Nigeria Threatens to Quit ECOWAS As Recruitment scandal hits the Regional body
By Linda Ike
Nigeria has threatened to withdraw it’s membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) over alleged lopsided recruitment exercise and other irregularities at the regional body.
This followed a breach of resolution
passed in the house at the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja to suspend all recruitment process, depending the outcome of the audit report.
The Nigerian Representatives said the recruitment exercise at the regional body is lopsided which is manifestly skewed to serve the personal interest of member states to the exclusion of Nigeria.
According to them, there have been reports of undue process in the recruitment exercise of the ECOWAS staff which mostly affects Nigerians.
The lawmakers cited the
huge financial commitments which Nigeria makes to the body while relegating funding its internal security challenges.
They said there was no commensurate return on investment for Nigeria in ECOWAS for all the country has done and is doing for the region.
The First Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament who is also Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Hon. Idris Wase said it has become imperative that Nigeria review its relevance and membership of the body.
“If you are in a system, and you are not getting the right results, where you are investigating your money, it pays best to walk out of the union.
“In a situation where we are having an infrastructural deficit and witnessing security challenges, why should we continue to invest our money where it will not benefit our country.
“Yes, we will pull out if we don’t get the desired result from this”
“we are asking for justice not just for Nigerians alone, but for the entire ECOWAS community. That is what MPs are asking for. There are few countries that want to run ECOWAS like a cabal but we will not tolerate that.” he stated.
Hon. Wase reiterated that Nigeria has done so much for ECOWAS, explaining that over 60 percent of ECOWAS funding comes from Nigeria.
“We have staffers who are of Nigerian origin that may have done better or progressed rapidly in their career if they were within the bureaucracy of the Nigeria civil service. Their colleagues and contemporary in the Nigerian civil service are now directors and even permanent Secretaries and those of them in ECOWAS institutions have stagnated for years.
“They are not promoted because they are engaged as casual staff. We cannot subject these staff to remain at the same level for more than 10 years. ECOWAS employed them as casual staff, and kept them as casual staff for that long,
“It offends the International Labour Organization (ILO), Convention on Forced Labour. I was an activist and a unionist, before joining politics. We cannot keep an employee for more than six months on a casual basis, it is against international law. But here we have kept them for a number of years, up to nine years, it is inhuman.
“What the Parliament is talking about is transparency, and doing the right thing in the right manner. I heard them saying that the audit report was inconclusive, it then meant that there were issues. Whether inconclusive or not, in Parliament, there is what we call an interim report. So, there was an interim report, and that is what some members were relying upon, it does not mean that because they were unable to conclude, then there was nothing. There was something on the table, and I will refer to that inconclusive report that the Secretary General mentioned as an interim report before the Parliament, which of course should be used, and considered because it raised issues regarding the imbalance in the composition of the staff.”
According to Wase, the Nigerian constitution in Section 14 (4) provides that, the composition of government shall be in a manner that it reflects the federal character.
“Now, we have people who possibly have one opportunity and they want to bring in their relatives, and their siblings against the larger interest of our community. Common judgment teaches us that when you have nations coming together, we should do the distribution in such a way that justice and fairness takes the centre stage”
He added “if Nigeria had not asked for 60 percent benefit in ECOWAS before now, it must have been a mistake “because our dividend should be equivalent to our contribution and investment. And if that is not done and the little that we have in the system is being humiliated, we will not take it.
“From the National Assembly of Nigeria, we are also going to probe our Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Finance Minister who is giving the money and the Commissioner who is representing us at the Commission. What are they doing there, are they part of this nonsense going on, possibly because they have one interest to protect or the other? We will not allow that to happen. We will expose everybody from the Nigerian Parliament and sanctions will follow. We will sanction anybody found wanting in the process,”
Recalled that the Parliamentarians at the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the Parliament in June 9 to July 3 had 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.
The motion was moved by Hon. Awaji-Inombek Dagomie Abiante, a Nigerian lawmaker at the ECOWAS Parliament and was seconded by Sen. Abiodun Olujimi, a Nigerian Lawmaker as well as supported by Hon. Yousoufa Bida and concurrently agreed by the house.
Hon. Abiante who represents Adoni/Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State in the Nigerian House of Representatives, while speaking to Journalists said the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament Hon. Side Tunis is duty bound to respect the resolutions of the Parliament.
“If he does not respect the resolution of Parliament, I wonder which Parliament he is heading. “So, it is left for him to answer where he stands.
“You know, probably some of us are not well experienced, relative to Parliamentary requirements and procedures.
“Therefore, if one is not experienced, we could expect this kind of action. But the Speaker is duty bound to obey the resolution of Parliament.”
“He is first amongst equals, but we are all members of Parliament, by certain requirements, somebody has to lead.
“So, if he is the Speaker today, it does not make him senior or superior to any Member of Parliament.
“And who is he speaking for? He is speaking for the entirety of all of us and if we have come and raised issues, and resolutions taken, saying stop this, he is duty bound to obey.
“So, whatever they had done, we the parliamentarians see it as an effort in complete futility.” he maintained.
The Secretary General of the ECOWAS Parliament John Azumah from Ghana when contacted said he was unaware of any audit report that talked about employment and promotion.
He said “I don’t know where they got that information from that they were talking, but you know that on the floor of the Parliament, you cannot stop them.”
“For me, I don’t have any information about this, but let me tell you this, the First Deputy Speaker would have done himself good, if he had called me to explain what is happening in ECOWAS to him. I don’t know where they got that information from. There is no audit report like that. It is true that ECOWAS did a skill audit some time ago, but it was inconclusive. The skill audit that was done for the whole ECOWAS institutions was inconclusive.
“So, if you went and were extracting information and you got something from staff, you are looking for your interest, sometimes they will give you half information, because of their interest. They would not give you the full information, then you just pick it as an MP and you start talking.
“The staff will tell you that this is happening at the Commission, this is happening at the court and this is happening at the Parliament, it is not true, just because of their interest. For me, if you have that, you have to rely on some credible officers to validate the veracity or otherwise of the information before you come to the floor. When they were talking, I was just laughing in my heart, I am telling you the truth because they were just ridiculing themselves,” he added.Mecowa parliament a resolution was over”
The Nigerian Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, Musa Nuhu, also wrote to the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Tunis on the nepotistic employment scandal rocking ECOWAS.
The letter was dated July 20, 2022, and titled, “Formal complaint about unfair treatment and confirmation of staff at the ECOWAS parliament.”
Nuhu also complained about the alleged discrimination and recruitment of individuals outside the system to place them above the existing staff.