By; IYOKPO J. EGBODO, Abuja
Speakers and Heads of African Parliaments have commenced taking measures for foreign loan debt relief for African countries. However, the push for debt cancellation came with a pledge to improve oversight over loan approvals and ensure judicious utilization of loans in their respective countries, it emerged on Monday.
This followed the official formation and launching of the Conference of Speakers and Heads of African Parliaments (CoSAP) initiated by the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, due to the shared concern over the socio-economic effect of the coronavirus (Covid-19) on African counties.
Other members of the group include Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples, Ethiopia; Hon. Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, MP, Speaker of Parliament, Republic of Ghana, and Hon. Justin Bedan Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Kenya.
Others are Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda; Hon. Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Republic of Senegal; and Hon. Thandi Modise, Speaker, National Assembly, South Africa.
While Hon. Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples, Ethiopia and Hon. Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda could not make the meeting, Speakers and Heads of Parliaments from Algeria, Morocco, Cote D’Ivoire and Cape Verde were said to have fully announced their readiness to join the movement, according to the Chairman of CoSAP, Rep. Gbajabiamila.
The presiding officers of the African legislatures, in a virtual meeting on Monday, assured of their commitment to advocate for debt relief and to ensure that all resources made available from the debt relief efforts are transparently used and fully accounted for.
Gbajabiamila, in his remarks, emphasized the need for advocacy for the expansion and the buy-in of other African Speakers and Heads of Parliaments, saying the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Ms Gabriela Cuevas Barron has shown tremendous support for CoSAP.
It emerged that Hon. Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Republic of Senegal has been able to co-opt his Algeria, Morocco and Cote D’Ivoire and Cape Verde into CoSAP.
“Today officially marks the beginning of this historic initiative, and I want us to remember this as a historical day, not just for us as Speakers and Heads of Parliaments with a vision but for our Continent, Africa.
“We have managed to achieve so much in this little time, but this is not the time to rest on our oars but to work even harder. We must put more pressure and effort than before and act with more strength and vigour that we can muster so that our voices can be heard more clearly both domestically and internationally.
“The next couple of weeks will serve as a major determinant of this initiative, but I’m confident that we are more than capable, especially because we are aware that our people are relying on us to see this vision and initiative to fruition”.
While affirming a Pledge of Accountability following the launching of CoSAP, the members agreed to ensure, through the assigned constitutional powers of the legislature, that freed-up resources are not misused, but are invested in social, economic and human capital development.