ECOWAS parliamentarians have proposed a regional defence force that would assist in the enforcement of security in member states.
The parliamentarians, at the ongoing First Ordinary Session of the parliament in Abuja on Thursday, also recommended a common ECOWAS electoral commission to govern elections in member states.
Reacting to presentations of country reports from Mali, Niger and Guinea Conakry, the members exclaimed at the level of insecurity in Mali.
The Malian Government has reportedly been seeking to restore stability and rebuild following a series of setbacks since early 2012.
This includes a military coup d’état, renewed fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical extremists.
Mr Mahama Ayariga, representing Ghana, suggested the parliament moves a motion to propose to the Authority of Heads of State to consider the establishment of an ECOWAS defence force.
Ayariga explained that establishment of a defence force would promote security and promote the region’s common market.
“If we have a common market where insecurity makes it difficult for our citizens to access our various markets, then the very objective of ECOWAS will be defeated.
“In that regard, I suggest that this parliament considers a motion to propose to the Heads of State to consider the establishment an ECOWAS common defence force.
“The force that can go beyond national sovereign boundaries and assist to enforce basic security in our various countries.”
Mr Ibrahim Sadiq, representing Nigeria advised that the parliament get the Heads of State to critically analyse the situation in Mali as it affected countries in other regions.
“We have to look at Mali very critically because what affects the country affects Niger, Nigeria and our sister countries in Cameroon and Chad.
“There is a need for us in this parliament to make our heads of state sit down and do a very critical analysis of these issues and how we can as a group tackle the situation.”
He also suggested that Mali decentralise and create an upper chamber so that its other citizens would feel represented to mitigate the crisis.
Also, Mr Kofi Humado, representing Ghana suggested an ECOWAS institution to promote security in the region.
“Anytime we are presented with the (community) budget a lot of money is allocated for security issues and it seems we are not having value for money so far.
“I believe we need a holistic arrangement through having an ECOWAS institution that can promote security for the region.”
Mr Edwin Snowe, representing Liberia urged members of parliament to “invoke” a debate and come up with a firm decision on the Malian crisis.
“We need to be a little more proactive.
“I propose by asking this parliament to invoke a debate on the Malian crisis where we can sincerely look into the crisis and see how best ECOWAS can come up with a firm position on the situation on Mali.”
Concerning the proposal of common ECOWAS electoral commission, members of parliament said that its establishment would minimise costs of elections in member states.
Ayariga explained that the commission would ensure common election standards in member states.
“We are quick to get excited when a president says he will hand over. I do not think that it should be a question of whether or not the president should handover.
“I propose that we have a common ECOWAS electoral commission with a uniform code that governs every election where the standards are the same.
“If we had a common system run by ECOWAS, one set of materials moving from country to country, can save our various countries billions that we give to the western countries to export electoral materials to our various countries.”
Furthermore, Sadiq added that it was pertinent for the parliament to make “a strong statement” to governments in the region and Africa on remaining in power at the expiration of their tenures.
“My colleagues have made very valid point about longevity in power by African heads of state especially now that Africa is democratising.
“Somebody who does not want to leave power when his term has expired should not be tolerated here and we have to make the point very clear,” he said.