President of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, His Excellency Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou, has on Saturday 25th July 2020 congratulated Speaker of the 5th Legislature of ECOWAS Parliament His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis, and pledged the Commission's total support to the Parliament.
Whilst delivering his speech to the regional members of parliament at the ECOWAS Parliament’s 2nd extraordinary session of 2020 held via videoconference between Monday 20th to Saturday 25th July 2020, the President of ECOWAS Commission said: “It is together, strong and united that we will win, that we will triumph over the evils which overwhelm us to turn resolutely towards the objectives of regional integration. In this regard, I would like to assure you that the Commission and all the other ECOWAS Institutions stand ready to work together with you for the achievement of all the objectives of our Organization.”
In addition, the ECOWAS Commission President dilated that for ECOWAS Parliament to be able to play its role, they must work in “coordination and synergy, revitalize and re-establish our framework for exchanges between Parliament's standing committees and Departments of the ECOWAS Commission; contribute in a concrete and effective manner to the development and implementation of Community programs which have an impact on our populations; strengthen institutional dialogue and communication; cooperate in a judicious manner to make the ECOWAS area a space of peace, security and development; put to good use the input, utility and support of Parliament for the visibility of ECOWAS in member states.”
Furthermore, HE Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou added that the Community Levy (PC) remains the most important source of income and funding for ECOWAS programs and activities. However he said, one of the harmful consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the significant drop in imports in the region, which necessarily affects the mobilization of products from the community levy. Thus, he said “as of June 30, 2020, the Community has only succeeded in mobilizing 11.8% of PC revenue. This is why we ask you to advocate for the mobilization of your respective Parliaments for the timely contribution of your countries to the fruits of the Community Levy. In doing so, the Commission will include in its field missions, the Honorable Members of the Parliament of ECOWAS to reap the fruits of the PC in accordance with the strengthening of inter-institutional cooperation.”
Moreover, the ECOWAS Commission President added that the significance of the gathering for the second time in the Extraordinary Session of the Fifth Legislature of the year 2020 is in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Additional Act relating to the strengthening of the prerogatives of Parliament that the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS adopted on December 17, 2016, in particular in its Chapter V, relating to the competences and the processes of adoption of the community acts, in Article 5 relating to the modalities of participation in the processes of the community acts which stipulates that: "the Parliament express its opinion when adopting Community acts, either by: Notice or Compliant notice."
Meanwhile, in his closing remarks, the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis on behalf of the members expressed their profound gratitude to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Dr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, and his “team of competent Commissioners and Technocrats, for the collaboration between our two important Institutions.”
HE Tunis furthered that: “Over the years since the inception of the Parliament, our collaboration with the Commission had grown wider; covering virtually all areas associated with the integration process. Ours is a symbiotic relationship, in which we as politicians are expected to promote the ideals of the Community at the level of Member States, while the Commission, with its team of competent technocrats, is to ensure total implementation of programmes and policies. We are determined to reap maximal benefits out of this relationship and we expect it to yield adequate rewards for the promotion of the vision of our founding fathers.”
In addition, HE Tunis said, unfortunately, the 5th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament had to encounter a great challenge almost immediately after inauguration due the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. He added that “there is no doubt that the remaining part of 2020 and early 2021 would be highly challenging, both economically and socially. Ours is to collaborate with our Governments, both at national and regional levels, to ensure that we protect the interest of our people and work towards easing their affairs during this anticipated difficult period.”
Whilst concluding and closing the 2020 2nd Extraordinary Session, ECOWAS Parliament Speaker HE Tunis said their “duty as Community Parliamentarians is not restricted to when we hold meetings or other activities. We remain Community Members of Parliament where ever we find ourselves. We should, therefore, endeavor to preach the ideal of ECOWAS at all times and in all places.”
Meanwhile it could be recalled that for the very first time, the community parliament met via videoconference for a six-day virtual extraordinary session to consider some referrals from Community institutions on germane issues that border on the wellbeing of the people of the sub-region. Notable among the referrals are: Request by the President of the ECOWAS Commission seeking assistance from the Parliament in implementing the ECOWAS protocol on the community levy; That Parliament takes decision relating to the contribution of ECOWAS Member States to the African Union Solidarity Fund in the fight against COVID-19; Referral from the ECOWAS Commission on the fight against COVID-19, the stabilization and recovery of the economies of ECOWAS Member States amongst others.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged member states to collaborate in academic researches.
This point was raised during the discussions on Wednesday 23rd July 2020 at the Joint Committees meeting of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture and the Committee on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) of the ECOWAS Parliament held virtually.
During the session, the ECOWAS Parliament committees were to consider and also present to the plenary the referral from the ECOWAS Commission on: (1) Adopting the Rules for the Support Programme for Research and Innovation; and (2) Adopting the ECOWAS operational Strategy for Spatial Sciences and technologies.
Meanwhile, as the session continued, one of the ECOWAS parliamentarians who dilated on the significance of regional collaboration on academic researches, Honourable Chantel Fanny called on regional governments to teach at the preliminary stages all three regional languages such as English, French and Portuguese as she said this can help greatly in regional integration.
Deputy Speaker 4 of the ECOWAS Parliament, Honourable Adja Satu Camara Pinto spoke about the importance of research in Agriculture. She called on the ECOWAS Commission to look into issues of researches into insecticides and flooding which she said are direct link to scientific research.
ECOWAS Commissioner on Education, Science and Culture Professor Leopoldo Amado whilst responding to points raised by the Honourable Members said the commission scientists are all working together irrespective of country of origin. He said it would be prudent to use traditional languages like Hausa, Madinka and Fullah which are non-Western languages to help in academic researches.
