ECOWAS reaffirms commitment to democracy
ABUJA, Nigeria, August 14, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS and President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has warned that the region will never allow unconstitutional ascension to power and will continue to work with the international community in entrenching democratic principles and good governance in the region.
Speaking as Special Guest of Honour at the inauguration of the Third Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja on Thursday, 11th August 2011, the President condemned the recent coup attempt in Niger, and reiterated the region’s stance on the consolidation of stability in a region that was wracked by political crises in the 90s.
Zero tolerance for ascension to power through unconstitutional means is one of the elements of the constitutional convergence principles enunciated in the 2001 ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance signed by Heads of State and Government toward institutionalizing the culture of democracy in the region.
The ECOWAS Chairman urged West Africans to buy into the integration process and charged the Parliament to serve as the bridge between the various ECOWAS programmes and the people who are the beneficiaries of such programmes.
He also expressed the hope that future Members of the Community Parliament would be elected through direct universal suffrage instead of the current practice of the members emerging from national legislatures.
In his address of welcome, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, reminded the parliamentarians that they were beginning their work in the 37th year of ECOWAS’ existence, during which the Community institutions were undergoing deep structural transformations both in form and strategy, to respond to the challenges of the times.
“You will be tasked with the onerous responsibility of advising the Community on the formulation, review, and interpretation of key principles of democracy and good governance, peace and security, and out trade and other relations with partners”, he added.
The President urged the legislators to ensure that Decisions taken at the Community level were domesticated in national legislation and to find traction and application in Member States.
“They should also take urgent measures to facilitate the fast-tracking of the outstanding Decisions to elect future members of Community Parliament through direct universal suffrage”, he added.
In his speech prior to the oath-taking by 102 of the Members of the Third Legislature, the President of Nigeria’s Senate, Senator David Mark, said the Community Parliament “remains one of the most impressive initiatives undertaken by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in their determination not only to promote stability and development in the West African region, but also to institutionalize the culture of democracy among the peoples”.
The Deputy President of Nigeria’s Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was thereafter elected as the Speaker of the Parliament for a term of four years.
In his acceptance speech, Senator Ekweremadu, who was elected with a unanimous vote, called for “a review and upgrade of the powers, relevance and status of the Community Parliament”.
“It is part of my cardinal agenda to liaise with the Authority of Heads of State and Government to speed up the processes of transforming the ECOWAS Parliament from a consultative and advisory institution to a full blown legislative institution”, he said, adding: “This time, we will make all necessary steps to ensure that this institution is not only a parliament in nomenclature, but indeed a law-making institution”.
While noting that “ECOWAS has practically put the era of military dictatorship behind”, the new Speaker emphasized that democracy should contribute to the development of the Community and ensuring better life for our people through good governance”.
The 120-member Community Parliament was set up in 2000 as a consultative forum for generating advisory opinion for the Authority of Heads of State and Government on issues of regional integration.
Following the signing of the relevant Protocol on 6th August 1994 providing for the composition, structure, organs and competence of a Community Parliament, the First Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament was inaugurated in 2000 for a five-year tenure, with Prof. Ali Nouhoum Diallo of Mali as the first Speaker.
The Second Legislature followed from 2006 to 2010 with Honourable Mahamane Ousmane of Niger as Speaker.
Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)