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ECOWAS moves to tackle proliferation of small arms

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Monday said it remained committed to assisting member states in preventing further diversions, theft and  leakages of small arms.

A representative of the commission, Mr Ahoba Joseph made the commitment during the inauguration of multi national small arms and ammunition group course at the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre in Jaji Military Cantonment, Kaduna State.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the physical security and stockpile management competence seminar is a collaboration between ECOWAS and German government through the multinational small arms and ammunitions group.

Joseph said that in the next five years, the intervention planned by ECOWAS will deliver to the region a pool of instructors and senior instructors.

“The commission stands ready to accompany its members states in strengthening the physical security and safety of amories of their security forces, so that issues of leakages, diversion or theft are abated.”

According to him,  the ECOWAS will continue to demonstrate strong commitment towards addressing threats to peace, security and stability in the region.

“In this regard, our legal frameworks are being promoted thereby providing member states with responses in dealing with current as well as emerging security challenges.”

He explained that the peace and security architecture of ECOWAS is anchored on five pillars.

These he explained were the protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Resolution, Management, Peacekeeping and security; the supplementary protocol on Good Governance and Democracy, and the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

In his remarks, Commandant of the peacekeeping centre, Maj.-Gen. Abubakar Tarfa expressed willingness of the centre to offer assistance necessary for collaboration between ECOWAS and German government in physical security and stockpile management competence.

Tarfa explained that the course could not have come at a better time than now when the region is confronted with proliferation of small arms, which made it necessary to build capacity required in dealing with the prevailing security challenges.

He noted that the security challenges were being exacerbated by smuggling of illegal arms and ammunitions into and across the region.

The Commandant urged the participants to apply professionalism in the course of the training.

Also speaking, lead facilitator, small arms and ammunitions group, Lt. Col Jens Kermes, said the program is expected to among other things, strengthen international cooperation and facilitate useful exchange of information as well as promote regional ownership.

NAN report that the participants were drawn from ECOWAS member nations.

TJ/MZA

Edited by Maharazu Ahmed

Foreign

ECOWAS Parliament urges member states to strategise toward stimulating their economies after COVID-19

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The ECOWAS Parliament has urged ECOWAS members states to stimulate their economies after COVID-19 by strengthening their commitment to protecting livelihoods and investments in key sectors.

Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohammed Tunis, made the call in a statement commemorating the 2020 ECOWAS Day  on Thursday in Abuja.

He praised member states for their numerous achievements in line with the vision upon which ECOWAS was built 45 years ago, which was geared toward fostering interstate economic and political cooperation as well as regional integration,

Tunis, however, said that in spite of  the remarkable achievements as a region, the people of the sub-region continued to yearn for help particularly under the current global pandemic of COVID-19.

“On this occasion of the commemoration of the ECOWAS Day, I wish to convey warm felicitations and best wishes to our dear ECOWAS Citizens on behalf of the entire ECOWAS Parliament, the Bureau, and staff.

“We are mindful of the fact that this outbreak is like none in the past.

“Since it was first detected in December 2019, within months, it eroded our normal ways of life.

“Confined us within our respective borders, bringing our economies to a virtual standstill and triggering a possible recession for the year.

“On our part, the 5th Legislature shall play its role towards the ECOWASpost COVID-19 recovery response strategies.

“By collaborating with and enacting policies to support sister institutions in the execution of COVID-19 related programs for the benefit of the citizens of the sub-region.”

He expressed optimism that given the resilient nature of “”our people, we will bounce back and make a full recovery” in the no distant future.

“However, for that to happen faster, we urge governments of member states to be mindful of the need to commit to protecting livelihoods and investments in key sectors of our economies and  identifying ingenious ways of injecting liquidity as a lifeblood to stimulate our economies.

Consequently, I cannot over-emphasise the need for the redesigning of our budget and programs to reflect changes envisaged by the effects of the pandemic on the economies of member states.

