TRACKING THE ECOWAS PARLIAMENT
Nations around the globe under diverse economic blocs are constantly meeting to strategize ways and means of eradicating transnational organized crimes such as drug trafficking, terrorism, trafficking in persons and other grave threats to human existence. The member nations of such economic blocs in all parts of the World but Africa have also worked out measures for eradicating illegal and irregular migration of persons from countries considered as very poor, unstable and economically insecure into their countries considered as comfort zones.
Africa harbors the largest concentration of grossly underdeveloped, poverty-stricken, unstable and economically insecured nations followed very closely by Asia and invariably produces the highest percentage of irregular migrants into advanced economies.
The European Economic bloc for instance, reportedly entered into a deal with the now deposed regime of the murdered Libyan dictator Colonel Muamar Gadaffi in which Europe accepted to make huge payments to the then Libyan regime so that it could effect measures no matter how draconian to curb the passage of irregular African migrants into Europe from Italy and Malta via Libya. The then Libyan strongman was alleged to have even fed his wild lions with black African migrants captured while making attempts to sneak into Europe through the international waters that criss-cross Libya.
Ironically, political and economic leadership of much of sub-Saharan Africa and especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is yet to effectively implement measures to efficiently create the enabling environment for economic growth and investments to thrive within the region so that the large population of the productive youths that now migrate to Europe irregularly at their own risk can stay back home and engage in one meaningful economic activity or the other.
Aside producing some of the World's highest percentage of irregular migrants to Europe, the West African Sub-region is afflicted by diverse types of transnational crimes including but not limited to corruption, drug/human trafficking, terrorism and massive in- flow of small arms and weapons of mass destruction.
Unfortunately, West Africa's parliament which came into being on 14th March 2002 is only a forum for endless speeches without the necessary legislative force of law to compel the individual governments that make up the economic bloc to wage effective war against the spread of these cankerworms of transnational crimes that have become hydra-headed monsters.
Corruption remains the biggest hydra-headed monster in the West African sub-region due to the total absence of the needed political will on the part of the political leadership to battle the scourge which has almost crippled most members of the economic bloc such as Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Gambia, to mention only but few. Because ECOWAS parliament operates like an avenue for tea parties, there are no legal instruments strong enough to banish corruption.
But this is not to say that some member nations of the ECOWAS economic bloc have not in paper endorsed the international anti-corruption convention that came into force as a global law in late 2005. The West African parliament therefore needs to be properly empowered to make enforceable legislations that would compel each member state to effectively put the legal framework and the architecture to battle these transnational and national crimes like terrorism and corruption.
For purposes of emphasis, it is worthwhile mentioning that corruption and the wanton misuse of public fund is the fundamental cause of the spread of terrorism and other crimes. For instance, if member states of ECOWAS fail to check corruption and resources meant for procurement of these necessary infrastructures, facilities and the capacity training of law enforcement Operatives to battle the scourge, then lawlessness will set in.
Just before the international convention against corruption came into force at the end of year 2005, participants at the eleventh United Nations Congress on crime prevention and criminal Justice, which took place in April 2005 in Bangkok, Thailand, (with this writer in attendance) agreed to push for the member states of the United Nations to fight corruption from a unified formidable front.
At that global anti-crime forum in 2005, the representative of Ukraine, Valerii Demianets captured the minds of most anti-corruption advocates around the World when he proclaimed thus; “corruption is closely connected with other kinds of crime and, therefore, detecting corruption must be a comprehensive effort”.
In West Africa, the member nations of the Economic bloc which formed the ECOWAS Parliament have only but paid lip service to the fight against corruption and other transnational crime.
From the abundance of evidence, it does appear that ECOWAS Parliament is a mere tea party and does not possess similar attributes like other parliaments of similar economic blocs in the global community.
The European parliament may not have the power of legislation but there are provisions on how it can institutionally and effectively partner with other European institutions to achieve the objective of building a safe Europe for the European citizens.
Available records show that the European parliament (EP) meets in Brussels and Strasbourg as well as having offices in Luxembourg. European Parliament elections are held every five years, and every European Union citizen who is registered as a voter is entitled to vote. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) do not sit in national blocs, but in seven Europe-wide political groups. The largest of these are the European People's Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Social and Democrats (S&D). The work of the EP is overseen by the EP[European Parliament] President, currently German politician, MARTIN Schulz, of the S&D group. The present parliament, elected in June 2009, has 754 MEPs of which 73 are British. Under the Lisbon Treaty reforms which will come into effect at the 2014 elections, Germany will loose 3 seats and the number of MEPs will be capped at a maximum of 751 (including the President of the Parliament).
Conversely, members of European Parliament (MEPs) are elected under proportional representation to represent regions (such as south-west England or Scotland). The number of MEPs each country has reflects its population. Whilst the EP represents the electorate's interests in discussions with the other EU institutions, it cannot propose legislation; only discuss, propose amendments, and vote to accept or reject laws proposed by the Commission. EP committees can produce 'own-initiative' reports that recommend legislation to the Commission, but the Commission is under no obligation to act on these. For a new EU law or budget to pass, it must have the support of both the EP and the Council of the European Union. The other significant power the EP[European Parliament] has is that of 'democratic supervision' over the Commission-giving it the power to sack the whole Commission through a vote of censure.
Flowing from the above, this writer will suggest that the political leadership of the West African regional group (ECOWAS) borrow a leaf from the operational style of the European Parliament to see if the challenges of terrorism, corruption and other disturbing transnational crime can be effectively tackled under a unified front.
Happily, the current ECOWAS Parliamentary leadership under the Speaker, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, appears to be listening to the broad issues of enhancing the power of the ECOWAS parliament to use the proceedings as necessary legal framework for the member states to combat the spread of transnational crimes under a formidable unified front.
Only last Week, a draft supplementary Act on the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament was adopted at their recent session in Abuja, the Nigerian Capital.
The parliament's speaker, Ike Ekweremadu, said that the ad hoc committee report on the enhancement of powers which was deliberated during the First Ordinary Session of the Third Legislature in May 2012, was adopted by the Parliament at the First Extra-Ordinary Session that closed in Abuja on Saturday last week.
The draft supplementary Act will enable the parliament to make and harmonise their laws which will enhance the well-being of the sub-region as well as transform the parliament from a mere advisory body to that imbued with the capacity to make laws.
Ekweremadu who is also the deputy president of the Nigerian senate told newsmen during the closing session at the weekend that the parliament cannot exist without having the capacity to make laws that will be binding on its members.
Ekweremadu said that the ECOWAS Parliament was committed to eradicate child trafficking and other heinous transnational crime afflicting the sub-region.
Most people in West Africa are worried about the ease with which armed terror groups operate in Northern Nigeria just as concern has been raised on the possibility that weapons of mass destruction flow freely into ECOWAS member states especially Nigeria with gravely porous international border from such speedily failing states like Guinea Bissau and Mali. This is one challenge that ECOWAS Parliament should focus on how to enforce pragmatic panacea.
This is because of the universal fact that if terrorism is allowed to spread in Nigeria and results in the collapse of the Nigerian nation-state, then the entire West Africa sub-region and much of Suib-Saharan African region will invariably collapse since the remnants of these terrorist armed with sophisticated weapons will move to other fertile grounds in the sub-region in search of soft targets to sow their seeds of destabilization and anarchy.
· Emmanuel Onwubiko, head, HUMAN RIGHTS Writers' Association of Nigeria, writes from www.huriwa.blogspot.com.