Features and Commentaries

AKHA-One Year Of Robust Legislative, Impactful Engagement

It's been one year of robust legislative engagement and people oriented seventh Assembly which was inaugurated on June 10, 2019 with the goal of making laws, representation and oversight functions.    They have been engaged in oversight functions and on-the-spot assessment by different standing committees of the House, carried out public hearings before any bill is passed and having a good working relationship with members of the public.  In the past one year, the seventh Assembly which has its primary function as state legislators to include Lawmaking, Representation and Oversight has embarked on infrastructural development around the Assembly Complex to create a convenient and conducive working environment, massive renovation of offices, committee rooms, replacement of furniture, generating set, repainting, landscaping and more has so far been done thereby earning the seventh Assembly the tag "Working Assembly led by a "working speaker.  With the constitutional role of making laws for the peace, order and good government of the state or any part thereof as enshrined in section 4 sub(7) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Assembly under lawmaking which is the main functions of a legislature has deliberated on over 31 people oriented bills brought before the House, of which out of the 31 bills, 10  have been passed into law, while others are at the various stages of legislation which is between first reading, public hearing and stakeholders engagement.  Over 35 motions and matters of public importance have been raised on the floor of the 7th Assembly and several committee reports submitted between inauguration till date.    On representation, the seventh Assembly first and foremost is seen as the representative of the people from different constituencies. As one of the core legislative functions in the past 12 months, members have collectively as a House pursued an active strategy of improving service to Akwa Ibom people and as individuals to their respective constituencies. They have done these through various empowerment progammes in education, sports and entrepreneurship such as the Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey youth Entrepreneurship Support Scheme (RHAB-YESS) for Akwa Ibom youths , sponsoring of people-oriented bills and moving life touching motions that positively affect the well being of their constituents in particular and the state as a whole, setting up of constituency offices to facilitate public access, regular physical visits to constituents and seeking public inputs on bills before passage.  Others include presenting petitions on behalf of constituents in ensuring that their grievances are addressed, creating awareness and disseminating information to constituents, championing the COVID-19 awareness campaign tagged "let's keep coronavirus out and providing palliatives to constituents during the lockdown.  Also on representation, the seventh Assembly has actively participated in the budget process, as well as ensuring that there was room for constituents to also participate through monitoring of local projects, actively supporting and engaging in media activities and proactively directing the relevant government ministries and agencies to tackle both lassa fever and coronavirus before its insurgence.  On oversight, the powers of legislative oversight are usually carried out by each standing committees on their relevant authorities, local government areas and ministries, departments and agencies (MDA's) with the legislative oversight over public funds and budget as a constitutional provision, while the legislature has the primary responsibility of monitoring budget implementation with the media and the general public having a complementary role to play as well.  The 26 standing committees of the House whose jurisdictions are clearly define in order 9 of the standing orders from the sixth Assembly Edition has so far submitted 14 reports from various committees. The range of oversights in the various (MDA's) of Akwa Ibom State government and even in the local government councils has yielded positive impacts in complementing the completion agenda of the present administration with the budgeting cycle now conforming to the globally accepted standards to drive the wheels of the development of the state.  With the insurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was need to revisit and revise the budget, the seventh Assembly reconsidered the 2020 Budget which was initially 597.74 billion and was slashed to N366 billion representing a 38.8 per cent reduction in the budget of the state and was passed on April 30, 2020.  In a special plenary session to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 7th Assembly, members took turns to pour encomiums on the speaker, commending him for his visionary leadership style which has brought peace, unity and togetherness to the House.  The member for Onna State Constituency and deputy chief whip of the House, Otuekong Nse Essien, commended the speaker for his good leadership style and also lauded Gov. Udom Emmanuel for supporting the seventh Assembly to record success, as well as embarking on life touching projects through his developmental strides particularly in the area of sports.  