The Role And Impact Of Akwa Ibom Legislature
The legislature is the arm of government with power to make, amend and repeal laws to allow for good governance.
Globally, the legislature observes and controls the actions of the executive arm of government in the overall interest of the governed. In addition, the legislature has the duty of regulating the behaviours and attitudes of the people for the enthronement of enduring peace, orderliness, prosperity and social growth. It is its responsibility to guide, direct and ensure rapid socio-economic transformation of the society in the overall interest and benefit of the people and future generations. This is why it is often referred to as the heartbeat of democracy.
Legislations are more visible in the democratic system of government where elected representatives from various constituencies engage in lawmaking. The legislature must pass into law various appropriations and supplementary bills for the smooth and successful administration of the state.
In Akwa Ibom, the legislature is unicameral and Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has not only recorded remarkable achievements, but also created the desired impact in the lives of the electorate, while contributing immensely to sustainable development of the state.
It is worth mentioning that the first Akwa Ibom House of Assembly was inaugurated in January 20, 1992. Within its short lifespan that was terminated by the intervention of the military on November 17, 1993, it was able to pass nine bills for the operation of the state under the administration of late Obong Akpan Isemin, the first elected governor of Akwa Ibom State.
For instance, the First Assembly, in the 23 months of its existence, was instrumental to the abolition of the obnoxious Onshore-Offshore Oil Dichotomy. That Assembly had Chief Jimmy Jimmy Ntuen as the first speaker, followed by Elder Nse Ekanem and Mr Henry Affang.
The Second Assembly, constituted on June 2, 1999 had two speakers within its four years period. It contributed to governance by passing 110 resolutions and received 53 executive bills, out of which 45 were passed before the terminal date on May 28, 2003.
The Third Assembly, under the leadership of Chief Nelson Effiong, witnessed relative peace. It received not less than 37 bills, passed 28 of them, with 65 resolutions recorded to its credit as its contributions to the socio-economic development of the state.
Apart from lawmaking in the hallowed chambers, the Third Assembly impacted positively on the lives of the electorate through the initiation of life-touching constituency projects. The Fourth Assembly, which was inaugurated on Tuesday June 5, 2007, also recorded some achievements for the government and the people.
The legislature in Akwa Ibom recorded more achievements during the Fifth Assembly, inaugurated on Monday, June 6, 2011 when a second term member for Etinan State Constituency, Elder Sam Ikon, as the ninth speaker. That Assembly was devoid of crises from the beginning to the end. The sustained peace enabled that Assembly to create desired impact in the performance of oversight functions, maintain cordial relationships with other Houses of Assembly and pass some private member bills.
Such bills included, A Bill for the Establishment of the Customary Court of Appeal in the State and other Matters Connected Therewith, A Bill for a Law to Establish Multi-Door Courthouse, A Bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom State HIV/AIDS Control Agency and other Matters Connected Therewith and a Bill for a Law to Make Provision for the Computation and Payment of Pensions and Gratuities to Retired Public Servants in the State.
In discharging its legislative functions, the Fifth Assembly also passed a bill for Uyo Capital City Motorcycles Prohibition Law 2011, a Bill for a Law to Establish the Akwa Ibom Public Private Partnership Council and the Bureau of Public Partnership between the Public and the Private Sector in the Planning, Design, Construction, Operation and Maintenance of Infrastructure, Goods and Services in the State, among others. It also passed a resolution for the immediate transfer of then commissioner of police over poor security situation in the state.
That Assembly contributed to the success of the uncommon transformation during the administration of the immediate-past governor of the state, Chief Godswill Akpabio. The many bills that were passed by the Fifth Assembly and the high-level cooperation the members extended to the executive arm made it possible for Akwa Ibom to become a preferred destination by foreigners within and outside Nigeria.
