The Pan African Parliament took a step forward when it recently held a regional parliamentary meeting on African Governance Platform and Promotion of African Legal Instruments in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. It was aimed at ensuring that Charters of the African Union are ratified, domesticated and implemented to create the needed synergy for a collective push of the continent towards organised development and improved standard of living. Like the recurring decimal, corruption was fingered as worst among other factors militating against development in the continent, reports Ahamefula Ogbu
Members of the Pan-African Parliament converged on Port Harcourt, Rivers State penultimate week in search of a common front to the myriads of Africa's developmental challenges. The platform was a bastion of free expression as most members voiced concerns that ordinarily, they would have been too cautious to express in their respective countries.
Though it is doubtful if the resolutions and position papers could be given vent in implementation, being tied to the African Union leaders who also appear by design or default, to be behind the concerns being expressed as well as constitute the impediments to getting the continent out of the woods.
Summed up, the move aims at reversing the result of the 1886 Berlin Conference that balkanised Africa, put artificial lines and directed its wealth and resources to actors of that conference so that even if the artificial lines as borders still exist, an inward look that will ensure that trade, resources, raw materials and other things that make for good life operates within the continent without the divisiveness which advanced economies have injected into them. A bottom-up approach to solving problems of the very endowed but economically and socially sick and backward continent was canvassed.
The gathering which took place at the Rivers State House of Assembly on Moscow Road was as a result of a lobby initiated by the Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly and Chairman of Parliamentary Exchange Mentorship programme of PAP in South Africa, Hon Leyii Kwane to host the event. The effort was later supported by Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi who bankrolled the meeting.
Issues that kept the parliamentarians busy the gathering included how to galvanise the African continent to embrace the good governance architecture especially on how to reform the civil service across the continent to render quality service that will make the African society a good place to live in.
On the first of the two day event, presentations were made by resource persons drawn from specialised offices and areas. African Union Commission expert, Mr. John Ikubaje made presentations on "The African governance Architecture (AGA) and the African Governance Platform (AGP)". Ikubaje, UNDP Officer-in-charge, Governance, Mr. Brian Tarmuka Kagoro and African Governance Institute Programme Coordinator, Mr. Maurice Engueleguele made presentations on "The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and progress of its ratification and domestication in region while "The African Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration" by Ikubaje and Dr. Josiah A.M Cobbah of the Conference of African Ministers of Public Service rounded off the day.
On the second day presentations on "The African Union Convention on Prevention and Combating Corruption and the Anti-corruption programme for Africa" by Mr. Daniel Batidam, Executive Director of African Parliamentarians Against Corruption; Ratification and Domestication Tool kits by UNDP Officer-in-charge of Governance, Mr. Brian Tamuka Kagoro; Intra-Africa Trade Issues by Mr. Jean Neol Francois, Head of Customs Cooperation Division, AUC Department of Trade and Industry and Dr. Gbenga Obideyi, Ecowas Commission, Acting Director of Trade, Customs, Industry, Mines and Free Movement were made.
Each presentation was followed by exhaustive discussions followed by contributions of members which later culminated in a communiqué that captured the essence and direction which members had canvassed and pressed for implementation through their various parliaments and pressures on government.
President of the Pan African Parliament, Bethel Amadi in his speech to flag off the occasion reminded them that the regional dialogue they were having seeks to explore the role of the Pan African Parliament in promoting the principles of the African Governance Architecture and the African Governance Platform. The deliberations conjure the image of Pan Africanism though the issues are ones that are well known but seem held to immobility by unseen hands and forces.
Amadi's opening speech was a mixture of lamentations and advocacy that would get those global blocks that have been pillaging the resources of Africa uncomfortable. He traced the new drive to the decision of African Heads of State at their 16th summit which theme was "Shared Values" where they agreed to "foster exchange of information, facilitate elaboration of common positions on governance and strengthen the capacity of Africa to speak with one voice". Those he said were in tandem with the pursuit of the implementation of the Governance architecture.
While he was making his delivery, a joke went close to where one was sitting asking no one in particular what the leaders would do with five million dollars when they can in one dip into the treasury of their various countries, take far above that. The joker concluded that stealing more that would make the leader competitive on the Forbes list was more lucrative for them than service to the people and winning a prize from a foundation they would have stolen enough to set up.
