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ECOWAS Parliament to host sub-regional Speakers conference early next year

Speaker of the Community Parliament Rt. Honorable Sidie Mohamed Tunis has said there is the urgent need to build a relationship between the sub-regional Parliament and the Parliaments within member states.

According to him the relationship is needed for the Community Parliament to effectively represent the Community citizens.

In an interview at the end of the week long delocalised joint Committees meeting in Lome at the Republic of Togo, he said, currently there is no much relationship between both institutions and even in Nigeria which is the seat of the Parliament has no such relationship, hence the need for change.

He announced that the Community Parliament would host a meeting with speakers of National Assemblies of member states in January of next year.

“My vision is to bring ECOWAS Parliament to the people, so that we would be in a better position to work with National Assemblies, how are we going to represent the people when it is the National Assemblies that represent the people?”

He noted that, that is the reason why he is proposing the January 12, 2021 and hoping that this particular meeting will begin to bring ECOWAS to the people, he emphasized.

On the issue of the inability of the Community citizens including lawmakers to recite the ECOWAS anthem, Speaker Tunis noted that it was important that citizens learn the anthem and more importantly for MPs who are representing people to understand the anthem and imbibe its meaning.

“ECOWAS Parliament which represent over three million Community citizens must know the anthem and then translate its meaning to their job as representatives, and I have always said we are the voices of the citizens and their voices must be heard”.

He further noted that, to do that MPs must first learn the ECOWAS anthem and send the anthem to their people.

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Stop tagging clergies for being for government or opposition—Frimpong Manso

The General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church, Dr. Paul Frimpong Manso has admonished the media and political parties to move away from tagging the clergy of either being for the government and against the opposition or the other way round.

According to him when government in power does that which is right, the clergy would commend her and sometimes the opposition would say all the pastors have taken partisan sides, “it is very hurting”.

Again, when government does that which is wrong and the clergy talks about it people sit on radio and use all kinds of unkind words, “we are only building a culture of silence, the clergy would say when we talk people would say this or that”.

He noted that, recently someone asked, “where is Professor Marty, the wise men” all these things if the media and politicians do such things they insight confusion, the clergy do not stand for any political party.
“But we cannot keep quiet, for the good of the people, if a party in government does well we would applaud the government, you cannot stop me from applauding government when she does something that would benefit children and the vulnerable in the society, when I say it you tell me I am partisan?”

Again, you cannot prevent me from talking if free education is helping people, at the same time the clergy cannot be told not to criticize when there is a poor sanitation situation and people are suffering, there are mosquitoes, and flooding destroying our society; we should understand each other and see the critical role the clergy is playing, he added.

Dr. Frimpong Manso who was speaking on behalf of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches, at an event organised by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, called for peace to prevail as it takes all stakeholders to build consensus and appreciate their differences.

“Accommodating one another is important as we are making an upward journey democratically, we need to carry one another along, it is the way to go, everybody has gotten  a role, the  religious leaders and the media”.

And added that, one of the things worrying is sometimes people do not understand the role of the church leaders; they are gate keepers, and complementing government. “We do not stand for the opposition nor are we part of the government”.

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Speaker Tunis call on Togolese Speaker of National Assembly

Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Rt. Honorable Mohamed Tunis as part of fostering good working relations with the National Assemblies paid a courtesy visit to the Togolese National Assembly.

His visit was part of the week-long activities of the Community Parliament as it held a delocalised joint Committee meeting in Lome, the Republic of Togo last week,

He also called on the Togolese President H. E. Faure Gnassingbe at the capital of Togo Lome.

The visit afforded him the opportunity to brief President Faure of the mission of the Community Parliament in Lome on its week long activities, and the plans of the fifth Legislature under his leadership and the challenges faced so far.

He, however, requested the full support of the Togolese President in the activities of the Parliament and applauded his passion for the sub-regional integration process of ECOWAS.

Speaker Tunis emphasized that Togo is very important to the ECOWAS Parliament as it remains a key player even in the foundation of ECOWAS.

And for the Parliament it is also strategic and historical, as it hosted the first delocalised meeting in 2003 and the first Extraordinary Session in 2017.

The Speaker admonished the people of Togo to continue to observe all the COVID-19 protocols to help reduce the risks and havocs of the pandemic.

