Report of an Advocacy Visit by CISLAC and State Of The Union (SOTU) to the President of the Pan African Parliament Hon. Bethel Amadi on the 6th of June 2013
On the 6th of June 2013 at about 1600hrs GMT, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and State of the Union (SOTU) carried out an advocacy visit to the President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) Hon. Bethel Amadi. The advocacy visit was part of a series of activities lined up in pushing for achieving the general stated objectives of SOTU which includes the ratification, domestication and improved implementation of African Union (AU) instruments at country-level and Nigeria being a signatory to a number of these instruments and also privileged to be currently holding the office of the President of the PAP had to be seen to be championing a pioneer role in the attainment of these objectives.
The meeting which lasted for over 2hours was attended by a delegation of SOTU and CISLAC and also had in attendance the President of the PAP Hon. Bethel Amadi, his Senior Legislative Aide Barr. J.U Ejiogu, and the media. The meeting was the eventual outcome of series of communications between the SOTU Secretariat and the office of the President of the Pan African Parliament that culminated in the eventual visit on the 6th of June.
In his opening address, Okeke Anya who led the CISLAC-SOTU delegation took his time out to first commiserate with the Pan African Parliament on the demise of the immediate past President of the Parliament in the person of Hon. Moussa Idriss Ndélé who passed away on the 19th of May 2013, he noted that Moussa Idriss Ndélé was a very dynamic individual who stood as a symbol of PanAfricanism with very novel intentions for the entire continent. He then went ahead to on behalf of the Executive Director of CISLAC Auwal Musa Ibrahim (Rafsanjani) extend the deepest condolences of the entire State of the Union coalition to the Parliament’s President noting that his predecessor’s good deeds should be not just sustained but efforts at improving on them should be made.
Okeke Anya also as part of his remarks then went ahead to introduce what CISLAC stood for and what the organization represented and highlighted the areas of particular interest to the organization with significant respect to interfacing between the electorate and the elected and improving the lives of the citizens which SOTU also had as its objectives. He noted that SOTU was a timely intervention in achieving the yearnings and general aspirations of the average African. He stated that SOTU was a response to a call by the African Leaders themselves that the 42 AU instruments be ratified, domesticated and implemented across member states of the AU. He also mentioned as an organization, CISLAC was deeply concerned with the developments of Pan Africanism and the paucity of awareness of AU issues in the country.
CISLAC and SOTU’s Prayers
Okeke Anya in his remarks noted that the Pan African Parliament has a very strategic and pivotal role to play towards the attainment of majority of the SOTU objectives and that was what informed the visit as earlier mentioned. He complained of the exclusion of African civil society organisations in the last concluded AU summit and submitted the Petition by SOTU and other CSOs to the President. In conclusion, he spoke to the fact that in a push towards the ratification and domestication of these AU instruments that the President of the PAP use his good office to amongst other things:
- Engage relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) facilitating the ratification and implementation of African Union Conventions and Frameworks such as the AU Revised Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Maputo 2003) in Nigeria
- Facilitate and support the domestication process of ratified African Union Conventions in the National Assembly
- Support Africa Civil Society engagement with the African Union Commission for more inclusion in African Union activities including African Union Summits
- Encourage Nigeria Government/CSOs partnership in African Union Activities, Meetings and Conferences
- Open its communication channels to the SOTU Continental office when it calls as it will soon be getting across to the President of PAP
While responding to the brief and remarks of the CISLAC-SOTU delegation, the President of the PAP Hon. Bethel Amadi in his response thanked the delegation for taking time out to pay him this very welcomed visit, stating that it was by all means a move in the right direction. He noted that for a better and more unified Africa where the dreams of the common man was achievable, there was an urgent need for collaborative efforts of all relevant stakeholders of which the civil society groups were a driving force in this goal. He took time out to apologize for the short notice of the meeting, on the account that he only just got back from the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and since the Nigerian National Assembly was rounding up its second legislative year there was a need to fast track the meeting which warranted the short notice.
He stated that CISLAC and SOTU are working on very key AU instruments and that the PAP as an AU organ was happy with this development. He briefly introduced the Parliament and its workings, stating that the Parliament was still undergoing a transformation process which was kick started in 2009.
He also highlighted the challenges currently being faced by the Parliament as well as the AU in the ratification, domestication and implementation of the AU instruments. He noted that the most pressing challenge was that of process– he explained that the process through which majority of these AU instruments were arrived/drawn up were void of citizenry and people inclusion. He noted that as a result of the exclusionist approach while coming up with these instruments, upon arrival at the various AU member countries, these documents arrive as brand new and strange documents hence the first and initial challenge that always cropped up was that of acceptance. He stated that there was need for the AU not be just a mere meeting of the Heads of States but a meeting of the African people where the average African could air his mind and opinions on issues that affect and bother him directly.
The President of the Parliament then went ahead to address a number of issues that bothered around the instruments SOTU was working on. He stated that the PAP was involved in pushing for the ratification and domestication of the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and although the country was currently experiencing a democratic rule which is in line with the Charter, a lot still needed to be done in further entrench and strengthen the practice of participatory governance. He also mentioned that the African Youth Charter was of particular interest to him. He stated that according to some recent studies, statistics and demographics reveal that by the year 2025 Sub Saharan African will be home to the highest number of people under the age of 25years and that there was an urgent need to start making adequate preparations for the effects of such a population. According to him the huge youth population can be a brewing danger to sustainable peace and development, but could also be used as an asset for development citing the case of Syria who despite having done very well in the implementation of the MDGs is today nothing to write home about in terms of development due to conflict.
. He gave insight as to the goldmine that exists in the continent and the possibility of generating five times the amount of monies that was got from international donor agencies if the continent could only increase intra-continental trade by just 20%.
He also mentioned that the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption was a key area of interest to him being aware of the effects of corruption and how much of the peoples commonwealth is being lost through corruption while linking it directly to the Charter on Public Service Administration since most of the corruption that is being perpetuated and reported occurs in the Public Service.
The President clearly highlighted the need for enhanced partnership and that the PAP is opened and welcomed to new ideas. He posited that there is need to focus more on intra African trade which could radically boost the volume of revenue accruing the continent from within the continent.
The President highlighted that there was an increased need for the Parliament to go beyond the role of a mere advisory body and begin to participate fully in the drawing up of these AU instruments so as to make for more validity and inclusion of the peoples’ interests.
He also cited a need to institute the Electoral College System of voting in the PAP as against the Universal Adult Suffrage which was obtainable as this will make for a higher quality of representation at the Parliament and this was contained in the ongoing review process. He also made a case for the Parliament to be empowered to make draft laws of these instruments since through such procedural method, the manner in which these AU instruments are achieved become more inclusive, representative and desirous.
The PAP President then went ahead to use the opportunity created by the meeting to invite the delegation to the forthcoming African Speakers Conference session coming up in August.
As part of his closing remarks, the President PAP harped on the need to focus more on intra-trade on the continent, noting that such intra-trade and commerce is the number one driving force for development. The meeting later came to an end with group photographs of the SOTU delegation with the President of the Pan African Parliament, and presentation of the SOTU souvenirs (T-shirts, face caps, wrist bands, fliers and SOTU posters) which officially declared the President of the PAP as a SOTU ambassador.