A member of Ghana’s delegation to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah has said the Parliament should also be pushing for full legislative powers in the Supplementary Act and not only concentrate on electing lawmakers directly to the House.
According to him if the crusade to get lawmakers to the Community Parliament is achieved but the House does not have the full powers to legislate which would be binding in the member states, the crusade is back to the current state of affairs.
Currently various sub-regional National Assemblies appoints lawmakers to the Parliament and the current Speaker Rt. Hon Dr. Sidie Mohammed Tunis’ flagship agenda is to get lawmakers elected by citizens in the sub-region.
However, there are bottlenecks in the sense that they would not have legislative right when it comes to enforcement of laws, conventions, and protocols; the parliament needs the right to enforce legislation they pass.
As to whether the direct election of lawmakers to the Community parliament, Heads of States within the sub-region are committed to it, he said “citizens within member states see the commission and the Parliament as an elite club where we go and fraternize and nothing gets done”.
Citing an example, he said there were talks about opening of land borders among member states, but since then nothing has been done. The last meeting of experts which was done virtually, they were told it would be done in January 2022; “I hope this little issue of opening our land borders would be done”.
“Otherwise we would talk about this election, Authority of Heads of states would come and go, new Speakers would come and go, it’s because some people are benefiting from the whole thing they do not want to see direct elections. When the status remains like that they prefer it, if something is not good you change it, if you are not changing it then it means you are enjoying it”.
And further noted that when the Parliament and the Court of Justice are given their powers to perform as is the case in other jurisdiction, the ECOWAS Commission would seat up.
According to him at the last Second Ordinary Session of the Parliament in Abuja-Nigeria where the 2022 budget of the Commission was passed, lawmakers scrutinized the budget of the Commission and approved it, after wards it was given back to the Commission to approve it finally.
“That is not the practice in our various member states; National Parliaments, the Executive arm of government brings their budget for approval by the legislature, if we have to reduce it that would be done, but ECOWAS Parliament you just have to yeah, yeah it and let it go”.
Again, the Supplementary Act would have to give Parliament its powers to do its work. Legislative powers which are enforceable by member states parliaments.
“Whatever EU Parliament says is being ratified by the various countries comes under the European Union (EU), if you do not have that and you even elect MPs it would be the same thing that we have been doing because the supplementary Act does not give you the authority and autonomy to be able to legislate”.
On the Ad Hoc Committee set up to draw a road map for direct election into the Community Parliament, he noted that they need to visit other blocs like the East African Parliament and the EU Parliament which is long overdue.
Mr. Bedzrah added that there is nothing wrong for the Community Parliament to embark on study tours to countries that have perfected this kind of things and have experience in them.
“I do not see why the Ad Hoc committee cannot go and take a study tour and come back to inform the House, and on what premises would you give your judgment?”