“I am cognizant of the fact that member states will recover at different rates. For some, it will come faster and for others, slower.

“Nevertheless, cohesion and convergence of policies should be of utmost importance than ever before in post COVID-19 recovery quest,” Tunis stated.

According to Tunis, the COVID-19 crisis will no doubt, generate new norms for citizens of member states – in the way they think, live, and even the course of politics.

The speaker added that “it will be a long road to full recovery but in the spirit of African astute wisdom and resilience of purpose.

“I make bold to state that we shall emerge stronger and better to the delight of the rest of the world.

“I pray we all remain hopeful, as hope is a powerful force.

“Hope will pull us from the depths of despair and charge us to continue the march toward actualising our West African dreams, as handed down to us by the founding fathers of ECOWAS 45 years ago.

“Armed with the tool of hope and faith in God, West Africans shall prevail against any obstacle, in brotherhood and oneness,” he stated.

The speaker said that as of May 24, the sub-region had recorded more than 29,000 confirmed cases with more than 11,000 recoveries and sadly, a little more than 600 deaths.

Those, he said, were not mere numbers or statistics of physical things but of human beings, citizens of West Africa, whose lives were cut short by the rampaging virus.

Tunis also empathised with all citizens on behalf of the Parliament, as everyone could have been directly or remotely affected.

 He urged citizens of member states to rest assured of the constant support and prayers of the Parliamentarians for the healing of the world and particularly, of the sub-region.

According to Tunis, the Parliament is aware of the interventions of the ECOWAS Commission and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO).

He added that both institutions had initiated various responses to the coronavirus pandemic in member states.

Tunis said that the responses included the provision of training and essential supplies to strengthen the public health systems in member states in order to foster the fight against the spread of the scourge.

Edited By: Vivian Ihechu/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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ECOWAS Court updates its rules of procedure

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The ECOWAS Court of Justice says it has updated its Practice Direction to enable the virtual conduct of Court sessions.

The court also said that it has updated the electronic filing of processes, according to the Supplementary practice direction.

A copy of the Practice Direction document, signed by the court’s President, Justice Edward Asante, which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos, was circulated to the Registry, Agents and lawyers representing parties before the Court.

Asante said that the practice direction was part of its efforts to adapt to the challenges posed by the raging COVID-19 pandemic which forced the court to suspend its session.

He said the updated practice direction on Electronic Case Management and Virtual Court Session came into force on May 13.

According to him, this will enable the court resume its sessions which were suspended through a statement on March 20, because of coronavirus pandemic.

“Resumption will enable us clear the backlog of cases and hear the increasing number of cases brought before the court in order to enable it discharge its obligation to litigants for the timely delivery of justice,” the president explained.

He said the updated nine-page direction would enable the court deepen the integration of information technology into its processes for greater efficiency.

”It will also improve access for litigants which will be useful post COVID-19 in reducing the cost of litigation and beneficial mostly for indigent litigants.

”In updating the direction, the court relied on the provisions of Article 100 of its Rules of Procedure with the objectives of ensuring the safety of Judges, Staff and court users.

”The timely dispensation of justice; the deployment of suitable technology for its case management system and court sessions, and the efficient use of available (judicial and administrative) resources, ” he said.

Asante noted that it has become imperative for the court to explore the use of Electronic Case Management System for electronic filing (e-filing) and Virtual Court Sessions.

He said that where necessary, physical court sessions under strict conditions, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, whilst continuing to discharge its judicial mandate unabated.

”Moreover, the direction will enable the court continue the hearing of cases on its Cause List, giving preference to interim/intervening (interlocutory) applications and post judgment applications and other such matters requiring urgent decisions within specified period of time.

”The articles of the practice direction define the procedures for the electronic filing of legal documents and the electronic service of legal documents.

“It also include modalities for virtual court sessions, recording of proceedings, judgment and ruling as well as physical court sessions in exceptional cases,” the president said.  

