A member of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Parliament on Tuesday expressed the body’s commitment to embark on patrols on borders to ensure a reduction in check-points at inter-state routes.
Mr Dominic Azumah said the move would ensure the efficient control of the movement of arms, the fight against insecurity and cross-border crimes.
Speaking at the opening session of a two-day forum on Border Information Centres (BIC) organised in Accra, Mr Azumah expressed worry that some citizens of member countries were allegedly subjected to humiliating treatment, administrative harassment, multiplicity of checkpoints and the payment of illegal fees under the guise of security concerns.
The forum, which is being held on the theme: “Consolidation and Sustainability to Establish a Framework for Sharing Experiences and Strategic Planning,” aims at evaluating the performance of BIC.
The objective of the BICs is to provide information for both the public and private sector operators on trade regulations and customs procedures guiding international trade.
It is also to facilitate the processing of documents at the borders, reduce costs and delays and increase trade among ECOWAS.
The forum is being organised by the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-West Africa Trade Hub.
Mr Azumah, however, expressed optimism that progress was being made through the initiatives of the ECOWAS in the areas of multiplicity checkpoints, administrative harassment and undue delay at the ports.
He said the ECOWAS Parliament was committed towards supporting the initiatives of the Borderless Alliance towards the integrative goal of ECOWAS as well as alleviating the poor living standards of citizens of member states.
In a speech read for him Mr Kofi Mbiah, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA), said the Authority had embarked on the establishment of a Shipper Complaint Units at the ports and land border crossing points to provide on-the-spot solutions or information to enhance the activities of shippers.
He said the establishment had served as a mechanisation of collaboration between the GSA and the USAID West Africa Trade Hub in housing the BICs for providing on the spot help and information to shippers within the West Africa sub region.
Mr Mbiah said “in our determination to ensure a competitive and free flowing shipping industry in Ghana and the West African sub region, the Ministry Transport has ensured the passage of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority Regulations L.I. 2190, (2012) the implementation of which will soon sort out the illegitimate charges in the industry and enable shippers to be able to go for competitive standard shipping services.”
He expressed the hope that stakeholders in the shipping industry would embrace and support strategies that would lead to successful implementation of the new regulations to bring improvement for the benefit of all players in the industry.
Mr Ziah Hamoui, President of the Borderless Alliance, said successes chalked by the Alliance’s operations and establishments of BICs was to be replicated across additional borders.
He pledged the Alliance’s commitment towards collaborating with the public and private stakeholders across the region to remove barriers to regional trade and transport in West Africa.
Mr Hamoui said “the Borderless Alliance intends to gradually scale up its scope of operations, in order to take up additional tasks and responsibilities as it moves forward on its growth path.
Madam Sara Engleka, Director of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), underscored the progress made stressing that delays at the Aflao border had dropped more than 50 per cent for imports into Ghana.
“At Krake, we have seen stakeholders bravely eliminate seven unauthorised checkpoints”, she said adding that the progress made had positively affected the operations in the region.
She expressed the hope that the forum would provide the platform to share experiences and to brainstorm on measures to develop more ideas to make the BICs more effective and more sustainable.
In Ghana BICs have been established and are operational in Aflao and Paga at the Ghana-Togo and Ghana-Burkina Faso borders.GNA