July 14, 2014 -
Leaders within the sub-region at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have proposed to replace residence permits with biometric identification cards, according to a report by Citi FM Online.
The use of biometric ID cards within the sub-region is expected to be discussed at the 45th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Heads of States and Government in Accra, along with a few other issues.
Implementing biometric ID cards would effectively facilitate free movement and trading amongst members.
According to policy analyst Emmanuel Bensah, the intended move would be a “good idea” and would “help complement attempts to monitor and evaluate the kind of people who pass through the borders all the time”.
Bensah said that abolishing residence permits would enable “free movement for all West African citizens,” adding that it “should have been a very important element in the agenda a long time ago”.
The ECOWAS has made many developments over the years, such as establishing free movement, but introducing biometric ID would effectively lay down a blueprint for the direction of the organization’s integration, said Bensah.
He added that the ECOWAS should also ensure that the monitoring and evaluation mechanism is effective and efficient, and that the biometric ID card ought to provide a “one stop shop; which will override any passport or ID showed at the borders currently.”
On the other side of the debate, Ghana Immigration Service head of public relations Francis Palmdeti is opposed to abolishing the residence permit.
In a recent interview on the Citi Breakfast Show, Palmdeti said that the GIS structure may not be “robust enough” to “adequately support the policy [ECOWAS biometric ID]”.
He recommended that the policy be “delayed or staggered” until the country has a stronger house numbering system in place.