Director of Education, Science and Culture at the ECOWAS Commission, Professor Abdoulaye Maga was pessimistic that teaching the three regional languages has not been met. He cited that it is very difficult for West African schools to get expert teachers in all three regional languages, apparently because of what he referred to as funding issues.
In addition, Professor Abdoulaye Maga said that the harmonization of West Africa schools’ curriculum and certificates would be very difficult. Hence he said it would be very much not useful if we harmonize tertiary institutions’ curriculum and certificates without first of all harmonizing the primary and secondary schools curriculum.
Meanwhile, on her side whilst addressing and presenting the report of the ECOWAS Commission on Education, Science and Culture to Parliamentarians virtually, Mrs. Rachel Ogbe, Principal Programme Officer (PPO) on Education of the ECOWAS Commission, stated that ECOWAS seeks to achieve a number of specific objectives, the first being to develop regional criteria for the harmonization of pre-university qualifications, in particular the period of study, content of curricula, qualification assessment and other prerequisites for the establishment of equivalence of Member States’ accreditation systems.
This according to her presentation will involve defining benchmarks/criteria to match university and professional qualifications in the region, draw up a list of courses in Member States’ universities as well as admission requirements, number of years of study, required credits and certificates.
Other specific objectives contained in her presentation will be to clarify the classification of academic qualifications (certificate, diploma, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, etc.) in Member States and develop a road-map for the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on equivalence of certificates.
The Speaker of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis has assured that the sessions of the community’s parliament will soon return to physical meetings once the situation permits. This situation been referred to here by the Speaker is the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic which has hit all countries of the world and has greatly prevented physical meetings due to social distancing measures to curtail the spread of the virus.
HE Tunis made this disclosure on Tuesday 21st July 2020, whilst delivering his opening speech to the plenary of the 2nd 2020 Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament. This session was done online via Zoom Virtual link and saw ECOWAS Parliament’s Members of Parliament (MPs) from all fifteen (15) community members’ state in attendance. During the session, a motion was moved by Honourable Mahama Ayariga from Ghana for the session to be done by virtual meeting as online session has never happened in the history of the ECOWAS Parliament. It was seconded and moved on with.
Meanwhile, it could be recalled, according to an earlier news release from ECOWAS Parliament, following guidelines on the Covid-19 protocols for ECOWAS Institutions, issued by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the Parliament is holding a five-day virtual Extraordinary session to consider some referrals from Community institutions on germane issues that border on the wellbeing of the people of the sub-region, in line with the provisions of the Supplementary Act relating to the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament.
Notable among the referrals are: Request by the President of the ECOWAS Commission seeking assistance from the Parliament in implementing the ECOWAS protocol on the community levy; that Parliament takes decision relating to the contribution of ECOWAS Member States to the African Union Solidarity Fund in the fight against COVID-19: and Referral from the ECOWAS Commission on the fight against COVID-19, the stabilization and recovery of the economies of ECOWAS Member States.
Meanwhile, whilst dilating on the impact of Coronavirus on the operations of the ECOWAS Parliament, His Excellency Tunis in his opening statement said: “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.”
On the area of achieving the 2020 work plans of the 5th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament, Speaker Tunis said: “We will also pursue the 2020 work plan as vigorously as the situation permits us to. In collaboration with the General Secretariat, we are watching unfolding events as they relate to the safety of holding physical meetings. I wish to recall that we are yet to hold the 2020 1st Ordinary Session. We also need to organise several Committee meetings around our Member States as is customary.”
In addition, HE Tunis said “I am, quick to add that Parliaments cannot perpetually hold their activities virtually. 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.”
Therefore, he said: “We as a Parliament will do our best to discharge our functions online, but will revert back to our physical meetings once the situation permits.”
Meanwhile, during the opening session of the plenary, several other speakers made statements. This includes the President of the ECOWAS Court, Mr Edward Asante who said that the court started on the route of using virtual meetings about a month ago when they initiated the use of this technology after the pandemic forced the adjournment of 71 cases including 27judgments and 12 applications for accelerated hearing.
The ECOWAS Court President further said that “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.”
On the area of referrals, Mr Edward Asante said “Just like the Parliament, the Court also has the power to entertain referrals under its original mandate as the principal legal organ of the Community.” However, he said unlike the ECOWAS Parliament, the “the Court has never in its history received any such referrals from any Member State, a worrisome development which has implications for the development of Community law and its integration into those of the States.”
Hence he said: “we look forward to work with Parliament and ECOWAS parliamentarians towards ensuring that the ECOWAS Court receives referrals from national courts because of its salutary impact on our integration project. In this way we will be strengthening the collaboration between both institutions in the service of the Community and furthering the delivery of justice.”
Another speaker who made a meaningful presentation at the Opening session of the ECOWAS Parliament’s Plenary was the Director General of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), Professor Stanley Okolo who said that since 1970 the world has average disease outbreaks every year. He said several factors including over population and lack of hygiene facilities result to that. He warned regional governments to be very careful in reopening borders as that could result to a second wave of the Coronavirus outbreak.
ECOWAS Commission presented the briefing on the status of the Community Levy.
Before the end of the opening session, the ECOWAS Parliament considered and adopted the draft agenda and draft Work Programme of the first 2020 Extraordinary Session; it considered and adopted the draft report of the inaugural session of the Fifth Legislature of Parliament; it Considered and adopted the draft Work Programme of Standing, Joint and Ad Hoc Committees; and it also considered and adopted the draft Plan of Activities of Parliament for the second half of 2020.
The plenary was adjourned to Saturday 25th July 2020, but between now and then, several committee meetings are scheduled to take place until Friday 24th July 2020.