Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, H.E. Moustapha Cisse Lo has gotten the commitment of very high officials of the government of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire on the need for the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament. The head of the sub-regional Parliament who was on a 5-day working visit to the National Assembly of the Republic met officially with the Speaker, H. E Guillaume Soro Kigbafori, prior to addressing the Plenary of the National Parliament, where Speaker Kigbafori assured of the government’s commitment toward backing the strengthening of Community institutions to be able to attain the ECOWAS Vision 2020.
Likewise, in the course of Speaker Lo’s visit, his meeting with the Minister of African Integration and Ivorians Abroad, Mr. Ally Coulibaly as well as that with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abdullah Albert Toikeusse, yielded similar results as both officials readily expressed their government’s support for the quest for an increase in West African people's participation in the regional integration process by the strengthening of the powers of the Community Parliament.
The 4th Legislature headed by H.E Moustapha Cisse Lo, shortly after its inauguration, has recommitted to the campaign to get the buy-in of all stakeholders within the sub-region, in the bid to enhance the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament with a view to performing its traditionally legislative functions.
The 4th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament has taken up the campaign to enhance its powers from where the erstwhile 3rd legislature left off, as the Hon. Speaker, H.E. Moustapha Cisse Lo appealed for the strengthening of the institutional role of the Parliament in the integration process of the sub-region.
The Speaker, in his message to the solemn opening of the 2016 First Ordinary Session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, disclosed that the Parliament in its just-concluded First Extra-Ordinary Session, adopted the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, of which its successful implementation requires the revival of the process of strengthening the Community Parliament’s powers.
In addition, Speaker Lo who addressed the Cote d’Ivoire National Assembly on the invite of its Speaker, H.E Guillaume Soro Kigbafori, appealed for a strengthening of cooperation between the ECOWAS Parliament and National Parliaments of ECOWAS member states, particularly through the institutionalization of annual messages addressed to the people of the sub-region in sessions of National Parliaments and that of the Community Parliament. He described the invite from Speaker Kigbafori as a gesture of friendship and an opportunity to foster cooperation between the two institutions while calling for the revitalization of the annual Conference of Speakers of West African Parliaments.
Meanwhile, in his message to the Plenary of the National Assembly of Cote d'Ivoire, the Speaker of Parliament also addressed several issues of community interest including the need to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism as well showing more commitment in the implementation of the ECOWAS Policy on free movement of citizens, goods and services.
Recall that the 1st – 3rd Legislatures of the Parliament had sought the enhancement of its powers to include the power to legislate in co-decision with the Council of Ministers, representation, budget appropriation and confirmation of statutory appointees of the Community Institutions. However, that campaign was quelled at the twilight of the 3rd Legislature, with some Member States giving some reservations which stopped the adoption and signing of the Draft Supplementary Act on the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament in 2015. Currently, the Parliament has consultative and advisory capacity within the decision making organs of the ECOWAS Community.
On the opening of the Extra Ordinary session of the Parliament at the institution’s seat in Abuja on April 11 2016, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H. E. Mr. Marcel Alain De Souza, in his address to Parliament, expressed joy at the opportunity to speak on the floor of the Parliament while emphasizing the need for the deepening of the relations between the Parliament and the Commission.
The President who is barely a few days old in office, advocated that the Community should strive to make the Parliament the “classic institution for monitoring adherence to our Member States commitment to the integration process”. He beckoned on Members of Parliament to accord high priority to “institutional reforms that will ensure greater efficiency in the establishment of economic, monetary and commercial integration”.
He went on to advise the Members of Parliament in his capacity as one of them in a recent past, to “support the various Member States in the implementation of the Community texts”. The Commission’s President used the medium to commend the progress made by the Community on the free movement of persons, goods, capital and services. Mr. De Souza further remarked on the introduction of the Common External Tariff (CET), which he says is an “extremely significant advancement which we must further develop”. In addition, the President extoled the resolutions of crises and the conduct of open and peaceful elections in the sub-region.
Furthermore, the President called for a greater collaboration of Member States on the issues of security; health challenges, making reference to malaria and its complications as well as constant monitoring of the Ebola Virus Disease against resurgence; and to curb the use of narcotics and other psychotropic substances among the youth.
