By Abdullahi Alhassan, Lagos
Human rights activist, Femi Falana(SAN) has urged ECOWAS leaders to approve a tenure of two terms for presidents without further delay, adding that in this era of military coup d’etat across West Africa it was imperative.
Speaking at the opening of the maiden West Africa Civil Society Week (WACSW23) in Lagos, he said:” A tenure of two terms should be approved by ECOWAS for presidents in the region. In 2015, it was opposed by Togo while in 2022 Senegal, and Cote D’Ivoire did the same.”
The WACSW23 is a 3-day conference, which ends August 31, was organised by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in collaboration with the West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), aims to delve into the pivotal role of civil society in safeguarding democratic values, consolidating regional development and navigating the complex contemporary landscape.
He also urged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to take the advantage of the political crisis in the region to launch the “ECO” currency.
He said: “The 30 years struggle by ECOWAS, to establish a regional currency, ECO to promote trade and development in the region have been hijacked with the collaboration of some leaders, particularly President Emmanuel Macron of France who has taken over the responsibility of establishing and even printing the new currency. This still shows colonial influence. We must take advantage of the political crisis in West Africa to launch the ECO as the currency for the region.”
He noted that “Frowning at military intervention in West Africa, he said: We don’t want military rule, our development will be constrained. There is urgent need to address tenure elongation in West Africa. What we call rule of law has become rule of the rich; rule of the few,” he added.
The human rights lawyer urged the regional body to end the reckless exploration of mineral resources of African countries by colonialists.
Executive Director of WACSI, Nana Afadzinu, said civil societies want democracy and good governance. She said they oppose coup d’états and prefer constitutional rule and good electoral governance for peace, security, prosperity and collective well-being.
“Civil Society and the enhanced and strengthened civic space that we advocate for to ensure sustainable development through good governance; transparency and accountability; social, economic, and political development; inclusivity and participation; social justice, social accountability and social protection; gender equality and non-discrimination- all to ensure peace and prosperity in West Africa, is under a major threat- and we are in a dilemma.
“We still face resourcing issues- COVID exposed the weakness of our institutions, structural patriarchy continues to be an obstacle and the inequitable power in international development strangles our growth and facilitates civic space constraints.
“ECOWAS, once our beacon of hope among regional economic bodies on the continent– a pace-setter and norm setter – seems to have lost the trust of its citizens and waned considerably in moral authority. We want our ECOWAS back- back to what it promised to be- that ECOWAS that wanted to be one of peoples and not states.,” she said.