Nigeria has threatened to withdraw its membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) over discrimination especially recruitment.
The country demanded that the ECOWAS suspends its ongoing recruitment exercise as recently directed in the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.
Nigerian representatives at the ECOWAS Parliament issued the threat when some principal officers in the regional bloc allegedly defied the directives and embarked on the illegal process of recruiting their relatives and cronies.
The lawmakers cited the huge financial commitments which Nigeria makes to the body amid its internal security challenges.
They said there was no commensurate return on investment for Nigeria in ECOWAS for all the country has done and is doing for the regional body from its inception in 1975.
This development is coming on the heels of recent lopsided recruitment exercise at the ECOWAS Parliament, which was discovered to be manifestly skewed to serve the personal interest of member-states to the exclusion of Nigeria.
“If you are in a system, and you are not getting the right results where you are investing your money, it pays best to walk out of the union.
“In a situation where we are having an infrastructural deficit and witnessing security challenges, why should we continue to invest our money where it will not benefit our country.
“Yes, we will pull out if we don’t get the desired result from this,” Wase said.
“We are asking for justice not just for Nigerians alone, but for the entire ECOWAS community. That is what MPs are asking for. There are few countries that want to run ECOWAS like a cabal but we will not tolerate that.”
The Nigerian Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, Musa Nuhu, also wrote to the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis, on the nepotistic employment scandal rocking ECOWAS.
The letter from Nuhu was dated July 20, 2022, and titled, “Formal Complaint About Unfair Treatment and Confirmation of Staff at the ECOWAS Parliament.”
“I have the honour to refer to our verbal discussion on the above subject matter and formally inform you that the attention of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the ECOWAS Commission has been drawn to a number of complaints by Nigerian staff working at the ECOWAS Parliament.
The grievances border around stagnation and overlooking of staff already working in the parliament in favour of outsiders in the ongoing recruitment for divisional heads and professional staff.
“This action directly contravenes the recommendations of the 30th meeting of the ECOWAS Administrative and Finance Committee as well as the position of the Council of Ministers, which directed that internal candidates should be prioritised in filling existing vacancies in ECOWAS institutions, as recommended in the Staff Skills Audit Report.
“The Honourable Speaker may kindly wish to note that the mission has examined the complaints of the staff of the parliament based on existing staff regulations as well as the decisions and guidelines given by the AFC and Council of Ministers for ECOWAS institutions to carry out the recruitment and found that their grievances are genuine.
“Therefore, as you rightly observed during our discussions, recruiting individuals outside the system to place them above the existing staff would only lead to discontent, demoralisation and continued stagnation of the staff. This will inevitably affect the overall performance of the Parliament.”
Nuhu continued, “It is understood that each institution in ECOWAS gets the permission (since there is a freeze on recruitment) to employ from the AFC/Council of Ministers. Thus, Parliament needs to show that the permission was given.
“Again, Parliament’s bureaucracy is subject to the Bureau of Parliament. Were these positions first considered and approved by the Bureau of Parliament before the recruitment exercise or even before taking such a request to recruit to the AFC/Council of Ministers? They should not be complicit with illegality maybe because they are benefitting one way or the other.
“The problem is that the process of ensuring that internal candidates are first considered for positions (internal advertisement of positions with the institutions of ECOWAS) before looking externally for candidates where internal candidates have not measured up to requirements, have been jettisoned because it allows the powers that hold sway to bring in their relatives to occupy those positions.
“Let me tell you, those recruitment exercises are never fair because before they are even conducted, you will start hearing about preferred candidates already and about instructions to the so called consultant in charge of bringing out the long-list from the entire list of applicants, to ensure that some people are not on that list and also that those preferred candidates make it to the top of those lists.”
Also, according to Deputy Speaker Wase, the fact remains that as at today, Nigerian lawmakers are in receipt of certain misgivings, and protestations by people who are so affected.
“I may not know if such protestations existed in the Fourth Assembly, as at today, these protestations are evident before us and we are duty bound to attend to them like we have indicated and in the cause of our engagement we are not restricting ourselves to what has happened today.
If you listened to our intent on the floor, we said that for the past ten years, whatever it is that had happened in the past ten years, the one that has to be remedied, the one that requires sanctions, I am sure that at the end of the day, without preempting the resolve of the committee, we will get to that point,” he stated.
Hon. Wase reiterated that Nigeria has done so much for ECOWAS, explaining that over 60 per cent of ECOWAS funding comes from Nigeria.
“We have staffers who are of Nigerian origin that may have done better or progressed rapidly in their career if they were within the bureaucracy of the Nigeria Nigerian civil service.
Their colleagues and contemporary in the Nigerian civil service are now directors and even permanent Secretaries and those of them in ECOWAS institutions have stagnated for years.
They are not promoted because they are engaged as casual staff. We cannot subject these staff to remain at the same level for more than 10 years. ECOWAS employed them as casual staff, and kept them as casual staff for that long.
“It offends the International Labour Organization (ILO), Convention on Forced Labour. I was an activist and a unionist, before joining politics. We cannot keep an employee for more than six months on a casual basis, it is against international law. But here we have kept them for a number of years, up to nine years, it is inhuman.
“What the Parliament is talking about is transparency, and doing the right thing in the right manner. I heard them saying that the audit report was inconclusive, it then meant that there were issues.
Whether inconclusive or not, in Parliament, there is what we call an interim report. So, there was an interim report, and that is what some members were relying upon, it does not mean that because they were unable to conclude, then there was nothing.
There was something on the table, and I will refer to that inconclusive report that the Secretary General mentioned as an interim report before the Parliament, which of course should be used, and considered because it raised issues regarding the imbalance in the composition of the staff,” he added.
According to Wase, the Nigerian Constitution in Section 14 (4) provides that, the composition of government shall be in a manner that it reflects the federal character.
“Now, we have people who possibly have one opportunity and they want to bring in their relatives, and their siblings against the larger interest of our community. Common judgment teaches us that when you have nations coming together, we should do the distribution in such a way that justice and fairness takes the centre stage,” he further stated.
He said that if Nigeria had not asked for 60 per cent benefit in ECOWAS before now, it must have been a mistake “because our dividend should be equivalent to our contribution and investment. And if that is not done and the little that we have in the system is being humiliated, we will not take it.
“From the National Assembly of Nigeria, we are also going to probe our Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Finance Minister who is giving the money and the Commissioner who is representing us at the Commission. What are they doing there, are they part of this nonsense going on, possibly because they have one interest to protect or the other? We will not allow that to happen. We will expose everybody from the Nigerian Parliament and sanctions will follow. We will sanction anybody found wanting in the process,” he added
Last month, at the 2022 First Ordinary Session of the Parliament, the lawmakers had passed a resolution to suspend the recruitment exercise after Nigerian representatives at the parliament alleged discrimination and lopsidedness in the recruitment of workers at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja.
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