- Reps, MAN, Falana, Others Reject Morocco’s Bid to Join ECOWAS
Members of the House of Representatives and other prominent Nigerians on Thursday warned Nigeria against supporting the application by Morocco to join the Economic Community of West African States.
They also said Nigeria must not consider the option of exiting ECOWAS, having sacrificed so much for regional integration in the West African sub-region.
The stakeholders spoke at a public hearing in Abuja on the ‘Review of Nigeria’s Membership of ECOWAS in View of the Clamour to Admit Morocco into the Community.’
They include the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs; Manufacturers Association of Nigeria; Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN); a former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Dipo Fashina; a former Director-General of the NIIA, Prof. Bola Akinterinwa; and the Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria.
The hearing was organised by the House Joint Committees on Foreign Relations and Cooperation/Integration in Africa chaired by a member from Abia State, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje.
All the stakeholders held the view that Morocco joining ECOWAS would have regrettable economic and political consequences for the sub-region, particularly for Nigeria.
They also noted that Morocco and West Africa had no geographical closeness and would be a direct breach of the ECOWAS Treaty to admit a non-regional country into the bloc.
Both Akinterinwa and Falana noted that Nigeria was the target of Morocco’s plan, as the latter would use its tariff-free ties with the European Union to flood the country with foreign goods.
They also argued that Morocco would be used as a “destructive” and “destabilising agent” in West Africa.
Akinterinwa stated that admitting Morocco would be a contradiction for Nigeria, which over the years opposed the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco.
He said, “There is no reason why Morocco should be in ECOWAS and I can give 12 reasons why this idea must not be supported.
“The Arab Maghreb Union has been completely bastardised by Morocco and the country is merely searching for future survival.
“The argument that Nigeria or West Africa will enjoy increasing trade benefits is flawed because the volume of trade as it stands today is only $1bn.
“That is not in any way comparable to the $345bn total GDP of West African countries.
“The reason Morocco is coming is that it is going to be used to disintegrate Nigeria.”
Falana, who shared the same opinion as Akinterinwa, told the session that the EU had for years sought to strike an Economic Partnership Agreement with ECOWAS, a move that Nigeria consistently blocked.
He noted that by admitting Morocco into ECOWAS, the EU would achieve the EPA objectives through the back door.
Falana added, “They want to kill our industries and there will be job losses. The whole idea is to flood West Africa with European goods. When you talk about the West African economy, 70 per cent of it is Nigeria. So, Morocco will now subvert our economic prosperity.”
MAN, which was represented by its Vice-President, North, Mr. Ibrahim Usman, stated that West Africa had nothing to benefit from Morocco because it was not an industrialised nation.
“As far as MAN is concerned, Morocco is not industrialised and can’t be useful to Nigeria other than to ship European goods into West Africa.
“Nigeria must not be part of a plot to accept the EPA through the back door,” Usman said.
On his part, Fashina, who spoke on behalf of the Nigerian National Movement for the Liberation of Western Sahara, urged the Federal Government to protect Nigeria’s reputation as against embracing any economic gains it hoped to get from Morocco.
He cited Dangote Cement as one of the companies the government felt would benefit from the ties with Morocco, especially through easy access to phosphate and sulphur for cement production.
He said, “How can we sell our hard-earned reputation because of business?”
The NIIA, which was represented by Mr. Fred Agu, said Nigeria must stop Morocco and should also not consider the option of leaving ECOWAS.
He said, “Nigeria leaving ECOWAS is like infecting the whole of Africa with HIV; the worse will happen. There is no window in the ECOWAS Treaty for the admission of Morocco. Nigeria must use its position to stop Morocco. We have our veto power. We must not even think of leaving ECOWAS.”
However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, favoured Morocco joining ECOWAS, saying there were economic benefits for the sub-region and Nigeria.
He argued that although the ECOWAS Treaty was clear on which country could join the bloc, the Heads of State of the member-nations could choose to “modify” it to allow Morocco access into the group.
On the expected economic gains, Onyema said, “The reality is that trade with Morocco has been increasing, both with ECOWAS and Nigeria.
“So, we are looking at more trade, which will be a win-win for us.
“Is Morocco a Trojan Horse for the EU? There are laws and rules in international trade that prevent dumping of goods or easy access to other markets.
“It is not something that will happen easily that the EU will dump goods here.”
When he was asked if it was not contradictory for Nigeria, which had opposed Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara to support its ECOWAS bid, the minister replied that engagements could resolve lots of differences.
The minister added that on legal, economic and political fronts, Nigeria had no fears to entertain.
However, after Onyema excused himself and left the venue, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Olakunle Gbambose, claimed that Nigeria had yet to take a stance on Morocco’s application.
“At this stage, no final decision has been taken by government. The apprehension that Morocco is a conduit for the EU is one of the issues to be thrashed out before a final position is taken.”
COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations
African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations
African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.
Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.
He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.
He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.
“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.”
He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.
China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations
China Calls for China-U.S. Relations
Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.
Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.
Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.
Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.
Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.
“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.
“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”
Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.
Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.
The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.
The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.
“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.
Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.
A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.
Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.
Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.
Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.
The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.
Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.
In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.
In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.
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