By John Okeke
As the First Virtual Session of ECOWAS Parliament commenced , the Speaker of Regional Parliament , Right Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis has said that virtual meeting is not permanent, adding that parliaments cannot continously hold their activities online.
The speaker said the task of representing the people, embarking on oversight functions, conducting parliamentary interpellation and providing a voice for the voiceless is beyond holding virtual meetings.
Hon Tunis noted that Parliament will do their best to discharge its functions online, but will revert back to physical meetings once the situation permits.
The Speaker, who made this disclosure at the formal opening of the 2nd 2020 Extra Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament, also said that there is indeed a new normal around the globe, which everyone must respond to.
While noting that the parliament as an Institution have no option but to abide by it for as long as it remains unsafe to meet physically, Hon Tunis said this particular Session is not only extra ordinary in name, but even in conduct.
“I honestly cannot imagine that we were unable to hold the 1st Ordinary Session in May. This was the first time in history that the Parliament would miss holding an Ordinary Session as scheduled. I also couldn’t imagine holding an Extra Ordinary Session virtually. Many thanks to technology; at least we will be able to use this obviously imperfect avenue for a Parliament to meet,” he said.
In his goodwill message at the opening of the Session, the President of ECOWAS Court of Justice, Justice Edward Asante said that by convening this virtual session deploying the Zoom technology, the Parliament has joined the growing list of Community institutions relying on this platform to overcome the disruptive impact of the Corona virus pandemic in order to continue to discharge their valued mandate to the Community.
He said, “It is my understanding that the pandemic affected the first session of the Parliament scheduled for May/June 2020.
“We in the Court started on this route about a month ago when we initiated the use of this technology after the pandemic forced the adjournment of 71 cases including 27 judgments and 12 applications for accelerated hearing. Since then we have not looked back; as prior to its introduction, we were compelled to update the Court’s Practice Direction and develop the infrastructure for the electronic filing of cases while building the capacity of staff and the other stakeholders for the effective application of the technology. With the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, it is increasingly becoming obvious that we would have to rely on virtual sessions for the foreseeable future beyond the pandemic because; for the Court, the technology has the additional benefit of improving citizens access to the, with savings from transportation and associated costs of traveling to Abuja for sessions, not to talk about saving of hotel expenses for both parties and the lawyers” he said.