President Muhamadu Buhari has called on ECOWAS member countries to tread carefully in pushing for a single currency in the sub-region by 2020.
Speaking in Niamey, Niger Republic, at the 4th meeting of the Presidential Task Force on the ECOWAS Currency Programme, Buhari drew attention to the challenges faced by the European Union in realising the same goal.
"Nigeria will caution against any position that pushes for a fast-track approach to monetary union, while neglecting fundamentals and other pertinent issues," said the President.
He listed some of the obstacles to realising the roadmap for the implementation of a single currency as including
· diverse and uncertain macro - economic fundamentals of many countries,
· unrealistic inflation targeting based on flexible exchange rate regime and
· inconsistency with the African Monetary Co-operation Programme.
Buhari also told the gathering that domestic issues in ECOWAS member countries relating to their constitutions and dependence on aids continued to affect the framework for implementing the single currency in the sub-region.
"Although the ECOWAS Commission has anchored its pursuit of the new impetus to monetary integration on the information presented to the Heads of State which were the basis for their recommendations, we are concerned that we have not properly articulated and analyzed a comprehensive picture of the state of preparedness of individual countries for monetary integration in ECOWAS by 2020.
"In previous meetings, we had specifically raised observations on the state of preparedness of the member states, the credibility of the union if anchored on watered down criteria, and the continuing disparities between macroeconomic conditions in ECOWAS countries, amongst others. And I would like to reiterate this concerns," he stressed.
President Buhari emphasised that the conditions that pushed Nigeria into withdrawing from the process in the past had not changed.
He said: "Nigeria had earlier withdrawn from the process because its key questions and concerns were ignored and till date, none of the issues has come up as an agenda issue to be considered by the Taskforce. Consequently, the roadmap which did not involve widespread consultation with national stakeholders is not sufficiently inclusive."
Buhari, therefore, suggested a thorough review of the convergence roadmap and the constitution of an expert committee on each of the subject areas to come up with acceptable time frame, defined cost and funding sources identified.
According to him, "this should also consider stakeholders such as the Ministries of Finance, Customs, Parliamentary groups, Tax Authorities, Immigration authorities to achieve comprehensiveness.
He added that there should be a push towards ratification and domestication of legal instruments and related protocols, while fiscal, trade and monetary policies and statistical systems, which had not gone far, could be harmonized.
The president noted that the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) countries should make a presentation on a clear roadmap towards delinking from the French Treasury.
Buhari also urged an examination of the African Union position on the same issue, which the African Central Bank Governors, in line with the African Union programme of monetary convergence, recommended a convergence deadline of 2034 for the establishment of Regional Central Banks in all sub-regions.
In his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel Alain de Souza, said the single currency for the West African sub-region was a laudable and historical project, but regretted that it had taken too long to be actualized.
Souza stated that the creation of a central bank for the West Coast would accelerate the process.
He noted that Nigeria constituted more than 70 percent of the GDP of the West African region, with a population of 180 million, and would play a significant role in facilitating the process of realising a single currency for the sub-region.