Sirleaf prioritizes ECOWAS reform

ECOWAS Chairperson President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

ECOWAS Chairperson President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says one of her key priorities as the chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is to reform the regional body in line with a decision by its highest decision-making body, the Authority of Heads of State and Government.

The Liberian Leader made the remarks when she addressed and opened the Second Ordinary Session of the Fourth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament on Thursday, September 22, in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

Speaking in a video message, President Sirleaf said, “The decision by the Authority of Heads of State to reform ECOWAS is one of the key priorities on my agenda and I will need your full support.”

President Sirleaf therefore appealed that all efforts and resources be deployed towards the achievement of ECOWAS Vision 2020 of “creating a borderless, peaceful, prosperous and cohesive region, built on good governance”.

President Sirleaf said the priorities she has set for her tenure are in line with the Parliament’s work plan. 

She told regional parliamentarians that the challenges facing the West African region can all be turned into opportunities if the community conjugates its efforts and harnesses the collaboration that is needed to achieve its objectives.   

“Regional capacity building, trade liberalization, and the conclusion of negotiations for the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) as well as the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) all need urgent attention”, she noted.

She then reminded them that one of the founding aspirations of ECOWAS was to create a community of people rather than a community of states: “As the link between the people and the government, this august assembly can play a major role in achieving that goal.” 

Despite the challenges facing the Community, the ECOWAS Chairperson admonished the parliament to recognize the progress the region has made: “Our Community has been first in using a regional passport and we were also the first region on the Continent to put together and deploy a peacekeeping force in the Member States facing war. The same spirit must guide us today.”

President Sirleaf then commended the parliament’s adaptation of a four-year strategic plan that aligns its activities with the Community’s Strategic Framework.

The four-year strategic plan, intended to run from 2016 to 2020, was adopted during the parliament’s Extraordinary Session that held from 11 to 15 April, 2016 in Abuja. 

The chairperson however lamented that trade between ECOWAS countries amounts to less than 13%.

She added, “Movements between our countries for the farmers and petty traders are filled with discouraging challenges both in terms of infrastructure as well as administrative bottlenecks and the harassment on the roads.”

Liberia’s five representatives to the body attended Thursday’s opening session. They are Representative Jefferson Karmon of Sinoe County who is the Third Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Senators George Manneh Weah and Prince Yormie Johnson of Montserrado and Nimba Counties respectively and Representatives Edwin Melvin Snowe, Jr of Montserrado County and Haja Fata Siryon of Bomi County respectively.

President Sirleaf was unanimously elected as the first female Chairperson of ECOWAS in June this year in Dakar, Senegal.

The parliament’s Second Ordinary Session taking place in Abuja runs from September 22 through October 7.

The ECOWAS Parliament sits in session three times a year with two ordinary sessions in May and September. It only convenes for an extraordinary session at any time in the course of the year to discuss an urgent or specific agenda.

The parliament comprises of 115 members who are elected from amongst members of the various national assemblies or legislatures of member states for a period of four years.

 

Nat Bayjay

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