Essien who is also the chairman, House Committee on youths, sports and security, further lauded the governor for the building of the 21-storey complex and prayed God to keep up holding the speaker to grant him wisdom to keep leading the seventh Assembly in the right direction.    The member for Ini State Constituency and chief whip of the House, Mr Emmanuel Ekpenyong described the speaker as a humble and disciplined man who has done well, possessing some attributes which have stood him out in leadership.    Ekpenyong noted that with him on the saddle, the House has been peaceful, making people oriented bills and laws, adding that the seventh Assembly has truly represented their various constituencies effectively and passed a vote of confidence on the speaker for his sterling leadership qualities.  The member for Oron/Udunguko State Constituency, Mr Effiong Bassey, in his submission maintained that he has enjoyed a good working relationship with the speaker as a good leader who has carried them along very comfortably.  Bassey commended Governor Emmanuel for his sterling leadership styles and also for his support for the 7th Assembly, praying God to protect and guide him in governance.  The member for Nsit Ubium State Constituency, Mr Otobong Bob thanked God for the life of the speaker as he was happy to be a member of the seventh Assembly under his leadership, describing him as humble, unassuming and congratulated him and members for a successful one year.   The member for Ibesikpo Asutan State Constituency, Elder Aniekan Uko, described the day as a happy day, congratulating the speaker for a successful one year in office.  Uko described him as a man of faith, credence and a man of conviction, a working speaker and a man of peace who has brought peace and transparency to the House.  The member for Nsit Atai State Constituency, Elder Mark Esset, recalled that members of the seventh Assembly did not make any mistake in nominating him as the speaker on June 10, 2019, describing him as a man of proven integrity who has shown good qualities as the speaker as his leadership qualities was second to none.  Esset who is the chairman, House Committee on local government and chieftaincy affairs, noted that there has been this bond in the Assembly through his effort, commending the House leader Sir Udo Kierian Akpan for his effort in directing the business of the House and the legislature as a whole successfully and return all the glory to God for granting them life to celebrate the one year anniversary of the seventh Assembly.  He congratulated the speaker as a friend, brother and colleague and prayed God who has started the good work to lead them in the remaining legislative years successfully.

  The member for Eket State Constituency, Mr David Lawrence, described the achievements of the seventh Assembly as awesome, commending the speaker for under taking a robust renovation of the complex and for his leadership style which has brought peace to the House as it was no longer divided.  Lawrence who is the chairman, House Committee on Works and Transport, lauded him for showing understanding and treating them equally, as well as serving as a bridge between the legislature and the executive as they have enjoyed a good working relationship with the executive and the judiciary arms of government and prayed God to continue to guide and protect him, give him wisdom to continue to lead the seventh Assembly in the right direction.  The member for Esit Eket/Ibeno State Constituency, Dr Usoro Akpanusoh, who congratulated the speaker for his sterling qualities, thanked the Deputy Speaker, Princess Felicia Bassey and other key officers of the House for their great support to the House.  Akpanusoh who is the chairman, House Committee on Rural Development and Public utilities, lauded the speaker for doing so well which has made the House to be reliable and strong and can never be broken, adding that he has recorded strides as the speaker which has brought unity among the members, as well as putting in black and white the quality of a man who has piloted the affairs of the seventh Assembly beyond human expectations.   He maintained that the House has become a united indivisible family as the speaker has been able to run the House smoothly in spite of the lean resources given him and has brought about unity in LEWA, describing the unity as unprecedented.  The lawmaker urged him to continue to be humble and consistent and prayed God to guide and protect him beyond the Assembly.    The speaker in his remarks thanked God for the grace he has given them in the past one year since the inception of the seventh Assembly and the grace to carry out their mantle of leadership at their respective state constituencies to galvanize the essence of democracy and letting its soul breathe in the legislature.  Bassey who described the past one year as one epochal and eventful year recalled that when they were saddled with the legislative responsibilities of the seventh Assembly on June 10, 2019, they were not the very best chosen by Akwa Ibom people, but destiny called on them, adding that with that knowledge, members of the seventh Assembly ran without wavering in fulfilling the mandate of the people bestowed on them.  