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ECOWAS Speaker is duty bound to respect resolution of Parliament – Abiante

Awaji Inombek Abiante represents Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro constituency in the House of Representatives, and member of the Nigerian delegation to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Parliament. In this interview with LINUS ALEKE, he condemned the alleged utterances against the Nigerian parliamentarians by the ascribed to the Secretary-General of ECOWAS Parliament

What is your reaction to the incendiary comments against Nigerian MPs by the Secretary General of ECOWAS Parliament, especially as it relates to the Parliament’s resolution on the ongoing recruitment exercise?

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Unfortunately, someone who should be guiding Parliament should be making such an uncouth statement. Probably, at the end of our exercise, we will know whether we are blabbing or we are speaking in the interest and defence of our people. We didn’t just jump into the Parliament, we were sent to represent our people and they are Nigerians. We are in ECOWAS Parliament to represent our country, Nigeria. Whatever, it takes to maintain our position, maintain our stand, and seek justice, not just for Nigerians alone this time around but justice for the entire members of the community and the states within the community, that is exactly what we are going to do. And it was based on that that we were propelled to raise the issues and to raise the red flags. There are Issues and there are questions that are challenging certain intentions. Don’t go beyond this point that was a valid resolution of Parliament and if anyone related to Parliament will disregard the resolution of Parliament, I wonder exactly where he gets his authority from. We will question and query all of these as we move along.

Is there a kind of synergy between your committee and the office of the Secretary-General?

The Secretary-General is serving the ECOWAS Parliament. Our committee is the Nigerian Parliament committee that is looking into all these complaints. Our committee has a responsibility and that responsibility is to evaluate the entirety of the Nigerian commitment, and benchmark it with what our benefits have been, in terms of our funding, and even in terms of our sacrifices, in terms of human lives. Because it took Nigeria to defend Sierra Leone when it mattered, it took us to defend Liberia and several others community members when it mattered. So, we have to appraise if those sacrifices are just for nothing or if we are helping people who appreciate the fact that we are Nigerians and that we want the integration, development, and progress of the community. Our work will make demands on the Commission, and make demands on ECOWAS Parliament, in terms of appearance. We need to unravel a few things, and in terms of documents, they need to provide. We don’t want to pre-empt the functions, or what exactly the committee will do but be rest assured that this committee is resolute, this committee is determined, and this committee is going to ensure that justice is done in the next couple of days the work of the committee will effectively kick start and I also want to enjoin all of you to show presence so that you will keep track of whatever it is that the committee will do.

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Where does the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis, stand in these whole controversies that are brewing?

The Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament is duty bound to respect the resolutions of 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, and 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.

Will the Parliament impeach the incumbent Speaker if his actions in the ongoing crisis are considered by members as gross misconduct?

Let us get to the bridge first, we will know how to cross it. Whether we will jump or we will swim or we will fly. Let us get to the bridge first, we will know how to cross it. There will be sessions thereafter.

Let me take you back to the committee that you alluded to earlier, is this committee not coming late considering the illegalities that had been going on at the ECOWAS institutions over time, especially as it concerns staff recruitment?

The Parliament has been in existence for quite a while and membership of Parliament changes periodically, and whatever information that was available yesterday may not have been sufficient. Whatever membership that we have today may have been absent yesterday. The fact remains that as of today, we receive certain misgivings and protestations from people who are so affected. I may not know if such protestations existed in the Fourth Assembly, as of today, these protestations are evident before us and we are duty bound to attend to them like we have indicated and in the cause of our engagement we are not restricting ourselves to what has happened today. If you listened to our intent on the floor, we said that for the past ten years, whatever it is that had happened in the past ten years, the one that has to be remedied, the one that requires sanctions, I am sure that at the end of the day, without pre-empting the resolve of the committee, we will get to that point.

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