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AKHA: SETTING THE PACE FOR EFFECTIVE LEGISLATION

Speaker Onofiok Luke
Speaker Onofiok Luke

By Ifiok Itiaba

As the popular saying goes, ‘ The judiciary is the last hope of the common man.’ Even the high and mighty is supposed to have hope in the judiciary in a civilized society’

When 6th Assembly was inaugurated on the 8th of June 2015, many expected so much from their representatives ranging from empowerment, regular constituency briefing and sponsorship of bills and motions.

Today, in Akwa Ibom, members of the State House of Assembly as part of their representational function to the people who elected them have taken upon themselves the responsibility of not allowing only the judiciary to be the last hope of Akwa Ibom people.

Within the last one year, the 6th Assembly under the Speakership of Rt. Hon Onofiok Luke has fulfilled some of the promises made during its inauguration. This can be seen in some of the people oriented motions, resolutions and bills passed so far by the state legislature.

In keeping with some of the promises, on 5th May 2016 during plenary, the Deputy Speaker of the House and member representing Okobo State Constituency, Rt Hon Princess Felicia Bassey brought to the floor of the House a matter of urgent public importance after receiving complains from her people concerning the persistent increase in price of petrol.

Princess Bassey pointed out that whatever affects their constituents affects them also, saying that other states of the federation were buying petrol at a very low price while petroleum marketers in Akwa Ibom are selling at a high price.

She called on the House to pass a resolution urging the state government to intervene and resolve the problem.

Speaking on the motion, the member representing Urue Offong/ Uruko and Chairman House Committee on Petroleum Matters, Hon Asuquo Archibong stated that, the industrial action embarked upon by members of NUPENG was the cause of the hike in the price if petrol.

Hon Archibong informed the House that as the chairman of the committee he has contacted the management of Universal Energy whom the NUPENG were accusing of disengaging their members from service and noted that already, both parties were still negotiating on the way forward.

Other members who spoke on the matter noted that the current increase in the price of petrol has affected market women and children because prices of other commodities have also increased.

In his remarks, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke directed the Clerk of the Assembly, Mrs Mandu Umoren to write a letter to the Governor, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, urging him to take urgent action to resolve the problem.

The effect of the resolution was the reduction in the price of petrol and closure of some filling stations which refused to bring down their prices by the Governor himself the following day.

In a bid to stop the issue of undue and heavy electricity billings by the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC), the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, on Tuesday December 2, 2016 summoned the company for explanations over their operations in the state.
In a motion titled, “Exorbitant Electricity Billing in Akwa Ibom State”, the member representing Onna State Constituency, Hon. Nse Essien, decried that “PHEDC insists on charging the people of Akwa Ibom State unreasonable, exploitative and fraudulent bills, in some cases, often as high as N30,000 and up to N 80,000 for power either not supplied or delivered in epileptic fits and spasms.”
He further declared that PHEDC having “failed to take advantage of the supply of electricity at reasonable cost by the Ibom power plant and ensuring the power is effectively distributed”, has thus refused to operate in line with global best practices.

On his part the member representing Oruk Anam State Constituency, lamented that despite the fact that PHEDC is using facilities owned by government, they have refused to serve the state creditably.

Members called on Governor Udom Emmanuel to take measures to protect its investment in the Ibom Power Plant and ensure that the people of the state derive adequate benefit from it.

During the construction of Utu Etim Ekpo/ Iwukem road by the previous government between 2010 and 2015, compensations were paid to some people while some did not receive theirs.

This was why the people knowing that their representatives in State House are always ready to listen to them, wrote a petition to the House through the member representing Onna State Constituency, Otuekong Nse Essien soliciting the House’ intervention.

Presenting the matter before the House, Otuekong Essien said “Mr. Speaker I’m speaking about the people of Uruk- Ata ikot Ekpu and neighboring communities in Etim Ekpo local government over non-payment of compensation to affected property owners whose structures, farm lands and economic trees had to pave way for the construction of Etim-Ekpo, Iwukem road in Etim Ekpo LGA by the previous administration, their
compensation have not been paid up untill now.
“Mr. Speaker l’m aware that before that road was constructed there must have been provision for
compensation to be paid so up until now since 2008 to 2015 nothing has been given to those whose houses were affected and I think as a
house that shows concern and also representing the people, we have a duty to ask questions’’.

Moving a motion to receive the petition, the member representing Nsit Atai State Constituency, Rt. Hon. Mark Esset said “the people have come to the House as their last hope, some of the victims have died, some are homeless and some businesses have been affected because of the road construction”. He stressed that something should be done urgently.

Also contributing, the member representing Esit Eket/ Ibeno state constituency, Rt. Hon. Dr Usoro Akpanusoh noted that the situation was so pathetic and stressed that “compensation is usually tied to the construction company, so they should have been paid before the commencement of construction”.

After due deliberation on the matter, members resolved that the Commissioner for Works and his counterpart in Ministry of Lands and Housing should be summoned for explanation on why the people were not paid.

