact West African leaders recognized the importance of integrating their countries. Hence their decision, in 1975, to create the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with the main aim of promoting cooperation and integration of the national economies and accelerate the economic development of member states in order to improve the living standard of the people. But the lack of political will has been the main hindrance to the achievement of this objective.
With the introduction of the biometric identity cards, we hope that the citizens of ECOWAS will be spared from being extorted of their money, unduly harassed and humiliated at the different entry borders and check points within the sub-region.
Henceforth, ECOWAS Leaders must endeavor to ensure the full implementation of all their laudable decisions as enshrined in their adopted different Protocols, Agreements etc. such as the creation of a single market through the establishment of a free Trade Area, Common External Tariff and Customs Union.
Though AASU appreciates the efforts of ECOWAS Leaders, we urge them to have more political will in order to obtain the real socio-economic, political and cultural integration of the sub-region.
Halt to the extortion of money, harassment and humiliation of the community citizens at our entry borders and check points!
All for the free movement of goods and people in the sub-region!
By Awaah Fred