Mrs Joyce Bamford Addo, Speaker of Parliament, on Tuesday said Ecowas members of Parliament are being challenged by their people to deliver on their mandate to give them that borderless mass of land upon which their forebears once traversed. “You undoubtedly have an ardous task in talking and walking the people through the quest for integration. For the sake of future generations of West Africans, you cannot afford to fail otherwise, you have broken your part of the social contract with them." Mrs Addo was opening a one week-long seminar for members of ECOWAS Parliament at the Accra International Conference Centre. She said many have questioned the relevance of ECOWAS since some of the major problems that wedged “us apart still linger on”. Vice President John Dramani Mahama said that one major hindrance to trade in the West African sub-region has always been the unofficial check-points and barriers on inter-country highways. He said as a result, trade progress has been the slowest, amounting to just about 10 per cent of total volume. It is under the theme: “The Role of the ECOWAS Parliament in the West Africa Integration Process.” Other topics to be discussed include; The Role and Functions of ECOWAS Institutions”, National Parliament verses Regional Parliament-Any Complementaries, National Parliament as a vehicle towards promoting West Africa Integration, The meaning of Economic Integration-the ECOWAS Example, The role of ECOWAS Parliament in the West Africa Integration Process among others. According to Mr Mahama,a survey carried out by West African Trade hub quarterly, on every 100 kilometers stretch of highway, there were 17 controls and an average of paid in bribes and about 55 minutes spent per control point. He noted that attempts to achieve integration of the sub-region was more than three decades old, and “we all understand the justification to not only establish a free trade zone in the West African sub-region but to push further an agenda for political integration of our nations”. He said the protocol that allows 90 days visa free movement of people between countries in the sub-region has been implemented but unfortunately, when “you arrive at the borders of the fellow West African neighbour, immigration officers still maintain the discretion to decide how long one can stay in the particular country. Vice President Mahama said Nigerian Economy was the largest in W/A and accounts for almost 60 per cent of Economic size with the largest population of 140 million people thus Nigeria must exert leadership in this regard if integration process is to be moved forward. He said Parliament have a distinct and unigue position in the entrenchment of the ideals of integration, adding that by the advancement of the sub-regional Parliament to the next level of its evolution “we will promote the integration process and enhance further participation of the people in the process”. He however noted that enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament alone was not enough unless it will lead to the promotion of the interest of the people since members represented the voices of the voiceless and that integration is meant to benefit the people otherwise it remains an effort not worth pursuing.
Source: Ghana News Agency