He added that the direction also provided the guidelines for caseload management to ensure continued access to timely justice without compromising the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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Africa Liberation Day: Ex NACCIMA D-G calls for stronger bond between Nigeria, ECOWAS

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Dr John Isemede on Tuesday called for a stronger bond between Nigeria and the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS) to break barriers hindering trade on in the continent.

Isemede, a former  Director-General,  Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), made the call in an interview with  the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.

He spoke against the backdrop of the Africa Liberation Day celebrated every May 25.

According to him, for the smooth operations of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, Nigeria need to understand the market terrain, and difference in trade terms across the continent.

He noted that ECOWAS had recorded successes that should be a model for the country to build upon, to proffer clear guide and understanding of the AfCFTA agreement.

NAN reports that the aim of AfCFTA, signed in Kigali, Rwanda,on March 21, 2018, was to create a single market for goods and services as well as promote intra-African trade.

“How prepared is Nigeria for the AfCFTA, do we really understand what the agreemen entails.

“Ordinarily, the agreement signed was to take effect from July 1, 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been pushed forward to Jan. 1, 2021.

“For effective running of AfCFTA, there is the need to know more about ECOWAS and its activities, so that we can move smoothly from the known to the unknown market or terrain, note the different and diverse trade terms across the continent.

“Then have a plan on how to join with others on a single bloc of 1.3m consumers.

“We need to understand and map out ways to make it successful, get everyone prepared.

“Also, we should be considering the ECOWAS integration and the breaking down of the trade barriers.

“We have to ratify and identify our market, know the team in place, logistics in terms of sea port, airport, silos, standard, language experts and all of that,” he said.

Isemede faulted the research carried out on the AfCFTA as he stated: “Is Nigeria prepared?

“The research carried out was within Nigeria and you do not carry out research with the aim to sell outside.

He, however, highlighted 30 areas whereby ECOWAS had recorded successes that should serve as a yardstick.

“We are still together after 57 years, unlike the European Union.

“Even Mauritania that was out is coming back, we have a clear aim and objective of the bloc, ability to manage the diversity (Francophone/Anglophone divide) with the LUEOA that is almost parallel.

“The PTA, FTA, CET, but working hard on the following – Customs Union, Agric, Trade, payment systems, Standards harmonisation etc.

“With the new generation banks, ECOWAS funds flows, imports, exports, ATM transfers and with Fewemma on single economic/industrial policies, we have better days ahead.

ECOWAS traders are working to upscale the informal sector to legitimate transactions.

“Trade has reduced political and other tensions, helping to redistribute goods in the Sub- region, free movement of goods and services.

ECOWAS ETL is working very fine; elimination of tariffs and working on non-tariff barriers, the rule of origin is on.

“Seamless approval of goods on the ETLS and now segmented, each country  is free to work directly with its OPS members.

Standardisation bus and operations of the scheme, no visa requirements, international vehicle licence, international vehicle insurance, and international motor permit, among others,” he said.

Isemede said that the border closure against some of Nigeria’s neighbouring countries was not as a result of tension, but because Nigeria could not compete in terms of food production.

He said that if we produced enough, after catering for domestic consumption, Nigeria would still have enough to export.

“In the 1900’s Nigeria was producing more than 50 per cent of palm oil requirement and in 1960, we were producing 25 per cent requirement.

“Were people smuggling palm oil at that time? No. Now, we are just producing one per cent.

“Since we are talking about continental trade, there must be backward integration, let us produce more and then we will be able to compete with other states on the continent,” Isemede said.

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Edited By: Folorunso Poroye/Ese E. Ekama (NAN)

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Foreign

COVID-19: Israel tasks ECOWAS on investment in orphanages

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Mr Shimon Ben-Shoshan, Ambassador of Israel to Nigeria, has underscored the need for ECOWAS to invest in the development of orphanages, to promote children wellbeing in post Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Ben-Shoshan, also Permanent Representative of Israel to ECOWAS, said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria, while donating food items to Darlez Care orphanage Home in Abuja.

