A member of the Nigerian Delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Garba Shehu has said that the poor attendance of Nigerian representatives to the Parliament was largely due to domestic responsibilities.
Hon. Shehu who spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of the Parliament on Friday, said that many Nigerians were now focused on returning as lawmakers with the General Elections coming in 2019.
He said that many of the representatives to the parliament realize that if they do not return as members of the Nigeria’s Parliament, then they automatically lose their seat at the ECOWAS Parliament.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nigeria has 35 seats at the parliament, however very few of them attend sessions and committee meeting.
At an earlier session in 2018, only four members of the Nigerian Delegation were present when the Country’s Report was presented.
The attitude of the Nigerian representatives got the attention of other Members of Parliament who noted with displeasure that less than 10 out of 35 members attended the session when Nigeria presented its Country Report.
Speaking on the issue of attendance, Hon. Shehu said: “It is natural for people to ask questions where you have poor attendance as it was witnessed today.
“It is also a fact that whenever you have a programme that is domiciled at the home of the participants, the tendency is for such people to be distracted. It could be family or work related distraction.
“When you have a programme like the ECOWAS Parliament sitting in Abuja, the tendency is for the Nigerian parliamentarians to have their attention divided between the ECOWAS Parliament and the National Assembly.
“This, unfortunately, is a very bad time. It is not just a time for political nominations but it is also a time where the Nigerian parliament is preparing for a new budget year; parliamentarians are conducting oversight preparatory to receiving the new budget.
“Therefore, the parliamentarians cannot afford to be away because you first need to be elected as a member of the Nigerian Senate or the House of Representatives before you come to ECOWAS so your survival as a Nigerian parliamentarian becomes uppermost,” he said.
The lawmaker, however, stressed that the poor attendance was not in any way excusable, stressing that work at such level of representation should be taken very seriously.
He said that he and other who had expressed similar concerns would take the matter up with the leadership of the National Assembly so that those who do not have the time are not appointed to the parliament.
He recommended that the National Assembly should review the process of nominating lawmakers to the parliament.
“People who have enormous responsibility in their home parliament, Nigeria inclusive, should not be saddled with the responsibility of their country at the ECOWAS Parliament.
“You have chairmen of committees here, whether they are senators or members, I personally believe that a chairman of a committee in a national parliament should not represent the country in the ECOWAS Parliament,” he said.