An address of the Speaker:
Distinguished colleagues, management, staff of the House of Assembly, it is with deep sense of gratitude to God that I make this end of the second legislative year remark.
I am thankful to our God, whose compassion has seen us through a very challenging and eventful two years as House.
Despite the political distractions at the wake of the 6th assembly in 2015, the Akwa Ibom state legislature has evolved into a more assertive institution, taking very bold steps to consolidate our role in the state’s democracy.
Through our cardinal mandate of lawmaking, oversight, and representation, the house has engraved itself in the Akwa Ibom polity as the embodiment of the collective dreams, hopes, and aspirations of our people.
We have made decisions in the last two years conscious of the fact that upon us as the people’s representatives devolves the legislative powers that must be managed to the benefit of every Akwa-Ibom person.
In managing this power, we have attempted to deliver in all aspects of the 48-month mandate which we hold in trust for the masses of our state. We have yielded energy, time, and resources towards making legislations that have helped to brace the components of democracy.
These legislations have in the last two years given strength to our critical institutions, it has empowered our people in all aspects of living, provided social security, and fortified our unity.
Through our regular interactions and constituency needs assessment programmes, we have identified these components as the very basic expectations of the people. It is against this background therefore that we have striven in the last 24 months to meet these expectations with the hope to exceed them within the remaining 24 months.
The purpose of this document therefore is to provide, in sum, our engagements as a legislature at work and a legislature at exhibition, an engagement which culminated in our achievements so far since June 8, 2015. I am thankful to honourable members whose activities and events on the floor of the House, at committees and in their constituencies in the last 2 years have been central to this report. Our legislative and support staff have also done immensely to put these records in perspective.
It is our hope that this midterm report will guide the people to perform a monitoring and evaluation exercise on the 6th assembly from the position of knowledge.
Also, the report is a practical attempt to chronicle our achievements with the view to helping us see our areas of strength and weaknesses.
Ultimately, the report will help us take a searching look inward, assess our outcomes and reduce whatever legislative deficits there may be. We do this cognizant of the fact that to continue to enjoy the support of the people, we ought to get them to have an unassailable level confidence and trust in the moral character of those whom they have invested with legislative authority.
The 6th Assembly is conscious of the expectations of the Akwa Ibom people and understands the critical role the legislature as a separate and independent arm of government play in delivering on one of the key elements of governance.
The 6th assembly has been christened “the people’s assembly” and its legislative responsibility has always been to be consciously guided by the greater interest of the Akwa Ibom people from education to agriculture, healthcare delivery, environment science and technology in order to foster the economic prosperity, ecological rejuvenation and political stability of Akwa Ibom State.
On this premise, the 6th Assembly wish to present its score card in the form of this summarized mid- term report. The full mid-term report will be available online, on a brochure, publicized for the benefits of the entire public during 25th anniversary celebration of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly.
In the two years of existence of the people’s assembly, 6 executive bills and 9 private member bills have been passed totaling 15 out of 39 bills sponsored.
The bills cover areas like education, health, governance, youth development/empowerment, economic and revenue generation, environment, judiciary, security and social development. Similarly, 100 resolutions have been made out of 48 motions.
In addition to the 100 resolutions, matters of urgent public importance and petitions including over 30 public hearing has been held.
In the area of budget, the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly had passed into law a budget estimate of N371.292bn for the 2017 fiscal year. The budget is made up of N88.424 billion for recurrent expenditure, N80.870billion for Consolidated Revenue Fund Charges, and N201.997billion for capital expenditure. The proposed capital expenditure of N193.956 billion was increased by N8.042billion representing 1.7% while N2b was saved from the consolidated revenue fund charges bringing the total budget outlay to N371b from N365b.
After a careful study of the 2017 appropriation bill as submitted by Governor Udom Emmanuel, and after listening to the concerns of stakeholders during the public hearing on the budget, the House saw the need to increase the overall budget to the tune of 8 billion Naira in capital expenditure and a reduction in the recurrent expenditure.
The House had to augment the social sector, especially in the areas of healthcare delivery, the sum for the construction and renovation of hospitals and health institutions which original provision was too minimal.
Provision was made for massive renovation of schools, provision of water boreholes especially in rural communities, desks in schools under the inter-ministerial direct labour coordinating committee to improve the free and compulsory education efforts of government.
These adjustments account for an increase of a little over 8 billion in Capital expenditure. It is important to state that the increases were inspired by the needs assessment which was carried out. It was also necessary following the contributions from stakeholders during the public hearing.
POLICY INITIATIVES OF THE 6TH ASSEMBLY
Democratization of the Legislative Processes
The Legislature represents the people. It presents the problems, challenges and demands of people before the government. It tries to ventilate their grievances by persuading the government to take necessary steps to redress the grievances of people. It acts as a link between people and government and to build trust, governments need to have an efficient and effective parliament that is able to legislate and communicate in an open and transparent manner about the past and future decisions of the government.
Previous assemblies found it difficult to democratize the legislative process by engaging and making the public a prominent partner in enacting laws that affect them. Efforts made at the time, to be open and transparent fell short of the desired standard. We believe the 6th Assembly has set the pace and left a template for subsequent assemblies to improve upon and become even people oriented.
Open and Transparent Legislature
For the first time in the State, the 6th assembly made a copy of the Budget available to the citizenry ONLINE to aid access to review Government’s projected earnings and spending. The 6th Assembly has for the past 2years, aired on live TV, its proceedings on budget appropriations.
Legislative Internship Programme
The 6th Assembly is establishing the Akwa Ibom legislative internship programme (AKILIP).
