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ECOWAS Levy: Let’s think outside the box and look at other options —Humado

Member of Parliament for Anlo Clement Kofi Humado one of Ghana’s representatives to the fifth Community Parliament is advocating for the sub-regional body to think outside the box and look for other options of raising funds instead of heavily relying on the Community levy.

This follows delays in the payment of ECOWAS levy coupled with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic affecting volumes of imports with the West African sub-region.

At the just ended Second Extra Ordinary meeting held virtually via Zoom, the issue of delay in payment came up strongly, and Speaker Rt. Honorable Sidie Mohamed Tunis expressed worry and called for effort to ensure that delayed levies are paid up, since it’s the source of fuel in running the Community institutions.

Mr. Humado in an interview noted that it is true that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought issues of payment of the Community levy going into the future as the levy is calculated at zero point five percent of import duties for all sub-regional states.

According to him, even without coronavirus, “if we increase trade among ourselves and the production and exchange within West Africa also increase, imports would decrease in the future, it would still have the same effect; it is about time we think outside the box”.

Mr. Humado is pushing for looking at a different kind of levy that can be put on some other thing which is common to all the fifteen sub-regional member countries which is sustainable and further increase it for the use of development of the ECOWAS sub-region.

“I mean development governance of the sub-region and I think it is necessary as call for the restoration of the levies is not enough”, he added.

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ECOWAS Commission President Pledges support to Parliament

President of the Commission to the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou has pledged his outfit’s support to the Community Parliament on Saturday July 25, 2020, at the end of a six days virtual meeting via Zoom.

According to him it is through togetherness, strength and unity that the sub-regional Community can triumph over the evils which have overwhelmed the sub-region and under scored the need to be resolute towards the objectives of regional integration.

In his address via zoom, he gave assurance of ECOWAS Commission and all other institutions standing ready to work together with the Community Parliament to achieve the objectives of the sub-regional Community.

And added that for the Community Parliament to be able to play its role effectively, it has to work in coordination and synergy to revitalize and re-establish its framework for exchange between its standing committees and departments of the Commission, to contribute in a concrete and effective manner to the development and implementation of the Community programmes.

“This should have an impact on our populations and strengthen institutional dialogue, communications, cooperation in a judicious manner to make the ECOWAS area a space of peace, security and development and put to good use the input utility and support Parliament for the visibility of ECOWAS in member states”.

The Commission President emphasised that the Community levy remains the most important sources of income and funding for ECOWAS programmes and activities. However, one of the harmful consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the significant drop in imports in the region, which necessary affects the mobilization for the community levy.

“As of June 30, 2020 the Community has only succeeded in mobilizing 11% of PC revenue. This is the reason why we ask you to advocate for the mobilization of your respective Parliaments for the timely contribution of your countries to the fruits of the Community levy. As the Commission will include in its filed mission MPs of the Parliament of ECOWAS to reap the fruit of the PC in accordance with the strengthening of inter-institutional cooperation”.

Dr. Kassi Brou further added that the significance of the gathering for the second time in the Extraordinary Session of the fifth Legislature this year is in accordance with the relevant provision of the additional Act relating to the strengthening of the prerogative of the Parliament that the Assembly of Heads of States and Government of the ECOWAS adopted on December 17, 2016.

In its chapter V, relating to the competence and the processes of adoption of the Community Acts, in Article 5 relating to the modalities of participation in the process of the Community Acts which stipulates that; “the Parliament express its opinion when adopting Community Acts either by notice or compliant notice”.

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Delay in payment of Community levy has to do with commitment—Kofi Humado

A member of Ghana’s representatives to the fifth Community Parliament, Clement Kofi Humado has said the delay of payment of the Community levy by some countries has nothing to do with them being small or poor.

According to him, a critical look at the presentation done by the outfit of the commissioner for Finance of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) shows it is a matter of commitment.

“Some of the countries are simply not committed to the payment of the Community levy that is why they are lagging behind in their payment, especially Cape Vade. I do not see why they have   not paid up to date. There are small countries like Togo, they have paid up. Niger, a country which is thought to be poor had paid up their Community levy”.

Mr. Humado in an interview pointed out that in the case of Nigeria, it is not that they do not have the money, but have paid their levy into an escrow account and does not know why they have decided to put the money there, “and have refused to send it to the ECOWAS Commission. This is a case of commitment and it is whether Nigeria is committed to pay their share of the levy”.

When asked what the Community lawmakers can do on their part, he noted that countries that have not paid up, their lawmakers can put a question to their Ministers of Finance and Trade to inform them and the general public on the status of the payment of their ECOWAS levies.

“Heads of States and Finance Ministers should take primary responsibility to the payment of the ECOWAS levies on time”, he said.

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Duties of MPs should not be restricted to holding of meetings — Tunis

Speaker of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Rt. Honorable Sidie Mohamed Tunis has urged lawmakers not to restrict their duties only to parliamentary meetings and other activities.

According to him, they should remain Community lawmakers wherever they find themselves and endeavor to preach the ideals of ECOWAS at all times and in all places.

