By Lizzy Okoji…..
Bomi County, Liberia- Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Tunis has said the ECOWAS Parliament will engage with authorities of Member States to stop the extortion of ECOWAS citizens by Immigration officials at all border posts and crossings.
Tunis made this known on Monday while visiting Gbahjakeh Community in Bomi County, Liberia during an oversight visit to some communities across County on entering into Liberia through the Sierra Leonean/Liberian border.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Tunis was on the visit to engage with ECOWAS Citizens in the border community to know their challenges and how the Parliament can address them.
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. and even in the community.
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.
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.
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.
“It is our responsibility as law makers to promote integration and your responsibility as citizens to e law abiding”, Tunis said.
Mr Collins Arthur, a Nigerian businessman who deals in electronics said he has lived in Liberia for over ten years, adding that he people of Liberia are hospitable but the major challenge are from the immigration officials.
Arthur said that despite having his papers, the immigration officials continually harasses 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, 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.
Snowe said it is impossible to solve a problem if the problem was not known.
He also said that the town hall still under construction which was used to host the visit will be named after speaker Tunis upon completion.
Snowe also 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. (NAN)