The need for the sustenance of democracy and constitutionalism in West Africa took the centre stage as the 1st 2012 Ordinary Session of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS Parliament, opened in Abuja on Monday.
Referring to the coups in Mali and Guinea Bissau in relation to the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, the Speaker of the Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in his opening address, said on no account should the collective will of the people of West Africa to live under democratic governments be subverted or compromised.
The Speaker described the military coups in Mali and Guinea Bissau as “highly condemnable, obnoxious, unacceptable and regrettable”, saying the military must restrict itself to its constitutional role to avoid a repeat of what he termed “a cancerous growth of military rule” across the region from the 1960s till the recent past.
Ekweremadu who also doubles as the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate further said: “Besides, the story of coups and the long years of military dominance of governance in West Africa is the story of poverty, underdevelopment, conflict and instability; it is indeed a road largely fraught with anguish, tears, sorrow, and blood on which the peoples of West Africa do not wish to travel again”.
He also called the attention of members of Community Parliament to the tremendous threats which the activities of the Boko Haram sect pose to Nigeria and the sub-region, stating that such wave of insecurity and terrorism in parts of the Community hold ominous future for the sub-region if not summarily addressed.
The Speaker who regretted that such acts of terror have also been visited on the media warned that terrorism, violent crimes as well as political and religious violence were not just genuine and frightening threats to integration, free movement of persons and goods, tourism as well as intra-regional and foreign investment in the sub-region, but constitute direct danger to democracy, good governance and stability.
“Terrorism runs as an international syndicate and can only be stemmed in the sub-region with all member states working together and we must therefore all rise to collectively, holistically, and strategically address the situation with utmost sense of urgency”, Senator Ekweremadu added.
He said that security of lives and property, sustenance of democracy, and the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament would therefore top the agenda of the Third Legislature of the Parliament.
He also explained that the 1st 2012 Ordinary Session of the Parliament would receive and debate the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Enhancement of the Powers of the Community Parliament with a view to ensuring that the Report, when adopted would be marketable to the relevant ECOWAS stakeholders and also capable of putting the Parliament on a strong footing in terms of efficacy and international parliamentary best practices.
“We are keen on this enhancement not only because it is the convention and standard in other climes like the EU and East Africa, but also critical to the rapid integration and development of the sub-region”, he further said, advising members of the Community Parliament to approach the issue with every sense of dignity, responsibility, and diplomacy.
In his goodwill message, the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal also condemned the coups in Mali and Guinea Bissau, saying they “pose threat to our collective desire for a sub-region that is founded on ennobling democratic values and rule of law”.
The Speaker who was represented by his Deputy, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, called for the support of ECOWAS National Parliaments for the speedy involvement of the Community Parliament in the decision-making processes of ECOWAS.
“It is only when the Parliament is fully entrenched in the decision-making processes of the sub-regional organisation that the quest for the transformation of ECOWAS from that of ECOWAS of states to ECOWAS of people will make any meaning”, he emphasized.
Meanwhile, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, has assured of the Commission was working assidouslt towards the resolution of the democratic in Mali and Guinea Bissau as well as the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Ouedraogo who is to deliver the State of the Community address to the Parliament on Tuesday, urged ECOWAS member States to do more to ensure full implementation of all Protocols relating to free movement as well as rights of residence and establishment.