Posted on March 23, 2021 by Pnafrica
The Speaker of the Fifth Legislature of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), His Excellency Honorable Mohamed Sidi Tunis has elaborated on the national and sub-regional benefits that will be gained from the ongoing Parliamentary Seminar being held in Freetown, Sierra Leone from the 23rd- 25th March 2021.
“In the first place, I am a Sierra Leonean, it was His Excellency, President Dr. Julius Maada Bio that actually nominated me, campaigned for me to become the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament and that campaign was supported by the people of Sierra Leone, so in my opinion, I should give back to the people with visibility of the country,” H.E. Hon. Tunis said.
He explained that hosting the ECOWAS Parliamentary Session in Sierra Leone means visibility for the country, adding that, “we are having the international press and everywhere in West Africa and beyond is presently focused on what is happening in this Chamber in Sierra Leone.”
The ECOWAS Speaker, H.E. Hon. Tunis said this is an advantage for the country and a big boost for tourism.
On the theme of the seminar and its meaning, the ECOWAS Speaker said: “Involvement of Members of the ECOWAS Parliament in the Monitoring and Implementation of the Protocol relating to the Community Levy,” is essential amidst a climate of dwindling corporation from some member states.
“Just before we have our extraordinary session, in July 2021 via videoconference, we received a letter from the President of the ECOWAS Commission asking Parliamentarians to support the ECOWAS Commission in bringing this issue to the public and also the governments in the sub-region. So, we felt that this will be the most appropriate time to seat together as parliamentarians to work out a framework as to how we can support the Commission in raising revenue for the Community,” H.E. Hon. Tunis said.
The ECOWAS Speaker nonetheless registered his expectations during and after the seminar, adding that, “ first of all, one of my expectations have gone through. I have almost all of our members here. The Nigerian delegation will be here shortly. That in itself, makes me very happy as a Sierra Leonean, bringing all of these people to Sierra Leone under my leadership, this I am very happy about."
With regards to his expectation upon concluding the seminar, H.E. Hon. Tunis said: “ My expectation is that by the time all of the ECOWAS MPs leave this country, they will be taking Sierra Leone with them, they will be taking the good news of Sierra Leone. Let us don’t forget that Sierra Leone has gone through a civil war and this is what most parts of the worlds know Sierra Leone for, but now that they are here, representatives of at least fifteen countries will be taking away the messages of peace, development, tourism, potentials in Sierra Leones, so these are the advantages that we as a country will be deriving from this particular session, In addition to the actual reason of the monitoring and implementation of the Community Levy.”
The Community Levy is an established fund needed to be raised for the sustenance of the community projects and programs, a 0.5% tax imposed on goods and from the non-ECOWAS Member States is also used in financing the activities of the ECOWAS Commission and Community institutions.
At the opening ceremony, Head of Delegation of the Sierra Leonean Members of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah who doubles as the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party Parliamentary Leader thanked ECOWAS for electing his Sierra Leonean brother, HE. Hon. Tunis, noting that the seminar is the first major face-to-to-face activity of the parliament held outside Abuja amidst a period of COVID-19. He however entreated the participants to find another home away from home where the people are hospitable and the streets are safe.
The Commissioner of Finance, ECOWAS Commission, Ahmed Alima praised the Speaker of the Sierra Leone national assembly for putting ECOWOAS on the map during his days as Executive Secretary while welcoming the opportunity for the Parliament's members to meet in person. She noted that the issue of community levy is pertinent to her job and also paid tribute to fallen greats in the sub-region with a minute of silence.
Dr. Francis Kaikai, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development under whose purview the business of ECOWAS falls recalled how some thirty years ago on the same date, war breaks out in his country but reckoned the role of ECOWAS in the entity of ECOMOG in restored democracy. He also cataloged the assistance being received from the ECOWAS from areas of cross-border security, tourism, economic integration, the fight against COVID-19 amongst others.
Jacob Jusu Saffa, Minister of Finance, Government of Sierra Leone informed the audience that Sierra Leone is compliant and updated on its contribution to the community levy, outlining the way, manner, mode of payments, and utilization of the said funding. He noted the adverse effect of COVIDU-19 and how the country's national budgetary allocations have been dwarfed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Nabella Tunis, Sierra Leone's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation and also the wife of the ECOWAS Speaker, said that ECOWAS should be exploring means for additional revenue for its activities, thanking the ECOWAS Speaker and encouraging participants to enjoy the beauty of Sierra Leone as they deliberate and take actions to address the issue of payment of the levy.
Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, Speaker National Assembly of the Republic of Sierra Leone reminisced on the historic relationship between the different tribes and people in Africa and how they connect to Sierra Leone. He cited provisions of the revised ECOWAS treaty and how they reflected on the issue under discussion. He however noted that the value of the community levy percentage has changed over time noting that inasmuch as they are urging all member states to contribute their community levy fees, the administration of ECOWAS itself must ensure thorough transparency and accountability of these funds. He apparently declared the seminar open encouraging for a fruitful and meaningful deliberation
Story By: Melvin Tejan Mansaray