Bayelsa State Governor, Honorable Seriake Dickson, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu have called on African member nations of the Commonwealth to close ranks, with a view to achieving sustainable peace, stability and development.
Speaking on Saturday at the opening session of the 74th executive council meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, CPA, Africa Region, in Yenagoa, the trio stressed the need for African nations to enter into mutually beneficial partnerships that will promote investments and prosperity.
According to a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Francis Ottah-Agbo, Honourable Dickson also urged Commonwealth members in the African region to do business amongst themselves, as well as encourage each other in tackling their developmental challenges.
While thanking the leadership of CPA for accepting to host its meeting Yenagoa, he restated his call on parliamentarians to continue to defend democracy and the rule of law in Africa.
Responding to a motion moved by Senator Ike Ekweremadu for the establishment of a CPA liaison office in Yenagoa, Governor Dickson noted that, the government made the offer in good faith, with the aim of promoting the activities of the organization.
His words, “I want to thank you for accepting the Speakers invitation to host this particular Executive Committee Meeting here in Bayelsa State. Parliamentary democracy is all about consultation, it’s all about building capacity and consensus. Our offer has been made in good faith and I believe it is going to be a win-win situation”
“If you have a liaison office in a state that understands the role of parliaments and the importance of the CPA and the cross-fertilisation of ideas, I think it will be ultimately to the advantage of the organization itself, after all, you have most of your members from Nigeria.
“Let us as Africans do more businesses among ourselves; create jobs and develop skills for our people. We can not continue to look up to former colonial masters and others to do that for us. And these are some of the good things that you in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association can do”
In his remarks, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt, Hon. Yakubu Dogara underscored the importance of the CPA, noting that, the organization has over the years, provided a robust platform for deepening parliamentary practices and conventions of member nations.
Dogara, who was represented by a member of the House Committee on Inter-Parliamentary Matters, Honourable Samuel Ikon urged legislators to intensify their effort at holding governments accountable to enable their people get better dividends of democracy.
According to him, “It is our role to ensure that our primary role of law-making, appropriation and oversight are strengthened as they deepen our democracy and ensures that we hold our governments accountable.
And once we hold our governments accountable, it will lead to ensuring that our people get the benefits of democracy”
On his part, Senator Ekweremadu emphasized the need for African member nations to renegotiate the terms of their membership of the Commonwealth to enable them have a better deal by entering into new partnerships that will promote justice and equity.
“We are going to see a new era and the CPA Africa Region should be prepared for this new era. The new era is coming because of the Brexit. Britain has left Europe and they are going to look for new friends and sign new partnership agreements. So as we go into this new era of commonwealth, Africa must be ready to put on their thinking cap for better negotiations and for better deals”
“If we say we have a commonwealth, is it Commonwealth of Nations or Commonwealth of People? I think what we need is a Commonwealth of People where everybody will have a sense of belonging to such a super-national organization, where a Nigerian or somebody from Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and so on, can go to the United Kingdom without a visa”
In their separate remarks, the President of CPA, Africa Region, Right Hon. Gladys Kokorwe and the Chairperson, Executive Committee, Hon. Lindiwe Maseko, commended Governor Dickson for his gender-friendly policies and for providing the enabling environment for the meeting, which they described as the best in terms of organization.
While urging the governor to do more in the area of women representation, they however, condemned in strong terms, the recent abduction of school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State by insurgents and called on the federal government, the African Union, the United Nations and other international bodies to intensify efforts at ensuring their release.
Earlier in his welcome address, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Konbowei Benson, also highlighted the significance of the CPA, pointing out that, through the organization, legislators have developed their capacity in different areas.
He attributed the prevailing cordial working relationship among the three arms of government in the state to Governor Dickson’s love and passion to develop the state, adding that, Bayelsa has been chosen to host the next (50th) CPA meeting in 2019.