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Sub-regional Parliament will back states to implement E-learning—Speaker

The West African sub-regional Parliament has expressed its readiness to support Member States in implementing e-learning in the various countries, by using Information Communication Technology (ICT).

This was disclosed by the Speaker, Rt. Honorable Sidie Mohamed Tunis when he delivered his closing remarks at the end of a weeklong delocalised meeting in Lome, Togo of joint Committees.

Joint Committees on Education, Science and Technology/Telecommunication and Information Technology/Political Affairs, Peace, Security and Infrastructure met to proffer solutions to education in the sub-region.

He noted that the presentations by experts to the Committees threw ample light on the process, leaving the rest of the work on the Parliament, and strong synergy with the Executives in their countries.

And added that they are likely to face many challenges in implementing the commitments they made at the meeting.

However, Parliament is committed to working with Member States in areas related to Information and Communications Technology, Science, and Innovation to digitally connect the sub-region together.

As ECOWAS Parliament stands prepared to follow up on the recommendations emanating from the discussions and working with all stakeholders to make those resolutions a reality, the Speaker said.

“I wish to appreciate the third Deputy Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament and head of Togolese delegation, as well as other members of the delegation for their untiring efforts towards ensuring the success of this meeting”.

He emphasized his commitment to building a stronger ECOWAS Parliament and therefore sought the support of all member and states.

The meeting also provided a window for parliaments to identify relevant intervention mechanism to make an efficient contribution to the implementations of the ECOWAS protocols on Education and Training.

“I am optimistic that the insights provided by our resource persons will set the basis for actions that are expected to bring the changes we envision for our Member States”, he added.

And commended his colleagues for the painstaking efforts made to ensure that meeting was a success, as the recommendations would go to the highest authorities in the sub-region.

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The Clergy should not be giving prophesies on political elections —Frimpong Manso

President of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, Rev. Frimpong Manso has cautioned the clergy to desist from giving prophesies about which political party would win elections in Ghana.

According to him it is wrong, and that is what the United States of America finds itself currently. And further added that in Ghana, elections are won through campaigning, especially how well a party sells their ideas.

You have to tell Ghanaians to come and vote for you through the policies you sell to them, and the Electoral Commission counts the vote and declares the winner. “No one has got the mandate in Ghana to prophesize that this or that party would win”

“How can God say pastor A would win and pastor B would lose, it is confusing, and it is so ridiculous, these are some of the things that I would appeal to the clergy that, we do not get ourselves involved in; it is unfortunate, every time this is done, people think it is the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches (GPCC) ”.

Rev. Frimpong Manso pointed out that, GPCC does not know those who do that neither do they know where they come from and they do not know the bodies they are under and on behalf of GPCC, “I am saying that we do not sanction political wining prophecies”.

Again, when that continues it creates confusion as parties would say, “my prophet said I would be victorious and I have lost so someone has stolen the elections and that alone creates confusion”, he lamented.

Also pastors should stay within their mandate, as taking the authority on themselves to declare winners only bring about confusion.

He was speaking on Friday, November 20, 2020 on the last of series of dialogue orgnaised by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs ahead of this year’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections, which brought together religious leaders and the National Media Commission.

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Member of Parliament for Wa West, Joseph Yieleh Chireh has said as a matter of policy advice, a future National Democratic Congress (NDC) government would not maintain the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

According to him as at the time Africa Union (AU) carried out the Africa Peer Review Mechanism at one point, they came out that, existence of MOPA means the Executive arm of government was exerting its authority over Parliament.

“But, Parliament is supposed to be independent; they advice us not to create it, I still think that for the position there should be a Minister, but not to be a Majority Leader and a Minister as he is now the one who lays papers on behalf of Ministers, and also create an impression that the Ministry plays an oversight of Parliament”.

The Former Local Government and Rural Development Minister, in an interview at a program organised by MOPA for religious bodies and National Media Commission on the theme, “Towards elections in December 2020: The perspective of the National Media Commission and Religious Leader”, praised the Ministry for doing extremely well by engaging various stakeholders in a national dialogue.

He further added that issues like moneytisation of Ghana’s politics had been discussed and the fact that, Parliament is losing experience lawmakers,  and in addition bring security agencies and religious leaders together to talk is a lot of achievement.

