Freetown International Conference Center, Freetown, Wednesday 31 January 2024 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has addressed the closing of the final parliamentary seminar of the fifth legislature of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, a 3-day session that discussed illegal mining and its implications in the region.
He welcomed guests and reiterated his gratitude to the ECOWAS Parliament for its invaluable support in strengthening the democratic process and good governance in the sub-region in general and in Sierra Leone in particular. He urged all member states to strengthen their commitment to collective action.
He stated that the leadership of the Fifth Legislature had contributed immensely to promoting peace, security and stability in West Africa, emphasising the importance of the theme: “Illegal mining and trafficking in precious minerals negatively impact peace, stability, security, development, governance, the rule of law, the environment, and the economy”.
“Our sub-region has contended with illegal mining even before our nations gained their independence. I thank the ECOWAS Parliament for organising this workshop, which underscores the importance of collective action in addressing challenges that transcend borders,” he said.
The President also reminded the legislators from different countries that through their activities and actions in all member states, they as Members of Parliament had made invaluable contributions to achieving the Community’s integration and development objectives as articulated in its Vision 2050.
“Our continent possesses over 60 different types of minerals, accounting for a third of the world’s mineral reserves. The ECOWAS region is richly endowed with abundant reserves of a large variety of non-renewable natural resources, comprising mineral resources, crude oil, and natural gas. These extractive resources account for a significant portion of Africa’s proven assets.
“Illegal mining of precious minerals is often accompanied by serious human rights abuses and can have severe environmental impacts, including deforestation, land degradation, and pollution. As policymakers, we must make concerted efforts to strengthen further the legal and regulatory frameworks to curb illegal mining significantly,” the president warned.
President Bio acknowledged that no single country on its own could address the complex issue of illegal mining, adding that they must work hand in hand with their regional partners by sharing best practices, intelligence, and resources to effectively combat illegal mining across borders.
Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Rt. Honourable Dr Sidie Mohamed Tunis, reminded his colleagues that the events were pivotal to the Parliament, stressing that they marked the conclusion of the lifespan of the Fifth Legislature and consequently the end of his tenure.
He extended gratitude to President Bio and the people of Sierra Leone, all the Heads of State of the Community, especially those who had chaired the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government during his tenure, for their support.
“The threat to illegal mining in the ECOWAS region is having far-reaching implications for the security, socioeconomic and environmental fabric of the region,” he noted and stressed that a careful revision of the numbers available to the legislature provided a compelling need to give attention to the region’s mining sector.
Minister of Petroleum and Energy of The Gambia, Abdoulie Jobe, on behalf of His Excellency President Adama Barrow, described Sierra Leone as a magnificent place with mixed cultures, stating that the gathering was a show of celebration of brotherhood, peace, and democracy in the sub-region.
While receiving an award on behalf of President Barrow for his commitment to regional peace and security, the Minister said that the award signified the commitment of ECOWAS to promoting peace in member countries.
He said the award should remind heads of state and government that regional peace and democratic values were important on the agenda of the ECOWAS Parliament, emphasising the point that peace was a foundation on which a country could grow.
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