AKILIP is a six (6) months graduate internship programme initiated to expose interns to learning the rudiments of legislative business at a close range and also equipping the beneficiaries with soft and hard skills needed to sharpen the edges of their professional capabilities. AKILIP, is the first major legislative internship programme sponsored by a state parliament in the country.
As part of the policy thrust of the 6th assembly, we have found it necessary to continuously engage with the executive, judiciary, civil societies, labour unions, religious bodies, students, traditional rulers, the press, socio-cultural bodies and major stakeholders as partners in making laws that will impact on the different strata of our society. This has been done through a consistent and robust legislative interactions with these different bodies.The aim is to avoid a disconnect between the Assembly and the aspirations and contributions of the citizens in the process of law-making, oversight functions and representation.
One of the avenues the 6th assembly has been engaged with civic groups is through courtesy calls. These courtesy calls apart from partnering with civic societies, seek collaboration for capacity building, beneficial relations and development. The outcome of these engagements has ultimately rubbed off on the quality of laws we enact.
There is no sustainable development without peace and there is no peace without sustainable development. The 6th Assembly has maintained a peaceful disposition in the discharge of its legislative responsibilities as there has not been any rancouring among members and leadership.
This approach by the House has been deliberate having realized that the citizenry will not benefit from a House swallowed up in political turmoil.
The 6th Assembly has also seen the need to constructively with the Executive and other arms of government without perfunctorily antagonising each other. Cooperation with the Executive does not mean that the legislature becomes blind to its oversight functions. The 6th assembly under the leadership of Barr Onofiok Luke will remain steadfast to its peaceful disposition to maintain the political stability enjoyed in the state’s polity to foster economic and social development.
ENGAGEMENT WITH STAKEHOLDERS
The House has maintained a robust working relationship with ministries, departments and agencies of government as well as the state Assembly bureaucracy and the assembly service commission for the attainment of organizational goals.
To this end, the sixth Assembly has encouraged effective participation and membership in National and International parliament associations.
It has also supported and encouraged the establishment of constituency offices by members and regular constituency briefings and interactions.
In respect of representation, lawmakers have in several ways empowered their constituents through various projects ranging from educational scholarships, infrastructural and electrical interventions, small and medium scale entrepreneurial assistance, skills acquisition and training programmes, recommendation for employment and training etc.
The 6th Assembly has about 2 special committees and 24 standing committees for various areas, to enable it effectively and efficiently perform its oversight functions. These committees have been working assiduously and their reports and achievements are detailed in the main report.
SECOND HALF OF THE ASSEMBLY IN RETROSPECT
Development of Communication Strategy, information communication technology (ICT) and documentation in legislative process:
In today’s world, the way which people receive information is rapidly changing. Technology has become the principal driving force for this change. Developments such as smart phones and social media have dramatically altered the communications landscape and it now provides a wider range of options to those who communicate information. So therefore, the 6th Assembly shall take advantage of these options and other most cost-effective strategies to communicate our messages to the public.
The communication strategy of the 6th assembly shall seek to create a platform from which a comprehensive public communications service can be provided. It shall be balanced, coherent and focused. The 6th Assembly’s communication strategy will be founded on two pillars; namely direct and indirect communications with the public.
The direct communications will incorporate all public information services such as web communication, social media, and other public enquiries service. The indirect communication shall essentially mean the media; newsprint and broadcast; national and local. We are conscious that people choose to receive information in different ways; therefore we shall use a range of mutually beneficial approaches to maximize the effectiveness of our communications.
AMONG THE RECOMMENDED COMMUNICATION STRATEGIC ACTIONS OF THE SIXTH ASSEMBLY ARE:
Creating an official website: The website will be a spectacular step forward and will be simple and easy to navigate.
Create a FAQ (Frequently asked questions) section on the web complete with answers to the most common queries people may have about the House of Assembly and its activities.
Internal House communication: efforts will be made to procure and install modern communication gadgets in the Assembly to facilitate intra communication and supporting parliamentary staff for effective legislative delivery.
Documentation and publication: The 6th assembly will encourage and support every effort to document and preserve all important activities in the course of its service to the people. These will include publication of, news journals, almanacs, calendars and special slots in electronic media.
The 6th assembly will continue to cultivate and sustain good working relationship with stakeholders like the press, labour, youth organizations and socio-cultural groups in the State.
The essence is to continue to keep and broaden the link between parliaments and the citizens towards ensuring contributions and participation in the legislative process.
The house will continue to maintain a robust working relationship with ministries, departments and agencies of government as well as the state Assembly bureaucracy and the assembly service commission for the attainment of organizational goals.
It will also continue to support and encourage the establishment of constituency offices by members and regular constituency interactions. It has been observed that most State owned assets are not properly managed. It is hope that during the second half of the Assembly a Bill will be passed to create an agency that will be responsible for managing all State assets.
Finally, I thank His Excellency the governor for his unalloyed support to the leadership and entire membership of the House. Our strengths, our oneness as a House, and our focus, were established through the supports of the governor. I thank members of the executive and judiciary arm of government for partnering with us especially in the area of effective oversight. I thank our various constituents for standing by us for supporting us through thick and thin in the last two years. I cannot thank the current leadership and members enough for standing by me in ensuring we fulfill our mandate.
Thank you,for making me first among equals. I also thank members of the staff of the House your efforts are acknowledged in no small measure.
The last two years has been a wonderful experience with the press community. As a House, we have never had it so good with the media. We have strived to develop the capacity of our house correspondence and I pray that we will continue on this path of constructive criticisms and assessment of our actions in the next two years.
As we begin the next legislative year when we resume, I promise the Akwa Ibom people on behalf of honourable members of this House that we shall continue to pursue participatory governance in our legislative activities and put the interest of the people ahead of our personal interest.
We shall work to ensure that government meets its mandate and remains answerable to the people.
I thank you.