He made this remarks on Saturday, July 25, 2020 when he drew down the curtains to the Second Extra Ordinary meeting which was held virtually via Zoom from July 20 to 25, 2020 to consider some referrals made to the Parliament by the ECOWAS Commission.

Mr. Tunis thanked the President of the Commission, Community lawmakers, Secretary-General, Directors and staff of the Parliament for making the virtual session a success.

The Speaker pointed out that resumption in flight operations leading to the continuation of Parliamentary activities is not a guarantee that life has returned to normal, as the coronavirus is very much present and has the capacity to wreak havoc.

He further noted that, the world is reopening due to additional knowledge about how the virus spreads, leading to more knowledge about preventive measures.

“Should the situation permit us to resume executing our programmes, which I hope would be soon, we would devise our own internal preventive mechanisms in addition to what is already in place. As we desire to serve our people, we are determined to ensure that we protect the individual MPs from likely infection in the course of discharging their community responsibilities, and I pledge to do the needful in that regard”.

As it is difficult for Parliament to predict when the situation would improve significantly enough for annual activities of the Parliament to commence, despite infection rates, the world is ready to co-exist with the virus pending the discovery of a vaccine, he added.

And noted that, economic activities are opening up, with several airports around the world and the sub-region inclusive have reopened especially for local operations.

“We are expecting that in the coming weeks, international operations may commence and air links between our member states would be restored. Only when that happens can we as a Parliament take another look at our activities and determine those that can be executed in the remaining part of the year”.

The Speaker in his closing speech acknowledged that there is a lot of work to be done out there, as the Community citizens are wallowing in poverty which has further been compounded by the downward trend in economic activities occasioned by the prevailing pandemic.

In addition, the sub-region is under the threat of hunger, despite being in the rainy season, restriction is occasioned by the pandemic and farming activities have become difficult.

He urged the Community lawmakers to fashion out a way of proposing cushioning the effects as the remaining part of this year and early next year would be highly challenging economically and socially.

Mr. Tunis also called on lawmakers to collaborate with their governments both at the national and regional levels to ensure that they protect the interest of the Community people and work towards easing affairs during the anticipated difficult period.

Rt. Honorable Tunis further underscored the need for medical workers to be protected to enable them discharge their duties and appealed to governments, donor organisation and wealthy individuals to assist in providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

This, he noted, would boost the morale of health workers and give them adequate attitude to give their best as it would help in mitigating fatalities during this very difficult times.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

Eight Ministers to answer twenty questions this week

Eight Ministers would answer twenty questions this week on the floor of the House, Majority Leader Osei-Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu revealed on Friday July 24, 2020 when he presented the Business Statement for the ensuing week.

Minister for Education would take seven questions, Communications, Roads and Highways Ministers would answer four questions each.

Again, Ministers for Special Development Initiative, Sanitation and Water Resources, Aviation as well as the Interior would take a question each, while Lands and Natural Resources Minister will take two questions.

In all seventeen oral questions, with three urgent questions would to be asked on the floor this week.

Ministers of state may be permitted by the Speaker to make statements on the floor of the House pursuant to order 70(2), whiles the Security and Intelligence Agency Bill 2020 is expected to be taken through all the stages of passage during the last week of this meeting.

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Eight new members of the 5th ECOWAS Parliament sworn in

Community lawmakers, who were not present at the inauguration of the fifth Community Parliament in Niger at the early part of this year, were sworn in on Saturday, July 25, 2020 at the end of the Second Extra Ordinary Session which was conducted virtually via Zoom.

They included Califa Seidi from the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, Prince Yormie Johnson from Liberia and Woraye Sarr from Senegal.

The rest are from Mali and included Ibrahim Yara, Amadou Diepkile, Mariam Kagnassy, Siaka Batouta Bagayoko, and Dieminatou Fomba.

At the start of the plenary it was made clear that Community lawmakers who had not been sworn in could not participate in voting and deliberations of the virtual meeting via Zoom as it is in the Supplementary Act, thus, their swearing in was deferred to the last day.

In the Supplementary Act A/SA.1/12/16 Article 29, clause (1,2 &3) states that;  “During the first sitting of the inaugural session and before assuming their duty, a Reprehensive shall affirm before the chairman of the Authority as follow:

“I declare on my honor that I will faithfully serve the interest of the peoples of the Community and that I will not submit to any direct or indirect pressures from any Member State or group.

During subsequent or future sittings, swearing-in of members shall be done before the Speaker of Parliament.

And this declaration, which shall be in writing and signed by every Representative, shall be recorded in the proceedings of the Parliament and may be referred to as and when necessary”.

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Parliament debates Mid-year supplementary budget on Monday

Parliament is scheduled to start debate to approve the Mid-Year Supplementary budget on Monday, July 27, 2020 and the House is expected to have extended sitting.

Majority Leader Osei-Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu made this known on the floor of the House when he presented the Business Statement for this week on the floor of the House on Friday July 24 2020.

Minister of Finance Ken Ofori Atta presented the Economic Policy of Government of Ghana and Supplementary estimate for 2020. The debate is expected to be concluded on Tuesday July 28 2020.

