President Muhammadu Buhari Monday criticised the decision of the Francophone West African bloc of ECOWAS to unilaterally adopt proposed ECO currency, describing it as premature.
Buhari who made the remarks in Niamey, the Niger Republic capital, at the 57th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, said Nigeria remained committed to the implementation of a single currency plan.
He said the decision of the French speaking West African countries to ambush their Anglophone counterparts on the proposed currency, without meeting laid down criteria had further created disaffection and mistrust among member-states.
“The premature adoption of the ‘ECO’ has unnecessarily heightened disaffection and mistrust among members of the emerging monetary union,” he said.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari encouraged “UEMOA (French acronym for the West African Economic and Monetary Union) to return to the roadmap on the common currency in the sub-region.”
It also said the president urged all stakeholders to “bear in mind that those economic convergence criteria must be based on sound and sustainable macroeconomic fundamentals.”
Shehu said Buhari listed some key unresolved issues over a single currency plan to include: delinking the CFA franc of the UEMOA from the Euro; whether the UEMOA countries join as a bloc or individual countries; design of the exchange rate mechanism; stabilisation fund; policy harmonisation and exit strategy and reserve pooling, adding that the president appealed to his colleagues to provide “African solutions to African problems.”
He quoted the president as saying, “Foreign interference and so-called advice may not be in our best sub-regional interest,” reiterating the “need for UEMOA to return to the agreed roadmap of the ECOWAS single currency by complying with the established framework under the roadmap and cooperate with other member countries in achieving the objectives of the programme.”
Buhari also spoke on COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the summit was holding “under a very complex health pandemic, whose impact on the global health and economy has so far been devastating.”
The president who was earlier pronounced as ECOWAS Champion on COVID-19, was charged with the responsibility of mobilising and coordinating regional efforts against the pandemic, admitting that the “outlook for our sub-region with COVID-19 hovering over us is gloomy indeed.”
He said, “Like the rest of the world, our sub-region is witnessing economic downturn with negative growth that is headed towards deep recession and the outlook continues to be uncertain.”
The statement said he also charged his colleagues on the “need to continue to work in concert with each other on several fronts to ease the negative effects of the pandemic.”