Features: The Legislature 21 Years Later
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The Legislature 21 Years Later
29 Oct 2008: Benjy Akpan & Akpan Ukem

Created on 23rd September, 1987, Akwa Ibom State had its first Legislature on January 20, 1992 when the first civilian Governor, Obong Akpan Isemin made a proclamation to that effect. There was a rather strange political experiment sustained by the General lbrahim Badamosi Babangida administration where a military man was at the centre as "President" and the states had elected representatives - something akin to a diarchy.

Dr Okon Ekanem, pioneer deputy clerk who later became the clerk of the legislature in 1999, reports that the pioneering effort of the first set of legislators in Akwa Ibom State, 48 in number, supported by an initial 87 staff members, had formed the foundation on which subsequent crop of lawmakers have grown and have come to benefit from the antecedents, practices, experiences and of course, the shortcomings of their predecessors.

The Legislature in Akwa Ibom State had a humble beginning having been born out of the debris of a long military rule which kept dislocating whatever political structures and legacies the political class was able to form in the history of the Nigerian nation. There was inadequate preparation for the re-introduction of civil rule (partial as it was) and Akwa Ibom legislature was not spared the effect of such inadequacy.

This partly explains why the House of Assembly started inside an old, rather small building that served as meeting hall for the then Uyo Province during the provincial era. This was the humble beginning of what has now become a properly entrenched arm of government with a befitting physical complex and facilities which though may still be inadequate, has tremendously improved over­time to reflect the profile of the legislature as the second arm of government.

Perhaps one could recall that due to the strange phenomenon of having a military president at the centre, time tested politicians decided to tarry a bit, thus giving a chance to a crop of young politicians who were popularly referred to as "new breed" in the political lexicon. Howbeit, the members tried to perform the much needed duties of law making and the exercise of oversight functions over the operations of the executive arm of government.

Like in any circumstance, paucity of funds tended to have affected the work and by extension the relationship of the first Legislature with the executive arm because of suspicion of starvation of funds. Such suspicion must have found expression in the action of the honourable members who changed their Speaker three times within a period of about two years (January 1992 - November 1993). Informed opinion posits that this allegation of starvation was circumstantial, dependant on the hard times of those days which affected all tiers and sectors of government.

Records show that the first speaker of the First Assembly in Akwa Ibom State was Hon. Jimmy Jimmy Ntuen representing the then Afaha / Ekpenyong ( OdorolkoVOkon Constituency, followed by Honourable (Barrister) Nse Ben Ekanem representing the then UtulUruMkono constituency and Honourable (Barrister) Henry Raphael Affang representing the then Nto Edino/Nto NdanglObot Akara constituency. The Assembly had one female member Honourable (Mrs.) Grace Edim Inyang representing the then Itu/Oma/ltam constituency who was elected deputy speaker. The members in terms of political platforms comprised of 32 (NRO and 16 (SDP). 28 bills were presented to the house, out of which 10 were passed and eight signed into law.

The life span of the First Assembly came to an end in November 1993 when the democratic system was again interrupted by the military. The clerk of that Assembly was Obong Enobong Enobong Essien (late).

The Second Assembly got inaugurated on June 2, 1999 with the return of Nigeria to democratically elected government in May of the year. It comprised of 26 members and witnessed the leadership of two speakers namely Hon. Bassey Essien representing Ibeno/Esit Eket and Hon.Chief Peter Linus Umoh representing Okobo. The Deputy Speaker was Hon Aniefiok Thompson representing Nsit Ubium. The Clerk was Dr. Okon Ekanem.

This Assembly received 53 bills, 47 of which were executive bills while six were private members bills. 45 of these bills were passed by the House and 39 of them assented to by the governor. It was during this period that the Legislators' Wives Association was formed to give the needed support and encouragement to their husbands.

The Third Assembly commenced on June 2, 2003 having been so inaugurated by the governor and with Hon. Chief Nelson Effiong as the Speaker while Hon. (Sir) Emmanuel Ekpenyong was the deputy. It had 26 members, 24 belonging to the POP and one each from the ANPP and the NDP.