After charging that the time was right for them to make changes and that those changes would be made by them, Amadi noted that Africa was the most fragmented continent in the world with 54 countries and numerous border crossings. He was particularly miffed by a report of the World Trade Organisation that "intra African trade remains very low and as at last year stood at 10 per cent while the European Union has achieved 70 per cent, 52 per cent for Asian countries, 50 per cent for North American countries and 26 per cent for South American countries. Currently, the biggest trading partner of every African country is either Asia or Europe or America and the low level of intra-African trade is a missed growth and development opportunity."
He said that if African countries pull together to achieve an increase of one per cent of global trade, it will translate to an annual income of $200 billion which was in excess of five times what the continent receives as official development assistance annually from donor partners. While pressing that integration in the continent could only start through economic integration through creating legal and legislative frameworks for free movement of people, labour, goods and services that would help in creating employment for teeming unemployed youths, he canvassed for an enhanced and effective public service with a common performance code and a borderless Africa.
In her opening remarks, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Dupe Atoki stressed the need for member countries to ratify charters as well as domesticate such laws to give it the continental application that will see symmetry and assured the gathering that the Commission attaches much importance to the cooperation expected from African countries and organs spearheading good practices.
According to her, "the Commission attaches much importance to this cooperation relationship given that it is specifically mandated under Article 5(1)(c) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights to cooperate with other African and international institutions concerned with the promotion and protection of human rights. The importance of this relationship in assuring coherence and coordination between the commission and other AU organs with a human rights mandate, in order to meet the aspirations of African peoples to dignity and respect cannot be overemphasized.
"Although remarkable progress has been made in the governance and human rights arena on the continent in recent years, a lot still remains to be done. We are still confronted with egregious human rights violations in many parts of the continents, conflicts, governance and rule of law deficiencies, corruption as well as inefficient public services that do not adequately deliver on expectations of the African people. The African Union, cognizant of the need to address these challenges, has evolved a normative and institutional framework aimed at ameliorating the human rights and governance landscape on the continent."
In his address, Deputy Senate President who spoke through Olugbenga Badare lamented the problems bedeviling Africa which he listed as election manipulation, unbridled corruption which he made a clarion call for all hands to be on deck to fight and utter disregard of democratic tenets. Ekweremadu said there was hope especially with the commitment of a crop of Nigerians desirous of making things work and charged the parliament to put pressure on their national chambers to make changes for development.
He handed out a damning verdict that parliamentarians have not been effective in checking corruption in their respective countries because of the lack of will to legislate properly as well as make sacrifices to fight the malaise, adding that "The task ahead is daunting but the instruments are good enough to address corruption. If we carry out our oversight functions well, we can check corruption."
At the end of the two day event, a communiqué issued noted the urgency and necessity for member countries to sign, ratify, domesticate and implement AU instruments on governance and called upon member countries' parliaments to press for such actions.
Other resolutions reached at the meeting include the need for PAP to embark on a campaign to ensure that 10 more ratifications on the African Charter on Values and Principles of the Public Service are deposited with the African Union Commission by 2013 while the Parliament should undertake periodic oversight missions to monitor compliance, identify best practices and urge action on ratification, domestication and implementation.
They also resolved to work with AU Commission on Political Affairs, Civil Society and CAMPS and other stakeholders to ensure ownership by peoples of Africa of the AU instruments; and to sensitise national parliaments on the need to mainstream AU legal instruments with national Constitutions to achieve harmonisation as envisaged by the protocol establishing PAP.
Further, they expressed concern on high level corruption in the continent and that based on 2002 World Bank report, 25 per cent of the $148 billion of Africa's resources and 50 per cent tax revenue and $30 billion Aid for Africa ended up in corruption and reminded all of the Convention to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in public and private sectors.
They resolved that "Pan-African parliament to partner with the African Advisory Board on corruption, the African parliamentary Network against Corruption, the African Peer Review to support the establishment of anti-corruption legislations and commissions where they do not exist; and Work with the African Union and other anti-corruption bodies to support the ratification, domestication and implementation of the Anti-Corruption Convention."