President Muhammad Buhari on Thursday addressed the opening ceremony of the 51st conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), Africa region in Abuja Nigeria.
Represented by Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the President commended the Commonwealth nations in Africa, for the synergy between the legislature and executive, vis-à-vis interparliamentary relations that exist amongst Members state.
According to Osinbajo, President Buhari was away in Paris for a Peace Forum, where Nigeria is expected to host a segment on issues concerning the post COVID economy.
Speaking on the theme for the 51st conference, ‘African Parliaments and the Challenge of COVID-19 Pandemic’, the President said the virus has wreaked great havoc on the socioeconomic fabrics of the world, “and in particular, Africa”.
He said, “virtually all African countries have had cases, with over 6 million people infected and well over 150,000 deaths.
“Already, troubling levels of poverty and joblessness were worse here in Africa. About 40 million people have been estimated to have been pushed into extreme poverty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the unemployment rate in large Commonwealth African countries, like Nigeria and South Africa, was about 30%.
“In this mystery, obviously, women and girls are the worst hits. Indeed, the lockdown has greatly shown to have increased the rate of school dropouts amongst girls, especially those from low-income families; increased child marriages, adolescent childbearing and gender-based violence; a short drop in income for most families here in Nigeria and in most of the economies in Africa will mean that the families would be making choices of what will disfavour the girl child.
“In this situation, the African policymakers and legislators were compelled to respond through policies that drive growth, create jobs, improve lives and by paying special attention to issues that will improve the lives of women and girls”.
Buhari stressed that those countries (like Nigeria), that may not have the luxury of wonderful packages that wealthier economies have, would have to look inwards and explore the opportunities of boosting productivity and overproduction, adding that, it had been tough for Nigeria and many African countries.
“In many of our nations, the executive and the legislature, work, and are still working, consciously, to seamlessly and efficiently deliver budgets and legislations, to mitigate the economic problems, in the aftermath of the pandemic”, he said.
The President, full of hope, said the pandemic has provided the opportunity to reinvigorate the economy and revisit the social contract the political class had with the people.
On his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria and President-designate of CPA, Africa region, Femi Gbajabiamila, advocated full integration in Africa, using the legislative instrument to have a common passport, market and a single customs and monetary union.
Gbajabiamila, in his welcome address, noted that the CPA Africa Region had and would continue to play an essential role in advancing democracy in Africa, noting that it provided an opportunity for parliamentarians across Africa to engage with and learn from each other about the challenges they shared and the strategies for overcoming them.
He said, “…let us commit ourselves to use the tools of parliamentary diplomacy and authority to enable the achievement of a common Passport, a common market and a single customs and monetary union that will make full African integration possible.
“Let us agree to use the instruments of trade and common markets to set us irreversibly on the path to a future of honourable peace, abiding prosperity and brotherhood amongst the nations of Africa.”
The opening ceremony, which had Parliamentarians and delegates from 18 countries of the Commonwealth nations in Africa, was also attended by Speakers of various Houses of Assembly in Nigeria and other lawmakers.
There were goodwill messages from Mr. Stephen Twigg, the Secretary-General, CPA, United Kingdom; Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger, the acting chairperson of the CPA International Executive Committee, and the Chairperson, CPA Africa Region Executive Committee and Speaker of Kenyan National Assembly, Rt. Hon. Justin B. N. Muturi, represented by Vice Chairperson of the Executive Committee, Dr. Christopher Elila.