Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A’Ibom at 27: Assessing the contributions of AKHA so far BY JOSEPH OKON

A’Ibom at 27: Assessing the contributions of AKHA so far BY JOSEPH OKON

The Akwa Ibom State  House of Assembly was formally inaugurated in 1992 by the then first civilian Governor of the state, late Obong Akpan Isemin when the first democratic dispensation started in Nigeria after the long era of military rule and dictatorship.

As the first democratic legislature, the first Assembly was faced with enormous challenges and responsibilities ranging from framing laws for the new state, accommodation problems, and other internal rankling within the legislature. The state legislature was first housed along Wellington Bassey Way end, while the Uyo Local Government secretariat which was under construction when the state was created, became the Governor’s office, and the then Governor’s office was changed to the State House of Assembly, now the State Traditional Rulers’ chamber.

It is true that the first Assembly could not achieve much because the democratic or civil rule then did not last long, coupled with other internal rankling within the legislature that also stalled the progress and achievements of the first democratic legislature in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.

For the first time in the history of the State House of Assembly, three Speakers were produced as a result of the internal rankling then. The house which can be estimated to have lasted for just one year (between 1992 to 1993) had late Chief Jimmy Jimmy Ntuen as its Speaker. He was later removed from office and replaced by Barr. Nse Ben Ekanem. Because of the political nature of the office then, Nse was also removed and succeeded by Barr. Henry Affang. It was during his tenure the military took over and this temporarily brought to an end, democratic rule countrywide.

In 1999, when the country succeeded in winning the war against dictatorship with the election of Obasanjo as the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces , the second Assembly was inaugurated by the then state governor, Obong Victor Attah with Barr. Bassey Essien as the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.

The second Assembly almost encountered a similar problem the first assembly had. Though the second survived the four-year tenure from 1999 to 2003, much was not achieved in terms of law-making, owing to internal politics and rankling amongst members which led to the sack of Barr. Bassey Essien a year and some months on.

Following the removal of Barr Bassey Essien, Chief Peter Linus Umoh became the 5th Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. He ended the second assembly and during his stay, bills were passed and resolutions adopted but, not very much was achieved.

The third Assembly was also inaugurated by Governor Victor Attah in 2003 with Chief Nelson Effiong as the Speaker. There were remarkable improvements and achievements recorded in terms of law-making. A lot of bills and resolutions were passed by the House, Lawmakers were adequately trained on legislative practices and law-making, the House was very supportive to the executive which was made manifest in the numerous projects executed by the executives. It was the first time in the history of the state then to have had such a vibrant legislature who worked synergistically with the executive. It was this cooperation that saw to their relocation from Wellington Bassey way to the new Assembly complex at Udo Udoma Avenue.

As the democratic rule got matured and older, the state legislature became stronger. The fourth Assembly came in with a new Governor in 2007, Chief Godswill Akpabio who inaugurated the House in June 2007 with Engr. Ignatius Edet as the Speaker.

The fourth Assembly was not interrupted by military interference; it ran a full session of four years from 2007 to 2011. Though Engr. Ignatius Edet was later removed from office as Speaker towards the end of his four-year tenure, the fourth Assembly recorded more progress and achievements compared to the previous assemblies. 

The Lawmakers became more matured, good bills and concrete resolutions were passed into law, motions and private member bills were sponsored by the legislators, innovations and changes were brought into law-making through constant training and re-training of lawmakers on legislative practice. Lawmakers travelled overseas to compare notes, attend workshops and seminars with other legislators. As such, better parliamentary practice and competitions among members in the area of sponsoring of bills and motions were enhanced.

Constituency projects were executed by the lawmakers in their various constituencies as dividends of good representations. About a year to the end of the fourth Assembly, the Speaker, Engr Ignatius Edet was removed from office. He was accused by his colleagues of high-handedness, abuse of office and other sins. He had to resign his position as the speaker of the House to save himself from the impeachment dangling around his neck. It started with the Deputy Speaker, Hon Uwem Udoma who was removed from office few months after his emergence as Deputy Speaker. He was replaced by Obong Okon Uwa.

The resignation of the Speaker brought in Hon Anietie Etuk as the eighth Speaker of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly. Though Anietie Etuk came in towards the end of the fourth assembly, he was able to calm the high political tempo in the house. He ensured that pending bills that needed urgent attention were considered and passed into law, motions on urgent public importance were also adopted and resolutions passed on time. 

He was able to pass the amended Akwa Ibom State criminal procedure bill into law before the end of the fourth assembly. 

