The Parliament Members of the Economic Community of West African States were locked in a rowdy session during the 2nd Ordinary Session of the Parliament, in the capital city of Lome, Togo.
The altercation resulted from a palpable sense of dissatisfaction over the handling of the issue of illegal recruitment by the hierarchy of the Parliament.
Taking the initiative to right the obvious wrong by the Speaker, Hon. Sidie Tunis and his Bureau for allowing illegality to thrive under their watch by embarking on clandestine recruitment processes without recourse to the plenary were two Nigerian delegates in Hon. Awaji Abiante and Sen. Smart Adeyemi.
Hon. Abiante who moved a point of order said that the report of the Ad-hoc Committee as set up by the Bureau was given the mandate to work without recourse to its adoption by the Plenary as such was illegal in its entirety.
The position was supported by Senator Smart Adeyemi who drew the Speaker’s attention to the adverse implication of the exercise.
“Mr. Speaker, when actions are taken that are not in conformity with the spirit and the content of the documents that are supposed to guide us, I think Mr. Speaker let us accept that something was done, we should be courageous to say that, but for you to say that you prefer the decision that was not in conformity with the law, as an infringement to the modalities of the Parliament, in fact, the contrary is the case.
“If we go ahead to accept what is not properly done then the integrity of the Parliament itself will be questioned, it means we are here, somebody can take a decision on our behalf without consulting with us. Mr. Speaker, with due respect to your position, I personally like you, I respect you, but this decision is not in the content and spirit of the document before us.
“If you have reason to appeal or to convince us in supreme argument, I think we can listen but Mr. Speaker when illegality is done and people are clapping some of us it provokes us because our background, where we are coming from it all differs because we have a different profession.
“I will not sit down here and something that is not in conformity will be presented before us and will be forced down our throats and some people will be clapping for something that is illegal when we have some people who are due for promotion for fifteen years, twenty years and they are not promoted; even if somebody is captured as a slave after fifteen, ten years, he should be admitted,” the Senator explained.
In the same vein, Hon. Samson Ahi from Ghana questioned the rationale behind the formation of the Ad-hoc Committee.
“I just want to find out from you Mr. Speaker, are you saying that with the consultation of the Bureau you constituted an Ad-hoc Committee and after that, you gave them a mandate to work without the approval of the entire house, is that what you are saying.
“My understanding is that you can constitute the committee, alright, but it is subject to the approval by the entire members before legally they can work. If you and your Bureau can constitute a committee and they start working without recourse to members before you present your report, then I think there is something wrong with what you have done, can you explain to us whether our understanding that you and your Bureau set up a committee, and they work before you are presenting your report to us, is that the case?” he questioned.
Another Parliamentarian with a dissenting stance, Hon. Abdullahi said “I would like to add that the Bureau has no right or powers to take that decision, they should have recommended back to Plenary to form an Ad-hoc committee, not them as the Bureau forming the Committee, it is wrong, and for that matter, I hope that whatever report the Ad-hoc committee has should not be read here, we should form the committee today so that they can start work.
Responding to the concerns of the Parliamentarians, the Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Senator, Ali Ndume said “I am standing here because of the Ad-hoc committee that was formed that vested on us the power to investigate on the matters raised by our high Commissioner from Nigeria and also the First Deputy Speaker on the purported irregularities recruitment which was suspended, Our mandate as at that time and now did not lift the ban for the suspension, that was the decision that was taken at the Plenary.
“On behalf of the other colleagues that undertook this Ad-hoc job, we didn’t look for the job, in fact in my own case I was in my local government because we are on recess and I was mourning my father then the Speaker called me to say that there is an issue that came up that is eating the system which was true as at that time and that he needed some members as a committee to immediately look into the matter and report.
“We have a mission but now am embarrassed by the observation of abnormalities, am not looking for this job, and I am sure our other colleagues are not looking for this job, and am also sure that even if a new committee has to be formed it has to be members of this ECOWAS, and I don’t think they are looking for the job either, and I don’t think any of us cannot do this job.
“I was thinking that members will hear me out or hear the committee or even adopt if there is abnormality because I know the situations where normally if the head of the institution takes a decision that decision is not questioned, but it looked into with the view of ratifying it.
“Distinguish colleagues I don’t want it to be my personal interest but for the members’ interest, but as I say, because of the interest of the workers, if not I will not present the report, I will not continue with illegality, you have to decide,” he added.
Speaking on the grounds of the various concerns and agitations from the floor of the Plenary, the Rt. Honourable Speaker, Sidie Tunis, subsequently moved that the recruitment process be suspended indefinitely as Senator Edwin Snowe from Liberia stormed out of the plenary in protest of the deferment.
It would be recalled that Nigeria threatened to withdraw its membership of the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) if the regional body does not suspend the ongoing recruitment exercise as recently directed in the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.
At that same Session, Parliamentarians passed a resolution to suspend the recruitment exercise after Nigerian representatives at the Parliament alleged discrimination and lopsidedness in the recruitment of workers at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.