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Opinions of Thursday, 12 July 2012

Columnist: Abdul-Yekin, Kofi Ali

The Parliament Of Ecowas Citizens

Until Ghana’s recent action of joining other ECOWAS member states in applying laws meant for the Chinese, Indians and Brazilian to fellow ECOWAS citizens mainly to the advantage of the Ghanaian, the existence of an ECOWAS Parliament would have remain very silent in our mind. The right of the ECOWAS citizens over the parliament through the option of the universal adult suffrage as provided by article 6 and 13 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993 establishing the parliament would have not been an issue of discuss. But for how long shall free citizens of ECOWAS continue to be slaves on whose behalf parliamentarians are chosen and pretending to be those mandating such parliamentarians by one-man one-vote to work for the people?
Most of us were not the least shock at the recent developments in Ghana requiring non Ghanaian retailers to have US$300,000.00 to trade in Ghana as we are fully aware that in almost every one of the ECOWAS member states, non-indigenes do not only pay their host states to earn a livelihood but are also charged daily for living in such states. In fact this has been long coming by the experiences of some of us who are privileged to live and work in other African Union states with more emphasis on the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) sub-region. Ghanaians in all forms and shapes have been subjected to all sorts of humiliating extortions and restriction that most feel it are unfair on them having their own home state still sustaining the “lassie fair” attitude.
US$300,000.00 to trade in any ECOWAS country by member state’s citizens is just beyond imagination! Imagine a Ghanaian national in the fishing community of Brufut or Ghana-Town in the Gambia being requested to cough out US$300,000.00 to do his/her petty business. Imagine the number of ECOWAS citizens, mostly the poor whose only reason for leaving their home state is the amount of capital required among other factors, now being treated in fellow ECOWAS states just as is done to the Chinese, the European or the American?
On hearing that Ghanaians are now joining the Gambians in what every non-Gambian dread most, officially known as the Residential Permit to extort money in the name of revenue generation from citizens of neighbouring states, my Gambian friend confided in me that they in the Gambian are waiting for the Ghanaians to establish their position for the Gambians to move a step further. To Lamine, US$300,000.00 on every “fucking foreigner” in the Gambia is a golden opportunity. The view of my Senegalese friend in the heart of Tambakunda does not worth expressing here as he recount the abhorring horrors meted out to fellow ECOWAS citizens and that this will be justifying the exploitation further in the future.
In some other West African states, the extortions have assumed more than one dimension broadly classified as the official and unofficial approaches. Thus, in addition to uniform government official operating in accordance with the laws of the states to regulate and check the presence of non- indigenes in their localities, it is common thing in Senegal or Mali, or even in far away location like Mauritania for a group of youths to embark on informal random operation on immigrants. The situation could be worse that a landlord or a neighbour or even a co-retailer can assume an immigration officer’s role of checking documents and collecting revenue from ECOWAS citizens for that matter. Indigenes who are trading in the same vicinity could connive with distance relatives or neighbours to haunt and extort money from their competitors that could not only be financially damaging but psychologically destructive when the victim is fully aware of what is happening but has no ECOWAS law to resort to.
Taking Ghana to the ECOWAS Parliament by citizens of member states resident in Ghana for what other states within the ECOWAS zone are comfortably doing is very unfortunate. It is even interesting to learn that there exists a legislative institution of ECOWAS citizens called the ECOWAS Parliament with representatives of the people as ECOWAS Parliamentarians to whom the complaints of the ECOWAS citizens were handed over to.
What exactly do this so called “ECOWAS Parliament does and on whose behalf are these done?” Given the problem of levying citizens of members states in locations outside their own states is common to all the ECOWAS states, is it not supposed to be the concerns of the parliament? Shouldn’t this have been discussed and solution arrived at long before now? Is this indeed a parliament of elected representatives of the citizens of ECOWAS that has been in place to deliberate and make laws reflecting the concerns of the electorates of ECOWAS? If this is the case, then why was this issue not tabled before the parliament by the people’s representatives of all the ECOWAS states for a common consensus on how much to charge every citizen outside his/her home state and how such revenue shall be used on behalf of all citizens? What is bad in having a standardise amount along with rules and offices to control abuse of the system? Would this have been a Ghanaian phenomenon if the bold protesters had not taken the case beyond the Ghanaian boarders to the ECOWAS parliament? Sure this clearly indicates that our rights and duties within ECOWAS are far beyond our colonial states boarders, and so must our democratic rights and duties as provided by the Treaty establishing the ECOWAS Parliament.
