By Chinelo Chikelu
The absence of 31 out of 35 Nigerian delegates at the ECOWAS Parliament ongoing First Ordinary Session has finally drawn the vocal concerns of the regional parliament today.
Addressing the low attendance of their fellow parliamentarians even on the day Nigeria is expected to present its country report, Ghanaian delegate, Hon. Opare-Ansah Frederick, remarked on the consistent absence of Nigerian parliamentarians urging them to raise attendance to parliamentary sessions.
Opare said though Nigeria’s National Assembly runs simultaneously as the regional legislature, Nigeria parliamentarians should improve their attendance to sessions, particularly on the day of its presentation of its country report.
Today, Nigeria’s attendance was the lowest it has ever been, with just four (4) members out of the 35 delegates in attendance. Out of the four delegates in attendance are Hons. Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi, and Shehu Garba Sarkin-Noma, who read Nigeria’s country report.
Responding on behalf of Nigerian delegates, Hon. Shaaba Lafiagi, arguably the only Nigerian parliamentarian who faithfully attends the parliamentary sessions, appealed to the MPs patience blaming the ongoing national budget meetings at the nation’s national assembly for the low attendance.
Lafiagi further noted that with the upcoming elections congressional party meeting also affected Nigerian parliamentarians’ attendance of the parliament’s weekend sessions. However, he pleaded with the MPs understanding and said Nigerian delegates will do better in the future.
The conspicuously low attendance of Nigerian MPs in the ECOWAS parliament has been a subject of embarrassment and private discuss in the regional institution for some years. This is the first time Nigeria’s low attendance is formally singled out in a session.
Earlier in the session, Nigerian media reported only 19 out of the 35 Nigerian delegates attended the opening of the regional parliament’s ongoing session.
By not participating in sessions, Nigeria loses more weight, benefit and positions in the organization, as they are either not available to adequately represent, unanimously, the interests of the country or loose positions of authority to more active members.
It is important to remember that during the last session held in Abuja, in November 2017, members of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians (ECOFEPA) had called for the resignation of its president, Nigerian delegate, Hon. Stella Adaeze Oduah on the grounds of ineffective leadership. Meantime, Hon. Stella Oduah is yet to put up an appearance at the meeting.
Meantime, Nigeria’s delayed processing of its 2017 community levy payment raised calls from member states urging her full payment of her community arrears.
According to the country report presented by Hon. Ibrahim Sadiq, Nigeria noted the reason for the delay of the community levy on its reservations for its usage.
Commenting on the issue, Hon. Opare-Ansah expressed concerns observing that Nigeria had cited similar excuse in the past. Opare stressed that the non-payment of a part of its community levy owing to ‘reservations’ on its use, did not constitute part of the agreement on community levy.
“If all countries decided not to pay a part of their levies owing to ‘reservations’ budget issues will arise that will affect the community finances,” argued Opare.
Opare urged Nigeria to remit in full its levy arrears and table whatever reservations it has to the budget committee for consideration.
Hon. Lafiagi assured the MPs that Nigeria will soon process its 2017 arrears.