By Melvin Tejan Mansaray, Abuja Nigeria

In his remarks during the opening of 2021, Second Ordinary Session of the Fifth Legislature of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), currently taking place in Abuja, Nigeria –  30th
November – 18th December 2021,  Honorable Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis,
Speaker of the Community Parliament said now is the time to take the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)  Parliament to the people.

He thanked the Government and people of Nigeria for their warm hospitality and acknowledged the distinguished presence of dignitaries including, the President of the Nigerian Senate, President of the ECOWAS Commission,   his wife among other invited guests from the diplomatic and development sphere.

Hon. Dr. Tunis told sub-regional representatives that putting service above self is key if the visions of the Parliament are to be realized.

“The responsibilities we have to carry are enormous, but we must take individual responsibility to carry them for the common good. Making ECOWAS relevant to the people we serve should be at the top of our
priorities. It is time to take ECOWAS to the people,”  Hon. Dr. Tunis said.

He explained that the  ECOWAS Parliament took a bold step by holding its Second Extraordinary Session of the year 2021 in Winneba, the Republic of Ghana, the first-ever to be held outside a capital city
and it was very successful.

“That was a demonstration of the practical definition of regional integration. We look forward to more initiatives that will bring the
Parliament closer to the people.  At no point in our existence has it become clearer that peaceful co-existence is the way to go. We must leave our comfort and go to the people, remembering that we are only
servants and nothing more. Furthermore, putting an end to violence and threats to our rising democracies should be our greatest priority, for only in peace and unity that we can plan and actualize national and
regional development,” the ECOWAS Speaker noted.

“As provided in the Supplementary Act enhancing the Powers of Parliament, this parliamentary session will focus on the examination and adoption of the 2022 Budget of the Community. The vote for this
budget comes in a difficult economic and social environment, marked by the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and terrorist attacks in the region,” the Parliament said in a Press Release.

The Opening Ceremony of the 2021 Second Ordinary Session featured oath-taking by four Cape Verdo and two Ivorian newly elected Lawmakers.

The occasion also witnessed the decoration of Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou, President of the ECOWAS Commission with distinguished honor and
award for his tremendous service to the Commission, the Community Parliament, and subregion as a whole from 2018.

While opening the Session on behalf of the Nigerian President, Muhammad Buhari, Senator  Dr. Ibrahim Lawan said that they are delighted to play host to the Session as a country,  adding that, “ The ECOWAS
Second Ordinary Session is crucial to the realization of the institution’s objectives, by creating the opportunity for the intervention of parliamentarians.” He described the holding of the session as heartening encouraging regional integration and the
significance of strengthening democracy.

“Regional integration is, for instance, core to us all and has demanded attention, because of its importance to our commerce, trade,
investment, collective economic growth and the wellbeing of our people,” Sen. Dr. Lawan

On other existing and emerging issues, the ECOWAS Speaker, Hon. Dr. Tunis said:  “Referencing democracy, we applaud the good people of Cape Verde for a very successful presidential election and the
peaceful manner in which the polls were conducted. I have congratulated President Jose Maria Neves on his election as President of the Republic, and wish him all the best during his tenure. A few days from today, our Election Observation Mission will be in the Gambia to observe the Presidential and Legislative Election. We pray
that all Gambians will conduct themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner, whilst expressing the hope that all parties will live up to their promise of ensuring a free and fair process, void of violence. We wish the People of Gambia all the best on this path of democratic transitioning. “

On the political situation in Guinea and Mali, the ECOWAS Speaker said, “We remain engaged with the Guinean Authorities and reiterate the call for the submission of a detailed timetable of activities leading to the restoration of democratic rule. We remain equally concerned about the Security situation in Mail. Mali’s political future remains unclear, as it is subject to conflicting tensions. It has become very important that we strengthen our mediation efforts and consensus-building process and push for political reforms that will lead to presidential and legislative elections.”

“Two weeks ago, I headed a delegation of the ECOWAS Parliament for a study visit to the Republic of Niger. We held discussions with His Excellency the President of the Republic and the Assistant Chief Advocate for the direct elections of Members into the ECOWAS Parliament. We brainstormed on the possibility of attaining this democratic reform and setting the Parliament up as a truly democratic body. We also used the visit to sensitize the Nigerien Authorities on
the mode of election and facilitated deliberations on the strategy to have it achieved. This quest is not only a democratic quest; it’s a requirement that must be fulfilled to establish sustainable democracy in the region.”

Apparently, the opening session also considered and adopted the draft
agenda and work program of the Second Ordinary Session, the draft work
programme  of Standing, Joint, and Ad hoc Committees, and the draft report of the Second Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament for the year 2021.

The Session continues tomorrow with the expectation of a presentation by the President of the ECOWAS Commission on the implementation of the Community Work Programme which is to be followed by  presentation of Country reports which are to be discussed by  the Community Parliament’s lawmakers. 

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