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President of ECOWAS Commission expounds on COVID-19 Vaccine Plans

President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, H.E.  Jean-Claude Kassi Brou has taken time to explain some of the actions that the regional body has taken with regards to making the COVID-19 vaccine available to member states.

H.E Brou was speaking in a post-opening ceremony of the 2021 First Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament at a Press Conference in Freetown, Sierra Leone, held on Monday, March 29, 2021 at the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen.

Responding to some of the questions from journalists across the sub-region, the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic was raised, especially the lots of controversies over the vaccine rollout at a time that the pandemic has been a stumbling block to the activities of the ECOWAS Commission and that of the Parliament.

When asked about what the Commission has been doing to ensure the availability and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for the people in the sub-region, H.E. Brou said the question is a very important one as it is linked to the pandemic which has affected the region for over a year (February/March 2020) now.

“COVID-19 is a health and also an economic issue that has created difficulties for our member countries. From the beginning, if you can recall there was an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of States specifically to deal with the COVID-19 situation,” H.E. Brou said.

He further noted that, during the meeting, the Heads of States took a very critically important decision and appointed President Buhari of Nigeria to Coordinate the Regional Response as each member country was having its own national program to deal with the pandemic; adding, “but you know the virus does not stop at the border, so we need the collective regional effort to address the issue and that was what was done. “

“There were three Coordinating Committees particularly on health – with all the fifteen Health Ministers meeting with the Director-General of West African Health Organisation (WAHO). A series of actions have been taken, I can remember last year many actions were taken in terms of the response, dropdown and so on. This year, we are moving with the issue of the vaccine that has started and many countries have started the vaccination process. The developers started in November and December of last year and we, through the COVAX mechanism are now having it”.

In West Africa, we have received some vaccines and many West African countries have started the vaccine process but during the meeting of the Heads of State in January 2021, they decided that we should have a revolving fund to address the issue of mobilizing resources to complement the availability of vaccine for the region, he stated.

And this is being done between WAHO, ECOWAS Commission, and the ECOWAS Investment Bank. We have been holding meetings to prepare, the idea is to see how we can complement the supply of the COVAX vaccine, complement what member countries themselves have to provide in terms of vaccine availability and try to bring support.

“Again, remember that last year, the ECOWAS Commission and WAHO have been able to distribute to all the member countries with specific supply of COVID-19 related materials. We are working on a vaccine and hopefully, in a few weeks or months, we will be able to provide some more specific results.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

Community Parliament adopts strategic plan for 2020-2024

Members of the West African sub-regional Community Parliament have adopted a strategic plan for the fifth Legislature which spans from 2020 to 2024.

The plan which has been drafted by the administration of parliament, identifies program areas with themes and priority area that would assist the parliament in executing its mandate as defined by the supplementary Act.

The Strategic plan of the ECOWAS Parliament is said to be a framework document which guides the activities and programs of the Parliament under the fifth legislature.

It is however hopeful that with the adoption, the fifth legislature would successfully carry out its mandate for the next four years.

It further expressed optimism that the Plan will serve as a spring board to launch a new revolution that brings the Community Parliament closer to the people.

On the strategic orientation, the document also reveals that since its inception in 2000, the ECOWAS Parliament has remained a body that represents the interest of the people in the West Africa integration process.

That focus it said has never changed, except that the style may vary from one leadership to another.

While noting that the ECOWAS Parliament is relatively assured of basic funding due to the advantages derivable from Community Levy, the strategic plan pointed out that lack of dedicated membership at the ECOWAS Parliament has effects on the conduct of its programs and activities.

It concluded that in order to implement this plan, an annual work plan would be drawn, giving further details of activities that are to be implemented each year.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

Parliament would assist ECOWAS Chair to help Mali restore its democracy – Speaker Assures Mali

Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin has assured the people of the Republic of Mali that Parliament would assist the current ECOWAS Chair, President Nana Akufo-Addo to restore the country back to democratic rule.

The Speaker gave the assurance on Friday, March 26, 2021, when the First Deputy Speaker of the Malian Transitional Government’s General Assembly, Assarid Imbarcaouane came to invite Ghana’s Speaker to their first ordinary meeting on April 5, 2021.

Mr. Bagbin promised to honor the invitation to Mail with his staff and Leadership of Ghana’s Parliament.

He recounted the good relations that have existed between the two countries saying; “in my private legal practice I had Malians in my firm”.

“Mali needs to return to its rightful position. As one of the leading democratic countries, I have visited war tone countries and I have been involved in peace and reconciliation; we have a hung parliament, but we have been working together peacefully in the interest of all Ghanaians”.

