By John Okeke
Despite the setbacks caused by the global pandemic, Speaker of the regional Parliament of the Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOPARL) has expressed optimism that the region will rise again stronger .
Speaker , Sidie Mohamed Tunis made this optimistic comment whilst delivering his opening speech at the 2020 second (2nd) Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Parliament held via virtual conference on Wednesday 13th January 2021.
Whilst dilating on the theme of the session otherwise known as the “Budget Session”, the Honourable Tunis said that the session provides the opportunity, in accordance with provisions of the Supplementary Act, for Parliament to consider the Community’s Budget, adding that specifically Parliament is expected to ensure that the estimates are directed towards programs that address the needs of the people.
In addition, the ECOWAS Speaker further cautioned regional Members of Parliament (MPs) to put into consideration whilst debating the budget that they are now responding to the worst global pandemic in a century. “We live in an era of great uncertainty and increasing risk,” the Speaker stated, furthering that “overcoming these challenges in the interests of our fellow citizens should be our major priority. It is also not enough that the budget surmounts the immediate threats brought upon us by COVID-19, it should also advance efforts to make progress on other fronts and priorities which our region continues to value: democracy, rule of law, peace and conflict resolution, the fight against terrorism, poverty reduction and climate change.”
Furthermore, the ECOWAS Speaker said that another important highlight of the session is the presentation of the Strategic Plan of the 5th Legislature (2020-2024) of the ECOWAS Parliament, which he said has been drafted by the Administration of the Parliament under the supervision of our outstanding Secretary General. He said, the document, which is guided by the provisions of the Community Strategic Framework (CSF 2016 – 2020) and the current ECOWAS Vision 2020, identifies program areas, with themes and priorities that would systematically assist the Parliament in executing its mandate, as defined by the Supplementary Act.
He assured that he will constitute “an Ad-hoc Committee to consider this robust plan within the weeks following this session and report to the plenary during our next session for its consideration and adoption.”
Also, Speaker Tunis added that despite the ravaging effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in the ECOWAS Region last year, the final quarter of 2020 was a very engaging period for the Parliament. He said, they conducted three Joint Committee meetings including: the Meeting of the Joint Committees on Administration, Finance, and Budget; Macroeconomic Policies, Economic Research; Public Accounts; Trade, Custom & Free Movement; the Meeting of the Joint Committees on Agriculture, Environment & Natural Resources; Industry and Private Sector; Health; Energy and Mines; Social Affairs, Gender & Women Empowerment; and the Meeting of the Joint Committees on: Education, Science and Technology; Telecommunication and Information Technology; Political Affairs, Peace, Security and Infrastructure. He said these three committee meetings were crowned by a Meeting of the Ad-hoc Committee on the study for the Direct Elections of Members into the ECOWAS Parliament. Thus in said during the session, they will adopt the report of those meetings.
The Speaker ended by saying the task they face amidst the absence of physical contact due to COVID019 prevention measure is daunting, but remains optimistic that will resilience, ECOWAS will remain stronger again.
Several other remarks were made at the opening session including a statement from the President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Honorable Justice Edward Amoako Asante who called for continued collaboration between the Parliament and the Court.
The session was later adjourned as the video conference is to last from 13th to 19th January, 2021.