Mr Ebo Barton-Odro, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, has said efforts at integrating the sub-region would be futile unless regional leaders were ready to cede part of their sovereignties.
He said if the benefits of the various initiatives to integrate the sub-region were to be realised, there was the need to empower the ECOWAS Parliament to support the implementation of community protocols and regulations by member states.
Speaking in Accra at the opening of a weeklong meeting of experts on the enhancement of the powers of the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Barton-Odro said empowering the Community�s Parliament to legislate would strengthen the region in the struggle to achieve economic development, peace and prosperity.
He said this would also create an effective forum for diffusing tensions and assist in preserving the progress made towards regional integration and development.
The meeting, which seeks to fine-tune the Draft Supplementary Act to enhance the legislative powers of the ECOWAS Parliament, is being attended by experts from the legal, political and financial spheres, as well Parliamentarians from the sub-region.
The ECOWAS Parliament was inaugurated since 2001, with the vision of promoting goals of the community for a prosperous and secure region. The Community Parliament has only been an advisory body because of the lack of mandate to legislate.
Some participants agreed that the sub-region would be better off with a strengthened Parliament, with its requisite legislative and budgetary powers to effectively complement the activities of other institutions in the region.
Mr Barton-Odro said current challenges plaguing the implementation of regional commitments were largely due political rather than technical considerations.
He said a lot of efforts and resources had been expended in the last three decades to put in place regulations aimed at creating a common space for community citizens in areas such as agriculture, security, education, energy and transport.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, said the Community�s population of over 300 million was similar to that of the US and EU, but there was a marked difference in living standards between those ECOWAS and those two Regions.
He said accountability, probity, respect for excellence and good governance were major factors that have sustained the developmental margins those communities have achieved ahead of ECOWAS.
He said every moment that the Parliament remained on the periphery of decision-making in the Community was great loss of opportunity for citizens to enjoy the benefits of their full participation in the process of integrating the sub-region.
Dr Toga Gayewea Mclntosh, the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, called on countries within the region to join hands and work assiduously to empower the Community Parliament.
He said �it is our hope that an empowered parliament will assume primary responsibility of ensuring region-wide ratification, compliance and implementation of Community Acts by state Governments.
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