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African MPs urged to seek counsel on Bills

Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro. Photo/ FILE

Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro. Photo/ FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 4 – African parliaments have been urged to employ the advice of the parliamentary legal counsel in order to avoid the passage of unsound legislations which has delayed the development of most African countries.

Speaker of the Senate Ekwe Ethuro told delegates attending the 2nd African Colloquium of Legal Counsel to Parliaments that African Parliaments have been slow in assuming their roles on account of negative events that have held the continent back for almost 50 years after independence.

“It is important for legal counsel to have an appreciation of this encumbrance so that with your requisite skills, parliaments will further get capacitated to move forward in the assumption of our traditional functions of representations, law making and providing oversight.”

Ethuro who also fondly refers to himself as the ‘Oil Sheikh’ (because he was the Member of Parliament of Turkana Central Constituency where oil deposits have been discovered) noted that parliaments and sub-parliaments cannot afford to be ill-informed about global unfolding legislations and agreements.

The Senate Speaker told the 80 delegates from 18 countries attending the conference that most Africans expect their representatives to pass legislation that will ensure they are not exploited by foreign companies which are flooding the continent in the wake of recent discoveries of oil, coal and other natural resources.

He said that parliaments must ensure that Africa enters into fruitful partnerships and cooperation in the exploitation of natural resources as well as in the development of its economies and human rights.

“”Apart from the regional and continental agreement that PLCs must keep themselves abreast with,” he said. “If we look further WTA, EPA, G20, and then the globally powerful G8 which Africans must sit with them; the complexities of the tasks that the PLC are called upon to help parliament discharge becomes evident,” he advised.

Clerk of the Senate Jeremiah Nyengene equally challenged the Parliament Legal Counsels to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that admirable legislations are brought and approved by the House.

He said as legal professionals they will be called upon to put the interests of the country, the people of the respective states ahead of their ‘bureaucratic functions.’

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“To what extent should legal counsel serving in parliament take responsibility for any unconstitutional or any otherwise unsound or unlawful decisions or outcomes of their parliaments?” Nyengene stated.

Nyengene observed that in order to navigate this and other intricate questions there is a need for Parliament and their Counsels to create networks so as to increase the capacity in tackling a rapidly changing and dynamic legislative environment.

Senior Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly Micheal Sialai who represented the National Speaker Justin Muturi at the conference recognized the role of the parliament counsel in guiding a modern parliament through emerging issues and jurisprudences.

Sialai noted that the continent has made strides in the last 10 years because of the constitutional and democratic changes giving parliaments new roles and challenges in terms of legal and budget making services.

“I remember before the fall of the one party state, those of us who used to work in clerk’s chamber would have to go to the AG’s office to get a legal interpretation on draft bill but I can say now we appreciative of the legal services.” Sialai said.

The meeting which ends on Thursday also brings together clerks from County Assemblies in Nigeria and Kenya as well as those from Economic Council of West African States (ECOWAS).


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