January 31, 2024

The outgoing Speaker of the fifth Legislature of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Rt. Hon Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis has thanked President Dr. Julius Maada Bio and the good people of Sierra Leone for the opportunity to serve the Parliament.

According to him the nomination and endorsement by the President was carefully considered and his guidance and support enabled him to preside with dignity and honor, in his four-year tenure of the Community Parliament.

He made these remarks at the opening of the first Parliamentary seminar of the Community Parliament in Freetown Sierra Leone on Thursday, January 30, 2024, leading to the end of the tenure of the 5th Legislature on the theme: “Illegal Mining and its Implications in the ECOWAS Region”.

“I stand here, before your Excellency and this august assembly, feeling fulfilled and humbled to have been favored with the opportunity to serve our people and to report that mission was very successful. Please accept the expression of my very deep and affectionate feelings of infinite gratitude, Mr. President”.

Dr. Tunis further used the occasion to thank Heads of States and Government during the lifespan of the fifth legislature, former President of the Republic of Niger H. E. Mahamadou Issoufou under whose tenure he took the oath as Speaker.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who attended the opening of three of the parliament’s activities, including an ordinary session and accepted to champion direct elections into the ECOWAS Parliament.

Again, he extended appreciation to President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau who provided sound and credible advice on all issues concerning the parliament, not leaving out President Ahmed Tinubu, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is serving as the current chair of the Authority of Heads of States and Government.

Threat Of Illegal Mining In The ECOWAS Region

Touching on illegal mining, he stated that the threat of illegal mining in the ECOWAS region is having far-reaching implications on the security, socio-economic and environmental fabric of the region.

Despite the potential of the mining sector to positively impact the lives of community citizens, the complex interplay of security, social-economic dividends, environmental impacts on the soil and waters, have emerged as pressing concerns that demand immediate investigation and finding sustainable solutions.

According to him, a careful revision of the numbers available provides a compelling need to give attention to the region’s mining sector. As an example, nearly 80% of mining in Northwest Nigeria is being carried out illegally, which has increased conflict since 2014, spreading across Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi and Zamfara States.

Referring to the contribution of the mining sector to the GDP of some Member States, the ECOWAS Vision 2050 document indicates that Ghana benefits 7.5%, Burkina Faso 10.2%, Cote d’Ivoire 4%, while Nigeria receives only 9%. With a properly regulated mining sector in the region, it is expected that our various economies would be far more impactful.

Furthermore, illegal mining of precious minerals in West Africa has succeeded in not only depriving Member States of much needed revenue to grow their economies through improved GDP, but has also created instances of instability through banditry, kidnapping, thuggery and in some cases insurgency.

Therefore, to examine the phenomenon of illegal mining, as well as its socio-economic, security and environmental implications on the advancement of Member States, the leadership of the Parliament found it befitting to dedicate the last Parliamentary Seminar of the Fifth Legislature to the topic.

“We expect that at the end of the seminar, we will have a greater appreciation of the regional mining frameworks and challenges to their implementation and make recommendations where regional collaboration can be fostered to boost the sector.”

Progress made by the Fifth Legislature

As the leader of the Parliament, Dr. Sidie M. Tunis also provided some insight on some progress made by the Fifth Legislature.

HE assert that no sooner after the inauguration of the Fifth Legislature, the infamous Covid 19 pandemic began in earnest and most of the ambitious plans appeared to have been stalled and “many doubted that we would get going again.”

Furthermore, the international environment was also marked by major conflicts such as the Russia-Ukrainian war in Europe. Meanwhile, the harmful effects of climate change, increasingly perceptible in all our countries, impacted and continue to affect our health, agriculture, fisheries, energy, the environment and many other sectors. In addition to these international threats, the regional scene was marked by terrorism, insecurity and unconstitutional regime changes.

During our four-year term of office alone, our region saw four unconstitutional changes of power, in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger. These situations constitute a threat to democracy and the rule of law, as do the subtle amendments to the constitution designed to extend presidential terms of office.

“Despite these sad developments, we braved the storm and nourished the fervent hope that our term of office would be full of ambition and rich in events. Today, Your Excellency, I am pleased to report that the ECOWAS Parliament takes pride in four years of progressive and undisrupted conduct of the duties we pledged to undertake.

In line with its vision and strategic plan, the Parliament was able to exercise its prerogatives in accordance with the Supplementary Act and carried out its mandate effectively.

Despite the extremely difficult context the region finds itself, the Parliament was able to hold almost all its statutory meetings of the legislature, namely seven (7) ordinary sessions and eight (8) extraordinary sessions.

In terms of legislative work, I am pleased to say that the fifth ECOWAS Parliament has been fruitful and successful. The intense activity in which each Member has participated with interest, has enabled us to examine and issue opinions on 83 draft Community acts and adopted 94 resolutions”, he emphasized.