Niamey-Niger — A week-long series of sporting, cultural and interactive activities has ended in Niger Republic as part of a campaign to increase citizen appreciation of the role of ECOWAS and its programmes on regional integration.
The activities, part of the inaugural edition of the National Caravan on Regional Integration organized jointly by the ECOWAS National Unit, Niger, and the ECOWAS Commission ended 27th June 2012 in Zinder, north of the country. The activities kicked off with a caravan ride from the nation's capital, Niamey to Maradi, its second largest city and then to Zinder, the former capital.
This was followed by an Integration gala night which featured songs from musicians across the region as well as traditional dances and display of the region's rich culture. The week also featured a press conference and interaction among governmental and non-State actors, civil society organizations, traders, students and representatives of the ECOWAS Commission, the Community Court of Justice and Parliament. Speaking at the press conference, the Governor of Zinder region, Elhaji Saidou Oumarou Issaka, called on his compatriots to support ECOWAS and the integration programmes, which he described as a solution to development challenges in the region.
The citizens were also called upon to take ownership of ECOWAS policies and activities through greater participation in the regional integration process that will improve their standard of living. The Head of the National Unit, Elhaji Amani Amani Salihou, led the campaign team on courtesy visits to traditional authorities of communities along the Niger and Nigerian borders, during which the citizens were briefed on the progress of regional integration agenda, especially the transformation from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people through Vision 2020.
The benefits of regional programmes, especially the implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Goods, Sevices and the Rights of Residence and Establishment, which has resulted in the region's visa-free regime, were also explained to citizens. It was agreed that greater efforts should be made to ease movement of citizens across the region, especially traders, through the elimination of extortions, multiple road blocks and harassment by security agents.
The governor also urged the ECOWAS Commission and National Units, to come up with sustainable recommendations to improve citizens' knowledge about ECOWAS programmes and activities and how to ensure their effective implementation to move the region forward. The week ended with a cross-town race by youngsters, and a question-and-answer game, called Kachichi Kachichi on ECOWAS affairs.
Winners were presented with souvenirs, including caps, pens and T-shirts bearing the ECOWAS logo. Representatives of Benin and Burkina Faso National units supported their counterparts from Niger to ensure the success of the campaign activities.