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Nigeria’s threats to pull out of ECOWAS wrong

Nigeria’s threats to pull out of ECOWAS wrong

It's criminal to pile up debts for next generation- Obasanjo


Citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) came to a shock when news started floating up on social media that members of the Nigerian Delegation to the regional parliament have threatened to pull out of the regional bloc for what they say was “ongoing illegal recruitments” by the leadership of the parliament. The allegations are that Nigerians if not given more jobs in the ECOWAS institutions, means the country is not benefiting thus it will withdraw its membership from the institutions.

Meanwhile, whilst in my honest opinion, I feel shock over this issue, I personally feel the Nigerian Members of Parliament (MPs) who are pushing for this are honestly being misguided and we as citizens of ECOWAS must frown at this in its totality and entirety.

One fundamental principle that should be taken into consideration is that ECOWAS was never an institution setup to create jobs for Nigerians. The thrust of the institution is based on the fact that “it shall ultimately be the sole economic community in the region for the purpose of economic integration and the realisation of the objectives of the African Economic Community,” Article 2 (1) of ECOWAS Revised Treaty.

Furthermore, Article 3 (1) of the revised treaty says that “the Community are to promote co-operation and integration, leading to the establishment of an economic union in West Africa in order to raise the living standards of its peoples, and to maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations-among Member States and contribute to the progress and development of the African Continent.”

Indeed, members of the Nigerian delegation need to know that ECOWAS is a regional body that is setup for the economic integration of member states. Now, let us take a closer look at the economies of member’s states. Most of the commercial banks are Nigerian owned entities. The UBA, ECOBANK, FI BANK, GT BANK etc are all banks across West African countries owned by Nigerians, creating jobs for Nigerian experts, and major companies in regional countries are using these banks for huge transactions. Even Dankote Cement in many West African Countries is owned by a Nigerian. Yet Nigerian MPs in ECOWAS Parliament are saying that their country is not benefiting from ECOWAS!!!

Safe to say that the ECOWAS Parliament was established by Article 13 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993. In Article 2 of the Supplementary Act, the House of Representatives of the peoples of the Community shall be designated the “ECOWAS Parliament”.

How can Nigeria Delegation so forget the guiding principles of ECOWAS to the extent that they will threaten to pull out of ECOWAS Parliament because Nigerians are not being given preferences in job recruitments in the ECOWAS Parliament? Article 4 of the Supplementary Act relating to the enhancement of the powers of Parliament stipulates that the objectives of the Parliament shall among others, be to “ensure the right of scrutiny and involvement of the WEST AFRICAN POPULATIONS in the process of integration of the region.” The act never give preference to any country against the others.

Moreover, Nigeria has had the lion share in ECOWAS Parliament. ECOWAS Parliament has a gentleman’s agreement to give Nigeria the 1st Deputy Speaker position whenever Nigeria does not get speakership position. In line with the rotational system of the alphabetical order of Member States, the Speakership of the ECOWAS Parliament fell on the Republic of Sierra Leone. Consequently, Rt. Hon. Dr Speaker Sidie Mohammed Tunis, a ranking member of the Sierra Leone delegation to the Parliament, was unanimously elected to preside over the 5th Legislature, with a tenure of four years. The 1st Deputy Speaker is Honourable Ahmed Idriss Wase from Nigeria. Nigeria is the only country in the entire ECOWAS Parliament which has reserved seat in the Bureau of ECOWAS Parliament.

Apart from that, Article 6 of the Supplementary Act provides that the Parliament shall be composed of one hundred and fifteen (115) seats of which Nigeria with the highest population in the sub-region has thirty-five (35) seats, with Ghana following with eight (8) seats, Cote d’Ivoire seven (7) seats, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal with six (6) seats each. The remaining Member States of Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo were allocated five (5) seats each. Imagine 35 seats plus a 1st Deputy Speaker, yet Nigeria says it is not being given preference.

On the area of funding ECOWAS institutions, Article 70(1) of the revised treaty says that: “the regular budgets of the Community and its institutions shall be funded from a Community levy and such other sources as may be determined by the Council. In addition, Article 72(2) furthered that: “the Community levy shall be a percentage of the total value of import duty derivable from goods imported into the Community from third countries.” Now because of the economy of Nigeria, they are certainly the country that collects the greatest share of goods imported into the community. They should pay the highest community levy. That does not mean they are the ones funding ECOWAS. It is not true! Every member state is contributing to fund the institutions.

Furthermore, Article 4 (1) of the ECOWAS Staff Regulations says: “ECOWAS shall act in a just, fair and equitable manner in all circumstances and adhere to legal procedures in its relations to staff members. In the interest of equity, it shall not discriminate between individuals of groups of staff.” The non-discrimination nature of the community’s institution makes it so unique to bring together nationalities inconformity with its sacred vision and aspiration of regional integration.

Hence, one cannot say that he will pull out because he is not being given preference in the ECOWAS institution because as per regulations the regional body is guided by the principles of Equity. Therefore we must all note some sacred maxis in the implementation of Equity. Firstly, “EQUITY MEANS EQUALITY” and that “HE WHO SEEKS EQUITY MUST HIMSELF DO EQUITY” because Equity does not thrive on the platform of unfairness and discrimination. Hence I will implore our Nigerian friends to be more liberal and ensure that every citizens of the ECOWAS region have equal rights to the community Institutions’ jobs and recruitments. Irrespective of country of origin, in ECOWAS, we are all equal.

Source : By Abdul Malik Bangura (Press Corp Sierra Leone)

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