Femi Falana, a well-known lawyer and past president of the West Africa Bar Association (WABA), has shed light on the worrying trend of coups in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
In a statement released yesterday, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said that “reckless exploitation of natural resources” was one of the main causes of the unsettling political unrest and the rise of illegal changes in government.
Falana pointed out that economic inequality has been going on for a long time because of outside influence and interference, especially from past colonial regimes, and the unchecked extraction of the region’s vast natural resources. These differences have led to more anger and frustration among the people, which has made it easier for coups and power battles to happen.
Falana’s comments come at a time when ECOWAS is getting more attention because more and more of its member states are going through political changes.
He said that the link between bad management of resources and political unrest shows how urgently the region needs better government and more open economic practices.
He said, “We have confirmed that another major reason why governments change in West Africa is that former colonial regimes and their allies use the natural resources of the ECOWAS member states in a careless way.” The fact that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund run the country’s business makes this kind of exploitation even worse.
“The foreign forces’ policies that hurt the people have continued to make everyone in the area poorer.
Most of the time, young people without jobs and people whose rights have been violated by democratic governments go out into the streets to cheer on people who are planning a coup. The ECOWAS leaders should stop using natural resources in a rough way and give the people the power to run the commonwealth of member states. This is what Article 21 (1) of the Charter says:
“All people should be free to use their money and natural resources as they wish. This right must be used only for the good of the people. It will never be taken away from a people.”
The rights activists also said that the manipulation of constitutions and referenda by elected governments to make Presidents stay in office longer is the direct and long-term cause of unconstitutional changes in government.
He remembered that in 2015, ECOWAS leaders suggested that West African presidents could only serve two terms. This was to stop West African governments from changing without following the law.
He said that the plan was scrapped because Togo and The Gambia, both of which have presidents who have been in power for more than two terms, were against it.
However, following the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, the ECOWAS leaders—including Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, who had just stepped down as chairman—proposed amending the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance to limit presidents’ terms to a maximum of two.
The change did not pass because the presidents of Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Togo, Allason Quatara, Mall, and Faure Eyadama, were against it. Presidents Quatara and Eyadama have been in office longer than two terms, and President Mall is trying to get re-elected for a third term.
Falana asked Bola Tinubu, who is the new head of ECOWAS, to make sure that the amendment is passed right away and that freely elected presidents who change their countries’ constitutions to stay in office for more than two terms are punished.