The items, which included rice, beans, groundnut-oil, pasta and maize, were put together in collaboration with ChabadAid, MAG Tech System Ltd. Kings of the World and Brand Life Vision Foundation.

He said that the need to focus on children has become important because they are the future of every country, irrespective of their religious background as Muslims, Christians or Jews.

According to him, ECOWAS is suppose to look at this kind of operations and how children in need in each member country are part of the community in the fight against COVID-19.

Ben-Shoshan said, “We need to ensure efforts that we can, instead of fighting each other to create this kind of charity homes, not only during COVID-19 pandemic, but post pandemic era.

“To remember this kind of brotherhood; efforts to overcome COVID-19 and take it to another level, which means to fight climate change that affects the food, starvation, water and air we breathe.

“Fight climate change and prevent other virus we do not know from coming, this is not the last and it is not the first.

“So, we need to prepare ourselves to take efforts to these children and also think about them.

“Whenever we are about to fight ourselves, instead let us use our resources and our offering to do good things, in order to give a better world to these kinds of children.”

He expressed appreciation to the management of the orphanage, saying he feels glad to see orphans well catered for by amazing people.

Receiving the items, Sen. Eze Ajoku, Managing Director and Founder of the orphanage, expressed appreciation to the Ambassador, saying he was the first visitor to the place since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ajoku, also a former Senator representing Imo-East, said that preventive measures were observed to guard against spread of the virus by keeping people from interacting with the children.

Ajoku said, “These are children who for one reason or the other their parents could not take responsibilities for them.

“We do this as a charity to give back to the society; orphanages in Nigeria are not funded by the government.

“We started this operation in 2015 and have not received one naira as support from the government, so we rely on donations and what we can afford ourselves to sustain our operations.”

Ajoku, who is President of the Coalition of Orphanages and Children Homes in Nigeria, said that they were 14 inmates, 4 Nannies, 1 Security operative and 1 driver, saying 15-children were already adopted.

Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

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ECOWAS court resumes sitting, to begin virtual proceedings

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The ECOWAS Court of Justice resumed operations in Abuja, following the easing of lockdown by the host Member-State.

Mr Sunny Ugoh, Head, Communications division of ECOWAS in a statement on Wednesday said however that the  bar on physical filing of applications had yet to be lifted.

He said the President of the Court, Justice Edward Asante, has taken appropriate measures in line with the directives of the host government to fumigate and disinfect its offices prior to resumption.

“The Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS will be resuming its activities on Wednesday, after its prolonged break occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The Court extended its break on March 23, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 and in compliance with the lockdown ordered by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the country’s Lagos, Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory,” he said.

Moreover, he said other measures have been introduced for the safety of staff  including mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, constant hand washing and use of hand sanitiser amongst others.

In the meantime, the President said visitors will not be allowed in the Court while Professional visits can only be undertaken with the approval of the management of the Court.

In addition, he said that meetings can only be conducted using electronic collaboration tools, the President added.

Furthermore, he said that the public, particularly lawyers will be informed on the date for the resumption of physical filing of applications.

He said that while arrangements are ongoing for the safety of lawyers and parties in the Court , they  can still contact the Court through the under listed contacts [email protected] or [email protected]

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Foreign

ECOWAS Commission denies ordering COVID Organic medication

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The ECOWAS Commission has refuted a report that it, along with its health Institution, West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), has ordered  COVID Organics (CVO) medicines.

The Directorate of Communications, ECOWAS Commission, debunked the report   in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.

According to the statement, the ECOWAS Commission and WAHO reiterate their commitments to delivering on the decisions made by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government at their recent Extraordinary Summit on the fight against COVID-19.

“We wish to disassociate ECOWAS and its health institution, West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), from this claim and inform the general public that we have not ordered the said CVO medication.

