By Abdul Malik Bangura
Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis, the Leader of Government Business representing the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), was sworn in yesterday 9th March 2020 as Speaker of the regional Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament at Niamey, Republic of Niger. The event took place at the Mahatma Gandhi Conference Center in Niamey,
According to the astute Parliamentarian, his main source of strength is the people of Sierra Leone. The SLPP MP for Constituency 101 in the Southern Provincial district of Pujehun, made this statement earlier before the swearing in ceremony whilst addressing Sierra Leoneans during a live TV Programme from the Bravia Hotel in Niamey, Republic of Niger.
The now substantive Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament revealed how he was overwhelmed with the massive support he enjoyed from the Government and people of Sierra Leone, specifying most importantly President Bio who nominated him for the ECOWAS top diplomatic position. Hence, he said, he would do everything to make Sierra Leone proud of him.
He further spoke about the importance of his office, which he equates to the President of the ECOWAS Court. He also highlighted that the ECOWAS Parliament is the official Legislative organ of the Commission, whilst the court is the judicial organ. Hence, he said, therefore heads of both organs have similar powers.
Honourable Tunis spoke about pending challenges that would fraught his administration as Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament. He said crisis in the West Africa region has greatly crippled peace in Mali, Guinea, Ivory Coast and others. He added that the imminent insurgencies in the West Africa region are mostly tied to political disagreements, hence the need for a vibrant ECOWAS Parliament.
Honourable Tunis vouched to prioritize the situation in Guinea, which has claimed several lives, and said he is ready to utilize the ECOWAS Parliament’s Human Rights as well as the Political Affairs committees to work in earnest to remedy that situation.
In addition, Honourable Tunis spoke about the initiative of bringing together all the speakers of the various Houses of Assembly in West Africa. “My plan is to convene every year a Conference of Speakers,” Honourable Tunis said, adding that “the Speakers will sell the decisions of the ECOWAS Parliament.” He said, it is not only getting representatives of the people alone, but also getting a Conference of Speakers help to sell the initiatives of the ECOWAS Parliament even to national MPs who are not members of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Honourable Tunis further assured that though he has been sworn in as Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, he still remains Leader of Government in the Sierra Leone Parliament, adding that his job at the ECOWAS Parliament will be mostly done at home in Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, dilating on Government’s commitment towards actualizing the vision of Honourable Tunis at the ECOWAS Parliament, Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Umaru Naopleon Koroma who also graced the occasion in Niamey said, “it is a strategic moment for Sierra Leone to get the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament.” He spoke about the legal evolution of ECOWAS since 1975.
Minister Umaru Napoleon Koroma said President Julius Maada Bio’s nomination of Honourable Tunis for the ECOWAS Speaker position is a right move to show that the New Direction Government is working to strategically showcase Sierra Leone to the world. He assured that Government will support Honourable Tunis because according to the Minister, Hon Tunis will be going to the ECOWAS to represent Sierra Leone and not any political party.
In addition, Minister Koroma spoke about the gains Sierra Leone had when last a Sierra Leonean in the person of Dr Abass Bundu once served the ECOWAS at its most trying stages as Secretary General of the Commission. Today, Dr Abass Bundu is now the Speaker of Sierra Leone House of Parliament.
Honourable Saa Emerson Lamina, Parliamentary Leader of the Coalition for Change (C4C) party in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament said, “when I am outside Sierra Leone I showcase the face of Sierra Leone.” He said that he believes in Honourable Tunis owing to his massive experience. He said, he has no doubt that Honourable Tunis will achieve all is targeted plans.
Honourable Lamina further assured that transparency and accountability would be projected in the ECOWAS Parliament as a reflection of the Sierra Leone’s Public Account Committee (PAC) model. Hence he said that their coming in for the inauguration is a reflection that he is actually firmly in support of Honourable Tunis. He said, “New Renaissance will be taking place at the ECOWAS Parliament with Honourable Tunis at the helm of its leadership.”
Meanwhile, it could be recalled that last year, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio had in a televised video message to Members of the ECOWAS Parliament which was played at the Extra Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Monrovia, Republic of Liberia endorsed and weigh in absolute support for Honourable Tunis to serve as Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Hon. Tunis has taken the mantle of leadership and he will serve till 2024, when Togo will be in line to succeed Sierra Leone. The position is rotational in alphabetical manner. The outgoing holder of the ECOWAS Speaker is from Senegal, this means that Sierra Leone is next in line to take up the position.
Meanwhile, as part of his functions as Speaker, Hon Tunis will direct the business of the Parliament and its organs. He will also preside over meetings and conduct debates in accordance with the provisions of the Rules of Procedure.