Femi Falana, SAN, a renowned legal expert and human rights activist, has highlighted a concerning pattern of coups within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
In a statement released on Thursday, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) pointed to the “reckless exploitation of natural resources” as a key factor driving political unrest and the emergence of unconstitutional changes in government.
Falana pointed out that historical and current situations show that outside influence and uncontrolled use of the region’s resources have made some people rich while others stay poor.
This has caused anger and led to coup attempts and fights for power. Falana’s ideas come at a time when more countries in ECOWAS have political problems.
He said that bad management of resources makes politics unstable and that the region needs better leadership and honest economic practices.
“We have confirmed that another principal cause of change of governments in West Africa is the reckless exploitation of the natural resources of the member states of the ECOWAS by former colonial regimes and their allies. Such exploitation is compounded by the control of the national economy by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
“The implementation of the anti people’s policies of the foreign forces has continued to increase the poverty of the entire people of the region.
“Out of frustration with civilian governments, unemployed youths and victims of human rights abuse usually troop to the streets to celebrate coup plotters. The Ecowas leaders should end the crude exploitation of natural resources and empower the people to control the commonwealth of member states in accordance with Article 21 (1) of the Charter which provides:
“All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people. In no case shall a people be deprived of it.”
The rights activist pointed out a big reason for governments changing without following the rules is when elected leaders change the rules themselves. This happens when they use the laws and voting to stay in power for more time.
In 2015, leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) wanted to make a rule that West African presidents can only be in power for two terms. This was to stop governments from changing in an unfair way. But the idea was stopped because some countries, like Togo and The Gambia, had presidents who were already in power for longer than two terms, Falana said.
But now, after the coup in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, the leaders of ECOWAS, led by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, suggested changing the rules again. They wanted to change the law so presidents can only be in power for two terms at most.
Not everyone agreed to this change. Presidents from Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Togo said no. Some of them are already presidents for more than two terms. The rights activist, Femi Falana, said that the new leader of ECOWAS, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, should make sure this rule change happens. He also said that presidents who try to change the rules of their country’s constitution to stay in power longer should face consequences.
In short, the activist is saying that leaders changing the rules to stay in power longer is a big reason why governments change unfairly. The leaders tried to make a rule against this before, but it didn’t work. Now they want to try again, and the activist wants them to succeed this time. He also wants presidents who break the rules to be punished.