“We are aware that several claims of COVID-19 cure have been made in different parts of the world, but we can only support and endorse products that have been shown to be effective through scientific study.

“For this reason, WAHO is collaborating with relevant partners including WHO, African CDC, and national, regional and international research consortia to promote scientific search for a cure.

“We are working with  member-states on some of the medications available for clinical trials and for use on a compassionate basis in selected severe cases.

“Some of the traditional medicine centres of excellence in the ECOWAS region are also currently investigating products of potential efficacy,” it said.

According to the statement, ECOWAS Commission and WAHO will continue to focus on delivering on the decisions made by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government at their recent Extraordinary Summit on the fight against COVID-19.

“One of which is to strengthen cooperation among member-states in research, training and experience sharing in health matters in general and in the fight against COVID-19 in particular,” it said.

The statement said WAHO, as part of its mandate to safeguard and improve the health of the region’s population, remained  committed to promoting rational traditional medicine practices and products in the ECOWAS region.

It said that over the years, WAHO has worked consistently with ECOWAS member-states to scientifically investigate plant medicines of proven efficacy.

It noted that the medicines were documented in the ECOWAS Pharmacopoeia of Traditional Medicines, the second edition of which would be published  next two weeks.

It added that WAHO had, in the recent past identified, nurtured and supported centres of excellence in traditional medicine across ECOWAS region.

//IGO

Edited By: Buhari Bolaji/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

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Judiciary

Falana advocates online filing of court processes in ECOWAS Court

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A  Lagos-based human  rights campaigner, Mr Femi Falana (SAN),  has advised the ECOWAS Court of Justice located in  Abuja to facilitate online filing processes.

 

He saud that they could use Skype or Zoom to improve access to justice for victims of human rights’ violations.

 

Falana made the request in a letter he wrote to the President of the Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, and dated April 27, 2020; a copy of which was obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.

 

It was titled, “Request to promote and facilitate online filing processes for the Community Court of Justice”.

 

He said that this would enable the court to attend to  urgent matters especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic and satisfy the public’s rights to an open judiciary.

 

“This is also entirely consistent with the practices of other regional human rights’ bodies, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

 

“Similarly, the United Nations special mechanisms are allowing victims and their representatives to file communications online,” he said.

 

Falana urged the court to take the advantage of internet technology to promote and facilitate access to justice for victims of human rights’ violations and abuses across the continent, especially at this time of  COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“The filing of processes should be done electronically and sensitive information such as financial information can be removed to address any privacy or security concerns that may arise.

 

“However, it should be noted that court processes and documents are already public records available in hard copyie to anybody who appears as a clerk of court’s office.

 

“Public electronic access to court files should be permitted to the same extent that they are available at the court registry,” he said.

 

Falana advised the court to create electronic records by scanning documents, or simply upload documents that the court already had in electronic format.

 

“Having both remote electronic access and court registry access to the same information will also utilise more fully the technology available to the Community Court and will allow court officials to better and more easily serve the needs of the bar and the public.

 

“Furthermore, the public interest in obtaining information on litigation and the operation of the Community Court favour electronic disclosure,” he said.

 

NAN reports that the ECOWAS court of Justice located in Abuja is an organ of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) comprising 15 member states in West Africa.

 

It was created in 1991 pursuant to the provisions of Articles 6 and 15 of the Revised Treaty of the ECOWAS.

 

It hears cases from Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivore, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

 

He made the request pursuant to the statutory and inherent jurisdiction of the court, to promote justice and provide redress to those facing repression and abuses linked to states’ responses to COVID-19.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Peter Dada (NAN)

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ECOWAS Heads of Govt. pledged 15% budget to healthcare

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Heads of State and government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have agreed to dedicate 15 per cent of the annual budget to developing the health sector in their respective countries.

