By John Okeke
On 25th September 2020, saw the Speaker of the regional Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Parliament jet into the headquarters of the regional body in Abuja, capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for the very first time since he took over office in March this year.
His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis has so far made significant progress barely a week since taking over his new office in Abuja, an event that was delayed due to the outbreak of the global Coronavirus Pandemic which halted all travels and led to the closure of all airports across West Africa.
Meanwhile, so far during his first official trip to Abuja, the headquarters of ECOWAS Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis on day one in office held closed door meetings with the Secretary General of Parliament and the Director of Parliamentary Affairs. Their discussions centered on Administrative issues including the upcoming Parliamentary Seminar and Extraordinary Session scheduled for Accra from 20th to 30th October 2020. They all discussed other missions of Parliament including Parliament’s Observation Missions to 5 West African States that are holding elections this year.
Furthermore, on day two of his official visit, the Honourable Speaker met with Heads of Divisions and Staff of ECOWAS Parliament. Each divisional head was given the platform to make a 5 minute’s presentation on his/her Division. The presentation centered on overview of the functions of the division, challenges and goals.
Following the presentations, the Honorable Speaker thanked the Staff for their commitment and admonished them to work in unity for the uplifting of Parliament. He then highlighted some of the challenges he has observed since taking over as Speaker and pledged to do all within his powers to solve some of the issues. He disclosed that he will institute some administrative adjustments and shifting of staff to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in Parliament’s operations.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday 30th September 2020, the Honourable Speaker Sidie Mohamed Tunis signed MoU with the National Assembly of Niger on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) which is geared towards combating Cyber Crime.
The landmark of the official visit of the Honourable Speaker to Abuja came today 1st October 2020, during which he sent and official letter of solidarity to both President Alpha Conde of Republic of Guinea and President Muhammadu Buhari of Federal Republic of Nigeria whose countries are celebrating their Independence Day.
In a letter addressed to HE Alpha Conde of Guinea on the occasion of the 62nd Independence Day Anniversary of his country, Speaker Tunis said: “Your Country has no doubt had its fair share of thick and thins, but your resilience as a nation and people proved superior over the forces of evil. Not many nations in the world have a history of independence like yours. Yours is a history of courage, bravery, and high spirit!”
On the other hand, Nigeria celebrated its sixtieth (60th) anniversary. In a letter addressed to H.E. President Buhari, the Rt. Hon. Speaker praised Nigeria’s resilience towards succeeding as a nation and her contributions to the growth of ECOWAS. He said “Despite the challenges that you have been confronted with over the years, you have come out stronger and better. In sixty years, you have shown that a people who are determined to live and survive together can do so regardless of the challenges and the adversities that they face”.
To climax the Nigerian 60th Independence Day Celebration, HE Sidie Mohamed Tunis joined His Excellency the Governor of Kwara State in Nigeria and Madam First Lady of Kwara State in a virtual conference on “Gender Equality”. The Conference had Her Excellency the Former President of the Republic of Liberia Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other distinguished personalities including the UN Deputy Secretary General HE Amina Mohamed and the Federal Minister of Women Affairs of Nigeria who also serving as panelist.
During the Kwara State conference on Gender Equality, HE Speaker Tunis of ECOWAS Parliament said ECOWAS as an institution has made significant progress in addressing women issues and securing a participatory framework for women. He said since its formation, “ECOWAS has adopted several instruments and established institutions to secure social protection for women and increase their participation in governance. One of such instruments is the Supplementary Act on the Equality of Rights between Women and Men for Sustainable Development in the ECOWAS Region.”
His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis added that at the ECOWAS Parliament, Article 18 (1) (c) of the Supplementary Act Relating to the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament, adopted by the 50th Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, held in Abuja on 17th December, 2016, mandates each Member State to ensure at least 30 percent female representation in their parliamentary delegation. He said “the truth is, I sincerely believe that the 30% is still very low, especially owing to the enormous contributions women are making in our states.”
Furthermore, HE Sidie Mohamed Tunis added that at the inauguration of the current legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament on 9th March, 2020, in Niamey, Niger Republic, where he was elected Speaker, he emphasized that “the integration of gender perspective into our mainstream politics and conflict management is key to designing an inclusive and effective development program for ECOWAS.”
“I expressed the commitment that working with the ECOWAS Gender Center and Civil Society Organizations, we shall seek to explore avenues to build local capacity of women’s groups and networks in peace building and conflict resolutions. We shall also endeavor to identify and remove obstacles to women participation in mainstream politics, peace building and mediation activities in ECOWAS States,” Speaker Tunis concluded.
Meanwhile, HE Tunis is tomorrow Friday 2nd October 2020 meeting with the President of the Nigerian Senate in Abuja before he returns back to his home country Sierra Leone later this week.