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ECOWAS: Members’ exit ’ll worsen insecurity —Experts

By Boluwatife Akinola,
Emmanuel Oluwadola,
Godfrey Eze &
Blessing Odole

Following the exit of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), experts have  warned that the actions are raising questions about the influence of external superpowers, highlighting the security implications on the regional block and Nigeria in particular.

Experts said the withdrawal of these countries undermines the foundational goals of ECOWAS, which were established to foster unity and collaboration among member states.

 They warned that the development would threaten the joint efforts against insecurity, especially insurgency in Nigeria.

According to the experts, the military rule in the three countries was a result of leadership failure, adding that it is only when West Africans enjoy what they should benefit from their governments that ECOWAS can speak with one voice and their voice could be heard.

Speaking with The Hope, a political scientist, Prof. Akinsola Agagu said the withdrawal raises questions about the future effectiveness of the organization in addressing common challenges and promoting regional integration.

“The withdrawal is a negative reaction that will definitely affect Nigeria, both as a major sponsor and canvasser. The withdrawal means that the countries will do whatever they like without complying with rules, and there will be no unity and cooperation,” he said.

The political expert noted that the withdrawal would have economic implications for Nigeria, being a key player and advocate for ECOWAS, stressing that it could disrupt trade agreements, hinder economic cooperation, and potentially weaken Nigeria’s influence within the region.

Also speaking, the Head of History and International Studies Department, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Dr Sunday Ogunode, emphasised that to tackle the effect of the trio’s exit, there is the need to carefully consider the regional and international policy implications of such actions.

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Ogunode stressed that despite recent military takeovers in the affected countries, the lack of significant public outcry suggests that there may be underlying issues with the previous civilian leaderships.

He pointed out that while the exit of those countries from ECOWAS might appear divisive within the regional block, it also raises questions about the influence of external superpowers, particularly France and the United States, in the region, adding that the countries’ rich mineral resources would further complicate the situation, with concerns about economic exploitation and foreign control over profits.

“They are states that have their independence internationally recognized. Whether there was a military coup or not, we have not read in any paper, whether in local or international papers, that the people of the countries are in any way bitter with the emergence of the various military leaders.

“So, if the people are not complaining, who is crying more than the bereaved? And those crying more than the bereaved, why are they crying? So, I think it is the question of, do they have the right to pull out?

“If these three countries willingly joined the ECOWAS, as a regional body, and by its name, the joining was to enhance their economic well-being and by extension, their functional place in regional and international policies.

“The pulling out of these three countries for ECOWAS and also for Nigeria as the big brother of Africa might not be too pleasant, as it will appear that ECOWAS is a divided house. For me, the pulling out of these three countries will negatively impact the place of the economy in both regional and international committees,” he said.

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Another scholar, Dr Chuks Okoji, described the exit from ECOWAS as a bad omen for the regional block, saying ECOWAS as a sub-regional body has failed in defending the integrity of its member nations.

Chuks described as unfortunate that citizens of the countries back military take over because the ECOWAS cannot form superiority on a country it is not adding value.

The don regretted that ECOWAS has failed to ensure unity among its members in terms of economic relationships, using Nigeria as a case study, which has shut her borders against other neighbouring countries, even though they belong to the same ECOWAS block.

Suggesting a way out, the don said, “ECOWAS must make sure there is good leadership among West African countries. When good leadership emerges then the solidarity will be stronger and ECOWAS can now come out as a sub-region block with one voice speaking for the West African countries.”

An international Relations professional, Prince Kingsley Chinedu, highlighted concerns about joint security efforts, particularly in Nigeria, which faces ongoing challenges from Boko Haram, adding that member states might withdraw from collaborative security initiatives, thus affecting Nigeria’s ability to combat terrorism effectively.

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