Ghana’s Speaker also pointed out to the First Deputy Speaker of Mail that, when two brothers fight, it is strangers who enjoy their inheritance; “Mali is rich and has a deposit of Gold and oil, but foreign countries are exploiting your oil”.

Again, we would share our experience with Mali and democracy is not a product of any particular country, each country builds on its own democracy.

“Ghana can only complement the efforts of Mali but the final decision would depend on you”. And added that it is because of the importance Ghana attaches to Mali that leadership of the House was at his conference room to support him.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

ECOWAS will lose levy from Africa after joining AfCFTA—Kofi Humado

Mr. Clement Kofi Humado, a member of Ghana’s delegation to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, has said the West African sub-region would lose levies it gains from African countries that are not part of the regional bloc, because they had joined  the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

According to him most of the West African Countries trade with most of the South African countries especially South Africa and because they are not part of ECOWAS goods bought are subjected to tax of which the levy is deducted.

“So joining AfCFTA, it means all those countries in Africa belong to the same free trade areas and their goods would not be subjected to import tax, so those revenues are we use to make when we were importing from Southern Africa and Africa states would be lost to our budget; that is an issue we should consider going in to ratify AfCFTA and its implementation”.

In an interview, he emphasized that most countries are going to lose revenue they were enjoying trading with the rest of Africa, that is an issue, he said.

And on Economic Partnership Agreement with Africa, he further pointed out that it is resolved because he learnt that ECOWAS can still charge its import levy on goods originating from the European Union (EU). “They have come to a consensus on that and it is no longer a problem”.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

Authority of Heads of States can effectively deal with Community Levy”—Humado

As the debate on how to effectively collect the ECOWAS Levy rages on, a member of Ghana’s representative to the Community Parliament, Clement Kofi Humado, has said Authority of Heads of States and the Council of Ministers can ensure effective collection of the levy.

According to him it would be difficult for the Community Parliament to enforce penalties against countries that default, as the Parliament meeting in Sierra Leon discuss ways of ensuring effective collection of the levy.

Speaking in an interview, he noted that the Authority of Heads of States and the Council of Ministers are the ones who are managing the budget proposing from the various countries, “Parliament is there to see how the budget is being prepared and implemented”.

“So it depends on the commitment of each heads of state, for example Niger is a poor country but because their President was serious on the levy, he even increased his rate from 0.5 percent to 1 percent and right now according to the statistics, Niger has over paid and they are having credit in their account with ECOWAS Commission”.

He further noted that in the case of Nigeria, the money is collected alright then they go and put the money in an escrow account, and he is sure an account which is generating interest and at the end of one year they come and pay the principal.

“Where does interest go, and retain for what and for who, I think it is a little bit unfair and there are countries which are not applying the 0.5 percent on all the commodities imported from third countries?”

 Again, another country like Liberia, he understand they do not apply the levy on the importation of rice as the claim is it is a poor man’s food. The UAMOA countries, the Sahel countries they do not apply it on the importation of fuel and petroleum products and all these are calculated against them so it is up to the Heads of States.

“If we are serious and believe in the objectives of the regional integration and you believe money is needed to run the ECOWAS Commission and its related agencies, then you have to take measure to do that”.

He further pointed out that the Community Parliament is thinking of calling Minister of Finance to come to the floor and answer questions on how the ECOWAS levies had been collected, paid, and just before Country reports are prepared and delivered in Abuja, questions can be asked.

“I do not know what else we can do. Another thing that the ECOWAS Commission can do is to look at the budget, because we are only collecting thirty percent of the funds, and so far seventy percent of the activities of ECOWAS activities are not being undertaken”

And called for a second look at some duplication in the budget of some ECOWAS institutions, especially, Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa GIABA because in their budget they repeat most of the things being done by member states.

For example, Ghana has budget for anti-terrorism and money laundry, “so why is GIABA repeating same thing in their budget? So we need to look at the budget and trim come components.”

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

ECOWAS Levy: Ahi calls for meeting with Finance Ministers of member states

In the light of some ECOWAS member states not paying their Community Levy which is hampering implementation of projects and activities of the sub-regional body, a member of Ghana’s delegation to the Community Parliament Samson Ahi is calling for a meeting with the various Finance Ministers to trace how much funds has been collected.

According to him there are challenges with the current system of collection of the Community Levy, hence the need for review, as some member states collect the levy, keep it though out the year without paying it to the ECOWAS Commission.

Again, some  States collect and then transfer half or sometimes a quarter of what they have collected to the Commission, which means that there is something wrong with the mode of the collection as it stands now.

