By Abdul Malik Bangura
Sierra Leone female politician Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has highlighted silver linings to the dark cloud of COVID19 outbreak in the ECOWAS subregion. Blyden was speaking in an exclusive chat with members of the ECOWAS Parliament Press Corps on Tuesday, July 21st 2020 shortly before the commencement of the Virtual Plenary of the 2nd 2020 Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament. The Session itself successfully unveiled on Monday, July 20th 2020.
The Female politician who also has a strong background in Information Communication and Technology (ICT) said although COVID19 in the ECOWAS Region has ravaged economies with deaths of citizens, there were proverbial silver linings to this dark cloud of COVID19 Outbreak.
Madam Blyden said whilst COVID19 has caused closures of borders making it impossible for citizens of various ECOWAS countries to physically cross borders, it ironically has now availed the citizens of the region to become more connected to the operations of ECOWAS Parliament through the excellent publicizing of live broadcasts of the Virtual Meetings over the Internet.
“Virtual Plenary has now opened the gates for ECOWAS citizens to personally monitor online the activities of our representatives. The Parliamentary Press Corps has done a wonderful job in sensitizing us ECOWAS citizens to log on and watch. We now have a better chance to see what our MPs do at ECOWAS Parliament,” Dr Sylvia Blyden said.
Madam Blyden further said the use of Virtual meetings has reduced the exorbitant costs of flying MP delegates to converge in a single location to discuss pertinent issues around the welfare of West Africa’s citizens. She said that such saved funds should now be deployed to rendering better social services for ECOWAS citizens.
“This COVID-19 may end up having a silver lining after all for the promotion of technology and the betterment of mankind in the ECOWAS area. This is especially so as the virus has not ravaged our region as it has been doing to countries of Western powers,” Madam Blyden opined.
Hence, the female Sierra Leone politician is expressing optimism that the community body will continue to utilise online platforms to hold plenaries.
Meanwhile, below is a complete news release from the ECOWAS Commission.
ECOWAS PARLIAMENT DEBUTS VIRTUAL PARLIAMENTARY SESSION*
Abuja, 20 July 2020 – ECOWAS Parliament has joined the league of Community institutions to deploy the use of technology in conducting its sessions and meetings, with the Second Extraordinary Session commences today Monday, 20th July 2020, using the Zoom virtual platform.
Following guidelines on the Covid-19 protocols for ECOWAS Institutions, issued by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the Bureau of Parliament is scheduled to hold a five-day virtual Extra-Ordinary session to consider some referrals from Community institutions on germane issues that border on the wellbeing of the people of the sub-region, in line with the provisions of the Supplementary Act relating to the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament.
Notable among the referrals are:
*• Request by the President of the ECOWAS Commission seeking assistance from the Parliament in implementing the ECOWAS protocol on the community levy.*
*• That Parliament takes decision relating to the contribution of ECOWAS Member States to the African Union Solidarity Fund in the fight against COVID-19.*
*• Referral from the ECOWAS Commission on the fight against COVID-19, the stabilization and recovery of the economies of ECOWAS Member States.*
This virtual Extra-Ordinary session heralds an era of a new normal, occasioned by the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, Parliament’s administration has concluded all technical and manpower arrangements to ensure a seamless session.
The virtual session is an innovation that is yet to be ventured by many national and supranational parliaments around the world, an indication of the level of importance the ECOWAS Parliament arrogates to its duties and responsibilities towards the Community’s Citizens, preferring that its work is not stalled regardless of the ravaging pandemic.
Preceding the opening of the Extra-Ordinary session would be the Conference of Committees Bureaux, statutorily composed of the Bureau, Chairman and 1st Rapporteurs of the 14 Standing Committees as well as Chairmen of Parliamentary Groups, with the mandate of considering and adopting the Draft Agenda and Work Program of the session, legitimizing those documents to be considered and adopted by the Plenary. The meeting is usually convened and chaired by the Speaker of Parliament. The virtual Extra-Ordinary Session is scheduled to end on Friday, 25 July 2020.
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