By Victoria Saffa
Ghanaian consultant, visiting scholar and Assistant Professor of International Human Rights Law, Nana Busia Jr., has bemoaned the fact that Sierra Leonean lawmakers lack basic resources, including office space and photocopiers, to perform their core statutory functions.
Mr. Busia Jr. made the comments during a presentation on the Domestication of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance to civil society groups and media practitioners at the conference room of Campaign for Good Governance on Tuesday.
The erstwhile UNDP rule of law expert in Sierra Leone, part of a team put together by International Alert to promote and popularize the Charter on the continent, said that Members of Parliament should have their individual offices because they constitute a significant arm of government as they deliberate on and endorse decisions and appointments by the president, as well as approve important issues pertaining to governance.
Only few of Sierra Leone’s 124 lawmakers have offices or staff to help them prepare for parliamentary debates. Apart from the Speaker and his deputy, only the Majority Leader (head of ruling party lawmakers) and the Minority Leader (leader of opposition lawmakers) have offices at Parliament building. The rest have to spend time in between sittings at the canteen or lobbies.
However, a new building has been constructed to house the relatively new Parliamentary Service Commission officers, who are assigned to specific Committees, but not to any lawmaker in particular.
The Ghanaian international law expert also admonished members of civil society to work hard to attract donors, so as to be able to monitor the work of government.
He further called on journalists to popularise the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
The Charter, adopted by African heads of states in 2004 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, aims to promote democracy and respect for human rights, the rule of law and free, fair, and transparent elections, in a continent with a chequered history of dictatorship, flawed elections, and bad governance.
Sierra Leone is a signatory to the Charter, having signed and ratified it in 2008 and 2009 respectively.