President De Souza ended his address by reassuring Members of Parliament of his availability to examine in concert with them, all proposals intended to speed up the integration process for the attainment of the ECOWAS Vision 2020.
The ECOWAS Parliament is set to implement measures to increase its visibility among citizens of the Community as the Fourth Legislature adopted a four-year strategic plan that included enhancing the powers for the institution.
The quest for Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament, which made significant progress in the 3rd Legislature but could not get the needed assent of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, continues to be a priority for Members of Parliament. However, making the institution known and appreciated by the people of the sub-region has moved up on the list of priorities for the current crop of Parliamentarians.
First highlighted at the meeting of the Ad hoc Committee on the Strategic Plan of the Fourth Legislature, the need to make the Parliament more visible, has since gained traction among Parliamentarians, who now advocate for more efforts and resources to be committed for the purpose.
Following the adoption of the Ad hoc Committee’s report by Plenary, one of the strategies for increasing the Parliament’s visibility is delocalised (out-of-headquarter) committee meetings, whereby the various committees hold their meetings in an alternate Member State other than Abuja, Nigeria, the seat of Parliament. In the face of current paucity of funds being experienced in the Community institutions, Plenary adopted the position that instead of scheduling Committee meetings separately, as many of the standing Committees as possible will merge in joint Committees, at the given venue per time so as to further increase its visibility with the constituents. The idea is to make the population of the designated country feel the presence of ECOWAS parliamentarians whose attendance in their numbers would subsequently facilitate interactions with other Members of the national parliament, diverse segments of the civil population and very importantly, Members of the media. It is expected that Members of Parliament will leverage on the media to create awareness about their work.
Another strategy that was approved is for the Bureau of Parliament to undertake periodic visits to national parliaments as well as sensitization and education campaigns of citizens on the importance of the role of the ECOWAS Parliament in the integration agenda of West Africa.
Echoing the Ad hoc Committee’s position, Hon. Aissata Daffe (Guinea), who identified “the visibility of the Parliament as a real problem,” asserted that the 4th Legislature must pay more advocacy visits to national parliaments.
She suggested that the press association that used to cover the activity of the Parliament should be reintroduced so that their reports in national media can disseminate information on the activities of the institution.
Honourable Fatimata Fomba Niambali (Mali) on her part affirmed that “On the delocalised meetings, I am of the view that Parliament cannot be visible with localised meetings. We have to see how Members of Parliaments can explain to constituents.”
Parliamentary debates on issues that affect the population of the Community, even prior to the acquisition of enhanced powers, was also identified as another way the Parliament can make citizens know about its existence and activities. Honourable Califa Seidi (Guinea Bissau) explained that such debates must be well publicised across the region. “Parliament’s proceedings and debates should be disseminated through all Member States,” he pointed out.
The Ad hoc Committee on Strategic Plan of the 4th Legislature adopted its report and subsequently forwarded it to Plenary for onward consideration and adoption so as to establish its ownership as an ECOWAS Parliament document.
The ECOWAS Parliament sitting in its 2016 extra ordinary session from 11 to 15 April, 2016, at Abuja, Nigeria, adopted a four-year strategic plan that aligns its activities with the Community Strategic Framework (CSF)). The Strategic Plan, which runs from 2016 to 2020, was contained in the report of the Ad hoc Committee constituted by the Speaker of the Parliament H.E Hon. Moustapha Cisse Lo, to consider the draft Strategic Plan of the 4th Legislature.
The Parliament identified itself as operating within Goal 3 of the CSF that focuses on “deepening the process of political cohesion and participation” and has set four strategic objectives for itself.
Strategic objectives to be pursued in the period include ensuring participation and representation of the entire population in the decision making process of the Community; strengthening the institutional role and powers of the ECOWAS Parliament; ensuring peace, security, good governance and human rights; and promoting relations with Community institutions, national parliaments, inter-parliamentary bodies and partner organizations.
In the course of the four years, Members of Parliament would be involved in as many as 30 delocalized (out-of-headquarter) meetings, eight workshops, two study tours, three parliamentary workshops, one parliamentary seminar and two sets of fact finding missions.