The Sixth Assembly came on board on June 8, 2015 with a first time member for Ibesikpo Asutan State Constituency, Elder Aniekan Uko as the 10th speaker. But his tenure was short-lived due to an Appeal Court judgment in Abuja that annulled his election. That paved the way for a two-term member for Nsit Ubium State Constituency, Mr Onofiok Luke, a lawyer, to became the 11th speaker of the Assembly.
Throughout his tenure as the 11th speaker, Luke did not disappoint his colleagues and the electorate as his leadership was instrumental to the passage of many bills and various resolutions which assisted Gov Udom Emmanuel to drive the economy of the state successfully.
Through Luke’s pragmatic leadership, the Sixth Assembly created desired impacts in the steady growth and development of the state with the passage of many bills. These included a bill for a Law to Amend the Local Government Administration Law 2007 and other Matters Connected Therewith and the 2016 Appropriation Bill into Law, Traditional Rulers’ Amendment Law 2016 and a bill for a Law to Make Provisions for the Administration and Collection of Revenue due to the Government of Akwa Ibom and Local Government Councils in Akwa Ibom and to Establish the Relevant Administrative Structures and other Matters Connected therewith.
The expeditious passage of the 2016 Appropriation Bill enabled the executive arm to begin, without any hindrance, the implementation of its development programmes for the financial year. Christened “The People’s Assembly,” the Sixth Assembly was committed to legislating for the sustainable development of the state by ensuring that pending bills at different stages of legislations saw the light of day.
The public private partnership bills, which sought to provide a law for the establishment and control of private hospitals and other health care concerns in the state, the Akwa Ibom State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency Bill, Hotel and Tourism Licensing Bill, the Physically Challenged Persons Bill, the Maritime Sector Operation Bill, the Town and Country Planning Bill, among others, were topmost bills deliberated upon by the Sixth Assembly.
The member for Oron and Udung Uko State Constituency and former deputy speaker in the Assembly, Mr Effiong Bassey, commended the various contributions of the state legislature, noting with satisfaction the achievements of the Sixth Assembly to good governance in the state and in the area of various economic empowerments of constituents.
The Assembly passed the 2017 Appropriation Bill right on time to assist Governor Emmanuel in delivering democracy dividends to the people, passed the Internal Revenue Bill to improve on internally generated revenue of the state as well as passed a Bill for the Domestication of the Criminal Justice to Allow for Quick Dispensation of Justice in the State.
The passage of a Bill for the Establishment of the College of Health Technology, for accreditation of the college’s courses and award of certificates to its graduates and the passage of Health Insurance Scheme Bill, were for the interest of the people, boosting good governance.
Furthermore, the Sixth Assembly succeeded in the amendment of the Local Administration Law 2007 and other Matters Connected Therewith. It passed the Traditional Rulers Amendment Bill 2016 extending the tenure of the chairman, State Council of Chiefs from one year to two years; passed the 2016 Appropriation Bill on record time as well as the Physically Challenged Persons’ Bill which took effect from November 29, 2016 and generated to the state government coffers N37.8 million in the process of ratifying the 2015 audited accounts of the government.
Others include a bill for a law to make provisions for the creation of special grazing area for proper regulation of the activities of Fulani herdsmen to prevent the destruction of farmlands; real property tax to aid the government in revenue generation, investors’ investment protection; local government administration for the enthronement of autonomy, as well as the periodic election of local government council chairmen and councilors.
Also in the list of bills passed by the Sixth Assembly under the leadership of Luke were the Domestication of Safety Commission, a Bill for a Law to Establish the College of Arts and Sciences, Nung Ukim in Ikono Local Government Area and a Bill for a Law To Establish the Akwa Ibom Traffic Management Agency, which were mostly private members-sponsored. A Bill for a Law to Appropriate Monies Out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund And Capital Development Fund to the Service of Akwa Ibom State Government and for other Matters Connected Therewith, was passed.
