Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Speaker of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis, has said in spite of the lofty achievements recorded since the establishment of the regional bloc 45 years ago, the region continued to yearn, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tunis stated this in a statement he issued in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of ECOWAS.
He said the parliament was mindful of the fact that the outbreak of COVID-19 was like none in the past, adding that sincce it was first detected in December, 2019, within months, it eroded the normal ways of life, confined people within their respective borders, bringing economies to a virtual standstill and triggering a possible recession for the year.
“Despite these remarkable achievements as a region, our people continue to yearn for help, particularly under the current global pandemic of COVID-19,” Tunis said.
Tunis noted that as at May 24, 2020, the sub-region recorded over 29,000 confirmed cases with over 11,000 recoveries and sadly, above 600 deaths.
The numbers, Tunis said, were not mere numbers or statistics of physical things, but of human beings, citizens of West Africa whose lives were cut short by the rampaging virus.
“As I empathize with all citizens as we all are directly or remotely affected, the pain and agony of these needless loss of lives cannot be fully expressed by me on behalf of the parliament. But rest assured of our constant support and prayers for the healing of the world and particularly, our beloved sub-region,” Tunis added.
The ECOWAS Parliament Speaker further said he was well aware that the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Health Organization (WAHO), initiated various responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in member states.
The response, Tunis added, included the provision of training and essential supplies to strengthen the public health systems in member states in order to foster the fight against the spread of the scourge.
He assured that on its part, the 5th Legislature shall play its role towards the ECOWAS’ post COVID-19 recovery response strategies by collaborating with, and enacting policies to support sister institutions in the execution of COVID-19 related programs for the benefit of the citizens of the sub-region.
“We are optimistic that given the resilient nature of our people, there is no doubt that we will bounce back and make a full recovery in the no distant time. However, for that to happen faster, we urge governments of member states to be mindful of the need to commit to protecting livelihoods and investments in key sectors of our economies and identifying ingenious ways of injecting liquidity as a lifeblood to stimulate our economies.
“Consequently, I cannot over-emphasize the need for the redesigning of our budget and programs to reflect changes envisaged by the effects of the pandemic on the economies of member states.
“I am cognizant of the fact that member states will recover at different rates. For some, it will come faster and others slower. Nevertheless, cohesion and convergence of policies should be of utmost importance than ever before in post-COVID-19 recovery quest.
“This crisis will no doubt, redefine new norms for us as a people; in the way we think, live and even the course of our politics. It will be a long road to full recovery, but in the spirit of African astute wisdom and resilience of purpose, I make bold to state that we shall emerge stronger and better to the delight of the rest of the world. I pray we all remain hopeful, as hope is a powerful force. Hope will pull us from the depths of despair and charge us to continue the march towards actualizing our West African dreams as handed down to us by the founding fathers of ECOWAS forty-five years ago. Armed with the tool of hope and faith in God, West Africans shall prevail against any obstacle, in brotherhood and oneness,” Tunis also said.
Earlier, Tunis recalled the creation of the Community of the current fifteen West African States, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos on 28 May, 1975, a community whose founding fathers he said, birthed the long-term vision which inspired the establishment of ECOWAS.
“In other words, they envisioned a regional community geared toward fostering interstate economic and political cooperation along the West African coastal and its landlocked zones, cutting across linguistic, geographic and colonial barriers. The revision of the Lagos Treaty in 1993 assigned more mandate to ECOWAS, setting as economic objectives the achievement of a common market and custom union. ECOWAS then began a new journey, with the adoption by member states of the revised treaty which also provided for the establishment of the ECOWAS Parliament and the ECOWAS Court of Justice. It also expanded the role of the ECOWAS to include conflict prevention and ensuring good governance and democracy.
“Over time, member states adopted ECOWAS as a main regional economic community, positioned for the realization of the African Union objectives. In the course of its existence, ECOWAS has focused on numerous programs, with some of its flagship programs centering on the Trade Liberalization Scheme which fast-tracked the adoption of the Common External Tariff (CET). Others initiatives include the Free Movement of Persons, Goods, Services and Capital on which platform ECOWAS modestly distinguished itself amongst peers in the entire region of Africa, as the most successful regional economic community in the area of visa-free migration, right of residence and establishment for its citizens. Yet, others are the Monetary Cooperation Program and program on Peace and Security.
“To that extent, forty-five years down the line of history, our States are better integrated, with citizens migrating more freely and goods and services more readily available across member states. ECOWAS has remarkable records of success in maintaining peace and stability in member states, whilst upholding democratic values across the region. Also worthy of note are its Common Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP) which aims to promote agri-business and agricultural practices that are modern and sustainable in member states, the multi-faceted infrastructure program that fosters improvement of inter-state corridor roads, rails, air links and telecommunications, energy as well as the program on the single currency,” the Speaker noted.