- As Africa lawmakersâ€™ summit begins in Yenagoa
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara; Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson; and several heads of parliaments across Africa saturday kicked off the 74th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) Executive Committee meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, with a call for greater cooperation among Commonwealth countries.
Also present during the conference which the organisers said was aimed at strengthening lawmaking in Africa and other commonwealth countries were Senators Ben Murray-Bruce, Emmanuel Paulker and Foster Ogola, all from Bayelsa, and Assembly Speakers from Adamawa, Bayelsa, Abia, Cross River, Kogi States among others.
Some of those who attended from the rest of Africa, included the Speaker of Botswana Parliament, Gladys Kokorwe; Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the CPA, Lindiwe Maseko, African Region President of the body, Gladys Kokorwe and lawmakers from Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa.
All those who spoke at the event, agreed that the legislature remains the symbol of democracy all over the world, maintaining that an attack on lawmakers was a direct affront and danger to democracy. They also called for greater cooperation among commonwealth countries and fairness to all members.
Specifically, Ekweremadu argued that Nigeria was not getting its fair share of returns from the commonwealth, despite its contribution to the body, maintaining that the country demands a better deal. â€œA lot of issues we have looked at are those that affect us as a commonwealth; issues of justice, fairness, environmental impact and how to manage diversity. We are going to see a new era of the commonwealth.
â€œThe CPA must be prepared. Britain is leaving the European Union, they are going to be looking for new partners. Africa must be prepared and put on their thinking cap. Nigeria contributes money to the commonwealth, but we should ask ourselves, do we get enough return on investment there?
â€œGambia asked themselves this question and left, but after realising the need for international cooperation, they have now come back, but that question has not been answered. Do we still have student scholarships from the commonwealth?
â€œDo we need a commonwealth of nations or that of people? I think we need a commonwealth of people where everybody has a sense of belonging, where someone from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana can go to the United Kingdom without necessarily having the need for a visa.
â€œIt is time to say enough is enough. Itâ€™s either we are inside or outside. But we prefer to be inside and be treated well. Until we say everybody matters, we are going to keep harvesting insecurity and protestsâ€, Ekweremadu said.
In his comments, Dogara, who was represented by Samuel Ekon of the House of Representatives, underscored the importance of the parliamentary association, especially in the area of capacity for lawmakers.
He expressed dismay over the continuous domination of the legislature by the executive, but commended Governor Dickson for the cordial relationship between him and the executive, especially for always engaging the lawmakers.
Dogara insisted that the Lawmakersâ€™ appropriation and oversight functions must be strengthened and government held accountable, so that the electorate can have value for their votes.
Earlier on Saturday, all the guests had attended the inauguration of the interns and house officersâ€™ quarters at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Yenagoa, built by the Dickson administration.
At the event, Ekweremadu who said he was delighted to be given the honour to unveil the project stated that every investment in the health sector is not a waste as it borders on the wellbeing of the people.
The senate number two man asked visitors to the state, especially those who are attending the 74th CPA (Africa Region) Executive Committee meeting to take the message to the world that democracy is indeed working in Bayelsa State.
â€œLet me say here that I am happy to be associated with Governor Dickson because he represents the hope for a new Nigeria. When I listened to the governor earlier and the health commissioner as well as the CMD I was close to shedding tears of joy.
â€œInvestments like this will reduce cases of infant and maternal mortality. God has raised Governor Dickson at this time to serve his people which he is doing and I congratulate you for this. You are changing the narrative of this state.
â€œNo matter how disadvantaged Bayelsa is, geographical wise, you are not relenting to put it on the global map. Some of us are convinced that when we come here for any purpose and have any health challenge, we will be properly attended toâ€, he said.
In his comments, Dickson stated that he saw the need to build the quarters despite its location in a federal establishment as it will on the long run serve the generality of Bayelsa people, which according to him is paramount.
He restated the commitment of his government to offer quality service to the people and stressed that the investment in the health sector has made the state a prime destination for medical tourism.
In their separate remarks, the State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu and the Chief Medical Director of the FMC, Dr. Dennis Alagoa described the building of the quarters as a dream come true and expressed appreciation to the governor.
Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the CPA, Maseko had during a visit to the governor at the Government House, Yenagoa, commended the governor for his strides in the education sector.
â€œWe are all proud to be here and I can say we are all Bayelsans. We are also excited seeing the good work you are doing, which even the blind can see. The free school initiative, free uniforms, books, they are all wonderful.
â€œsaturday, we were at St. Judeâ€™s Girls Secondary School and we are proud of what we saw thereâ€, she said.