Liberians involved in cross-border trade in the region have narrated their ordeal to visiting ECOWAS parliamentarians who are assessing the state of the regional body’s trade and free movement protocols.
Security forces mainly immigration officers at various ports of entry are engaged in routine extortion and harassment, the traders said.
There is an increased number of security checkpoints along major trading highways that are used to demand illegal fees from people traveling with goods, they said claiming that torture is used as an enforcement tool.
“Every gate we reached, we are asked to pay money. This is no free movement,” Janet Benson, a Liberians said about her experience with Guinean authorities.
According to the inter-state traders, if ECOWAS wants the free movement protocol to be effective, West African citizens, mainly security officers must be educated.
Responding to the Liberians allegations, Guinea Immigration Chief, Diallo Mamadou conceded but said Liberian immigration officers were also involved in the act of extortion and harassment against Guineans trading in Liberia.
The ECOAWS Parliament visit was intended for citizens in each country to explain issues relative to ECOWAS Free Movement and challenges experience during cross-border movement.
ECOWAS Parliament Speaker, Mustapha Cisse Lo, said Africans are one people and that border demarcation was not introduced to create confusion. He urged securities at the borders to protect each member states through the ECOWAS freemen protocols.