ECOWAS Parliament Wants Member States Make Laws to Fight Cyber-crime

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(L-r) House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, Hon Moustapha CISSE LO, Speaker ECOWAS Parliament, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Prince Y JOHNSON, 3rd Deputy Speaker ECOWAS Parliament

Supports ECOWAS Regional Radio Be Headquartered in Liberia

 The 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been encouraged to develop a National Cybersecurity Strategy as well as make laws to fight cyber-crimes in all ECOWAS member states, to facilitate the creation of a safer cyber environment in West Africa.

Members of the Joint Committee on Communications and Information Technology/Education, Science and Technology/Labour, Employment, Sport and Culture of the ECOWAS Parliament unanimously voted to adopt it in their report, which will be subsequently submitted to the full Plenary of ECOWAS Parliament of the Fourth Legislature.

During  five days of  presentations, discussions and debates at the Delocalized Meeting, which was held at a local resort in Monrovia from Monday – Friday, August 27-31, 2018, Lawmakers (MPS)  were encouraged to assist their various governments to put in place national cybersecurity strategies such as CERT/CIRT.(Computer Emergency Response Teams).

According to Joint Committee’s reports, about 70% of cybercrimes in Africa has to do with social network, and there is a need for an aggressive sensitization campaign or law for the safe use of social media.

The report also said Cybercrimes affects bank cards, if not securely used, and to attain a real and efficient Digital Single Market in West Africa there is need for a secure cyber environment in the region.

“The cybersecurity in the region is hampered by lack of appropriate legislation and national cybersecurity strategies. There is a desperate need for capacity building and the establishing of CERT/CIRT. Towards this end the Community has developed and adopted some Acts to promote a safer cyber environment within ECOWAS. And these include Directive on Fighting against Cybercrime; Supplementary Act on Electronic Transactions; and Supplementary Act on Personal Data Protection,” the report said.

Also, members of the Joint Committee has also voted from part of their report urging the effective implementation and elimination of roaming charges in ECOWAS member countries and furthered abolished termination charges being levied by some countries in the region.

The lawmakers (MPS) argued that in the Regional Roaming, a regulation was approved in December 2017 in Abuja by the Council of Ministers, which eliminates roaming charges between ECOWAS countries.

“A citizen traveling from one ECOWAS country to the other should receive phone calls as if he/she was in his/her home country, without the need of paying any roaming charges. This regulation must now move to the implementation stage,” the lawmakers (MPS) argued.

The five-day meeting was held under the theme: “Contribution of ICTs to the Regional Integration Process – Status of Implementation, challenges and prospects of an ECOWAS Community Radio and Television Station”.

Furthermore, the Joint Committee said ICT and radio and television broadcasting is a useful and valuable tool and medium for not only the efficient work of our institutions in ECOWAS, but as instruments for furtherance of the vision, mission, and actions and programmes of integrating the countries, economies and peoples into a peaceful, secure and democratic region, with entrenched values of good governance, rule of law and human rights in our region.

“In the same vein the Joint Committee acknowledged and recognized that the UNMIL Radio that was transferred to ECOWAS control by the United Nations Peace Keeping Mission in Liberia is a very useful and valuable asset. This notwithstanding they appreciate that there are currently teething challenges to get it up and running efficiently as a Regional Station, which is far more complicated and demanding than its original mandate. This is understandable since the station is in a transition phase; what is required now is for proper planning to put the proper statutes, structures and implementation strategies in place in order to enable it fulfill its great potentials. This, they emphasized, requires the involvement of all stakeholders, including the Parliamentarians,” the report of the Joint Committee said.

The Joint Committtee further proposed the following specific and general recommendations for the various stakeholders and institutions of ECOWAS on ICT and the ECOWAS Regional Radio.

“ECOWAS COMMISSION:   should facilitate a more affordable access of landlocked countries to submarine fiber optic cables through a full implementation of the regulation on conditions for landlocked countries to access national and international bandwidth; mobilize the necessary resources for the implementation of Amilcar Cabral Fiber Optic Cables so that all ECOWAS Member States can be connected through the regional fiber optic network;  promote the establishment of Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) in all ECOWAS Member States to facilitate the creation of a safer cyber environment in West Africa, among others.”

“ECOWAS PARLIAMENT: should partner with the ECOWAS Commission in all the phases of the development and implementation of the ICT policies and programmes. This is to include engagement with potential  partners for collaboration to develop the use of ICT by ECOWAS and its Institution in furtherance of the regional integration; fully participate in the forthcoming expert meetings and Council of Ministers meeting on the ECOWAS Regional Radio project. MPs and ECOWAS Parliament to be in the governing board of the regional radio; as representatives of the people, their presence can ensure the station focuses on programmes and activities that directly benefit the people and bring the benefits of integration to their door steps; the leadership of the ECOWAS Parliament must use its relationship and contacts with some of the Heads of States to solicit support and assistance for the Radio. The urgent requirement of the station is to be connected to the national electricity grid in Liberia to reduce its dependence on use of generators and gas oil and the leadership of the Parliament to asked for this support from their colleague brother HE President George MANNEH WEAH.

After the votes and adoptions from at least 20 members of the Joint Committee, the report signed Hon. Nassirou HALIDOU (Chairperson Committee on  Education, Science and Technology); Hon. Martina Moreira Moniz ( Chairperson on Communication and and Information Technology).

Others were Hon. Hon. Sawani KARIMOU, 1st Rapporteur Committee on Communication  and Information Technology and     Hon.  Fatoumatta NJAI (1st Rapporteur Committee on      Labour, Employment, Youth, Sport and Culture).

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