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02.03.2012 Politics

ECOWAS Parliament Needs Legislative Powers - Veep Mahama

By Musah Yahaya Jafaru - Daily Graphic
Vice  President MahamaVice President Mahama
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The Vice-President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, has called on ECOWAS member states to empower the ECOWAS Parliament with legislative power to make laws and drive the integration process.

He said it was only when the ECOWAS Parliament had the mandate to make laws that it could remove trade barriers and travelling restrictions in the sub-region.

Vice-President Mahama was opening a 10-day parliamentary seminar of the ECOWAS Parliament at the Accra International Conference Centre Tuesday.

The seminar is the first time that the whole of the members of the ECOWAS Parliament are meeting outside the headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.

Also in attendance were Speakers and Deputy Speakers of national Parliaments of ECOWAS member countries.

Held on the theme: “The Role of the ECOWAS Parliament in the West African Integration Process”, the seminar seeks to consolidate the knowledge of ECOWAS Parliamentarians on the strengths and weaknesses of their institutions.

The Vice-President noted that the Protocol establishing the ECOWAS Parliament provided that it was not a law making organ, but an advisory one.

However, he said, the European Parliament had long attained the status of law making which had enhanced the process of European integration.

“We in West Africa need to emulate that example of Europe, by empowering our Parliament to have the full powers of a normal Parliament to get its powers enhanced “, he said, and stressed that “the ongoing calls and efforts by the ECOWAS Parliament to get its powers enhanced are legitimate and progressive”.

Vice-President Mahama expressed the hope that if the member states succeeded in advancing the sub-regional Parliament to the next level of its evolution, it would promote the sub-regional integration process.

He gave the assurance that Ghana would work towards attaining the enhanced power of the ECOWAS Parliament.

The Vice-President reminded the Members of Parliament that the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament alone was not enough, “unless it will lead to the promotion of the interest of the people.

“As Members of Parliament, you need to bear in mind that you are the voices of the voiceless. The concept of integration is meant to benefit the people. As long as the people are not the beneficiaries of the process, then it will remain an effort not worth pursuing”, he said.

He, therefore, challenged the MPs to remain committed to the welfare of the people in all ramifications.

The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, called for the collaboration between the national Parliaments and the ECOWAS Parliament towards promoting good governance, freedom and regional integration.

He said the seminar was part of efforts being taking by the ECOWAS Parliament to engender cooperation and consensus building in addressing the challenges facing the sub-region.

In her goodwill message, the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Mrs Joyce Bamford-Addo, expressed worry that for far too long member countries had very much associated themselves with the old colonial loyalties and sometimes even resulted into subtle rivalry between Anglophones and Francophones.

“There is the need for us to create synergies in place of rivalries and commit ourselves to the course of accelerated sub-regional integration. The future holds bright for us to integrate, now than ever”, she said, and indicated that the establishment of the ECOWAS Parliament was a major landmark in the quest for regional integration.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, said President John Evans Atta Mills had declared regional integration as a flagship of his foreign policy.

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