He made this point at a three days seminar held in Freetown, Sierra Leone where the ECOWAS Parliament is meeting, aimed at involving Community lawmakers in monitoring the application of the Protocol relating to the Community Levy (CL) in order to guarantee adequate recovery of the product which required for the financing of the activities for the benefit of the Community.

“I suggest that we should have a desk at the various collection points. There should be a mechanism where collections can be placed into a direct account without necessarily going through the Members States banks before they transfer it to the Commission”.

 Mr. Ahi further recommends that, for the Parliament to be able to help in supporting the Commission, they should ensure one hundred percent of collection at every point, and  strengthen the Committee for Finance and at the moment, they  could have a Committee for the budget to handle oversight of our various countries at collection points and quarterly.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

Ken Ofori-Atta to re-appear before Appointment Committee today

Finance Minister-designate Ken Ofori-Atta who appeared before the Appointment Committee on   Thursday, March 25, 2021 at the new Parliamentary Office Complex has been rescheduled to reappear before the Committee on Friday, March 26, 2021 to complete his vetting process.

The Committee had to suspend proceedings on Thursday to continue on Friday due to the Minister-designates health condition.

The Minister-designate had some complications after recovering from COVID-19 and had to travel to the United States of America to deal with the complication and could not be part of the initial vetting.

In an interview with the Deputy Chair of the Appointment Committee on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, after the House has suspended, he confirmed that the Committee would hold its public hearing, but added; “For today’s public hearing, only the leadership of the committee will be allowed to ask questions.”

The Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Joseph Osei Owusu made the announcement after about some six hours of vetting on Thursday; a decision accepted by the minister-designate.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

Jomoro MP calls for opening of land boarders

Member of Parliament for Jomoro Toffey Dorcas has called on government to consider re-opening of the countries land boarders especially the one at her constituency.

She made a statement on the floor of Parliament urging President Nana Akufo-Addo through Parliament to re-open the boarder at her constituency since the livelihood of her people are in critical condition, “especially women and children”.

In an interview, she further pointed out that those who do business at the Jomoro boarder amount to four thousand people per month, and if Kotoka International Airport could be open for operation for people of about two million without having much difficulties, the land boarder in her constituency and other places in Ghana should be opened with the enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols.

The MP said they share boarder with Ivory Coast and laments the inability of people to go about their normal business as a result of the closure of the boarder.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

Ghana Education Service is committed to clear all unapproved books—Minister

Minister for Education, Dr Yaw Adu-Twum has assured the public that the Ghana Education Service would do everything possible to get all unapproved educational books out of schools and bookshops across the country.

He explained that, based on the controversial unapproved Badu Nkansah’s publications, the Education Service took the decision to clear all such books and other unapproved books off markets and schools.

Mr.  Adu-Twum further said, the Education Ministry also directed Badu Nkansah publications to render unqualified apology through the media to the general public in making sure that, Ghanaian children receive quality and relevant publication that will promote mutual respect for all ethnic groups and with peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic groups within Ghana to ensure national development.

“Mr. Speaker, the Ghana Development Council Bill, currently before Parliament, will give authority to the council to enable them sanction publishers who publish books without the necessary approval”.

The response from the Minister came up at the plenary today Thursday,   March 25, 2021, when the  Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa asked from the Education Minister,  whether the following publications; History of Ghana, text book-3 by  Badu Nkansah publications,  Golden English Basic 4, authored by Okyere Baafi Alexander , both of which contain bigoted content and relate to the Ewe ethnic group, have come to the Ministry’s attention.

And if so, whether the Ministry granted approval for those publications and what possible steps are being taken to purge our schools and bookshops from offensive, divisive and incendiary publications of this nature.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com

“Disregard poster projecting me for President 2024”—Haruna

Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu has urged Ghanaians to disregard posters projecting him for president in next Ghanaian Presidential election in 2024.

He said his attention has been drawn to the publication on social media, and stated that he holds the view that Ghanaians can easily dismiss such claims and attribute it to figment of the fertile imaginations of unseen hands and finds it necessary to make a statement on this.

“I have never owned or worn a black three-piece suit as the picture being circulated sought to portray. The picture can only be the product of mischief, these acts are calculated and intended to disorganize the rank and file of the NDC”.

And he has the duty to lead the NDC party in Parliament with the ultimate objective of holding President Nana Akufo-Addo and his government accountable for the mandate handed him until 2024.

“I have made no declarations, I have made no intentions, neither have I communicated same. My political future is in the hands of God, I urge Ghanaians to dismiss any such publications in circulation with the contempt they deserve, and further disregard any such further publications”.

In a statement issued on Thursday, March 25, 2021, he noted that his primary preoccupation is to see the NDC regain power after the 2024 general elections with a majority in Parliament.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/Ghanamps.com