The best title for this article should have been “The Parliament of ECOWA Slaves” but how encouraging would this have been? In all fairness, the so called ECOWAS Parliament might just be an office of one person appointed by ‘God know who’ called ECOWAS Parliament to act and preform parliamentary role in misleading ECOWAS citizens. So contrary to the Universal Adult Suffrage practice within the EU (European Union) states with locally elected representative of the people to the European Union parliament (MEP) that makes laws for EU states, ours only sounds so but is not the case in practice. The so called ECOWAS Parliament might also be a location of part time cronies and appointees of the 15 member state heads of government whose jobs in the ECOWAS entail mere formalities but actually never go to any parliament. The above can also be an office of appointee(s) of members of the diplomatic corps that are independent of the member state governments and citizens while working for the colonial masters of the “international community”.
One thing that is obvious in the light of the above is that the ordinary citizens of West Africa states whose tax pay for the institution and in whose name this parliament exist, do not directly elected within their respective constituencies representatives to meet and discuss their issue in this august parliament. This phenomenon that characterised the system of parliamentary representation in colonial days when parliaments across the colonies are filled with the local nominees of the colonial masters, to make laws on behalf of the people, is now practice at the ECOWAS level. We are now having a parliament of supposed citizens of West African States being run as colonial parliament despite the effort of local activists and politicians in the past fighting off the evil colonial practice to have election of parliamentary representatives to be by the people of the localities. It seriously bugs the mind for this practice to be a norm in this day and age. How on earth is this normal to have what we vehemently rejected when our educated populace was far less, to be what is being endure when our educated population in all human endeavour across West Africa has increased more in proportion?
The most supreme institution among a free people is the parliament of the people in which the people individually take up the responsibility of making their own laws as against the bureaucratic settings where their representatives are relief of their duty. This practice happens now and then when electorates lose confidence in their representatives to the extent of doing it themselves. Often than not, control become difficult with procedures thrown to the dogs to make room for anarchy and diminishing return sets in. There are several instances in the developed and underdeveloped nations where the people together have intervene in the redemption of their law making rights and the most effective way of keeping parliament in place is the effective and responsible representation of the people. Resorting to the tools of oppression to make citizens conform to repressive rule is only for a while.
So by defining parliament as any location where elected representatives of a people meet to discuss the concerns of those they represent, how mysterious then is this ECOWAS Parliament that is said to exist without most of us participating in the election of how the members of the parliament are arrived at? If this is supposed to be a location where individuals expected to have a better understanding of the concerns of those they are representing; to deliberate and make laws regarding how such concerns will be address, how on earth will that be the case when I am yet to meet any person, out of the about two-hundred and ten population of ECOWAS, agreeing to be an elected or participating in the election of another to the parliament?
In following the case above that was tabled before the so called ECOWAS Parliament, focusing our energy on activating the citizens of the 15 member states of ECOWAS in proving that they are no more slaves or subjects of colonies must be a serious matter. It time for the people to be those directly choosing their representation to the regional body through a Universal Adult Suffrage than the current process of nomination. In line with the article 6 and 13 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993 establishing the parliament and singed in Abuja on the 6th August, 1994 that entered into force on 14th March 2002, the first option was electing member of the ECOWAS parliament by universal adult suffrage (one man one vote open to all citizens). So with the existence of this right and clearly documented, the challenge is on the regional activists to step up their game on their duty and responsibility in mobilizing their fellow citizens on this noble course. The present practice of ECOWAS parliamentarians by nomination as a second option assumed it place due to the failure of the people to know better. To have the “choice of the people by the people to work for the people”, it befalls all activists and the progressives of ECOWAS to join ranks in a powerful campaign on getting the people to be those voting for the representatives.
It is through this approach that we can have the views of the majority of the citizens of ECOWAS working in the name of the people, by the people’s mandate, to make laws good enough to supersede the law of any single member state on issues of economics, security, trade, etc. This is the only way we can move ECOWAS and the AU at large from the popular “talking shop” into the institution of the people that will actively be working in addressing the concerns that challenges the functionality of the people of ECOWAS. This is what people do to develop themselves that is inevitable in our time!,

Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin

Chairman/ Coordinator-ACTION GROUP OF AFRICA (AGA)
Skyp: kofialiabdul1,