Since the mid 1970s the West African grouping Ecowas and Nigeria were seen as inseparables but of late the regional powerhouse is threatening to quit the bloc it helped found in 1975 to promote economic integration.
According to reports from the bloc’s headquarters based in the Nigerian federal capital Abuja, Africa’s most populous nation is threatening a pullout over claims that its citizens are being overlooked for employment by Ecowas.
Those within the organization’s structures are being denied promotion, it has been alleged by senior Nigerian politicians.
In a scenario belying its size and mammoth population in West Africa, Nigeria say it has witnessed with frustration as its candidates are constantly ”ignored” for jobs that should be going their way by dint of merit.
Nigerian representatives at the Ecowas Parliament issued the threat when some principal officers in the regional bloc allegedly defied directives to stop recruiting their relatives and cronies into top positions.
The Vanguard on Monday reported that the Nigerian lawmakers made reference to the huge financial commitments which their country makes to the regional body despite its internal security challenges.
According to them there is no commensurate return on the investment for Nigeria in Ecowas for all the country has done and is doing for the region from its inception in 1975.
The Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives who is also the First Deputy Speaker of the Ecowas Parliament, Ahmed Idris Wase was quoted as saying that it has become imperative that his country reviews its relevance and membership of the bloc.
“If you are in a system, and you are not getting the right results, where you are investing your money, it pays best to walk out of the union. In a situation where we are having an infrastructural deficit and witnessing security challenges, why should we continue to invest our money where it will not benefit our country. Yes, we will pull out if we don’t get the desired result from this,” Wase said.
“We are asking for justice not just for Nigerians alone, but for the entire Ecowas community. That is what MPs are asking for. There are few countries that want to run ECOWAS like a cabal but we will not tolerate that,” he added.
Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to Ecowas, Musa Nuhu, had earlier written to the Speaker of the regional parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis over an alleged nepotistic employment scandal rocking the organisation.
Nuhu’s letter dated July 20, 2022 was titled, “Formal complaint about unfair treatment and confirmation of staff at the ECOWAS Parliament.”
Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Assembly and the Presidency have not commented on the allegations.
Institutions under the West African bloc have been dogged by accusations from Nigeria of manipulations and favouritism in terms of jobs and promotions the requirements for which are not strictly applied in most cases, sources alleged.
Allegations of nepotism are so rife within support institutions of the the 15-member organisation that leading officials like the regional parliamentary Speaker can no longer ignore them or remain reticent while speculations abound.
The Speaker of the Ecowas parliament Sidie Mohamed Tunis has since announced that recruitments to its various institutions are being put on hold temporarily as a panel probes the veracity of Nigeria’s claims that some of those recruited had benefitted from favouritism by relations working in those institutions.
The panel should report its findings in a few days and Tunis said in the meantime the Ecowas parliament would wish to make it known that it remains committed to the principles protecting the rights of all West African citizens to find work in its various institutions where job openings are available.
But can Nigeria afford to quit a regional bloc it has been hosting and supporting in its operations since its inception?
Many insiders say threatening to quit was just a tactic by Africa’s second largest economy to test its influence from within the bloc and force other members to respect its unrivalled potential as an important member of the bloc.
Others like non-Nigerians in the Ecowas parliament believe the allegations reeks of ”below the belt politics” at a time when Nigeria was getting caught up in election fever over who succeeds Muhammadu Buhari as the country’s president next year.
The Vanguard newspaper report quoted Ecowas MPs’ reactions as accusing their Nigerian counterparts of misrepresenting facts and merely bluffing to curry the favour of the Nigerian electorate ahead of next year’s general election.
The leader of the Liberian delegation to the regional parliament, Edwin Snowe said those who made the allegations are filibustering to impress Nigerians with an obvious eye on the election.
He warned Nigerian lawmakers not to cast unnecessary aspersions on the parliament and its Speaker by misrepresenting facts.
“ECOWAS was founded on solidarity; there is nothing that makes might right in the community. The Nigerian delegation questioning the recruitment process is misrepresenting the decisions that emanate from the plenary. I understand that our brothers are going for election and sometimes they filibuster because they want the vote and support of their constituencies to feel that they represent Nigeria’s interest at the Parliament. But we will not allow the Parliament to be used as a stepping stone for the reelection of politicians,” he warned
Nigeria as a founding member of the bloc believes it continues to play pivotal roles in the success of the organisation’s institutions, lending its weight to regional efforts to broker peace or resolve political and security crises in the region especially in recent times.
Under the Treat of Lagos, Ecowas was created in 1975 to foster economic integration in West Africa an area of 5,114,162 km2 an estimated 450 million people and a GDP of $675 billion, according to a 2015 estimate.
The organisation has witnessed countries in other regions in Africa requesting to join the bloc, notable among them the North African kingdom of Morocco.
Sources say, the kingdom’s membership was opposed by Nigeria arguing that the organisation should remain exclusive to countries within West Africa.