Also moved by the need for the present administration under the leadership of Deacon Udom Emmanuel to continue in free and compulsory education initiated by the last administration, The People’s Assembly granted the Governor the leave to secure a loan facility of N1.9b for the payment of Universal Basic Education (UBE) intervention fund.

The letter to secure the loan which was read on the floor of the house by the Clerk, Mrs Mandu Umoren to members, stated that the loan is to enable the state contribute its own quota which is part of the condition set by the federal government for states to access the funds.

Leading the debate on the loan request, the members representing Oruk Anam State Constituency and the Leader of the House, Sir Udo Keiren pointed out for the state government to meet other needs of the state, the counterpart funds if accessed will help in renovation of Primary Schools, purchase of books, chairs and desk for pupils to study comfortably.

He noted that the nearly every Akwa Ibom child passed through one primary school or the other. “I want to emphasize that our primary school system is something we need to encourage, because this is one basic area where every Akwa Ibom child passes through to go to the higher level”.

In their different contributions, the member representing Ini State Constituency, Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong and member representing Ibiono Ibom, Rt. Obong Ime Okon maintained that since the legislature is working hand in hand with the executive for the improvement of educational system in the state, there is a need for them to give the Governor permission to access the loan.

“The loan will go a long way to revamp the ailing education system in the state. If the Governor uses it judiciously, some of the dilapidated structures in our primary schools will be renovated.

“Government can purchase enough educational material for our primary schools”.

They maintained that it is important for the state to access the grant, since it is non refundable and stressed that other states in the federation have already keyed into the grants.

In his response, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke said “the ability of government to put in place the needed infrastructures in our primary schools, and continue in the free/compulsory education, whether in the rural or urban areas, the state government should be given the leverage to access the loan”.

The House in making sure that Akwa Ibom students received quality education under a conducive environment directed the ministry of Education and Inter Ministerial Direct Labour Committee to intervene in renovating some of the infrastructures in Etinan Institute, Etinan.

This was sequel to matter of urgent public importance brought to the House by the member representing Etinan State Constituency, Hon. Dennis on the ‘Alarming Infrastructural Decay at the 100 year old Centre of Learning – Etinan Institute, Etinan.

Recently, some students of School of health Technology, Etinan who were either rusticated or suspended by the management of the school wrote a letter of appreciation to the lawmakers, thanking them for intervening on their behalf.

According to students, they were recalled to continue in their studies after the State House of Assembly stepped in to resolve the issues they had with the school management.

Moved by the determination of Governor Udom Emmanuel to industrialize the state, the House gave the Governor approval “to partake in the Federal Government Excess Crude Account (ECA) Back Loan”.

According the Governor, the Excess Crude Account Backed Loan offer a single digit interest rate of 9% per annum .
Speaking on the motion, the Chairman House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Dr Uso Akpaniusoh, said the 10bn loan facility will be used for the development of the state in area of industrialization, since the governor has already put in place programmes that will help in that direction.

Currently there are various Bills both private member or as group.

Some of the Bills include; A Bill for a Law to Provide for the Creation of Water Front, Infrastructure in Akwa Ibom State and other purpose Connected therewith.
The Bill according to the lead sponsor and member representing Ukanfun State Constituency , Deacon Otobong Akpan, “will empower the state government to regulate the activities in the water ways within the state and will also help to generate revenue for the state”.

“A Bill for a Law to Provide for Classification, Registration and Licensing of Hotel and other Tourism Establishment in Akwa Ibom State and other Matters Connected therewith”
The Bill seeks to provide a proper legislation and empower explicitly the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to classify hotels and other tourism establishment in the state into categories. This according to the lead sponsor, Hon. Samuel Ufuo, member representing Mbo State Constituency will enable the ministry to collect appropriate licensing fee, give the ministry power to access and certify that the hotel is fit for that purpose and also provide adequate security.

A bill for a law to provide for control of rent for premises, recovery of possession of premises,and for other matters connected therewith sponsored by Hon. Aniekan Etim Bassey

The Bill if passed into law will, mandate landlords within the state to collect only one year rent from their tenants. “when passed into law, will make it an offence punishable to a fine of N100,000 or three months imprisonment for any landlord to collect rent that exceeds 12 months from any tenant, except as specified in the document”.

“As from the commencement of this law, every landlord shall upon payment of rent by the tenant issue a rent receipt to the tenant in respect of such payments. The receipt shall state the date on which the payment was paid; name of the landlord and tenant; description of premises in respect of which the rent is paid; amount of rent paid and the period covered by the rent paid”

A bill for a law to provide for Regulations of Maritime Sector Operations,fixed offshore oil/gas production facilities(platforms) registration for the purpose of generating internal Revenue and for other matters connected therewith sponsored by Rt.Hon.(Dr.) Usoro Akpanusoh

A bill for a law to amend Akwa I bom State Town and Country Planning Law and for other matters connected therewith sponsored by Rt.Hon.(Dr.)Usoro Akpanusoh

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 sponsored by Rt.Hon.(Dr.)Usoro Akpanusoh and 15 Others

The People’s Assembly also embarked on some oversight functions across the state to determine the extent of implementation of the state’s budget by the executive.

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