The Parliament agreed to regularly monitor and evaluate the implementation of the plan. In order to harmonize activities and judiciously use resources, it will organize interactive sessions between its standing Committees and corresponding departments of the ECOWAS Commission under an initiative that could kick off as early as the next Ordinary Session.
The additional financial resources needed for implementing the Strategic Plan would be the subject of a conference the Parliament plans to hold with partners.
Additionally, the report recommended that Parliament considers its greater involvement in collaborating with ECOWAS Commission in sensitization for the effective enforcement of the Community Levy following observation of poor compliance by Member States.
Furthermore, the Strategic Plan recommended speeding up the process for the enhancement of the powers of Parliament with a view to establishing better conditions for Members of Parliament to make impact within the regional integration process.
The Plenary further accepted a recommendation to improve communication with national parliaments and restore the allocation given to them for sensitization campaigns so as to make the ECOWAS Parliament more visible in Member States
The realization of the Strategic Plan however hinges on the status of the Parliament, which is presently advisory, lending credence to the continued quest for the enhancement of the powers of the parliament, which is a dominant component of the adopted plan. This was highlighted by Hon. Christophe Padumhekou Tchao (Togo) during the Ad hoc Committee meeting, who queried “If the ECOWAS Parliament has its powers limited, how can we be sure that we can achieve this vision 2020?”
Drawing form the experience of the 3rd Legislature, when the draft Supplementary Act for the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament made it to an advanced stage without getting the needed signatures from the Authority of Heads of State and Government so as to come into force, Parliamentarians are of the opinion that it has become pertinent to rethink old strategies if a re-newed bid for its power enhancement is to be achieved in this 4th Legislature.
Hon. Prince Yormie Johnson (Liberia) stressed the need to explore new approaches, “Parliament has in the past done what is being done now,” he noted as he went on to suggest direct election of Members of Parliament as a way of ensuring power emanates from the Community citizens.
Although we have a long way to go, I will encourage all of us to continue striving until we achieve it, Hon. Johnson said.
The Strategic Plan has allowed the Parliament to identify its objectives and it now has a roadmap to make contributions toward the integration of the Community, added the Speaker, Hon. Moustapha Cissé Lô, who is also the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Senegal,
The Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Moustapha Cissé Lô in his opening speech on the occasion of the Extra Ordinary session of the Parliament at the institution’s seat in Abuja on April 11 2016, commended his colleagues on the electoral process that brought him to power in a unanimous vote on February 4 2016, which equally saw the election of the Four Deputy Speakers of the Parliament.
In his welcome address, he emphasized on the importance of a Strategic Plan which formed part of the agenda of the meeting as well as the status of enhancement of powers of the Parliament and the work Programme of the Standing Committees which the Members of parliament are expected to work with for the next Four years. Making reference to the significance of a Strategic Work Plan, the Speaker in his words stated that: “Management has become more scientific than ever before… the main objective is to establish evidence of linking each action to a particular result. It is therefore worthy of commendation that even at the level of the Community, Results Based Management (RBM) is being practiced and hence the need for all Institutions to design and implement a Strategic Plan”.
Hon. Speaker Cissé Lô urged his colleagues to be results oriented as he pledged his commitment towards achieving the project of the Enhancement of Powers of the Parliament as championed by the Ike Ekweremmadu-led 3rd Legislature.
Speaking further, the Hon. Speaker acknowledged the success recorded in the Member States that held elections within the region in 2015 and recently, The Republics of Benin and Niger in 2016. He suggested that such feats are attainable in a collaborative effort as seen in the cooperation by Member States in the election observation. Subsequently, he praised the efforts of the Nigerian government in the fight against the menace of Boko Haram, while recognizing the contributions of the Governments and people of Niger, Benin, Chad and Cameroun to ending the insurgency.
Additionally, Speaker Cissé Lô announced to Parliament the appointments of His Excellency, Mr Mercel Alain De Souza, as the President of the ECOWAS Commission as well as the Vice President and some new Commissioners. He reiterated the readiness for the continued partnership of the Parliament with the Commission in order to achieve the objectives of the Community. He further officially unveiled the new management-level staff of the administrative arm of the Parliament to include the newly appointed Secretary General, Dr Nelson Olalekan Magbagbeola, Director of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Bertin Somé and Director of Administration and Finance, Ms. Anna Jagne.