By Linus Aleke, Abuja
The Community Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Wednesday, shut journalists out of Committee meetings, at the ongoing 2023 First Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Parliament, in Abuja.
Sine the Committee session started on Monday, no journalist was allowed free access to the Committee meeting rooms at the ECOWAS Parliament headquarters.
The plenary is held at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters, due to a dysfunctional cooling system at the hallow chambers of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Foreign and local journalists covering the ongoing session were refused access to the committee meeting, citing orders from above.
The Clerk of the Joint
Committee Meeting on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources/ Macroeconomic Policy and Economic Research/ Trade, Customs and Free Movement/Industry and Private Sector, Mr Eve told the journalists that they can only speak to the Committee Members after the meeting.
All efforts by the regional parliamentary reporters to know by whose order they are barred from covering the committee meeting proved abortive.
This is happening at a time when the sub-region is hit with widespread hunger, poverty, food insecurity and acute malnutrition.
Earlier, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, in a report to the Parliament said, despite good production, about 29.5 million people needed emergency food and nutritional assistance in West Africa.
Dr. Touray, said, if appropriate measures are not taken, this figure could rise to 42.5 million people during the lean season between
June and August 2023.
In addition, he said, 107.5 million people are estimated to be food insecure and could fall
into crisis in the event of shocks, notably in Nigeria (64 million), Niger (7.3 million) and Burkina
Faso (5.1 million).
The president noted that the nutrition crisis also persists in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad, where nearly 16.5 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition.
Also, access to electricity in West Africa is at 52 per cent, with shortages of up to 80 hours per month, a World Banks report said.
The report added that electricity in West Africa remains among the costliest in the world, at $0.25 per kilowatt-hour, more than twice the global average.
“Domestic demand in West African countries is often too low to attract investments in large projects that benefit from economies of scale. Instead, these countries rely on small-scale, expensive oil-fired power generation. Lack of planning has led to reliance on emergency rental plants, which further inflates costs,” the World Bank report said.
It added that improving electricity access and reliability in West Africa requires close collaboration among neighbouring countries.
The West Africa Power Pool (WAPP), the report said is a cooperation of 14 countries–Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo– with 27 national electricity utilities, working towards an integrated regional power market.
Regrettably, the authorities of ECOWAS Parliament is preventing journalists from covering joint committee meeting that discusses the above-enumerated issues, which present the sub-region in bad light amongst the comity of regional economic blocs.