May 13, 2017

Parliamentarian decries lack of free movement of persons in ECOWAS

Mr Edwin Snowe, the Vice Chairman, Administration, Finance, Budget Control and Audit of the ECOWAS Parliament has decried the lack of free movement of persons and goods in the region.

Snowe spoke to newsmen on the side lines of the ongoing “2017 Fourth Legislature First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament’’.

In accordance with the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons within the sub-region, the primary purpose of ECOWAS is to integrate the fifteen West African markets for goods, capital and labour.

This is to ensure that the community advanced harmoniously as one region, in its search for sustained economic growth and development.

It is also to promote cooperation and development in all fields of economic activity for the purpose of fostering closer relations among members.

The parliamentarian said it was unfortunate that the free movement of persons and goods preached by the commission was only in principle and not in practice.

According to him, citizens of member states have continued to face molestations at some state’s borders, especially in the hands of police and custom officials.

“You get to a border point and you are asked to either pay some amount or get another travel document, when indeed we have the ECOWAS passport.

“We cannot just talk about free movement and we don’t practice free movement, this are some of the sticky issue we need to resolve,’’ he said.

He recalled a situation where a citizen of a Guinea, a member state was told in Senegal that he could not have his vehicle with him.

This, he said was after he was given a limited time to stay in that country.

He, however, noted that there were three distinct and coordinated borders in ECOWAS, adding that the parliament could not enforce any decision recourse to the ECOWAS commission.

Snowe said that the commission could not enforce jurisdiction without the ECOWAS Court of Justice.

According to him, this has left the commission with a burden of synchronising its ideas and decisions to ensure that they are domesticated in the various countries.

“Because if you do it individually, you can have one set of rule in Nigeria that does not apply to Niger,’’ he said.

He said the implication of such situation was that you could have one group acting in one way in Nigeria, and in another way in Niger which would eventually lead to chaos.

The parliamentarian maintained that if the commission as a regional body synchronised its decisions, things would be done uniformly in member states.

He expressed optimism that if the commission synchronised its ideas and decisions, it would be domesticated and enforced by national governments and taken as law by citizens.

According to him, parliament now has the right to look at budget of communities in terms of programmes and mechanisms put in place to ensure security.

He, however, said that some member states that were enjoying the benefits of ECOWAS were not paying their levies and were not rectifying treaties.

He added that it was time for ECOWAS to mount some pressure on the political power of Cape Verde for it to respect the commission as its regional, security and economic hub.

NAN reports that 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 Aug. 6, 1994 and became effective on March 14, 2002.

It provides for the structure, composition, competence and other matters relating to the parliament.