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Basic information

The ECOWAS Commission is the main engine room of all ECOWAS programmes, projects and activities. This ECOWAS administrative instrument was transformed from an Executive Secretariat into a Commission in 1997 in fulfilment of a decision taken to that effect the previous year.

The change of nomenclature is not just for its sake. In their wisdom, the Heads of States and Governments came to terms with the fact that a Commission such as it now exists is the right set up that can make ECOWAS better adapt to the international environment and bring about more equity, transparency and greater functionality in accordance with global best practices.

It has been carefully considered that apart from bringing about effective integration and development, the Commission is in a better position to support ECOWAS member states to build their capacities for programme implementation.

As constituted, the ECOWAS Commission is now headed by a President who is deputised for by the Vice President. The president is assisted in the discharge of his duties by Commissioners. Previously seven and then later made nine in number, the Commissioners are now 13. By becoming a Commission with enhanced powers and Commissioners in charge of smaller and clearly defined sectors, the ECOWAS Commission will have more impact and become more visible in Member States.

Hand in hand with the restructuring is the rotation system based on equity, transparency and functionality for the appointment of statutory officers to key positions. By and large, apart from the enhancement of the powers of the Commission, the restructuring has led to a consolidation of the Community spirit, strengthening of supra-nationality as well as the adoption of a new legal regime (decisions directly applicable in Member States and by the Institutions).

There is now a new regime for the ECOWAS Community Acts. Before the new legal regime came on board, obligations of Member States were captured principally in Protocols and Conventions which are subject to lengthy Parliamentary ratification processes. These processes delayed the entry into force of the legal texts thereby paralysing the integration process. Decisions of the Authority were however immediately applicable and binding on Member States, whilst those emanating from the Council of Ministers were only applicable and binding on the Community Institutions.

But under the new legal regime, the principle of supranational becomes more pre-eminent and there is now a de-emphasis on the adoption of Conventions and Protocols. Community Acts are now Supplementary Acts, Regulations, Directives, Decisions and Recommendations. Thus, the Authority passes Supplementary Acts to complement the Treaty. Supplementary Acts are binding on Member States and the institutions of the Community.

On their part, the Council of Ministers enacts Regulations and Directives and makes Decisions and Recommendations. Regulations have general application and all their provisions are enforceable and directly applicable in Member States. They are also enforceable in the institutions of the Community.

The Commission adopts Rules for the implementation of Acts enacted by the Council. These Rules have the same legal force as Acts enacted by the Council. The Commission makes recommendations and gives advice. Recommendations and advice are not enforceable.

As currently set up, ECOWAS institutions draws strength from its main body-The Authority of Heads of States and Government. The others are Council of Ministers, the Commission, the Community Parliament, the Community Court of Justice, Specialised Technical Committees as well as the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID).

There are other Specialised Institutions comprising the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) as well as the Inter-governmental Action Group against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in West Africa (GIABA).

The regional group also has Specialised Agencies, including: ECOWAS Gender and Development Centre, Youth and Sports Development Centre as well as the Water Resources Coordination Centre, among others.


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