The Speaker is heading a Parliamentary Delegation to Niger to hold discussions surrounding the direct elections of Members into the ECOWAS Parliament.
Dr. Tunis and delegation, which comprises of members of the Adhoc Committee on study for direct elections into the ECOWAS Parliament and secretariat staff, first met with the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Niger, Mr. Hassoumi Massaoudou, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Niamey.
During the meeting, Honorable Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament thanked the Minister for the courtesy extended the delegation and outlined the purpose of the visit. He said that the ECOWAS Parliament is the representative forum of the community and it has a pivotal role to play in discussions surrounding the state of democracy in the region.
Furthermore, Rt. Honourable Tunis lamented that it is unfortunate that the Parliament cannot adequately perform its duties due to the circumstances surrounding its formation. The Speaker recalled that since the establishment of the Parliament, it has been transitioning with members not directly elected by the people.
The Speaker also credited the call for direct elections into the ECOWAS Parliament to the Former President of Niger, His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou, who at the inauguration of the 5th Legislature of the Parliament, in Niamey, underscored the need for members of the ECOWAS Parliament to be directly elected by the people they represent.
In addition, Speaker Tunis said that following the appointment of Former President Issoufou as Chief Advocate and Dr. Ibn Chambers as Assistant Chief Advocate for the direct election of members into the ECOWAS Parliament, sufficient work has been done to lay out the framework for its achievement.
As a result, the Speaker disclosed that the Adhoc Committee will begin engaging electoral bodies across the region next year to hold technical discussions surrounding the modalities for election.
Therefore, Rt Honourable Tunis called for the support of the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs for what he described as a democratic advocacy, especially at the level of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers.
For his part, the Minister indicated that he views the call for direct elections of members into ECOWAS Parliament as not just political, but technical.
“The call for direct elections of members into the ECOWAS Parliament is a technical issue and it ties into regional integration, free movement and democracy across the region,” he said.
The Nigerian Foreign Minister further outlined the many issues that ECOWAS is grappling with, including the issues of single currency, free movement, poverty, as well as regional integration, and said a democratically competent Parliament has an important role to play in resolving some of the issues.
He expressed the optimism that the proposal will be considered at all levels of the ECOWAS governance structure, which would be a very key step towards progress.
During his day’s programme, Dr. Tunis and Delegation later met with the Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly of Niger, Rt. Hon. Seine Oumarou, at the National Assembly Complex.
In that meeting, Dr. Tunis thanked Speaker Oumarou and the National Assembly for the warm reception and hospitality extended his delegation.
He outlined the purpose of the visit, being the advocacy for direct elections of Members into the ECOWAS Parliament.
The ECOWAS Parliament Speaker also recalled the first step taken to achieve direct universal suffrage at the ECOWAS Parliament, which was the establishment of an Adhoc Committee on study for Direct Elections into the ECOWAS Parliament. The Committee is headed by the First Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Honorable Ahmed Idris Wase, who is also First Deputy Speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s House of Representatives.
Honorable Tunis disclosed that a proposal has been drafted on the subject and will be brought to the attention of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government early next year.
He called for the support of all Member States, beginning with the Republic of Niger, which he branded as the birthplace for the advocacy.
For his part, the First Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Honorable Ahmed Idris Wase, thanked Speaker Tunis for the honor afforded him to chair the Committee and expressed the hope that his committee will deliver.
Honourable Wase also underscored the many challenges there are to face, but was also confident that with determination and sacrifice, direct elections of members into the ECOWAS Parliament can be attained.
In response, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Niger, Rt. Hon. Seine Oumarou, thanked Honorable Speaker Tunis and his delegation for the visit and pledged the support of government in any way to make the visit successful.