For hundreds of years, people have moved across borders in the West African sub-region - to find arable land to settle on, and to trade in cattle, salt, kola nuts, leather goods and gold, amongst a host of products.
If the ordinary people of the region - who are law-abiding individuals, that is - could have unfettered access to all the nations of the region, and be able to legally settle in which ever of those nations they preferred, without encountering endless red-tape to do so, it would unleash a burst of creative energy, which would provide a spurt of prolonged periods of sustained growth, for most of the national economies in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Naturally, there are those who will say that were that to be the case, criminal-types in the sub-region would look for safe-havens and take advantage of the free movement of citizens, and the legal right to settle in any of the member-states, to embark on a life of crime away from the watchful eyes of their home country's law enforcement agencies.
It is vital therefore, for the security of citizens of ECOWAS member-states playing host to visitors from sister nations, that cross-border criminal types don't gain access to their country, and end up terrorising them.
To stop the sub-region's criminals abusing the principle of free movement of citizens, and the legal right of citizens to settle in any of the member states, it ought to be a requirement that in addition to reporting to the headquarters of the immigration authorities, citizens crossing borders and staying for longer than the present visa-free 90 days they are entitled to, ought to be required to also report to the headquarters of the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID), to be finger-printed and have DNA samples taken.
What the ordinary citizens of the member-nations of ECOWAS simply want, above all, is a single market to move freely in to find employment, and to have the ability to do business in seamless fashion, across borders.
They most certainly don't want the criminals from across their countries' borders in the sub-region, to have unfettered access to their home country.
To satisfy that wish of their law-abiding citizens, the member-states of ECOWAS must ensure that no individual with a criminal record, can move across borders in the sub-region, without the law enforcement agencies in the country's he or she travels to, being aware of their presence.
There are many Ghanaians, for example, who when asked, will say emphatically, that in their view, there are far too many criminal-types from Togo; Benin; Nigeria; Niger; the Ivory Coast; Liberia; Burkina Faso and from elsewhere in the sub-region, sheltering in Ghana and engaging in crime with Ghanaian partners. Ghana should not be seen as a soft touch by such criminals. With respect, it is time they were weeded out. Period.
What ordinary people across West Africa want is a single market, the freedom to travel freely in the sub-region and to settle in any ECOWAS member-state that takes their fancy - but they want only law-abiding individuals in the member-nations to have that privilege: not criminal-types.
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