ECO Currency: Buhari cautions on common denomination championed by francophone countries

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has cautioned on the ambition for single regional currency which he said could be in ‘serious jeopardy,’ unless member states complied with agreed processes of reaching the collective goal.

“We must proceed with caution and comply with the agreed process of reaching our collective goal while treating each other with utmost respect,” President Buhari said on Tuesday.

“Without these, our ambitions for a strategic Monetary Union as an ECOWAS bloc could very well be in serious jeopardy.’’

In a press statement  by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Buhari expressed concern over the decision of francophone countries that form the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) to replace the CFA Franc with Eco ahead of the rest of member states.

The president  spoke during a virtual extraordinary meeting of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) where he presented Nigeria’s stance on the new regional currency.

The meeting discussed the implementation of the ECOWAS Monetary Cooperation Programme (EMCP) and the ECOWAS Single Currency Agenda.

“Your Excellencies, you all are familiar with the history of the Eco thus far, so I will not bore you with that. We reverted to a single-track approach, giving up Eco which is the original idea of the WAMZ so the ECOWAS-wide programme could thrive,” Buhari said at the summit.

Buhari commended progress made by the organization which it described as remarkable which has included the adoption of the Exchange Rate Regime, the name and model of the common Central Bank and the symbol.

“This is in addition to deviating from the Community Act on consistent attainment of convergence in the three years running up to the introduction of the currency, and our subsequent reinforcing directives.

“I am informed that the French Ministers have approved a bill to reform the CFA Franc and most, if not all of the UEMOA Member States, have already passed legislation in their various Parliaments to that effect,” he said.

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“It is a matter of concern that a people with whom we wish to go into a union are taking these major steps without trusting us for discussion.’’

However, Buhari assured ECOWAS leaders of Nigeria’s commitment to the ECOWAS single currency and urged them to critically consider the recommendations made by the Convergence Council and take a common position to safeguard the West African Monetary Zone from the pitfalls of a questionable union.

He further affirmed Nigeria’s support for a monetary union with the right fundamentals, which guarantees credibility, sustainability and overall regional prosperity and sovereignty.

According to the president, Nigeria also believes that given the potential contractions and even losses from the global Covid-19 pandemic, member states cannot but be too cautious about ensuring compliance with the set standards.

“We cannot ridicule ourselves by entering a union to disintegrate, potentially no sooner than we enter into it.

“We need to be clear and unequivocal about our position regarding this process. We must also communicate same to the outside world effectively. We have all staked so much in this project to leave things to mere expediencies and convenience.

“My dear colleagues, Heads of State and Government, It is obvious that we are at a crossroads.
In the light of the caution raised by Nigeria and some other West African countries at the meeting, ECOWAS leaders resolved to convene an enlarged meeting of the regional bloc on the single currency issue.

The Eco is the proposed name for the common currency that the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) plans to introduce in the framework of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). After its introduction, the goal is to merge the new currency with the West African CFA franc (used by most French-speaking members of ECOWAS since 1945). This will create a common currency for much of West Africa.

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