He lauded all members of the House for their support, especially the leader of the seventh Assembly, Sir Udo Kieriam Akpan, member for Oruk Anam State Constituency who is on his third term, the other 13 returning members including himself whose constituents found them worthy to return them to the hallowed chambers, as well as the 12 new colleagues.  The speaker stated that the seventh Assembly was one in history which has jettisoned any device of division, respecting individuals and political differences who were working and operating as a family, adding that in the past one year, members of the seventh Assembly have been up and doing with key cardinal functions of the legislature which include lawmaking, over sight and representation.  He maintained that since inauguration, the seventh Assembly has engaged in robust lawmaking which has made the future promising for the House and Akwa Ibom State in general, recalling that within the past 365 days, the seventh Assembly has considered 31 bills including the 2020 Appropriation Law out of which nine have already been passed, while 20 others are at different stages of Legislative scrutiny.  The speaker said that the 2020 budget and Financial estimates of the state was passed before the commencement of ensuring fiscal year to keep to standard with the international fiscal policies as it has made the state legislature a catalyst in qualifying the state for the 2020 World Bank's grant, describing it as unprecedented and a feather in their caps.   In the area of oversight functions, he stated that the people can attests to the fact that the present House committee have been adding value to the general business of the Assembly since inception as it was through the oversight tool of the House that has enabled the legislature to wade into crises at different  local government councils for smooth running of government at that level of governance, saying that the various motions raised on the floor of the House can confirm that the seventh Assembly was indeed the people's Assembly.  On representation, the lawmaker maintained that the seventh Assembly have been keeping close contact with their constituents and their offices open to all, recalling that many members went back to their constituencies to give out palliatives to them as a succour to the crushing effect of the Covid-19 global pandemic during the intense lockdown.    He noted that under the first three months, they were able to sink an additional borehole which effectively tackled the issue of scarcity of water for use by workers throughout the complex as the House deemed it fit to put the complex in proper shape by way of renovation, replacing obsolete furniture, as well as acquiring a new 550KVA plant which was used daily in the last 15 years with the Assembly now having stable power supply for a conducive and effective legislative engagements.  Bassey who commended his colleagues for their individual efforts collective contributions and sacrifices for the success of their first year of the seventh Assembly, said those were some of the achievements that were recorded in the last one year and prayed for more grace to leave impactful legacies as the seventh Assembly matches into her second year in office.  He lauded Gov. Udom Emmanuel for his support to the Assembly and for steering the affairs of the state successfully especially during this pandemic period and also thanked him for the timely and prompt releases of funds towards the smooth running of the activities of the Assembly.  The speaker prayed the Almighty God to continue to bind them together in Unity towards discharging their core mandates as they move into the second year of legislative business.  It would be recalled that on June 10, 2019, 25 lawmakers of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were ushered into the hallowed chambers of Akwa Ibom State Legislature and inaugurated as honourable members of the seventh Assembly with Mr Aniekan Bassey as the speaker a composition of 14 returning members and 12 new members.  On December 3, 2019, Chief Effiong Johnson of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was sworn in by the speaker of the House who replaced the then incumbent, Mr Frank Okon on the directive from the court of Appeal, while on the 11th of February, 2020, Esse Umoh Esq of Essien Udim state constituency was sworn in to complete the 26 member component of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly.  It can be said that members of the present legislature being the soul of democracy has not failed in their biddings in the present democratically elected governments within this one year in office.  However, as the seventh Assembly marks one year in office it behaves on them to remain committed to their legislative duties of providing humane legislation and other complementary function required of a vibrant legislature in a contemporary democracy.  The turbo charged working Assembly is eager, prepared and ready to continuously carry out its core mandate, functions and duties as provided by relevant extant laws and statutes in a very transparent manner with the sole aim of improving the society and giving effective representation to the good people of Akwa Ibom State.

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