However, he pointed out that, ideally it was not the responsibility of MOPA to be engaged in all these activities, rather the Ministry of Information, but it has been reduced to government propaganda wing.

And MOPA should have been complementing the Information Ministry and not the other way round, he said.

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Social media bill: Olujimi, Salam advice FG on alternative course media

Nigerian lawmakers have called on the Federal Government to rethink its planned Social Media Bill currently before the National Assembly and chart a different course that will yield better result.

The lawmakers who spoke on Thursday, November 18, 2020 in Lome, Togo on the sidelines of the ongoing Delocalised Meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament, warned that a total blanketing of social media may cause more problems than good.

It’s on the theme, “ECOWAS in the era of COVID-19 and beyond: focusing on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to promote distance education and training in ECOWAS Member States”.

The meeting brought together experts and members of parliament from the Joint Committees on: Education, Science and Technology -Telecommunication and Information Technology and the committee on Political Affairs, Peace, Security, as well as Committee on Infrastructure.

Speaking in an interview, Biodun Olujimi said that a blanket ban on social media will be counterproductive as it will stifle information access.

She said that at a time when other countries were investing heavily to make internet accessible especially for education during the Pandemic, Nigeria should be pushing for a better way to manage social media.

Exemplifying with a law recently passed in Ghana, she said that government should rather adopt a system blocking specific unreliable platforms.

“We need to prioritise as a nation, in Ghana, a law was passed last year to ensure that certain things cannot be downloaded from the internet and certain information cannot be passed. That is what is important, we do not need it to shield our people from information per say however, we need to shield them from certain things that are unreliable”.

That is what we need to sit down and think through and the senate resumes, we will look at that, not to look at a general blanketing of social media, she said.

Madam Olujimi, who also called for internet to be made more affordable and accessible, acknowledged that there must be some control to ensure that it is not used for things other than access to education for which it was subsidized.

“Yes, when it was expensive it was used recklessly. When we make it a little cheaper, we can also guard it. Anything you leave for free, and leave for people to manage as they want, cannot but have such problems.

The minute we look at it holistically and decide the things we do not want and the things we want, then we will get it right. For instance, in some countries, you can no longer view pornography, and that is blocking unreliable sources of information”.

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Nigeria, W/Africa must utilize USPF Fund for ICT-based education – Olujimi

Biodun Olujimi has called on the Federal Government to utilize the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) to fund Information Communication Technology (ICT) needed to run the education sector amid COVID-19 disruptions.

She called on other ECOWAS member states to also push for the utilization of the fund in their respective countries.

The lawmaker, who is part of the Joint Committee of the ECOWAS Parliament converging in  Togo to chart a course for effecting distance learning in West Africa, said that the region already had a funding source that could be utilized.

USPF was established by the Federal Government of Nigeria to facilitate the achievement of national policy goals for universal access and universal service to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural, un-served and under-served areas in Nigeria.

The Fund is being managed to facilitate the widest possible access to affordable telecommunications services for greater social equity and inclusion for the people of Nigeria.

Speaking shortly after a presentation where member states were charged to establish a Digital Plan, she stressed that the USPF fund, currently domiciled with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), was not being properly utilized.

“In ECOWAS today, we are concerned about the effect of COVID on learning, education and social life. The general belief is that education has moved from the classroom to the streets to the villages and everywhere, the only way we can monitor and fund this is through the USPF fund which is earmarked for the underserved”.

However, the USPF fund was not properly defined in the act of the NCC, it is very broad, and we need to sit down together, and have an agreement across board, by all fifteen states, on what we want to do with the USPF in all the countries, she added.

This is because COVID-19 has shown us that there is the need for education to be funded through a body, and the body must be able to provide free computers for those who cannot afford it.

Again schools, must be equipped with internet and cheap computers that can help the students, because with e-learning, which has taken the center stage presently, students must be able to afford the gadgets required for their learning and for you to afford it, there has to be fund to be used to oil that system, and make sure that such gadgets are available to students in the university and in the secondary and primary schools, she said.

The lawmaker said that although many students in the universities have telephones that they can use, but that they cannot afford data, calling for the provision of wifi in Universities.

She said that Member States must also ensure that there is a law that will guard against misuse of the free or affordable internet.

In all, we need to bring up a few amendments, and a few laws that will be put in place such that should eLearning take center stage, and people can have the tools that are required for e-learning, she emphasised.

