By John Okeke
His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Speaker of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament has on Monday 10th August 2020 assured the President of the Republic of Niger of his unwavering commitment to ensure that in the coming years, members into the ECOWAS Parliament are directly elected through universal suffrage votes.
Sidie Mohamed Tunis, who arrived last Saturday in Niamey, capital of Niger on a working visit, met Niger President H.E. Mr. Issoufou Mahamadou the sitting Chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government at the Presidential Palace to discuss a range of issue with him, including the efforts made so far by his administration of the ECOWAS Parliament to ensure that members are directly elected into the regional parliament.
Whilst dilating, Tunis recalled that President Issoufou Mohamadou during the inaugural session of the 5th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament addressed the issue of election of community representatives by direct universal suffrage, and HE Tunis quoted the Niger President as saying that “in order to strengthen your role in the ECOWAS region, we must fast-track your election by Direct Universal Suffrage. This will give more powers to our Regional Parliament.”
Meanwhile, whilst dilating on the efforts made so far by the Regional Parliament since taking over as Speaker in March 2020, HE Tunis said: “Following this call, I, during the closing sitting of the said Session, set up an Ad hoc Committee, comprising 16 MPs and chaired by the 1st Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, to lead the reflections on the parameters and implementation of the process leading to the election of Community MPs by Direct Universal Suffrage.”
In addition, Speaker Tunis told President Issoufou Mohamadou that the Ad hoc Committee has not yet met due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he said it is important for him “to be able to lead this mission to you, to seek your wise counsel and guidance and report same to the Ad hoc Committee.”
Furthermore, Speaker Tunis recalled that Protocol A / P2 / 8/94 of 6 August 1994, relating to the Community Parliament, stipulates in its Article 7 that:
“i) Representatives and their alternates shall be elected by direct universal suffrage by citizens of Member States.
ii) Pending the time Members of Parliament are elected by direct universal suffrage, the National Assemblies of Member States or their equivalent institutions or organs shall elect such members from amongst themselves.
The duration of the transitional period shall be determined by the Authority.”
In addition, the ECOWAS Parliament Speaker added that the same provision is repeated by Article 18 of the Supplementary Act relating to the enhancement of the powers of Parliament. Undoubtedly, he said, “the Parliament has been operational for 20 years and has regularly renewed the mandate of its Members.”
HE Tunis said the ECOWAS Parliament is in its Fifth Legislature. To this day, he said, MPs who constitute the Community Parliament are still elected by the National Assemblies from amongst themselves. He added that perhaps it is time now to consider their election by direct universal suffrage.
Speaking on the importance of direct universal suffrage, His Excellency Tunis said that the advantage of having elected representatives fully available to the Community Parliament will easily “help strengthen the rapport between elected representatives and citizens. The election by direct universal suffrage would also give a new legitimacy devoid of any partisan influence based on the direct link with the voters.”
On his working visit to the Chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis was accompanied by the President of the National Assembly of Niger, Mr. Ousseini Tinni, and he expressed condolences on behalf of the ECOWAS Parliament to the Head of State and to the Nigerien people for the terrorist attack carried out on Sunday, August 9th, 2020 in the Kouré area, some 80km east of Niamey, which killed eight people, including six French aid workers and two Nigerians.
HE Sidie Mohamed Tunis also discussed with President Issoufou, the socio-political situation in Mali, announcing that, in the coming days, the ECOWAS Parliament will send a delegation to that country to ”study the ways and means to restore peace and security”.
Other topics such as the ECO, the future single currency of ECOWAS, were also discussed by the two personalities.
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS Parliament or Parliament of the Community is a forum for dialogue, consultation and consensus for representatives of the peoples of West Africa with the aim of promoting integration. It composed of 115 parliamentarians from all member countries of the Organization.