By Kemi Yesufu
Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cisse on Wednesday renewed the call for the Nigerian government to open the country’s land borders with its West African neighbors.
Cisse made the appeal stating that reopening the boarders is in tandem with the ECOWAS Protocol on free movement of persons and goods in the region which aims to facilitate trade liberalization and the removal of trade barriers among members.
Speaking at the opening of the 2019 Second Ordinary Session of the parliament in Abuja on Wednesday, he condemned the decision of the Nigerian government to shut its boarders against its closets neighbors.
The 2019 Second Ordinary Session is convened by parliament to consider the community’s budget for the 2020 Fiscal year before it can be adopted by the Council of Ministers.
He said, “in respect of border issues, I have already condemned the closure of the border between Nigeria and Benin and between Niger and Nigeria during the opening ceremony of the Second Extraordinary Session of Parliament held in Monrovia in September.”
“Still on this issue, I also welcome, from this rostrum, the tripartite meeting held between Nigeria, Niger and Benin here in Abuja on Thursday as well as the initial resolutions aimed at putting in place a permanent framework for dialogue to address all the aspirations of the parties”
“I reiterate my call for the opening of the borders between our States and the observance of the protocol on the free movement of persons and goods in the ECOWAS region, which aims to facilitate trade liberalisation and the removal of trade barriers between our States and our peoples.”
Cisse also raised the issue of insecurity in the ECOWAS region, particularly, the persistence of terrorist attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso, adding that terrorism and insecurity have assumed unprecedented proportions in the region.
“Indeed, there is a close link between security, stability, democracy, peace and development, which are all necessary and interwoven.
“We express our solidarity with countries that have fallen victims to these barbaric attacks, which plunge families into mourning every day and cause massive displacement of populations”, he said.
He stated that the parliament was also concerned about the events in Guinea-Bissau, which disrupted the political situation in the country in the run-up to the presidential election.
Parliament welcomed the emergency extraordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government held on 8 November in Niamey, Niger and commended the Heads of State and Government of the Community who, through the adoption of urgent and stringent measures, reassured the political class during the campaign which will come to an end on 24 November, and paved the way for the smooth conduct of the presidential election.
“It should also be noted that ECOWAS has planned to send observers, including a parliamentary delegation, to observe the presidential election. I have already given the necessary instructions to that effect,” the Speaker said.
On the consideration of the budget, the Speaker said this is the third consecutive time that Parliament is going to express its opinion on the draft annual budget of the Community at the request of the ECOWAS Commission.
“As you already know, for both our institutions and citizens, the adoption of the draft budget of our Community is a much awaited occasion, inasmuch as it provides an opportunity for the ECOWAS Commission, the Administration and Finance Committee (AFC) and the Community Parliament to collectively engage their responsibilities on the financial resources to be used to meet, to the extent possible, the legitimate expectations of the people of our region for the coming year,” Cisse Lo said.
Following the AFC meeting, the ECOWAS Parliament will meet at the request of the Commission and it will be our duty to scrutinize this draft budget before its onward transmission to the Council of Ministers.
The Supplementary Act on the Enhancement of the Powers of Parliament provides that, in the event Parliament fails to issue its opinion within the prescribed deadline, this opinion shall be deemed to have been issued.
According to the Speaker, the ECOWAS Parliament has always felt uncomfortable with this dilemma confronting us, as a result of the inter-institutional collaboration in budgetary matters.
He explained that the preliminary draft budget of the Parliament for the 2020 fiscal year was prepared in accordance with the directives contained in the budget circular from the President of the ECOWAS Commission, taking into account the 4 per cent increase limit set in the circular for all institutions in respect of the amount of budgets approved for the 2019 fiscal year.
In accordance with these internal procedures, the ECOWAS Parliament adopted, during the Extraordinary Session in September 2019, its preliminary draft budget balanced in revenue and expenditure in the amount of UA 20,310,449, representing a 4.2 per cent increase in the amount of UA 826,977 compared with the budget approved for 2019, which stood at UA 19,483,473.