ECOWAS Speaker talks tough on absenteeism in parliament 

Adoba Echono, Abuja

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ECOWAS Speaker, Moustapha Cisse Lo

 

The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr. Moustapha Cisse Lo has said that the consistent absence of some members of parliament from sessions would no longer be condoned.

Mr. Cisse Lo issued the warning in his speech at the close of the 2019 First Ordinary Session of the parliament in Abuja.

The Speaker recalled that during previous sessions and throughout the just concluded session, some parliamentarians never showed up and some others sparingly did and would collect the daily sitting allowances.

It was gathered that the daily sitting allowance is allegedly from $250 to $500.

Mr. Cisse Lo said that the Bureau of Parliament had been instructed to block the payments of certain parliamentarians that were absent during the session.

“I gave instruction for MPs to sign the attendance, that attendance list is mandatory because if there is nobody there will be no plenary session.”

“I have taken far-reaching decisions and this will be adopted by the Bureau; those who will not be here will have no right to lay claims to the payment.”

“We have to put an end to this; I am not going to tolerate this anymore.”

Mr. Cisse Lo also urged members to be more committed to promoting integration in line with the ECOWAS Vision 2020 of achieving a region of the people.

“I also will insist on participation of parliamentarians in committee deliberations and plenary sessions for the higher authorities and the voters who are our constituents.”

“We need to demonstrate a higher level of commitment and perseverance in order to ensure self-assessment of our performance.”

Nigeria has 35 seats at the parliament; however, very few of them attend sessions and committee meetings.

Speaking with Voice of Nigeria, Senator Biodun Olujimi, a Member of the Parliament from Nigeria urged the speaker to be “more receptive to information and must be able to call people and ask questions”.

“What happens is simple, when you are home and you are a legislator, you cannot have a bill on the floor of your parliament and then sit here ECOWAS Parliament.

“That is what has been happening, rather than vituperate, it would have been a better thing for the speaker to call that community and ask them what the problems are and reschedule.”

“That is the mark of leadership. When you want to lead you must be able to make allowances and you must be able to see people’s faults and help in making it better.”

She Olujimi added that she was, however, not in favour of absenteeism of members of parliament.

Also, Mr. Mahama Ayariga, a Ghanaian representative in the regional parliament, said the parliament could do more than discuss issues concerning the region and encourage debates to ensure more participation of members.

“We have discussed many of the issues in committee meetings but actually at plenary, we have not really debated any of the issues and the management of proceedings during plenary has not enabled those issues to be debated.

“For me, that is very sad and disappointing.

“Part of the reasons people do not also come is that we have not made it very exciting to be in the chamber; no serious debate takes place and some feel it’s a waste of time and not everyone has the commitment to committee work even though a lot of exciting work takes place at that level.”

“One of the things I would urge the speaker to consider is to make sure issues are debated here and it will attract the MPs to come and sit and participate so their constituents can see them engage in very important debates.”

Mr. Ayariga, who is a former Minister Information in Ghana, added that debates on reports generated by the committees should be encouraged and resolutions passed.

“Not one single report was actually debated and in the end no resolution was actually passed during this session.”

“To adopt a report is different from a resolution being passed and which would then be communicated to the Heads of State or their ministers to take action.”

Mr. Ayariga also said that the parliament had engaged consultants to see what reforms could take for the development of an ECOWAS parliament practice guide.

The 2019 First Ordinary Session of the parliament which commence on 8 May closed on 1 June, 2019.

Titi