The Fourth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament commenced its Second Ordinary Session in Abuja, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament drawing the attention of the august body to the burning issues of the moment in the region. According to a release from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja, Speaker Moustapha Cisse Lo says among those burning regional issues are the current Liberian elections.
According to the release, Speaker Lo in his welcome remarks also named the political situation in Togo, the reported issue of modern day slavery in Libya and the humanitarian situation of victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, among others.
The Speaker, however, talked about the ameliorating actions already taken as well as the planned interventions by the regional parliamentarians in such situations.
The Second Session, which began on November 21, will end on December 9, during which time the regional parliamentarians will also consider the budget of ECOWAS institutions and agencies, among others.
Welcoming parliamentarians, delegates and invited guests to the event, Speaker Lo conveyed the hope of the Assembly that the adoption of the Supplementary Act on the enhancement of the powers of the parliament in December 2016 by the Heads of State and Government of the Community will continue to strengthen the Parliament towards achieving the dream of an ECOWAS of the people.
Speaker Lo also paid tribute to regional and parliamentary leaders for their outstanding contributions to the stability of the region and the evolution of regional parliamentarianism.
He made specific mention of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. He also named other leaders, including Presidents Patrice Tallon of Benin, Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger, Roch March Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali.
Meanwhile, the release said the Fourth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament also held a solemn session to welcome the President of Senegal and former Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority, Macky Sall.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel de Souza, commended President Sall for his role in maintaining peace and stability in the region and most recently ensuring the reinstatement of democracy and the rule of law to The Gambia following the country’s political impasse.
Represented by the Vice President of the Commission, Edward Singhatey, President de Souza gave an overview of the relevant programs of the Commission that borders on ongoing reforms, including the cost control plans aimed creating greater synergy between institutions and efficiency through rationalization.
Maintaining that the expectations of the Ordinary Session are high, he urged the parliamentarians to carry out their tasks “with all the vigor and conscientiousness” that the exercise deserves.
President Sall, to whom Speaker Cisse Lo presented gifts, urged the regional parliamentarians to “hold on to, and carry on the flag of integration” 42 years after the formation of ECOWAS. He also commended the regional group for the strides it has made in the areas of conflict prevention as well as the commencement of integration programs such as the Common External Tariff, community infrastructure and the biometric card system.
The Senegalese leader expressed concerns about the criminal network that has led to the enslavement of many West Africans in Libya from where 2,480 Senegalese citizens had already been repatriated, according to the release.
The opening session witnessed several goodwill messages, including that of the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly of Nigeria, Dr. Bukola Saraki, which was delivered by the former speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Ike Ekweremadu.
Dr. Saraki restated the commitment of Nigeria to the implementation of the various protocols aimed at achieving greater regional integration.
During the ongoing sessions, the regional parliamentarians are expected to deliberate, consider and adopt work programs, reports as well as sit over conferences jointly organized with partners. It will also receive country reports and meet with local authorities among others.
The ECOWAS Parliament will hold its first extraordinary session in February 2018 in Dakar, Senegal, the release concluded.