By John Okeke
A virtual meeting of the ECOWAS coordinating committee of Ministers for transport, logistics, free movement and trade, set up within the framework of the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) held on the 12th of June 2020.
Among others, the Ministers deliberated on the harmonisation of measures to facilitate the opening of trade and transport corridors for equipment, medical supplies and humanitarian personnel involved in the fight against COVID-19, the flow of essential goods and associated workers; as well as modalities for the implementation of the emerging Action.
Setting the tone for the meeting, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E Jean-Claude Kassi Brou maintained that the occurrence of the COVID 19 pandemic has forced ECOWAS Member States to put in place drastic barrier measures (physical distancing, quarantine, closure of schools, shops and places of worship as well as the total or partial ban on public transport in urban areas).
This situation, he however noted, has had a negative impact on the economies of ECOWAS Member States and by ricochet, on the transport sector, trade and intra-community exchanges.
The region, President Brou continued, much like others in the global community, has not been spared by the spread of COVID-19.
He added: “The situation of the pandemic as at 8th of June 2020 (at 16:020) is as follows: 41,934 confirmed cases, 829 deaths, 19,181 cured and 21,924 under treatment”.
He lamented that virtually all sectors of the socio-economic life have been affected with the slowdown of economic activities, job loss, income and revenue flight, rising costs, etc.
President Brou also took note of the participation of representatives of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) Commission as something reflective of the willingness for productive synergy with the ECOWAS Commission in order to have a coordinated and successful implementation of policies, projects and programmes common to the two organizations, which he maintained, “share the same physical space, also a common desire to live together and an aspiration for peace and development”
President Brou enthused that the results of their work, apart from contributing to reviving the transport, logistics, trade and free movement sectors, will also play a key role in the economic and social development of countries in the region.
The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Transport, Logistics, Free Movement and Trade and Minister of Aviation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Hadi Sirika who represented H E Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Champion for coordinating the response to COVID-19 in the region, made commitments towards ensuring that the guidelines for ease of trade and services throughout the pandemic period are set out and adhered to.
Apart from the presentation and adoption of the outcome and validation of the reports of the preceding experts meeting on the matter which held on the 12th of June 2020, a regional COVID-19 epidemiological situation was presented by the Director-General, West African Health Organization (WAHO) professor Stanley Okolo.
The WAHO boss ruminated on all actions taken since the pandemic was declared an emergency public health concern, painted the current picture with the latest statistics from causative, spread, containment and projections for the future.
He submitted that there was high need for the utilisation of data, the strengthening of surveillance infrastructure around the 3,000 points of entry to West Africa, a robust communication and information sharing, (with technology aiding communication), as well as an upgrade of risk communication especially now that ECOWAS Member States are in the community transmission period.
The ministerial Committee is expected to propose recommendations to the ECOWAS Champion of the fight against COVID- 19, with a view to curbing the spread of the virus while preparing for a gradual and coordinated opening of the land, maritime and air borders of the region.