Majority Leader indicated that the conclusion of the debate could be extended to Wednesday July 28, 2020 should the busy nature of business in the House not make the conclusion day of Tuesday possible.

Meanwhile, the House was told that it is expected that the House would adjourn sine die on Monday August 10, 2020 instead of the earlier date of August 7, 2020, which has some public holiday in there, but provision has to be made for the maturity of instruments before the House.

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It is now clear the countries lagging behind in paying the ECOWAS levy —Kofi Humado

After a presentation made by  the  Commissioner of Finance at the opening of the virtual meeting of the  Second Extra Ordinary Session to the Community Parliament, a   representative of Ghana at the  Parliament, Clement Kofi Humado has said it is now clear countries that are lagging behind in paying the Community Levy.

According to him, it is clear that most of the West African sub-regional countries are not adhering to the protocol procedure of collecting the levies and sending them to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) account in their respective central banks.

He indicated the need to interrogate the issue at the Committee level and the Plenary and what he had heard from the Finance Commissioner the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the volume of imports in various countries and by extension affected the Community levy.

Mr. Humado in an interview pointed out that the extent to which the coronavirus has affected levies of countries did not come out clearly and added that at the plenary when the referrals from the Commission is being taken justice would be done to the referrals.

He urged lawmakers in the sub-region in their various national parliament to make statements drawing the attention of their governments and finance ministers to respond to their performance of the ECOWAS levy.

“I am happy Ghana is doing very well along side Ivory Coast. We are meeting most of our targets, I think the problem is with other smaller countries in the Sahel COVID-19 is affecting their imports. And their economies are not strong because of the adverse security situation they spend more on security hence the inability to remit proper amount of their ECOWAS levy”.

On the inability of Nigeria to meet its target, he noted that it is a bit confusing. “I think the levy has been collected but being stored in a certain Central Account that is not being released to the ECOWAS Commission. I do not understand why it is so, we should be able to deal with that when we come to the plenary”.

Mr. Kofi Humado commended the way the virtual meeting started despite few challenges and considering that the opening was the first time and looking at the number that participated including lawmakers, journalists and staff, and was very much impressed.

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Educational Integration: ECOWAS seeks to harmonize academic curriculum certificates

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is developing modalities to harmonize academic degrees, curriculum and certificate equivalence in West Africa due to the growing internalization of education and culture in the region.

This formed part of the discussions at the Joint Committee Meeting of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture, and the Committee on Communication and ICT of the ECOWAS Parliament held virtually.

Addressing Parliamentarians, Mrs. Rachel Ogbe, Principal Programme Officer on Education of the ECOWAS Commission, speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS Commissioner on Education, Science and Culture, stated that ECOWAS seeks to achieve a number of specific objectives; the first being to develop regional criteria for the harmonization of pre-university qualifications, in particular the period of study, content of curricula, qualification assessment and other prerequisites for the establishment of equivalence of Member States’ accreditation systems.

According to her presentation to involve defining benchmarks/criteria to match university and professional qualifications in the region; draw up a list of courses in Member States’ universities as well as admission requirements; number of years of study; required credits; and certificates.

Other specific objectives contained in her presentation will be to clarify the classification of academic qualifications (certificate, diploma, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, etc.) in Member States and develop a road-map for the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on equivalence of certificates.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

COVID-19 Fight: Parliament impressed with measures taken by Heads of States—Speaker

Speaker of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament Rt. Hon Sidie Mohamed Tunis has commended Heads of States in the sub-region for measures taken collectively and individually in addressing the spread of the coronavirus.

According to him he was invited virtually to participate in the Extra Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Government on COVID-19 held on April 22, 2020, an evidence of the commitment of the Heads of States towards the fight of the pandemic.

He further noted that pictures of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is not entirely gloomy though admittedly, infection rates are growing daily and deaths are still being recorded from complication associated with  the virus.

He noted that across the globe, the sub-region inclusive are becoming more familiar with the nature of complications that lead to death. Consequently, they are working towards ensuring that they treat symptoms as they appear and also identify certain existing drugs meant for other ailments to assist limit damages to infected patients.

The economic effects are yet to be determined, since the pandemic is still raging, there is hope that with collaboration and togetherness, we shall come out and tell the story one day, he emphasised.

The Speaker noted that the second extra ordinary session essentially was to consider some important referrals from the ECOWAS Commission and added that he expects that relevant standing committees would work assiduously to ensure that the view of the people are reflected in their decision making.

“I am aware that the draft Strategic Plan for the 5th Legislature is about being concluded by the General Secretariat for onward presentation to us. While we patiently await its submission for our consideration, we will also pursue the 2020 work plan as vigorously as the situation permits us to. In collaboration with the General Secretariat, we are watching unfolding events as they relate to the safety of holding physical meetings”.

And added that, the task of representing the people, embarking on oversight functions, conducting parliamentary interpellation, and providing a voice for the voiceless is beyond holding virtual meetings; ECOWAS Parliament, he added, would do its best to discharge its duty.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com