By Emmanuel Mogbede
The Nigerian Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has charged the ECOWAS Parliament to prove itself as an effective instrument to foster regional integration and development.
Saraki made the call in his speech at the opening of the First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.
He said it was time for the parliament to foster closer parliamentary cooperation amongst other parliaments in the region in dealing with the development challenges of ECOWAS countries.
This, he said, should also include the promotion of democracy and human rights.
He, however, noted that there were lots of challenges facing the sub region as it had remained underdeveloped with little coherent development plan.
The president also said that many factors had continued to impede the desired development in the ECOWAS region.
According to the president, some of the challenges facing the sub region are insecurity, poor health care, political instability and poor governance of member states.
Others he said include: weakness and lack of diversification of national economies, poor or absent of infrastructure, lack of human right and human tracking.
These, Saraki said, should form the base line of discussion by the parliament, adding that going forward should be evident in the lives of ordinary citizens across the region.
He called on member states to join hands in fighting the growing insecurity in the region, especially with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
This, he said, had become a major challenge for the sub region and the reason for its instability.
He told the parliament that Nigeria was currently faced with the problem of herdsmen and farmers clashes, adding that weapons used in the clashes, were from illicit acquisitions in the borders.
Saraki added that; “the circulation of illegal arms within and across states had increased the proclivity of conflict within the sub region“.
He, therefore maintained that unless the capacity and institutional role of the ECOWAS Parliament was developed and strengthened to enable it play its pivotal role in this regard, developmental aspiration would not be achieved.
´´ This parliament must therefore be further empowered to ensure the implementation of treaties and the development of such instruments of consolidation of the integration of our sub region, ´´ he said.
The Nigerian senate president said there was need for member states to begin to think out of the box and to come up with innovative means of engagement and developmental convergences.
This, he added, would help the sub region gain greater engagement.
Saraki stressed that it was time for the parliament to show that it could rise to the occasion if fully empowered to play its role as an enabler of development for the sub region.
He added that the parliament however, needed to do more to engineer ideas aimed at unifying member states in the sub region.
This he further said it could do by using law as a tool for developmental cooperative amongst ECOWAS countries.
He tasked the parliament to deliberate on the practical application of ECOWAS treaty as adopted by member states, adding that the ratification of some vital protocol and conventions were still pending in some member states.
´´ We have to encourage and ensure the ratification of these pending protocols and conventions in order to achieve our fundamental objectives of promoting cooperation and integration,´´ Saraki said.
The ECOWAS Parliament is a forum for dialogue, consultation and consensus for representatives of West Africa states with the aim of promoting integration.
It was established under Article 6 and 13 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993.
The Protocol relating to the Parliament was signed in Abuja on August 6th, 1994 and became effective in March 14th, 2002.
It provides for the structure, composition, competence and other matters relating to the parliament