Buhari Warns ECOWAS Members Against Currency Integration

President Muhammadu Buhari with other ECOWAS leaders

President Muhammadu Buhari has cautioned member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) against implementing the planned currency integration in the sub-region by 2020.

The President gave the warning on Tuesday during the 5th meeting of the Presidential Task Force on ECOWAS Currency Programme in Accra, Ghana.

Buhari, who was represented by the Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), noted that heads of members nations had not properly articulated a comprehensive picture of the state of preparedness of individual countries for monetary integration by 2020.

The president, who has not hidden his disapproval of the plan in the past, said one major issue of concern is the non-preparedness of some member countries.

According to him, the credibility of the union if anchored on watered down criteria, and the continuing disparities between macro-economic conditions in ECOWAS countries, are also issues of concern that members must examine in order to make progress.

President Buhari further observed that ECOWAS Heads of Government had not been adequately briefed on the full implications of forcing through the integration by 2020, particularly where some countries were not individually ready domestically.

While pointing out that there were still outstanding issues in the roadmap to an integrated currency union, he noted that the “macro-economic fundamentals of many countries in ECOWAS were diverse and uncertain”.

He also noted that the inflation targeting regime recommended as framework was not feasible as it was based on adoption of a flexible exchange rate regime. He equally noted that real convergence was nowhere near achievable despite efforts made so far.

President Buhari therefore called for a push towards ratification and domestication of legal instruments and related protocols, and the harmonization of all fiscal, trade and monetary policies and statistical systems, with a view to limiting the extent of current policy divergences.

He also advised that the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) countries to make a presentation on a clear roadmap towards delinking from the French Treasury.

President Buhari also used the occasion of the meeting to call for a review of the fast-track approach to monetary integration and the harmonization of plans by ECOWAS members with that of the African Union Programme of monetary convergence that had recommended a convergence deadline of 2034 for the establishment of Regional Central Banks in all sub-regions of the continent.

The Nigerian leader also called for the establishment of an Ombudsman with powers to invoke sanctions when member countries are in breach of agreed standards, protocols and convergence criteria.

He appealed for the transformation of the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) into a West African Monetary Zone Commission, equivalent to the UEMOA Commission, stressing that his proposal of merging WAMI and WAMA, by the ECOWAS Commission into the ECOWAS Monetary Institute would be very critical in achieving monetary union in the West African sub-region.

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