As at March 2007, the House had passed 20 bills into law and considered several motions and resolutions to aid the good governance of the state and the welfare of the people. The Clerk of the Assembly was Elder Joshua T. Joshua. Unfortunately, two members of the Assembly, Hon. Joseph Esitikot ( Nsit Ibom) and Hon. Ernest Ukochio  ( Ibeno/Esit Eket) died and were replaced by Mrs. Sarah Esitikot (wife of the deceased) and Hon. Okpolupm Ette respectively.

The present Assembly is the fourth and it came into formal existence on Tuesday June 5, 2007 at 2.35 pm. Reports say its inauguration was a solemn but colourful ceremony in which the State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio in pursuance of the powers conferred on him by subsection (3) of Section 105 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and all other powers enabling him in that behalf, made proclamation that "the First Session of the Fourth Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly shall be held on June 5,2007. This proclamation is cited as Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly (Inauguration) Proclamation 2007. All the 26 members are from the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party, PDP.

On that inauguration, Obong ( Engr.) Ignatius Kevin Edet, representing Ibiono Ibom and a two-term member was elected Honourable Speaker. The Deputy Speaker, who later resigned his position was Hon. Uwem Udoma ( Abak), thus paving way for the election of the present Deputy Speaker, Hon. ( Obong) Okon Uwah ( Ukanafun). Other House officers are Hon. (Prince) Jerome lsangedighi ( Oron/Udung Uko) House leader, Hon. Ekere Afia ( Uyo) - deputy House leader, Rt. Hon. Okpolupm Ette ( Ibeno/Esit Eket) -chief whip, Hon. Emmanuel Akpan ( Essien Udim) deputy chief whip. The acting clerk of the Assembly is Mrs. Rosemary Effiom who recently took over from the former clerk, Mr. Eno Udofia.

The Speaker, Rt. Hon. ( Engr.) Ignatius Edet, summed up his vision and mission in a well laid out address tagged "My Dream". He said he was humbled and delighted by his election as the 7th Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and promised to work for the peace and development of Akwa Ibom State and its people as well as the welfare of honourable members and staff of the Assembly. He equally pledged to ensure a cordial relationship of the legislature with the other arms of government and the Press.

Giving a synopsis of the House activities during the first session, the Speaker said the House under his tenure has passed 10 bills into law out of 12 received; resolved five motions out of six presented and passed 19 resolutions that have to do with good governance and the welfare of the entire citizenry. The Assembly has also received and considered 19 reports from the various House Committees, attended to 11 messages from the Governor and heard 11 matters of urgent public importance.

Details of the Bill passed during the First Session of the Fourth Assembly are as follows:





HAB 93 - a Bill for a Law to make supplementary Provision for the services of Akwa Ibom state for the year ending on 31 st December, 2007



HAB 93 - A Bill for a Law to provide for the establishment, composition and functions of Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission and for matters connected with the Elections in the Local Government Council.



HAB 95 - A Bill for a Law to amend the Akwa Ibom State Local Government (Administration) Law, 2007 and for matters connected therewith.



HAB 96 - A Bill for a Law to appropriate monies out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and Capital Development Fund to the services of Akwa Ibom State Government and for other matters connected therewith.



HAB 98 - A Bill for a Law to establish a Customary Court of Appeal in the State and for other related matters



HAB 99 - A Bill for a Law to amend the Customary Courts Law to provide for different Grades of Customary Courts and for other related matters.



HAB 100 - A Bill for a Law to amend the Rent Control and Recovery of Premises Law to confer Jurisdiction on the Area Customary Courts as Against Rent Control Courts and for other related matters.



HAB 101 - A Bill for a Law to amend Public and Political Office Holders (Remuneration) Law 2000, as amended, to provide for new remuneration and for other related matters



HAB 102 - A Bill for a Law to protect the Rights of the Child and other Related Matters 2008



HAB 104 - Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2008

14/8/08 20/8/08

On overall basis, the position of the Speaker that there is no need to be confrontational or to introduce friction into government machinery just to demonstrate "separation of powers" whereas everybody is a stakeholder in good governance and his kind hearted disposition has helped much in wining for the legislature, goodwill and respect of other arms of government and the public.

The Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly has become clearly recognized as the number three man in government - after the governor and deputy governor. The placement of the legislature as the second arm of government gives enough air of authority and distinction to this organ of government in the affairs of the State and in the eyes of the public.

These days, enhanced status in terms of recognition, welfare, funding and logistics has been accorded assemblymen, thus making the job of law making comfortable and attractive. Features such as: enhanced work environment and logistics; comfortable office accommodation and ancillary facility; man­power (specialized and general duties); funding etc, have aided emergence of quality and satisfied law makers who are warm in character and positive in outlook.

Talking about positive relationship with the other arms of government, the top echelon of the Legislative and Political Affairs Bureau, Governors Office, in appreciation of the contributions of the Legislature to the achievement of the plans and programmes of government, hosted honourable members to a group lunch at the Le'Meridien Ibom Hotel where both the Speaker and the Permanent Secretary of the Bureau expressed mutual satisfaction on the cordial relationship existing between the Executive and the Legislative arm of government.

On that occasion, the Permanent Secretary. Elder Namnso Umoren observed on a positive note that the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly as presently constituted was capable of contributing to the entrenchment of excellent legislative culture and practice that could be emulated nationally.

The relationship of the Legislature with the Judiciary is equally cordial. Last year, the State Chief Judge represented, had a similar interaction with the lawmakers where both arms expressed mutual trust and respect. The present legislature has three lawyers as members.

A greater percentage of the public respects and admires the Legislature. Honourable members are in close touch with their constituents and members of the public are positive about the legislature and have been coming around to watch proceedings, especially on days when important public matters are deliberated upon.

To decipher whether the public relates with and has confidence in the House, one has to look at the number of issues of public interest that have come to the Assembly for intervention. Individuals and groups have approached the Assembly via the House Committee on Justice, Judiciary, Human Rights and Public Petitions. It is in the life of this Assembly that the Child's Rights Bill which had been in limbo got passed into law due to the commitment of the leadership and members.

The Speaker has established and nurtured a warm and mutually beneficial relationship with the Press and did provide a brand new Peugeot Van for the transportation of pressmen to and from events as well as donated a digital video recording camera to NTA 12 to enhance its performance.

The narration of the activities of the State Legislature after 21 years of the State's existence cannot be comprehensive without making mention of the formation and contributions of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Service Commission. Law NO.7/2000 enacted by the State House of Assembly and assented to by the then Governor ( Obong) Victor Attah , formally established the Assembly Service Commission. Section 2 (1) of that Law provides for a Chairman and three members (commissioners) appointed to reflect the three senatorial districts of the State.

The Commission was inaugurated on February 5, 2001. the tenure of members then was three years but was later amended to four years by the State House of Assembly through the House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Law 2007. The Commission has so far had two sets of members. The pioneer members headed by Dr. Akpan Abasi Ikoiwak worked assiduously to bring the Commission to what it is today. Other members of his team were Obong John Daniel, later Mrs Akon Essang, Mr. Francis N. Udoh while Messrs Inyang J. Ekoriko and Jacob S. Etuk (the incumbent) served as secretary respectively.

The second batch of members (2004­2007) was led by Obong (Or) Mike Umoudit (JP), commissioners were Barr Emmanuel Umana, Rt. Hon. Sylvester George, Chief Johnny J. Udondem, while late Justin J. Akpan served as the Secretary and was succeeded on retirement by Mr. Jacob S. Etuk.

The Commission carries out effective policy matters for the progress and welfare of the staff. It recruits qualified personnel to fill vacancies in the senior cadre in the Assembly. It also promotes and upgrades staff, embarks on training and re-training of staff for improved performance.

The positive stride of the Speaker and by extension the entire Legislature has paid off handsomely. It is in the life of this Assembly that Akwa Ibom was honoured with the election of our Speaker, Rt. Honourable Obong ( Engr.) Ignatius Edet as the Zonal Co-ordinator of the Conference of Speakers and the National Vice Chairman, Conference of Speakers in Nigeria.

As Akwa Ibom State looks back at its birth and reflects on its 21st birthday, one can safely pop the wine to say bravo to the Legislature which has contributed in a very great way to the achievements of the goals of government and service delivery to the people. Bravo.

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