Starting from yesterday, Tuesday, Nigeria is hosting a week long Conference of the leadership of the African Parliamentary Union [APU] in Abuja under the auspices of the National Assembly. The conference, which will be declared open by President Muhammadu Buhari tomorrow, Thursday, is expected to have in attendance the heads of parliament from 41 member countries.
APU, formerly known as the Union of African Parliaments, is a continental inter-parliamentary organisation for African nations that was formed in Abidjan on February 13th, 1976. The Union aims to bring together the parliamentary institutions of all the nations of Africa, and to encourage contacts among the continent’s parliamentarians as well as those outside the continent. It also has as one of its aims to strengthen and promote democracy as well as peace.
The hosting of the conference by Nigeria was first mentioned in July 2018 when the Secretary General of the APU Nzi Koffi met with the President of Nigeria’s Senate Bukola Saraki and the leadership of the National Assembly. After that meeting Mr Koffi had thanked the National Assembly for accepting to host the conference and making adequate preparations for such. The 73rd Conference is therefore a vindication of the National Assembly for delivering on its promise to the APU, as is consistent with the leadership role of the country in African affairs.
The hosting of the APU Conference could not have come at a better time for the Union, given the various challenges facing the continent with respect to maintenance of peace within national boundaries as well as regional coalitions. Beyond the security challenges are others that determine the depressed quality of life for the African citizen, leading to the unprecedented and disgraceful mass emigration of African nationals to Europe and other parts of the world in search of greener pastures which better governance culture at home would have provided.
In its classical form the parliament is a legislative body of elected members who enjoy independence to execute the three functions of representing their constituencies, making laws and oversighting the functions of the government. However, the experience of most African countries points to the total marginalisation of the parliament, leaving them to serve as mere lapdogs to the executive arm especially with respect to fiscal matters and economic development planning.
Other areas in which African parliaments are yet to assert themselves is in the domiciliation and enforcement of the various treaties entered into by their respective governments, leading to the lame duck posture many of them suffer from in
the comity of nations. The Abuja conference therefore offers African parliamentarians another opportunity to engage in well targeted appraisal of their various operational expedients with the aim of improving their procedures and service delivery compact for their constituents.
Parliamentary practice in other climes has gained significant advancements which many African Parliaments are yet to catch up with. The conference offers them another opportunity to compare notes and go home to move their constituencies to the next level. Perhaps deserving to be on the front burner of the concerns of the APU is the present debt burden of African countries, especially to China, a situation that mirrors a modern day re-colonisation eventuality. As parliamentarians serving in the arm of government that is statutorily saddled with the power of the purse, participating parliamentarians at the
APU meeting in Abuja need to identify with the challenge of economic development of their various countries, especially from the perspective of the impact of their countries’ indebtedness to foreign creditors. Africa’s future is rosy but to actualize the expected dividends shall require a reign of democratic governance across the continent. This is the mission of the APU. We wish the delegates fruitful deliberations that will lift Africa to the next level.