Posted by Mayowa Okekale, Abuja | 16 May 2016 | 2,854 times
The Nigerian Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has stated that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament should be strengthened with more powers, if the aim of the sub-region to achieve full integration is to be realised.
He made this call today, during in his speech at the opening ceremony of the First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament held in the National Assembly, Abuja,
He said that though the ECOWAS parliament is evolving in the right direction, it was his fervent hope that members of the sub region will begin to invest into it more responsibility and opportunity as a sure path to creating the right structure for closer integration of the sub-region.
According to Saraki, “The ECOWAS sub-region has come a long way in pursuit of integration and development. However, what is clear today is that we need to do more. Other regional bodies including those who we inspired have moved faster towards integration than we have.
“Sadly, this has been due to our inability to add to the institutional building blocks and muster the courage to reorder our structures for the vision of a virile and integrated ECOWAS.
“The ECOWAS Parliament remains a critical place to start. We must as a necessity, give the parliament greater authorisation and capacity to duly legislate on common areas and provide oversight on certain issues of common interest and interdependency.
“For as long as we are unable to, or fail to remit to this 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.
“With greater oversight and authorization, it is possible that we would see greater inroads made in the areas of the enforcement of ECOWAS regional trade agreements and instruments especially the Common External Tariff Order,” he said.
Saraki added that the ECOWAS Parliament has shown itself as a primer of integration and a key instrument for stability in the sub region, having utilised its instruments to provide opinions on various issues such as infrastructural development, migration, public health and investment referred to it by other Community Institutions.
Speaking further, Saraki noted that there has been a significant increase in the level of cross boarder businesses in the sub-region, with investment criss-crossing regional boundaries by nationals of the ECOWAS region, as a result of the implementation of the free movement of goods and persons across the region.
Saraki, while commending the efforts of the ECOWAS in fulfilling its mandate, noted that "in recent times, we have seen the scourge of terrorism cut through and expose the weaknesses of our regional integration efforts as our various governments scrambled to find a foothold for proper coordination of intelligence, resource mobilisation and rapid response to terror threats.
As he sees it, “This weakness we also witnessed in the coordination of responses to the spread of Ebola virus in 2015. These are glaring cases in which we were severely examined and our imperfect union exposed.
“While these may have happened, we have also shown resilience and our leaders shown ingenuity in coming up with measures that have helped us contain these scourges.
“However, they remain stark reminders of the challenges ahead and the need for us to revisit our protocols and treaties in order to create a more virile union that can help us deal with the challenges of the 21st century.”
Saraki, however, reiterated the support and assistance of the Nigerian National Assembly to the work of the ECOWAS parliament as it strives to provide the necessary legislative leadership for greater development of the ECOWAS region.
•Photo shows Saraki, while delivering his speech, today, in Abuja.
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