“As I said, all the states are required to come up with laws that will be useful for the youths, because they also have their negatives, especially when it comes to fake news and unreliable contents from the internet.

If we can curb that, we will be able to reach the core of the people we need the most, who are between the age of 12 and 25, that is when we are able to share their thinking, and then they can prioritise nationalism, that is the only way we can move on”, she said.

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COVID-19 has created largest disruption in educational system — Speaker Tunis

Speaker of the Community Parliament, Rt. Honorable Sidie Mohamed Tunis has noted that, the coronavirus pandemic has created the largest disruption in educational system in history as it has affected one-point-six billion learners in more than one hundred and ninety countries.

According to him the pandemic has also reduced learning opportunities for many and of the most vulnerable are children, youths and adults, especially rural dwellers, and those living with disabilities.

He further pointed out that closure of schools and other learning spaces have impacted approximately ninety-four percent of the world’s student population with up to ninety-nine of this percentage being in the lower-middle income countries.

Speaker Tunis made this remarks on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 when he opened a third delocalized joint Committee meeting in Lome, the capital of Togo, on the theme, “ECOWAS in the era of COVID-19 and beyond: Focusing on information and communication technology (ICT) to promote distance education and training in ECOWAS member states”.

And commended, leaderships and members of the joint Committee on Education, Science and Technology/Telecommunication and Information Technology/Political Affairs, Peace, Security and Infrastructure for availing themselves for such an important assignment.

“We at the ECOWAS Parliament believe that addressing access to information and communication technology to promote learning, is a matter of urgency. I sincerely believe that this gathering is also an indication of our quest to guide against new forms of socio-economic inequalities, especially in the education sector across our region”.

This delocalized Joint Committee meeting is to reflect on the possibility of guaranteeing a truly digital learning environment with unhindered access to the internet, and it would also lay the basics for Parliament’s identification of a relevant intervention mechanism in order to make an efficient contribution to the implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol A / P3 / 1/03 on education and training, as well as make recommendations that are geared towards impacting the sector, he said.

The Speaker announced the passing away in the cause of last week of former President Toumani Toure of Mali who served from 2002 to March 2012 and former president Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana, who also served his country from 1993 to 2001.

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ECOWAS Parliament celebrates 20th anniversary at Lome

Speaker of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), Parliament Rt. Honorable Sidie Mohamed Tunis on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 together with lawmakers and staff cut a cake in Lome, Togo to mark the 20th Anniversary of the parliament.

According to him it is an important milestone and due to the importance of Togo to the integration process, the occasion is happening, by coincidence not by design in Lome, as initially the plan was to mark it with a big event next month in Abuja.

Unfortunately, Session of the Parliament would not hold until January 2021 but there are plans of series of other events spanning into the whole of next year.

Speaker Tunis congratulated members of the Community Parliament from 2000 to date, including unfortunately the deceased and his predecessors in office, of the first legislature Ali Nouhoum Diallo, the second legislature Mahamane Ousmane, the third legislature Ike Ekweremadu and the immediate past Mustapha Cisse Lo.

“These famous sons of West Africa, supported by other members contributed immensely towards making the ECOWAS Parliament what it is today. Certainly, posterity will reward your efforts and the sacrifices you made”.

He further congratulated the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State, Council of Ministers and successive presidents of the ECOWAS Commission for their collaboration and support.

He also recalled that the idea of the establishment of the sub-regional body was conceived in Lome by late president Gnassingbe Eyadema and supported by the Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and other leaders.

It is, therefore, correct to say that the beautiful city of Lome was the “womb” where ECOWAS was conceived, and Togo remains the “Mother that delivered” the Organization. To us, Togo is ECOWAS and ECOWAS is Togo.

Let me also recall that when the ECOWAS Parliament was established in 2000, the 1st Legislature was confronted with the major challenge of how best to make the Institution known across the sub-region. As the representatives of the people, meant to give them a voice in the integration process, they needed to create an avenue for constructive engagement with contending stakeholders.

Consequently, in 2003, the then leadership of the Parliament introduced the idea of holding Committee meetings outside the headquarters of Parliament in Abuja. This, they believed, would be a strategy to publicize the Parliament, at the same time, gain access to the people.

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