By Victoria Ojeme
The Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has spanked Nigerian lawmakers over claims that the body promoted nepotism in a recent employment exercise.
ECOWAS accused Nigerian lawmakers of misrepresenting facts and suggesting that they are merely bluffing to curry the favour of Nigerian electorates ahead of next year’s general election.
The leader of the Liberian Delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament, Edwin Snowe, said “Nigeria delegation that raised the alleged scandal is filibustering to impress Nigerians so as to canvass for votes ahead of the 2023 General elections in Nigeria.”
He warned Nigerian lawmakers not to cast unnecessary aspersions on the Parliament and its Speaker, Sidie Mohamed Tunis by misrepresenting facts.
“ECOWAS was founded on solidarity; there is nothing that makes might right in the community. The Nigerian delegation questioning the recruitment process is misrepresenting the decisions that emanate from the plenary.
“I understand that our brothers are going for election and sometimes they filibuster because they want the vote and support of their constituencies to feel that they represent Nigeria’s interest at the Parliament.
“But we will not allow the Parliament to be used as a stepping stone for the reelection of politicians,” he warned
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Delegation at the ECOWAS Parliament had threatened to withdraw the country’s membership of the regional bloc if it did not suspend the on-going recruitment exercise as recently directed in the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.
Nigerian representatives at the parliament issued the threat when some principal officers in the regional bloc allegedly defied the directives and embarked on the illegal process of recruiting their relatives and cronies.
The lawmakers cite the huge financial commitments which Nigeria makes to the body amid its internal security challenges.
They said there was no commensurate return on investment for Nigeria in ECOWAS for all the country has done and is doing for the region from its inception in 1975.
Leader of the Nigerian delegation and Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, who is also the First Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Ahmed Idris Wase, said it has become imperative that Nigeria review its relevance and membership of the bloc.
“If you are in a system, and you are not getting the right results, where you are investing your money, it pays best to walk out of the union.
“In a situation where we are having an infrastructural deficit and witnessing security challenges, why should we continue to invest our money where it will not benefit our country.
“Yes, we will pull out if we don’t get the desired result from this,” he said.
He said “we are asking for justice not just for Nigerians alone, but for the entire ECOWAS community. That is what MPs are asking for. There are few countries that want to run ECOWAS like a cabal but we will not tolerate that.”
The Nigerian Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, Musa Nuhu, also wrote to the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis on the alleged nepotistic employment scandal rocking ECOWAS.
The letter from Nuhu was dated July 20, 2022, and titled, “Formal complaint about unfair treatment and confirmation of staff at the ECOWAS parliament.”
He wrote in the letter that “I have the honour to refer to our verbal discussion on the above subject matter and formally inform you that the attention of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the ECOWAS Commission has been drawn to a number of complaints by Nigerian staff working at the ECOWAS Parliament. The grievances border around stagnation and overlooking of staff already working in the parliament in favour of outsiders in the ongoing recruitment for divisional heads and professional staff.
“This action directly contravenes the recommendations of the 30th meeting of the ECOWAS Administrative and Finance Committee as well as the position of the Council of Ministers, which directed that internal candidates should be prioritised in filling existing vacancies in ECOWAS institutions, as recommended in the Staff Skills Audit Report.
“The Honourable Speaker may kindly wish to note that the mission has examined the complaints of the staff of the parliament based on existing staff regulations as well as the decisions and guidelines given by the AFC and Council of Ministers for ECOWAS institutions to carry out the recruitment and found that their grievances are genuine.
“Therefore, as you rightly observed during our discussions, recruiting individuals outside the system to place them above the existing staff would only lead to discontent, demoralisation and continued stagnation of the staff. This will inevitably affect the overall performance of the Parliament.”
However, Senator Snowe told reporters that recruitment into the ECOWAS institutions is very competitive and cannot shortchange any country let alone Nigeria that has made invaluable contributions to the development of the community.
He denied there was a resolution reached at the plenary to suspend Recruitment into the P5 positions as is being insinuated by Nigerian legislators. He noted that Nigerians are adequately represented in ECOWAS Parliament and other institutions of the community.
Regarding the recruitment, he insisted that the report of a resolution to suspend the recruitment process was not true, stressing that a motion was entertained by the First Deputy Speaker, who was the presiding officer on the issues raised by Nigerian MPs on Nigerians being shortchanged.
He said the issue of recruitment is being handled by a Nigerian firm contracted by the Community to take applications and shortlist successful citizens of the sub-region for interview and wondered why Nigerian lawmakers are crying foul.
He added that the matter was referred to the Bureau for further action, adding that it does not constitute a resolution to suspend the process as the whole community activities cannot be stopped because some lawmakers from a member country raised issues.
” There was no vote taken on this matter, two Nigerian lawmakers raised the issue about the recruitment process. There was this staff skill audit that was done at ECOWAS and the results came out not too favorable to some of the staff occupying certain positions. So, the lawmakers linked the staff skill audit debate to the recruitment process.
“But the Deputy Speaker asked the Bureau to take possession of the matter and investigate it and get back to the Parliament’s Plenary at the earliest possible time. There was no vote taken because resolution at Parliament is based on vote”.
He said further that apart from the P1 to P3 positions which were junior cadres, there is no record that the recruitment into the P5 positions, which is the bone of contention, has been made as no decision has been reached on it. He said the issue is within the jurisdiction of the Management Succession Committee( MSC) of the ECOWAS Commission.
He pointed out that the regional bloc recognises the immense contributions of Nigeria and had taken steps to give Nigeria adequate representation in ECOWAS institutions.
“At the Parliament as I speak to you, there are 73 staff members and 35 of them are Nigerians. We breached the Rule of Procedure, we breached the Supplementary Act and gave Nigeria a deserving platform at the Parliament. This consideration is not out of weakness, it is out of our own appreciation for the role Nigeria has played in our sub-region.
“For Example at the Authority of Heads of State and Government the chairmanship is rotational. At the Parliament, the Speakership is rotational in alphabetical order. But on our own, outside the Protocol – the Supplementary Act of the Parliament, outside our standing rule, we have agreed that when Nigeria is not chairing as Speaker, Nigeria should always serve as First Deputy Speaker even when there is no rule that supports that,” he said.
The second thing he noted was that each country has a committee chair at the Parliament currently with the exception of Guinea Bissau.
” We also said that because of Nigeria’s magnanimity we have given Nigeria two committee chairmen positions because of our respect for what tax payers money has done for the region. Nigeria permanently chairs the Finance Committee and another committee in addition to the First Deputy Speaker when Nigeria is not serving as Speaker,” he noted.