(Abuja, May 18, 2016:) The 2016 First Ordinary Session for the Fourth Legislature of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States otherwise known as ECOWAS Parliament kicked off on Monday, May 16, 2016 at the International Conference Center in Abuja, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to a dispatch from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja, the opening session was characterized by calls for the enhancement of the powers of the Sub-Regional Parliament.
The dispatch adds that three of Liberia’s five representatives to the Parliament attended the opening session on Monday. The Liberian team is being led by Representative Jefferson Karmon of Sinoe County who is the Third Deputy Speaker of the Parliament. The others are Representatives Edwin Melvin Snowe of Montserrado County and Haja Fata Siryon of Bomi County respectively.
Senators George Manneh Weah and Prince Yormie Johnson of Montserrado and Nimba Counties respectively who were absent during the opening session are expected to later join the rest of their sub regional colleagues. The session runs up to the 31st of May, 2016.
The Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Moustapha Cisse Lo, in his opening remarks told his colleagues that the quest for the enhancement of the powers of the Parliament is unshakable and requested all Member States to work together to realize the noble objective.
Speaker Cisse Lo who was recently elected to head the Parliament also urged the Heads of States and Government of the sub region to remain vigilant and intensify cooperation among themselves in order to overcome economic challenges and terrorism, with associated cross border crimes, which he said posed a threat to the development of the sub-region.
He, however, noted that despite the threats of terror and violent extremism, Member States have shown their determination to face the challenges of insecurity.
The dispatch quotes the Speaker: “ECOWAS has mapped out strategies to increase regional economic integration, especially in this era of globalization. Our session is taking place in the context of relative stability in the political and security situation. The numerous arrests made following the Grand Bassam attacks in Cote d’ Ivoire; significantly fewer terrorists attacks by Boko Haram; implementation of the peace and reconciliation accords in Mali and the responsible manner in which post-election disputes were handled in Niger are all positive developments that give us reason to be optimistic”.
For his part, the President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki threw his weight behind the enhancement of powers of the Parliament.
According to the dispatch, he also called for more powers for the ECOWAS Parliament if the aim of the Sub Region to achieve full integration is to be realized.
He said even though the Parliament is evolving in the right direction, it was his fervent hope that Member States will begin to invest in it more responsibility and opportunity as a sure path to creating the right structure for closer integration for the Sub Region.
“The ECOWAS Parliament remains a critical place to start. We must as a necessity, give the Parliament greater authorization and capacity to duly legislate on common areas and provide oversight on certain issues of common interest and interdependency”, Dr. Saraki stated.
“As we speak, the average citizen of the ECOWAS is yet to feel meaningfully the impact of the ECOWAS Union beyond free movement of persons and goods. This is another reason I believe the enhancement of the ECOWAS Parliament remit merits deliberation”, he noted.
Dr. Saraki warned that failure to remit to the Parliament more powers, the dreams for greater integration will remain a myth. “This singular reason may be responsible for the lack of adequate cohesion in the fight against terrorism, cross border crimes and the implementation of agreed trade agreements and protocols”, he added.
On terrorism and cross border crimes, Dr. Saraki called for more concerted efforts by ECOWAS to confront the challenges posed by them.
Other speakers in their respective opening remarks pledged support to the Parliament in the realization of the objectives of the Sub Region. They included the Chairman of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, Mr. Khadim Diop who represented the President of Senegal, Mr. Macky Sall who is the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS.
Others were the President of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Justice Maria Do Ceu Monteiro Silva and a representative for Mr. Marcel de Souza, the new President of the ECOWAS Commission.
The ECOWAS Parliament sits in session three times a year with two ordinary sessions in May and September. There may however be an extraordinary session at any time in the course of the year to discuss an urgent, specific agenda.
It comprises of 115 members who are elected from amongst Members of the various National Assemblies or Legislatures of Member States for a period of four years.