By Lizzy Okoji
Abuja, – Some Members of the ECOWAS Parliament have bemoaned the restriction of its powers by the ECOWAS Commission which have limited them to exercising their mandates.
They made this known on Friday during Parliament’s High-level Seminar in Lome, Togo with the theme “Application of the power of the Parliament in light of the restructuring of the ECOWAS Commission”.
This is also as experts charged Parliament on exercising its Parliamentary Powers.
The Member of Parliament insisted it was imperative for the Parliament to start executing its powers as enshrined in its Supplementary Act which indicates the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament to include a law-making role among other functions.
Sen. Ali Ndume, representing Nigeria at the ECOWAS Parliament said that it is worrisome to discuss the enhancement of Parliament’s power when these powers have been overly restricted.
“It is odd to discuss the powers of the parliament at this point, I think we need to look at the whole process and ensure that it is worth it.
“The powers of the Parliament have been overly subdued, and if we are going to be what we are then we should be what we are.
“The ECOWAS Parliament is so much important now most especially as we have a lot of challenges bedevilling the sub-region, hence we need to start working and not to start talking of power enhancement;
“We should do the right thing, and doing the right thing should not be personal, we can be in the position today and tomorrow someone else take over.
“Going forward, this seminar should provide an opportunity for us to look at the document that we are currently using, it is not the issue of enhancement, but the issue of amendment;
“One of our problems is the Commission, and we can’t expect them to correct it, the Parliament Legal Director should be made to handle this Acts, and then we should have other MPs to look at the law and jointly amend it”, Ndume said.
Mr Stephen Zargo a lawmaker from Liberia said that Articles 7 and 9 of the ECOWAS Parliament Acts give parliament an enhanced power, but the power has not been well utilised.
“We are arguing because you need leadership to make it happen if the Act gives us the power, we are crying because we have a leadership deficit,” Zargo said.
Hon. Fatoumatta Njai from the Gambia however called for the strengthening of the legal department of the ECOWAS Parliament.
“As a Parliament, our Legal Department must be strengthened, it should be a directorate and not a department.
“We should have started on the implementation on how to use our enhanced power and without a strong directorate, we cannot achieve this course” Njai said said.
Preceding the reactions from the lawmakers were presentations and recommendations by experts which includes; the ECOWAS Commission’s Legal Director, Daniel Lago, and the Legal Adviser of the ECOWAS Parliament, Isatou Njia.
The experts spoke on the operationalisation of the new institutional Reforms and on Exercising Parliamentary Powers.
Bodo in his presentation charged Parliament with the establishment of a Committee/Working Groups in other to deepen their powers.
Isatou in her presentation noted that it is left to Parliament to take control and fully implement the provisions of the Supplementary Act.
This she said can be achieved by developing necessary guidelines in conjunction with implementing institutions and agencies of the Community.
Concluding the session, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Tunis agreed to the call of the MPs and added that their concerns have long been pondered by individuals and he feels more pain over these issues raised.
“Listening to what we have all been yearning for, I think this is the beginning, now we have an opportunity to come up with an outcome document with the support of the Director of Legal Affairs.
“Because at the end of the day even in the Commission he is the one to respond to this issue.
“The Director of Legal affairs is for all institutions, now that we have him here working with our own legal adviser, I really hope we can come up with a document at the end of this seminar .
“Because it is so timely with everything that is happening in this region, trust me it is the MPs that can do the job, not technocrats, but those MPs must have the powers,” Tunis said. (NAN)