By Ifeanyi Nwoko
Abuja – The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohammed Tunis on Tuesday urged ECOWAS member countries to ensure that they paid their levies promptly to enable the sub-regional body to carry out its programmes.
Tunis gave the charge while speaking with newsmen on the sidelines of the ongoing inaugural session of the 5th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament in Niamey, Niger Republic.
He said that the non-payment of levies was gravely hampering the implementation of programmes and projects of the community.
Citing the case of Cape Verde, the speaker noted that the non-payment of such levies had denied defaulting countries certain privileges they should have enjoyed as member states.
“The major problem which I believe we should address is community levy.
“How do we prevail on our brothers and sisters in the various countries to ensure they pay their community levy.
“Community levies are not anybody’s money; you are collecting it on behalf of the commission. If you collect it just pass it.
“Countries like Cape Varde are missing out on a lot of things because they are not paying their levies.
“We are going to be collaborating more with the commission to address this.
“Today, I have a meeting with the Cape Verde delegation. I am looking at sending the Chairman of the Finance Committee to lead a delegation to Cape Verde.
“I really want us to ensure that we collect the community levies because without the levies, there is no way our programmes will be implemented.
“If we are in this together then we should be prepared to pay our levies.
“I know sometimes it is difficult but we must make effort to pay,” he said.
The speaker noted that if community levies were paid fully, the sub-region would have enough money for interventions in emergency situations such as in the case of the coronavirus spread.
According to him, with the outbreak of the disease in West Africa, ECOWAS would have been able to immediately deploy professionals, members of parliament, and missions across, to sensitise the people.
He said that the emphasis should be on prevention and not just reacting when the virus had already struck.
The speaker then pledged to pay more attention to the media and to make the activities of the parliament more visible and known to citizens of the community.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a breakdown of payment from 2003 to 2015 released by the commission, shows that Nigeria has contributed more money than 13 other countries put together.
Statistics on payment of the community levy show that between 2003 and 2015, Nigeria paid more than 710 million dollars equivalent to 480 million West Africa Units of Account (UA).
The West Africa UA is the official nominal monetary unit of measure or currency used by ECOWAS to represent the real value.
In the same period, 13 other countries contributed a cumulative amount of 697, 947 million dollars apart from Ghana, which paid 327. 976 million dollars .