MEPs Scrutinize Nigeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso Country Reports - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Saturday, December 4, 2021

MEPs Scrutinize Nigeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso Country Reports

By Melvin Tejan Mansaray, Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday 2nd December 2021

Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament (MEPs)  on Thursday 2nd December 2021 scrupulously scrutinized the content of the country reports of Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and the Benin Republic during the Fifth Legislature's Second Ordinary Session currently holding in Abuja, Nigeria.

First to present was the delegation from Burkina Faso, Benin and followed by Nigeria, all of whose representatives gave an account of their countries strides in tandem with a template provided by the Secretariat along the thematic areas of; political, security, human rights, health situations and status of implementation of the ECOWAS text.

According to the contributions of MEPs; the issue of instability needs a new strategy to combat terrorism as it is affecting the majority of women.

"The women are in charge of children and are taking care of refugees. We must do something. Terrorisms and the number of deaths across the region are spreading. It calls for a new strategy to combat it. This is what I insist upon. I congratulate the three countries for their reports. Last year, Nigeria suffered from kidnappings. ECOWAS must adopt a new strategy to combat this," the third Deputy Speaker said.

Hon.  Sawadogo Sailfou in his contribution said that the health situation in the sub-region is a call for concern noting that the Nigeria report is appreciable. He noted that, "if Nigeria is sick then entire West Africa is sick," adding that, "We commend the report on the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria but the low presence of the Nigeria delegation in the hall is always a surprise to us. Why are our Nigerian colleagues not here massively? We want Nigerian colleagues to be massively in the hall. With regards to the free movement of persons and goods, the report lacks a lot of things to be said. 

We need more information on the free movement of persons and goods. Nigeria is a powerhouse and the most populated nation in our sub-region. Let us have insight from Nigeria. On financial commitment, Nigeria is the first highest contributor in our region, but we don’t have information with regards to community levy. These are shortcomings. With regards to the Benin report, if I understood it very well, I want the Benin delegation to explain to us the voting patterns.  I understand that only five political parties participated in your election. In my country, there is a huge number of political parties, restrictions should not stifle internal democracy, only three political parties, I need more insights on the voting pattern. I hope it will not stifle democracy. It is good to help us to make headway. I have issues with our internal document.  I thank the quality document presented by the countries."

Hon. Sarkande in her submission commended the three countries for the quality of their reports. She said for the first time, the   Nigerian delegation is making its presentation on the first day.

 "I have some questions – they talked about quick access to loans by women, we need more information. Regarding Nigeria, on page four, the second paragraph they talked about the Anambra Governor election, and the biometric electronic system needs more information. They talked about the constitutional review but what happened we need more information. Why do they want to review their constitution, and what are the new provisions of the new conditions," she asked.

Hon. Nabie registered concerns on the presentation of Nigeria with regards to security in the Gulf of Guinea,  noting that, "I will like to know what are the security actions that have been taking with other countries in terms of collaboration.  What is the level of security cooperation within the Gulf of Guinea."  On the issue of community levy, he enquired  " what is the status of community levy of Nigeria."

Hon. Konneh - "I want to congratulate all the countries that made their presentations, my intervention is on Burkina Faso's report and the issue of herders and farmers situation in Nigeria. In Burkina Faso – the defence of the fatherland forces raises the issue of pro-government militias. We have a negative feeling about this in Ivory Coast. This speaks to the issue of the state's inability to bring about internal security. 

In Ivory Coast, after the 2002 rebel problem, we have the issue of the elite in power that called for national patriotism and this was a call on the youth to control the inflow of traffic from towns, gradually we have a  problem of blockages of roads, government militia were armed and gradually, they are not paid by state and turned coat into the anti-government militia.  I want to know how the Burkina Faso militia works.  What are the constraints of the coming of these militias? In Nigeria, we said the open grazing issue brought a problem on harders, in the North of Ivory Coast, we had troops of animals coming from Mali and Burkina Faso, farmers had issues from the north transporting cows which destroyed farms, we don’t know how to fight this scourge. The farms are where they carry out this grazing. The issues of free movement of goods  and persons, how is it moving."

