By John Okeke
Members of the ECOWAS Parliament have called for direct elections into the Community Parliament, as the fourth legislature of the parliament winds up.
The members made the call in Banjul, The Gambia, at the end of the last Extraordinary Session of the fourth legislature, which will end its four year legislative mandate on 3 February 2020.
Members of the ECOWAS Parliament are representatives from various National Assemblies or Parliaments of ECOWAS member states.
The National Assemblies of the Member States are empowered to elect members from among themselves as members of the Community Parliament.
Calling for direct elections into the community parliament, Hon. Afenyo-Markin Alexander Kwamena, a member of the Ghanaian Parliament and member of the fourth legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament, argued that the current mode of determining membership of Parliament, divides the attention of members between their legislative work at home and at the regional level.
He believes that the present status quo is not getting the full commitment of members of Parliament and hence limiting the potentials of Parliament.
Mr. Kwamena called for the adoption of the model of the European Parliament.
“I have had a lot of times that coming for meetings, I felt that look, I will not spend so much time at the expense of my constituents.”
“So we may have to look at the model that the European Parliament adopted.”
“Members of the Community Parliament must be directly elected.”
“There must be a system where you are a community parliamentarian, and you are not a national parliamentarian, I think that would give them that full time commitment.”
“So I agree for us to look at exploring that avenue for direct election.”
For, Edwin Melvin Snowe, a member of the Liberian Parliament, the direct election is very important.
Mr. Snowe said direct election will give more sovereignty and independence to the Community Parliament as representatives of community citizens.
“Direct election into the parliament is very important, except that it still has some financial implications that need to be visited.”
“But I think it gives more sovereignty, it gives more independence to the legislature as done in the European Parliament, where we can begin to legislate and actually represent the people of the community and don’t have come to the parliament like vacation or taking away from the National Parliament.”
“I support that as long as we can resolve the financial implications.”
A member of the fourth legislature of ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Clarence Massaquoi, from Liberia, expressed optimism that the parliament will evolve to a point where member of the community parliament will be elected directly.
“I believe that there will be a time in our history that we will get to where people will be elected, of course that comes with a cost, but I think it is very good idea like the European Parliament.”
“I think it will be a great step and I support that call.”
Earlier, the outgoing Speaker of the regional parliament Mr. Moustapha Cissé-Lo in his closing remarks at the end of the Extraordinary Session expressed satisfaction with the achievements of the fourth Legislature.
Mr. Cissé-Lo said the fourth legislature which will officially end on the third of February has left an enduring legacy the fifth legislature to build on.
The Extra Ordinary session brings to an end all the parliamentary functions of the fourth Legislature which was inaugurated on 4 February 2016.
The fifth Legislature will be inaugurated in February in 2020 in Niamey, Niger Republic.