7TH ASSEMBLY IN 365 DAYS
From the moment the bang of the gavel called the 7th Assembly to order on June 10, 2019 till the plenary session as would be held on June 10, 2020, to mark its first anniversary, many events have been recorded bearing witness of its sobriquet, ‘The People’s Assembly,’ but not without its setbacks, still as People’s Assembly.
Clearly, this House is another crop of Lawmakers drawn from the 31 LGAs of Akwa Ibom State. Some of them had been part of the 6th Assembly. You can say it’s a bundle of diversified interests as it concern the peculiarity of people they represent. It could be ascribed as a ‘One world, Many Voices.’
Typical as it could be regarded as important features of a Legislature, are its internal politics, lobbying, debate power, subgrouping – what many called cabal.
From the 1992 Jimmy Jimmy Ituen (of blessed memory) first Assembly to 2019 Aniekan Bassey led Assembly, remarkable growth has been recorded in the advancement of Akwa Ibom State Legislature for 28 years!
From the first 48 State Constituencies to the restructured 26 State Constituencies, a lot can be said to the refining process of the making of the present State Assembly.
The present Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly led by Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey seem to gather such momentum that many wondered whether they have been waiting for ages to hit the ground running after its inauguration on June 10, 2019.
Though inaugurated without completing the quorum of 26 members due to dragging political tussle in the court, 25 members, all from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing various State constituencies constituted the 7th Assembly then. Fourteen (14) seconds-timers and eleven (11) new members.
However, there was a replacement. On Dec 3, the State Assembly sworn-in Hon. Effiong Johnson of All Progressives Congress (APC) after Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar nullified the elections of Hon. Okon Frank of PDP, making Mbo State Constituency to have two representatives within six months. House quorum still stood at 25.
The seat of Essien Udim State Constituency had serious court contentions over what became the outcome of the 2019 State Assembly elections. But in the later court process, Hon. Esse Umoh of PDP was declared winner of the Essien Udim State Constituency’s 2019 contest defeating Hon. Nse Ntuen of APC. He was sworn in by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey on February 11, 2020.
Now, the Seventh Assembly forms full quorum of 26 members, twenty-five of PDP while one is of APC.
This further makes the offices of Majority and Minority Leaders with their deputies go extinct since the third Assembly with Rt. Hon. Etido Ibekwe as Majority Leader then. This is due to the changing political terrain which gives PDP the status of ruling political party in the State.
Since inception of the 7th Assembly on June 10, 2020 its engagements in lawmaking makes the future brighter for this House.
Within 365 days, the 7th Assembly has considered 31 bills including the 2020 Appropriation Law. Out of which, nine (9) have been passed into law while 22 others are at different stages of legislative proceedings.
Bills passed into law by the 7th Assembly include; Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) bill; A Bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom State College of Health Technology; A bill for a law to make provision for establishment of Akwa Ibom Environmental Protection and Waste Management Agency; 2020 Appropriation Bill (Executive Bill); A bill for a law to establish AkwaIbom State College of Science & Technology, Nnung Ukim, Ikono; A bill for a law to provide for the establishment of Akwa Ibom Debt Management office.
Others are; A bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom Bureau of Public Procurement and budget monitoring; A bill for a law to provide for the control of physical/urban and regional planning activities, the establishment of urban regional planning agency and area planning authorities in AkwaIbom State; and the revised 2020 Appropriation law.
Also part of the bills received by the 7th Assembly which are at various stages of legislative consideration include; A bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom Safety Commission; A bill for a law to establish AkwaIbom State Security Trust Fund; A bill for a law to establish AkwaIbom State Tourism, Art and Culture Endowment Fund; A bill for a law to establish the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly Legislative Fund Management and other matters connected therewith; A bill for a law to establish Akwa Ibom Neighborhood Safety Corp and for connected purposes.
Others are; A bill for a law to ‘Establish a Comprehensive Food Security Framework for the State; Food Storage Facilities, Strategic Food Reserve and for other Connected Purposes’ and a bill for a law to ‘Establish Akwa Ibom State College of Nursing and Midwifery and for other purposes connected thereto,’ etc.
Over thirty five (35) motions and matters of urgent public importance have been raised by the present Assembly, which include the recent ‘Need for Teachers Training and Re-training on E-learning Tools in Preparation for Post Covid-19 Education Modles,’ considered by the State Legislature.
Just as the 4th Assembly which oversight duties set them apart, the 7th Assembly has made a mark already for themselves by changing the narrative using their oversight tools.
It is on record that in the life of the present Assembly, narratives have been changed at the Local Government level through the supervising roles and timely respond of several petitions from Councillors by the relevant House committee of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs headed by Rt. Hon. Mark Esset.
This response has kept many adamant local government administrators on toes who flouted the executive directive to improve welfare of officers at that tier of Government.
Recently, the media have been awashed with opinions from the public on the suspension of the Nsit Atai and Uyo Chairpersons respectively. The house in its reaction to the public outburst clearly analyzed the constitutional role of the House in supervising the administration of the Government at the local level. In cases of crisis at that level, the duty of the house which is never to witch-hunt anyone but allow the law guiding the process to be applied full-swing without fear or favour.
Several other Committees in the 7th Assembly have added up to the oversight functions of the present House.
Committee of Finance and Appropriation led by the Chairman, Rt. Hon. Uduak Odudoh which has been quite engaging. This Committee facilitated the passage of 2020 Appropriation Law in record time according to World Bank directive so the State can qualify to access World Bank grant. The budget was passed according to World Bank stipulated time and hopefully Akwa Ibom will be amongst the recipient States of the World bank’s grant.
Committee of Works and Transport headed by Rt. Hon. David Lawrence; Joint House Committee on Labour and Productivity, Special Projects, Monitoring/Implementation, Petroleum Matters, Boundary and Conflict Resolution headed by Rt. Hon. (Elder) Aniekan Uko and several others, play their interfacing roles with communities in a bid to protect the interest of average Akwa Ibom persons as a People’s Assembly.
The leadership style of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey keeps people in awe of his unassuming nature.
The unambitious specie of the Speaker, allowing no sense of being ‘First-among-equals’ get on the way of how he relates with his colleagues give him an edge comparatively.
He has been described by his colleagues of being humble and valuing friendship. The Speaker also as been attributed of being contented and not power drunk which are rare qualities amongst contemporary politicians.
Could this be the reason of the seeming unity of the 7th Assembly?
Will the future await to bear witness of this?
Every House is conditioned by the political tone of parties in the State. Bearing the ‘Soul of Democracy’ empowers this conditioning. As to what becomes of the 7th Assembly in the nearest future is veiled by the foggy early mornings to the far tomorrows of 2023.
Lovers of stability and Peace pray the tempo by the Aniekan Bassey led Assembly be maintained or probably improved and also the Nelson Effiong’s anointing of ‘single-Speakership-a-tenure’ come upon the present House.
The Soul of Democracy lies here. Unity and Stability are expected of a Legislature for Democracy to survive.
This is the prayer for the present Assembly as the future beckons.
Happy one year Anniversary!