In addition, a Bill for a Law to Provide for the Registration of Water Front Infrastructure Development in Akwa Ibom State and for Connected Purpose Therewith, a Bill to Provide and Regulate the Duties and Liabilities of Keepers and Hotel Proprietors and other Matters Connected Therewith, a Bill for a Law to Make Provision for the Imposition of Land-Based Charge, to be called Real Property Charge, for the levying and collection of the charge and for connected purposes were legislated upon.
It passed a Bill for the Establishment and Control of Private Hospitals and other Healthcare Facilities in Akwa Ibom State and other Matters Connected Therewith, a bill for a law to establish the Akwa Ibom State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency a bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom State Parks and Gardens Agency and for connected purpose, a bill for a law for the establishment of an Agency that will promote and implement the Akwa Ibom State Health Insurance Scheme and for matters connected therewith, a bill for a law to create and regulate job opportunities for indigenes of Akwa Ibom State and other matters incidental thereto, a bill for a law to regulate and control cattle grazing in Akwa Ibom State and other matters connected therewith.
Also passed were, a bill to provide for the regulation of smoking in public places in Akwa Ibom State and for other matters connected therewith, a bill for a law to provide for the establishment of Akwa Ibom State Signage and Advertisement Control Agency and matters connected therewith, a bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom State Safety Commission and other related matters, a bill for a law to establish a College of Nursing and Midwifery to provide a foundation for general education for nurses, midwives and future specialization and for other purposes connected therewith and the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Legislative Funds Management Bill, 2018.
Furthermore, it passed a bill to establish Akwa Ibom State Mortgage and Foreclosure Board to regulate mortgages in real property and for other matters connected therewith; a bill for a law for the establishment of Akwa Ibom State Hotel Occupancy and Restaurant Consumption Tax and other matters connected therewith; a bill for a law to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence against person and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders and other matters connected therewith and a bill to establish Akwa Ibom State Safety Commission and other related matters. A bill for a law to provide management of the state resources and ensure long term macro-economic stability of the state.
A bill on accountability and transparency in fiscal operations within the medium term fiscal responsibility commission to ensure the promotion and enforcement of Akwa Ibom Economic objectives and other matters related thereto was also passed.
The Seventh Assembly which is barely three months old, was inaugurated on June 10, 2019 with two-term member for Uruan State Constituency, Mr Aniekan Bassey, as speaker.
Under the Seventh Assembly, bills that have passed second reading include a bill for a law to establish the Akwa Ibom State Safety Commission and for other related matters, sponsored by the member for Esit Eket/Ibeno State Constituency, Dr Usoro Akpanusoh, and bill for a law to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders and for other related matters.
Also, a bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom State School of Health Technology for Training of various Health professionals in the state and for other matters connected therewith passed first reading. That bill is sponsored by member for Etinan State Constituency and deputy house leader, Barr Aniefiok Dennis.
To ensure a conducive environment for staff and members in the Assembly, the speaker embarked on massive renovation of the complex including offices.
The Seventh Assembly has hit the ground running and the electorate hope for the best through various bills that would be passed into law to impact positively on the lives of the people.
Apart from passing many impactful bills that have touched lives positively, the state legislature has trained many Akwa Ibom people in the art of legislation for sustainable development.
It is worth mentioning that the various committees of the various Assemblies from the early years of the state creation, have severally carried out oversight functions to ensure effective service delivery in different sectors of the state’s economy thereby contributing to the development of the state.
The committees include House Committees on Health, Education, Information, Security, Youth and Sports, Finance and Appropriations, Agriculture, Women Affairs, Nigeria Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Special Project, Implementation, Monitoring and Aviation Development, Public Accounts, Rural Development and Public utilities, Works, Transport and Tourism, respectively, among others.
The role of the legislature in the development of Akwa Ibom cannot therefore be overemphasized, as good legislation by the state legislature, paved way for the rapid transformation witnessed in Akwa Ibom. There is no doubt that the impact of the bills passed by the state legislature would be greatly felt if adequate enlightenment and sensitization are carried out frequently on both the electronic and print media to educate the people on their merits.