Hon. Khalifa Cedi also congratulated the presenters of the three reports, adding that "let me make a general comment that the country report should be updated periodically and tell us what is going on with accurate data and avoid repetition and very long reports. For Benin and they need to dilate more on sponsorship of candidates in presidential elections. We need updated figures as to the community levy. On Nigeria's report, I have two issues, four million doses administered but with a projection of eighty million by 2022, are these figures realistic from four million to eighty million how possible is this. The report from Nigeria is economical on the amount of the community levy, what is the arrear of Nigeria and how much has been paid so far. It is very important because Nigeria is a big country and they pay more, let us know how much Nigeria owes and how much has been paid so far."

Another MP from Nigeria called on other countries to follow the example of  Benin's country report,  noting that  "we are here to know what is happening not a small piece of paper. See the Benin report is so detailed. In Agriculture, we have passed that stage to look at Europeans. Benin - why can't you export pineapples to the ECOWAS market but to the EU. Nigeria reported electoral reforms, the most important thing is the direct primary which is controversial, it is to depend on the electoral system, we review our constitution to review the realities of the time. Let me reemphasize that as a big country like Nigeria, we should not be asked as to how much is Nigeria owning the ECOWAS. Nigeria must live  up to expectation and it should pay."

In their responses, the Burkina Faso delegates said: " The MVP pro government militia is recognized in a law passed in July 2021. They are part of defence and security forces who voluntarily offer their services, but they are not allowed by law to go beyond the villages where they reside.  They receive a monthly stipend. I believe with the advent of terrorism these young people can defend their villages, unlike in Ivory Coast where there is a rebellion. Their contract is for one year subject to renewal."

Benin: "Thanks for your interest in our report – two positive incidents that happened – returned of our cultural heritage that was stolen by  France.  This cultural reclaim has set the tone for the sub-region to make similar demands. The EU has borrowed a leaf from Benin for the return of our cultural artefacts. On women, since May, we promulgated a law on women where a   woman can have a family name to the child voluntarily, we have a national women institution that has the power to oversee women's rights in every sphere of government. Maritime piracy has been drastically reduced.  There is a strike force to repel pirates and a rapid response team which is now leading to zero piracy. On the spread of terrorism in the Beninese territory, we need a  joint patrol. Military barracks are going to be built along with border communities around mid-2022 dedicated to countering terrorism. There is a crisis between Beinin and Burkina Faso with both countries claiming the territory. We have only five political parties that took part in our election but it does not belittle our democracy. We initially had over three hundred political parties which was too chaotic and did not auger well for our society. Many of the political parties merged into what we have today.  On the number of votes, wehave decided to remove some seats -  we said every political party should have won at least ten per cent, the more you are represented in the municipal area the more votes you get, it eliminates redundant potential parties."

The Benin delegation in response noted that their reform did not outlaw multiparty democracy, the reality is what is obtained in Ghana with a national threshold. The microcredit was computerized with all the beneficiaries receiving direct transfers through electronic means with respect to sponsorship. If you want to contest for the post of presidency you need at least ten per cent sponsorship.  With respect to tenure limits, in Benin as of 2023, you can't be elected president more than twice, the same goes for  MPs in 2023.  Benin is the producer of pineapple with trucks going to Nigeria. It is a matter of targeting more markets but yes, we are exporting to ECOWAS."

Nigeria: – "The electoral bill is before the President right for assent now and captures real-time issues. On the state of our constitutional review, Nigeria people feel that there is a need for a review of the constitution. Security collaboration - Nigeria is taking a leadership role in the Deep Blue Sea two hundred million dollar project. Security is getting better in the Gulf of Guinea. I don't know if we will meet our target on vaccination. Community levy  - wehave been in arrears for  months we made attempts to get the specific amount of levy owed,  not that we were holding back facts, we are
waiting on the finance ministry."

In the end, the reports were however adopted by the plenary. Coming up next is Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone country reports.

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