Sen. Tolu Odebiyi 

Senator Tolu Odebiyi has expressed the need for ECOWAS Parliament to have its members elected directly through universal adult suffrage, as against the current practice of nominating the members through the existing national parliaments of Member States.

Odebiyi, who is a member of ECOWAS Parliament, was speaking to newsmen in Abuja after his return from Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he had attended the 2024 Extra-Ordinary Session of the Parliament.

He said that direct elections into the Parliament would ensure the autonomy and independence of the regional parliament in line with the provisions of the 2016 Supplementary Act Relating to the Enhancement of the Powers of the ECOWAS Parliament.

Odebiyi noted that since the ECOWAS Parliament came into functional existence in 2002, it has been operating basically as “a mere forum for dialogue, consultations and consensus amongst the representatives of the citizens of ECOWAS Community”. According to him, the Parliament lacked powers to make laws or perform other requisite functions of a normal legislature until the adoption of the Supplementary Act on the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament in December 2016. 

He pointed out that with the coming into force of the Act, the ECOWAS Parliament can intervene much more actively in the affairs of the Community. According to Odebiyi, the enabling provisions are contained in Article 7 of the Act which confers budgetary and oversight powers on the Parliament.

Odebiyi stated that with the budgetary and oversight powers conferred on the regional legislature, it had become imperative for the membership of the ECOWAS Parliament to be raised through direct universal suffrage.

The ECOWAS Parliamentarian further proffered that direct elections into the Parliament would enable the citizens of ECOWAS to take ownership of the regional economic integration process. He therefore, tasked the leaders of ECOWAS, especially the Authority of Heads of State and Government to do all that is necessary to ensure that members of the Parliament are directly elected by the people.