The Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS says it will engage with authorities of Member States to stop the extortion of ECOWAS citizens by Immigrations officials at all border posts.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Tunis disclosed this while on a visit to Gbahjakeh Community in Bomi County in Liberia.
He noted that the major complains of ECOWAS Citizens in the border town of Gbahjakeh was extortion from immigration officials while trying to cross the borders between Sierra Leone and Liberia to trade in the community.
Engage with Relevant Authorities
Mr. Tunis pledged the intervention of the Parliament as he plans to first of all engage with the relevant authorities in Liberia and other West African countries in a bid to stop the ugly trend which is detrimental to the integration agenda of the region.
The speaker noted that in-line with the ECOWAS protocol on free movements of Persons and goods and to foster integration, ECOWAS citizens should be able to move freely within the sub-region without any form of harassments.
Mr. Tunis however urged ECOWAS Citizens to be law abiding in any country they live in or do business.
“One of the reasons why we always have our delocalized meeting is to bring to the notice of authorities the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of persons and goods and the issue of immigration officers.”
“Extortion is just one of the challenges we have as a region and it is not just here in Liberia, but it also happens in Sierra Leone, Guinea, in other countries of the sub-region and like I said, these are all part of the challenges that we are having.”
“We would need to work collectively as a parliament and as an institution to be able to bring this to the attention of re authorities so that we can stop it .For now, I believe it is engaging the authorities to stop it.
“While I am here in Liberia I will definitely meet with the Minister in charge of Immigration, the Ministry of Interior and Justice and bring to their attention the complains we have just had at the border areas.”
“I also urge you all to be law abiding when you are in another country, do not commit ant crime or run into troubles.”
“It is our responsibility as law makers to promote integration and your responsibility as citizens to e law abiding,” Tunis explained.
A Nigerian businessman who deals in electronics, Mr. Collins Arthur said he has lived in Liberia for over ten years, that the people of Liberia are hospitable but the major challenge are from the immigration officials.
Mr. Arthur said that despite having his papers, the immigration officials continually harass him at his business place just to extort money from him.
He however called for the urgent intervention of the ECOWAS Parliament to stop the situation.
Also narrating his ordeal, a Sierra Leonean trader, Mr. James Momoh, said he was jailed at the border post for not bribing immigration officials even with his complete documents.
Senator Edwin Snowe representing Bomi County in Liberia and a member of the ECOWAS Parliament, said the ECOWAS Parliament would swing into action to end the unfortunate situation, noting that it was one of the reasons the speaker was visiting.
He also disclosed that the town hall still under construction which was used to host the visit Mr. Tunis would be named after the Speaker Tunis upon completion.
Senator Snowe explained that the project was a give-back to his county, as it was being built from his allowances collected anytime he attended a sitting at the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.
The Speaker also during an oversight visit to some communities across the Bomi County on entering into Liberia through the Sierra Leonean/Liberian border to attend the ECOWAS Parliament delocalized meeting donated Ten Thousand Dollars to facilitate development projects in Sime Darby Central High School and the Liberia Government Hospital both in Bomi County, Liberia.
According to Mr. Tunis, the visit to the institutions was aimed at bringing the ECOWAS Parliament to the people, engage with them to know their challenges and how their challenges can be addressed and to assist the school in projects that would aid in strengthening the school system.
At the Liberia Government Hospital, Mr. Tunis said the donation was also a support from the ECOWAS Parliament to strengthen the health system, commending the hospital administration for catering for three counties.