The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has moved to promote the free movement of people, goods and services as well as curb the menace of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) in the region through advocacy and the sensitization of community citizens on the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity card (ENBIC).
The delegation from the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the International Organization of Migration (IOM), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) engaged law enforcement agencies and community citizens from Nigeria, Benin and Togo in a four-day advocacy and sensitization campaign.
The exercise included roundtable meetings with the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria in Mile 2 Lagos state, interaction with transporters and drivers at the Jonquet motor park in Cotonou and the engagement of law enforcement officers and community citizens in the border areas of Seme-Krake border (Nigeria-Benin) and the Hilla-Condji border (Benin-Togo).
During the sensitization exercise, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Tei Konzi stated that ENBIC will serve to improve the security architecture of the region and mitigate the challenges of irregular migration in West Africa.
Commissioner Konzi highlighted that the ENBIC will enable Community citizen traverse the region with greater ease and also improve data management of ECOWAS Member States.
The IOM chief of mission to Nigeria, Frantz Celestin added that the ENBIC will not only allow community citizens to cross border unscathed, but will also increase the capability of law enforcement agencies to effectively meet the needs of migrants and develop and maintain strong bother patrol systems.
While leading discussions on the Trafficking in Persons, the Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne stressed that the vast benefits and uniqueness of the ECOWAS free movement space should not be tainted by the evil actions of human traffickers. “While human trafficking can be internal, cross-border human trafficking follows migratory patterns” she said.
Hence Dr. Jagne also called for cross-border collaboration in addressing human trafficking within the wider context of mixed-migration movements.
The ENBIC which was approved by the ECOWAS Heads of States and Government in 2014 to replace the ECOWAS travel certificate has so far been deployed in Ghana, Senegal and Guinea Bissau with Nigeria and Benin soon to follow.