By Victoria Ojeme

The Speaker of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Sidie Mohammed Tunis has presented the draft 2022 appropriation bill before the parliament.

He said the draft estimates place emphasis on supporting programs that address the core areas of civil liberties, the rule of law, accountability and transparent governance, peace and security, as well as economic development.

Tunis stated this at the formal opening of the second 2021 Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament, holding in Winneba, Ghana.

The leaders of the 15 ECOWAS member countries had aimed to achieve a monetary and currency union by the end of 2020 but abandoned that timetable because the group was not ready.

They were far from the macroeconomic convergence—especially similar levels of inflation and sufficiently low public-debt-to-GDP ratios—necessary for such a union to function well.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its massive economic and health consequences, has pushed any proposed union to the back burner for countries in the 46-year-old ECOWAS.

On the political side, for the third time in only five months, violence has facilitated a transfer of power in West Africa, with Guinea, Mali (twice in the past thirteen months), and Chad seeing new leaders rise from their respective militaries.

In Guinea, Mali, and Chad, heads of state removed from office had enjoyed dubious legitimacy. In Guinea, President Alpha Condé had been elected to a third term in less-than-credible elections.

In Chad, Idriss Deby had been all but “president for life” until he was killed by rebels, only to be succeeded by his son in an extra-constitutional process. In Mali, the current bout of instability dates from the 2012 coup against longtime political strongman Amadou Touré.

Current Malian President Assimi Goïta in June removed the country’s interim head of state, less than a year after Goïta initiated a coup against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and installed himself as interim vice president.

However, the Speaker of Parliament quoted Article 27/2a of the Supplementary Act, which provides that Parliament shall meet in extraordinary session to discuss a specific agenda explaining that the specific agenda of the session was to consider and adopt the Parliament’s Draft Budget for the year 2022.

He said the exercise was guided by Article 16.2 of the same Act, which states that “the budget of the Parliament, which is part of the Community Budget, shall be prepared and executed in accordance with the Financial Regulations and Manual of Accounting Procedures of the Community”.

“Before I delve further on the budget, I wish to remind us, Honorable Members, that of significant importance to our efforts in addressing the monumental challenges at hand, is the fact that our region requires fundamental changes in every area.

“In line with the guidelines for the preparation of the 2022 budget for all ECOWAS Institutions, we have focused our priorities on high impact programs that have long-lasting effects on the ECOWAS “Member States, taking into accounting the shocks that have been created because of the COVID-19 pandemic and prevailing security challenges.

“Also, in line with the institutional reforms which are currently being undertaken by ECOWAS, we were very mindful of cost saving measures which are intended to direct resources to other sectors of the Community, notably the health sector. By this, we are glad to note that the Secretary-General and his team of Technocrats, have successfully prepared a draft 2022 budget for the Parliament. The draft contains a zero percent increase in relation to the 2021 budget, as directed in the budget circular issued by the President of the ECOWAS Commission.

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“We continue to examine the COVID-19 pandemic more closely and as a Parliament, we are very concerned about our region falling deeper into recession, because of the pandemic, which would ultimately erase the progress we have made over the past two decades. As it stands, the third wave of the pandemic seems to be stabilizing across our States, but cases are still high with WAHO reporting a total of 649,077 cases across the region as of 14th October 2021,” Tunis said.

On the vaccine front, he said more doses are getting into arms daily, and used the moment to appreciate ECOWAS partners under the COVAX initiative and friendly Governments that have donated doses to African Countries.

“However, the percentage of the African population fully vaccinated, which is a little over 2.47%, according to the Africa Center for Disease Control, is appallingly low, compared to those unvaccinated,” he regretted.

In his opening remarks, Speaker of Ghanaian Parliament, Hon. Alban KingsFord Sumana Bagbin who was represented by Hon Joseph Osie Owsu called on members to work towards promoting democracy, good governance, peace and stability in the sub-region.

He said that ECOWAS is one of the most successful Regional Economic Communities.

He urged members to continue to address poverty in all its ramifications and create job opportunities for the people.

He said “we must also look for the best way to promote integration in the sub region. I therefore urge you to execute your work in the interest of the people and for the purpose of advancing the progress of the community.”

He emphasised that the deployment of new technology in our elections such as the biometric Verification Devices and Information and Communication Technology ( ICT) have enhanced the processes of conducting elections by way of reducing multiple registration and voting.

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