The fifth Assembly started with Elder Sam Ikon as the Speaker following the inauguration of the house on the 6th June 2011. The expectation of the people from the new House of Assembly was very high based on the calibre of men and women there. The Speaker had rightly captured it in his inaugural address when he said that the fifth assembly is “the people’s assembly”. He vowed that the house will always be on the side of the people while working in synergy with the executive to achieve all round development in the state.

There is no doubt that Elder Ikon’s synergy with the executive has paid off. He has succeeded in attracting mega projects ranging from roads, construction of schools, and other major projects to his people and to other members of the house. The executive and the legislature have witnessed relative peace and mutual co-existence that has metamorphosed into the much celebrated uncommon transformation in the state. Quality constituency projects worth millions of naira have been attracted to various constituencies every year.

The fifth assembly has been able to record impressive strides and improved legislative practices and performance compared to the previous assemblies. For instance, the fifth assembly ensured that budgets are passed into law on time by making the executive start the New Year with a new budget. This is a clear departure from other assemblies who delayed the state budget till up to five months in the new fiscal year before it was passed. 

Under the leadership of Elder Sam Ikon as the speaker, the lawmakers work in unity to deliver on their mandates. Though there were issues of impeachment, permit me to say that the speaker was able to tactically overcome the impeachment and still remain in office which he is likely to end the fifth assembly as he promised. Even when the heaven was about to fall on the speaker, Ikon survived all the series of impeachment plots against him. His ability to play into the mainstream politics having shown commitment, competence, and efficient leadership qualities, he was elected by his colleagues recently as the chairman conference of speakers in Nigeria. Ikon became the first speaker in Akwa Ibom state to attain such feat.

But how far has the speaker leaved up to his promise in the last three years and some months? The house recently demonstrated a complete departure from its promise that the fifth assembly will be “the people’s assembly” always standing on the side of the people, they yield to the enticement of the executive by passing the controversial Governors/ Deputy Governors pension bill into law the way it came, thank God that the mass protest that greeted the new law forced the house to repeal the law immediately and remove the controversial clauses. 
In the area of law-making, the fifth assembly has been able to pass 13 bills into law and 19 resolutions so far.

These includes; A Law to establish the Akwa Ibom State Public private, partnership Council and the bureau of public partnership to facilitate and regulate partnership between the public and private sector in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure, goods and services in the state and for matters related thereto. A Law to make provision for establishment of Akwa Ibom investment holding corporation and for the other purposes connected thereto, a Law to establish a Customary Court of Appeal in the state and for other matters, a Law to establish a Contributory Pension Scheme for all employees in the public service of Akwa Ibom State and for other purposes connected therewith, a Law to amend the Magistrate’s Court Law 2000 and for other matter connected therewith, a law to establish Akwa Ibom State HIV/AIDS Control Agency and for other Matters connected thereto, and a Law to Prohibit Certain Obnoxious Traditional Widowhood Practices and Rites and for other Matters connected therewith.

Others are; a Law to amend the Akwa Ibom State Independence Electoral Commission Law 2007 and for purposes connected therewith, a Law to establish the Akwa Ibom State Scholarship Board and for other Matters connected therewith, a Bill for a Law to make provision for Computation and payment of Pension and Gratuity for Civil Servants in the State, Amendment of the Local Government Administration Law 2007, The Ethical and Attitudinal Reorientation Commission amendment bill 2013, and The repeal of the Governor/Deputy Governor’s pension Law.

House resolutions include; resolution on the noncompliance of Petroleum Marketers to the official pump price of N 97.00 per litre of premium motor spirit, resolution on oil spillage at Obio Ndot, Oruk Anam L.G.A, the internal crises on Akwa Ibom State University February 2012, resolution on the Lassa Fever Epidemic, gazetting of the laws of Akwa Ibom State, resolution on Gully Erosion and Flood disaster in Akwa Ibom State, extension of tenure of local government transition committee, house resolution on exploring the benefits of PPP law in the Aviation sector and in other aspects of the economic, and  insecurity of Youth Corp Members posted to northern part of the country

Other resolutions passed by the house were; the prevention of cattle grazing in farmlands and movement of cattle on/through public thoroughfare, the prevention of indiscriminate Excavation and Sand Mining,  the Menace of Sea Pirate threats to Economic Life, the Clearance for Appointment into the Office of Commissioner III, Civil Service Commission, resolution on wanton and systematic destruction of ALSCON,  the Incessant Crisis between Ikot Akpan Udo and Amazaba Communities, Nigerian Successes in the world of soccer, and the Appreciation of the National Judiciary Service Commission and the Presidency for recommending and appointing Justice John Inyang Okoro as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (JSC).

Other achievements of the fifth assembly so far includes; the construction of engineering/works department, the acquisition of a 500KVA generating Plant for alternative power supply in the assembly, and Ongoing construction of a permanent Chapel within the complex.

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