Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 December 2019:
Last weekend, President Dr Julius Maada Bio was at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) end-of-year Summit in Abuja, Nigeria where he addressed fellow Heads of States about the successes of and challenges facing ECOWAS.
Addressing ECOWAS Heads of States, President Bio welcomed the findings and recommendations of the Forensic Audit Report of the ECOWAS institutions. Commenting on the report, he said: “The revelations are an indictment of our individual national commitments to fighting graft and our collective sense of dignity and integrity as a community.
“We must draw a line on corruption at this level. We must not babysit or seek to protect corrupt elements at the helm of affairs of our community. We must not condone corrupt practices; and we must be consistent and committed to conducting forensic audits of all the community’s institutions and programmes”.
Speaking about democratic governance – one of the major challenges facing member States, President Bio took the moral high ground, though he himself is under pressure from the country’s main opposition APC, calling on him to respect the democratic right of the people to elect their representatives in parliament, after the High Court annulled last year’s election results in over a dozen constituencies won by the opposition APC.
President Bio’s ruling SLPP party is now in control of those constituencies without holding fresh elections, giving his party a majority in parliament.
The opposition are accusing the president and his party of abuse of power and referring to his actions as undemocratic.
But speaking at the ECOWAS summit, president Bio told fellow Heads of States: “Sierra Leone continues to urge that our community embraces an even and unambiguous commitment to a culture of democratic governance, predictably-timed democratic elections, and peaceful transfers of power.
“This will not only create a more peaceful community but it will help create a safe and predictable climate for trade and investment. We must continue holding ourselves fully accountable to all agreed standards of good governance. Therefore, we must not appease, and we should not compromise on this collective commitment”.
Commending the President of the ECOWAS Commission – Kassi Brou for his good work, President Bio noted that the sub-regional economic growth is 3.3% in 2019, which he said is slightly higher than Africa’s average of 3%.
He urged his colleagues to redouble efforts toward increasing inter-community trade and investment, adding: “We should lower and eventually eliminate trade barriers among our community of nations, especially inter-community transportation and shipping. Let us make the free movement of people, goods and services a key benchmark of our integration commitment”.
The President reiterated Sierra Leone’s commitment to the ECOWAS single currency, community levy obligations, as he commended all those who have made commitment to contributing to the ECOWAS fund for implementation of the action plan on counter-terrorism.
He also expressed deep concern over the slow operationalisation of the ECOWAS Logistics Depot to be constructed at Lungi, near Freetown.
He urged member states not to renege on their commitment to operationalise early warning centres in member states, aimed at mitigating the impact of climate change.
Earlier, President Bio held bilateral discussions with President Muhammadu Buhari – President of Nigeria. Both Heads of States pledged to strengthen relationship between their two nations.