By: Thaimu Bai Sesay Sesaythaimu97@gmail.com

In a significant moment for Sierra Leone, President Julius Maada Bio officially inaugurated the First Parliamentary Seminar of the ECOWAS Parliament in 2024 on Wednesday, January 31st.

The event, held at Bintumani in Freetown, marked both a culmination of a circle for Sierra Leone and the closing session of the Fifth Legislature. The focus of the seminar was addressing the issue of illegal mining and its far-reaching consequences in the West African region.

President Bio expressed his pleasure in presiding over the opening, highlighting the symbolic nature of Sierra Leone hosting the final parliamentary seminar of the current ECOWAS Parliament’s Legislature.

He commended the Parliament for its contributions to promoting peace, security, and stability in West Africa under the leadership of the Fifth Parliament.

Addressing the theme of the seminar, President Bio emphasized the timeliness of discussing illegal mining and its impacts on peace, stability, security, development, governance, rule of law, environment, and the economy in the ECOWAS region. He acknowledged that illegal mining has been a long-standing challenge in the sub-region, affecting nations even before gaining independence.

President Bio thanked the ECOWAS Parliament for organizing the workshop, emphasizing the importance of collective action in addressing challenges that transcend borders.

He recalled the First Parliamentary Seminar of the Fifth Legislature held in Sierra Leone in 2021, noting that it was the first face-to-face event after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

The President highlighted the significant role of ECOWAS Parliament members in contributing to community integration and development objectives, strengthening democracy, and promoting good governance in member states.

The president expressed gratitude to the honorable members for their dedication during unprecedented times in the sub-region and globally.

President Bio emphasized the rich natural resources in the ECOWAS region, including uranium, bauxite, iron ore, crude oil, manganese, and natural gas.

He asserted that these minerals, if managed effectively through the extractive industries, have the potential to transform African economies. The extractive industries subsector, according to President Bio, constitutes a major source of government revenue and more than half of all exports in many countries.

Turning attention to the issue of illegal mining, President Bio outlined its negative consequences, including serious human rights abuses and environmental degradation.

He stressed the need for policy-makers to collaborate in strengthening legal regulatory frameworks to significantly curb illegal mining. The President appreciated the commitment of participating nations and stakeholders in finding sustainable solutions to combat illegal mining in the sub-region.

President Bio concluded by highlighting the immense economic potential of mineral resources, contributing 5% of regional exports and serving as the second source of foreign exchange for many West African countries.

He expressed optimism about lucrative opportunities in the future for countries in the sub-region.

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