The Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan has said elected representatives must be focused and grow the collective ability of imbibing the tenets of democracy, calling for more attention on issues of security in the sub-region in order for development.
Speaking at the Opening of the 2023 First Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament in Abuja, Lawan said the gathering was yet another “milestone in our strive for collaboration for economic integration, the deepening of democracy and the emancipation of our people from lack.”
He added that: “We have been consistent as leaders in driving these initiatives far beyond the statutory requirement for sessions like this, to include our individual national efforts at ensuring the realization of our goals.
“These goals are no doubt noble, but also essential for us as legislators saddled with the responsibility of deliberations before implementations are embarked upon.
The questions of trans-border crime, human trafficking, threats to democracy, conflicts and insurgencies, unemployment and underemployment and the general well-being of the people are still significant matters that need our continuous attention.”
Lawan explained that: “The essence of making our conversations ongoing is not that we are not discussing them correctly, or that we are not formulating the right policies, but because new realities continue to emerge around the subjects.”
He said: “While we are probably making progress in some regards, we are additionally challenged by the need to sustain our reviews, so as to strengthen our action plans, in view of changing dynamics.
“Our role as parliamentarians is always to extract the details involved and provide a clearer picture and understanding, for an appropriate government response.
“Coming together as participants from different nations is more opportunity to harness the experiences of our different jurisdictions, towards reaching a suitably overarching conclusion.
“As representatives of the people, it is trite to argue that we are more in touch with a wider scope of citizens, especially those at the grassroots. This puts us in the vantage position of reflecting realities as they affect the mass of our people.
From that standpoint, our resolutions are often people-oriented and the reason we are central is not just for the search for solutions, but for ongoing consultations in the course of executing plans.”
He revealed that: “We have no doubt being committed to them, but the task before us is to keep the focus and grow our collective ability to imbibe them.”
He noted that elected representatives must ensure freedom of expression, respect for human rights, inclusion and representation, in addition to fostering peace, growth and development, he stressed that: “Not a few successes have been made in ensuring the realization of these principles of democracy. Regardless, our task is to discourage reversals, by consolidating on our endurances, and growing democratic tenets.
“Included in these tenets are freedom of expression, human rights, security of life and property, in the general interest of happiness and progress.
“We have no doubt being committed to them, but the task before us is to keep the focus and grow our collective ability to imbibe them.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Omar Alieu Touray, has said that the situation in the ECOWAS sub-region is worrisome.
Touray made the statement against the backdrop of the political instability, insecurity and humanitarian crisis bedevilling the ECOWAS region.
Touray while recalling that the meeting was taking place in a context characterized by upheavals in the international environment, said: “The situation in our region remains worrisome. Nonetheless, we are deploying all resources to ensure stability, security, and resilience in our member states.”
Touray added that the ECOWAS Commission continued to support member states in transition, particularly Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, for a return to normal constitutional order.
He said: “We have also been mobilising international support for Burkina Faso and Mali to fight terrorism and address humanitarian crises. We also continue to support elections in our member states, both as a conflict prevention measure and a support to our democratization process.”
He disclosed that the ECOWAS is deploying the necessary electoral assistance to member states going for elections soon such as the legislative elections in Guinea Bissau and the Presidential elections in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
On the economic situation in the region, Touray explained that despite inflationary pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the economies of the region are resilient and continue to post growth rates (3.1 percent according to the World Bank) with good prospects in general.
He however said the commission is seriously concerned about the security situation prevailing in the region, with the persistence and resurgence of terrorist acts in the countries of the three-border line: Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and north-eastern Nigeria.
He lamented that: “These acts have resulted in targeted attacks against both military personnel and civilians, resulting in numerous casualties, material damage and displacement. The novelty of these attacks is that they are spreading to coastal countries (Benin, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire). Therefore, our region must adopt a multifaceted, and coordinated approach and pool our resources to eradicate this scourge.”
In his welcome speech, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis, said the Parliament remained very concerned over the pace at which the transitional processes are unfolding in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
Tunis however said the Parliament is equally worried about the proliferation of terrorist activities in the Sahel, which has resulted into the killings of innocent lives.
Tunis presented solutions to securing a better region for present and future generations of ECOWAS citizens.
He said: “First, we have a responsibility to foster peace in our region which can only be possible by supporting the structures and respecting the policies and protocols we already have.
“Second, collective and immediate actions are needed to tackle the challenges we have, including poverty, inequality, climate change and a host of others.
“And third, we owe to one another, mutual accountability in our pursuit of solutions to our looming challenges. The application of these principles is critical to the advancement of humanity. I hope we can find these very useful and work in concert for the good of our region and the world.”