Member of Parliament for Sunyani East, Kwasi Ameyaw-Cheremeh, has disclosed that the ECOWAS Parliament is faced with numerous challenges, which make its operations to be ineffective in the sub-region.
Delivering a speech at a two-day Symposium and Media Summit organised by the West African Parliamentary Press Corps in the Accra International Conference Centre, Mr Ameyaw-Cheremeh stated that the ECOWAS Parliament faces challenges in meeting organisational complexity and reaching certain strategic objectives.
Presenting his speech on the topic, Sustaining Parliamentary Democracy in the West African Sub-region; The Role of The Media, Mr Ameyaw-Cheremeh revealed that there are significant gabs in staff capacity, resource constraints, lack of a research department for results-based planning, monitoring and evaluation on thematic areas relating to ECOWAS’ development objectives.
“Members of the ECOWAS Parliament are nominated from the ranks of national Parliaments. This is an indirect obligation. Combining these two roles do not give members sufficient time to offer their best and the work of the Parliament invariably suffers”, he added.
Mr Ameyaw-Cheremeh informed participants that some parliamentarians face capacity gabs in relation to the functions of the regional parliamentary system, its organisation and performance of its core functions due to insufficient time to understand the functions of the regional body.
He suggested that technical support is required to aid in effective functioning of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Profile of the ECOWAS Parliament
The ECOWAS Parliament was conceived as a forum for dialogue, consultation and consensus building for the representatives of the people of the community by virtue of Article 13 of the Revised Treaty of the ECOWAS.
It started as an organ with advisory powers and progressively, its powers have been enhanced by enactment by a Supplementary Act adopted by the authority of Heads of States and governments of the ECOWAS in December, 2017.
The ECOWAS Parliament does not make laws but renders opinion on referrals made to it by the ECOWAS Commission. It draws membership from the National Assemblies or Parliaments of Member States.
The Parliament is composed of 115 members. Each Member State has a minimum of 5 seats. The remaining seats have been allocated according to the population sizes of the respective countries.
Consequently, Nigeria has 35 seats and Ghana has 8 seats.
The first legislature was inaugurated in November, 2000, in Bamako, Mali. It is presently in its fourth legislature and is based in Abuja.
In terms of organisation, the Parliament has the plenary, which is the highest decision making body and is made up of all the 115 members. The Parliament holds ordinary sessions twice in a year in May and November and other two extraordinary sessions in the course of the year.
The Bureau of the Parliament is an organ below the plenary and it comprises of the Speaker of Parliament and four Deputy Speakers who are chosen along the three linguistic groupings of French, English and Portuguese. This body governs all the activities of the Parliament.
The Conference of Committees Bureau comprises of the Speaker and his deputies, Chairpersons and the first rapporteurs of Standing Committees of the Parliament and Chairpersons of Parliamentary Groupings. It is specially charged with the responsibility of approving the Annual Work plan or programmes of the Parliament, taking into account the approved community programmes by the Council of Ministers.
There are 13 Standing Committees and they are organised in line with the mandate of the Technical Committees or departments of the ECOWAS Commission.
The General Secretariat is the administrative and technical wing of the Parliament, headed by the Secretary General.
Under the terms of Provisions of Article 3 of the Revised Treaty signed on the 24th July, 1993, ECOWAS aims to promote cooperation and integration in the perspective of an economic union of West Africa.