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.