ECOWAS Parliamentarians have pledged their commitment to ensure the actualisation of Single Currency for the region.
A Member of Parliament from Liberia, Mr. Clarence Massaquoi, in an interview with journalists at the Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Banjul, Gambia, said the parliamentarians, in the Fifth Legislature, will step up on their oversight functions to ensure that member countries meet the convergence criteria for common currency for the region.
The idea of a common currency for the West African region, which was mooted in the hope of boosting cross border trade and economic development, has been postponed several times.
Mr. Massaquoi said the Fourth Legislature did not carry out sufficient follow up as its oversight responsibility on the implementation of the common currency for the region:
“Oversight responsibility is a major function of any legislative body; we had conferences, we had sections in Senegal concerning the Single Currency, we had presentations from the commission and those presentations in my opinion were brilliantly presented.
“Now following up those meetings, it behoves the parliament to do sufficient follow up on the commission to see what is the status of the implementation of these decisions that were reached.
“I just hope in the next four years we can make some gains.”
Mr. Massaquoi expressed optimism that there will be robust debate at the sessions of the Fifth Legislature on issues affecting the region:
“I just hope that the next four years, honestly, we will be able to make some gains. We need to give ourselves time to debate. This is not a conference but parliamentary debate.
“We need to rearrange the way we organize our sessions. There should be debate. We should be allowed to critique the commission, and we should be allowed to critique ourselves.”
For Mr. Mahama Ayariga, a Parliamentarian from Ghana, speaking on the Single Currency, expressed the commitment of the Fifth Legislature to deal with the divide between the Anglophone and Francophone countries in the region which has affected the adoption of a Common Currency for the region.
“I think that the key issue is that we need to deal with the divide between the Anglophone and the Francophone countries in the sub region and ECOWAS Parliament have a key role to do so,” he said.
Mr. Ayariga said the parliament will keep up the pressure on ECOWAS institutions to ensure that the Single Currency for the region is achieved:
“We as legislators must keep the pressure on ECOWAS institutions so that they will live up to the plans, road map and commitment they made to ensure that the Single Currency is realized”.
On his expectations for the Fifth Legislature, Mr. Ayariga, said there will be robust debate in the parliament as part of the parliamentary mandate to hold institutions and Heads of State in the region accountable on their responsibilities to community citizens.
The parliament will also hold member countries in the region accountable on their commitment to ECOWAS Protocol.
Earlier, at the opening of the extraordinary session, the outgoing Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cissé-Lo, urged Citizens of ECOWAS member countries to determine the term limit of Heads of State of their respective countries.
He added that constitutions are not sacrosanct documents but can be amended in aspirations and desires of the people.
Mr. Moustapha Cissé-Lo who raised concerns over calls on ECOWAS to make pronouncements on a two term limits for Heads of State, explained that each country and its citizens have a sovereign right to choose how its government is run, and there should be no interferences from the ECOWAS Commission.
“There are some countries where the mandate is not limited. I can mention Cameroon for instance. Let’s leave these countries to alter their constitutions based on their times.
“All constitutions can be reviewed and adapted to soothe the realities of their times; that is why I say ECOWAS cannot make any pronouncements to limit mandates to not more than two terms.
“That is not for ECOWAS to determine, ECOWAS should not make any pronouncements on that.
“If you don’t like the way that sounds, I will withdraw it. I’m sorry about it, but we see what has been written in the press, we cannot shy away from this argument.
“I am saying that the States have their sovereignty to determine how they want to run their governments as long as everybody in that country accepts it that way”.
Some of the Parliamentarians at the session expressed contrary views that the ECOWAS as a regional body should, as a matter of necessity, pressure Member Countries to limit the terms of their Heads of State to two.
Amaka E. Nliam