The Presidents also considered the need to open their borders to allow regional transportation of medical supplies, equipment and personnel to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

These formed part of the deliberations of the sub-regional presidents at an extra-ordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS convened to deliberate on the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a communiqué issued on Friday at the end of the teleconference meeting convened by President of Niger and Chairman of the Authority, Issoufou Mahamadou, the need to develop healthcare in the sub-region had become more important in view of the virus.

It said that the resolution which was reached in November 2014 at an Extraordinary Summit then convened on the Ebola Virus Disease, was revisited and agreed to by the Authority.

“in terms of the fight against COVID-19, the Authority of Heads of State resolved to allocate, at least, 15 per cent of their annual budget to strengthen their health care systems as recommended;

“Encourage Member States to pool, as far as possible, their purchases of equipment and drugs to combat COVID 19;

“Continue to put in place humanitarian and palliative measures to assist their population, particularly through the distribution of foodstuffs and provision of financial assistance to the poor in strict compliance with the necessary health measures,” it said.

The Authority also enjoined all member-states to make their contribution to the African Union Solidarity Fund and strengthen cooperation between the African CDC and the WAHO in order to make support to the ECOWAS member states more effective.

According to the communiqué, the authority also agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation between member states in research, training and experience sharing in health matters in general, and in the fight against COVID-19, in particular.

The need for continuous sensitization of West African citizens on the dangers of COVID-19 and need for behavioural change, in order to contain the spread of the diseases was also brought to the fore.

The Summit commended Member States for their individual efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic in their countries and the palliative measures introduced to alleviate the negative impact of the pandemic on the people.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Ekemini Ladejobi (NAN)

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Covid-19: ECOWAS looking inwards, not waiting on Western Countries – Brou

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is looking inwards to find possible solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic rather than sit and wait on the Western Countries.

Fielding questions from newsmen during an online Zoom meeting, ECOWAS President, Jean-Claude Brou said that West African countries already had functional laboratories that were already carrying out researches on the virus.

Brou who had just risen from a teleconference with ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, said that finding a solution also formed part of the discussion by the leaders.

“This specific issue was discussed by the Heads of States and what they decided is that there should be stronger and closer co-operation between the local research institutes in our Member Countries in terms of medical work and even see if at the national levels for medicines and vaccine.

“This is something we are going to do with health agencies, you know we have reference laboratories in various countries in ECOWAS so we are going to work together with them to push because we know that some of them are already doing the work and not wait for Western countries for a solution,” he said.

He used the opportunity to disclose that the sub-regional body was now set to coordinate its Covid-19 response better, especially with the experiences from Ebola.

Brou stressed that what was needed at the moment was to share experience, best practices, what has worked, what has not worked, so that the sub-region can do better.

“Remember, we had the experience of ebola in 2014, it was really severe, we had almost 11,000 deaths in 3 countries.

“So, how we can really make sure to use that experience in many countries in dealing with this pandemic and how we can best use it to alleviate the pressure on our citizens,” he said.

The President hinted that the Heads of state harped on the need to work closely with the African Union to call public and private debt restructuring.

He said it was important because it would help give more resources and all member countries would be able to help finance its activities.

“Remember, the crisis we are going through it affecting our economies and slowing it down, unemployment is increasing, there are so many companies that have slowed down and some closed down.

“Remittances from our brothers abroad is low because jobs also have been closed so these impacts will affect our economies.

“The price of oil has dropped drastically so is the prices of cocoa, and other produce. So foreign exchange that we need to cement our economy is becoming more and more difficult, so we need to be coordinated.

He added that the central banks of member countries were also called upon to play their roles in implementing policies that can support the banking sector and other financial institutions which will in turn support the private sector to stay afloat.

Brou noted that a larger part of the economies in West Africa were the informal sector which could only be supported through microfinancing.

“So, they are asking the Central Banks to look for ways to support the microfinance because they are the ones supporting the informal sector.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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