From Left: 1st Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun of Nigeria, Speaker MoustaphaCisse ‘Lo of Senegal and 3rd Deputy Speaker Jefferson Kanmoh of Liberia Photo Credit: Public Affairs The 2016 First Ordinary Session for the Fourth Legislature of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS Parliament kicked off on Monday, May 16, 2016 at the International Conference Center in Abuja, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Foreigh Ministry in Monrovia quotes a dispatch from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja as saying the opening session was characterized by calls for the enhancement of the powers of the Sub-Regional Parliament.
The dispatch added that three of Liberia’s five representatives to the Parliament attended the opening session on Monday, indicating that the Liberian team is being headed by Representative Jefferson Karmon of Sinoe County. Representative Karmon is the Third Deputy Speaker of the Parliament.
Others members of the team are Representatives Edwin Melvin Snowe of Montserrado County and Haja Fata Siryon of Bomi County, respectively. Senators George MannehWeah and Prince Yormie Johnson of Montserrado and Nimba Counties, who were absent during the opening session, were expected to join the rest of their sub regional colleagues.
The session runs up to the 31st of May, 2016. According to the dispatch as released by the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia, the Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. MoustaphaCisse Lo- in his opening remarks, told his colleagues that the quest for the enhancement of the powers of the Parliament was unshakable, requesting 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 Governments 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.
The dispatch quoted him as noting, however, that despite the threats of terror and violent extremism, Member States have shown their determination to face the challenges of insecurity. “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,” the Speaker recounted.
The President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr. BukolaSaraki,supported the enhancement of powers of the Parliament, emphasizing the need for more powers for the ECOWAS Parliament, if the aim of the Sub Region to achieve full integration is to be realized.
He indicated that even though the Parliament was evolving in the right direction, it was his fervent hope that Member States would begin to invest in more responsibility and opportunity in 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. Sarakiemphasized, further noting:
“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”.
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 the issues of terrorism and cross border crimes, Dr. Saraki called for more concerted efforts by ECOWAS to confront the challenges posed by them.