ECOWAS Parliament Adopts Strategy To End Border Extortion

ECOWAS Parliament says it will engage with the authorities of Member States to end the extortion of ECOWAS citizens by Immigrations officials at all border posts.

The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament Sidie Tunis gave the indication during a visit to Gbahjakeh Community in Bomi County, Liberia.

The visit was to engage with ECOWAS Citizens in the border community to know their challenges and how the Parliament could address them.

During the interaction, the Citizens complained bitterly of extortion from immigration officials while crossing the borders between Sierra Leone and Liberia to trade.

A Nigerian businessman, Mr. Collins Authur who deals on electronics and had lived in Liberia  for over ten years, complained that despite having his papers, the immigration officials have continously harassed him and extorted money from him.

Also narrating his ordeal, Mr James Momoh, a Sierra Leonean trader said he was jailed at the border post for not bribing immigration officials even with his complete documents.

Responding to the issue , the Speaker Sidie Tunis pledged the intervention of the Parliament as he plans to first, engage with the relevant authorities in Liberia and other West African countries.

He 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 harassments.

Tunis however urged ECOWAS Citizens to be law abiding in their host country .

“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 the 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.

“It is our responsibility as law makers to promote integration and your responsibility as citizens to e law abiding”, Tunis said.

Senator Edwin Snowe representing Bomi County at the ECOWAS Parliament also gave an assurance that the ECOWAS Parliament will swing into action to end the unfortunate situation, noting that it was one of the reasons the speaker was visiting.

He also announced that the town hall still under construction which was used to host the visit, would be named after the speaker, Sidie Tunis, upon completion.

Snowe disclosed 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.

Idara Ukpanyang

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