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Liberia, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission Meet to Discuss ECOWAS National Biometric Identification Card

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As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen security on the National Identity of Liberia, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ECOWAS has convened a special meeting to discuss way forward in protecting the Liberia passport and ECOWAS member states. Speaking during the special visit of the ECOWAS Commission Directorate for Free Movement of Persons and Migration on Friday, June 14, 2024 held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Minister Sara Beysolow Nyanti stressed the importance of the protection of the National identity and at the same time recognizing the challenges the process poses. Foreign Minister Nyanti thanked the Liberia Immigration Service for the meeting and pointed out steps that the Ministry under her leadership has taken to address the passport issue which is directly under the Foreign Affairs Ministry. The Foreign Affairs Minister noted that these steps though a lot to be done but will endeavor to strengthen the key document of risk which is the Regular ECOWAS passport which implies citizenship. Foreign Minister Nyanti furthered that due to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stance, an inter-ministerial meeting was convened which included all stakeholders.

The National Identification Registry, the National Election Commission, Liberia Immigration Service, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Health amongst others. The meeting was aimed at strategizing a way forward with a national system. An inoperable system that promotes and strengthens National security. According to the Foreign Minister a consensus was reached for the National Identification Registry to be the foundation on where the National system rests. Still in remarks, H.E Foreign Minister Beysolow Nyanti said the Liberian leader H.E. Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Sr. has embraced the actions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for leading on the matter.

She highlighted that ECOWAS needs to be aware of the challenges due to territorial, legacy and constitutional issues that sometimes contradict, to have a fixed system that protects all Liberians. Foreign Minister Nyanti disclosed that the Ministry has appointed a Deputy Minister to head the bureau of passport and visas which will include both the current and new structure for visas to be centralized. This she said will alleviate visas on arrival and transition to an e-visa system as a means of collective effort to strengthen Liberia’s National security and protect Liberians in and abroad for free movement of ECOWAS citizens. Foreign Minister Nyanti said there is a need for a harmonized approach by collecting Biometric that meets international standards, and that ECOWAS support to the process is cardinal.

For her part, ECOWAS Special representative to Liberia, Ambassador Josephine Nkrumah said the visit was meant to discuss the ECOWAS National identification and how they can explore and roll it out in accordance with decisions taken by member states as far back as 2014. The envoy took note of the steps that Liberia is taking. The ECOWAS Commission noted that they have had engagements with the Liberia Immigration Service Director, the National Identification Registry and they are confident that Liberia is on the right path. They acknowledge Liberia has shown commitment and the steps being taken to harmonize identity issues that impact the lives of people. The ECOWAS Ambassador named women empowerment, financial inclusion as key areas of importance in the approach. She noted that Liberia was the first Country to accept the ECOWAS passport as a travel document to all African countries.

Also speaking, the Director for Free Movement of persons and migration Hon. Albert S. Boateng said the significance of the visit was advocacy and sensitization on the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card (ENBIC). He said the ENBIC will replace the handwritten travel certificate. The adoption of the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card was in December of 2014 by the authority of Heads of States and government, which all member states cued into and signed the supplementary act of 2012. But the deployment of the card was concluded by all member states in 2016. Concerning resource issues, a few member states deployed but up to current six member states are fully deployed, including Senegal, Guinea Bissau, followed by Ghana, Benin, Gambia and Sierra Leone. Hon. Boateng said the visit to Liberia is meant to launch the National platform.

For his part, the head of the National Identification Registry said, based on President’s Boakai pronouncement, they have instituted the Generic Application Program Interface for Ministry and Agency to have a single identity for all Liberians. he said the system is in place but due to lack of resources and the policy document has been a challenge. Also making remarks was Hon. Steve Zargo, said the ECOWAS Biometric ID Card is key for Liberia as a member state of ECOWAS. Senator Zargo said, the utilization of the card will enhance economy, security and add speed, convenience and harmonize what we do as a people and an adherence to the ECOWAS protocol as a founding member State. In conclusion, Deputy Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Integration, Hon. Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs thanked the ECOWAS Special Envoy for the visit and noted that a consensus is almost being reached on the economic and social utility on the adoption of the ECOWAS National Biometric. Foreign Minister Nyanti said, this step is significant in promoting free moments, enhancing national security and facilitating trade and however expressed the government of Liberia willingness to move forward with the process.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Liberia.

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