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National Assembly, Ten Years After (II)

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Folarin

Folarin

This is the concluding part of the piece by Senator Teslim Folarin published last Wednesday In the last ten years, the National Assembly has risen to national challenges through legislation of appropriate laws. We have passed a law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, to ensure that as a nation, we devote attention and resources for the-devel­opment of the Niger Delta. In the same vein, we passed the appropriate laws to put a stop to gas flaring, thereby protecting our environment and health and well-being of our people in the Niger Delta. The law is also to make sure that we broaden the base of our national revenue. We are presently in the process of passing a bill to ensure more local participation in the oil and gas sector. The local content bill, when passed, will guarantee that many aspects of the oil sector have local participation. This law will create more jobs for Nigerians in the sector. It will also mean that Nigerian businesses are more involved in the industry, thereby reducing capital flight in the sector. We have passed laws to bring sanity into the financial sector which was bedev­iled by instances of failed banks before the advent of the democratic experiment in 1999. The National Assembly has passed many laws concerning the wel­fare of Nigerians. Principal among this is the Minimum Wage Amendment bill which paved the way for significant improvement in the take home pay of Nigerian workers. In the bill covering the estab­lishment of a Commission for the control of erosion and desertifica­tion, the National Assembly sought to protect the environment as well as the well-being of Nigerians who are victims of these environmental disasters. In the same vein, the National Assembly passed a law for the establishment of a Commission to cater for the interest of com­munities located in hydro-electricity producing areas. When this democratic dispensation commenced in 1999, corrup­tion was a major crisis confronting the country. We have passed laws establishing the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to check the menace of corruption. There have been new challenges and realities since the enactment of the Acts establishing these commis­sions as prime agents in the war against corruption. The National Assembly is already in the process of reviewing these laws to take care of these new challenges and realities. A relevant law under the consideration of the National Assembly in the quest to check corrup­tion is the law permitting the state to seize properties suspected to be proceeds of corruption pending the completion of investigation into such cases. In this bill, we can see how the National Assembly responds to challenging challenges of the society. Let me clarify that while many of these bills emanated from the executive arm of government, they nevertheless depend on the legis­lature to give them the rigour that will grant them the teeth to effec­tively check the problems they are meant to address. Besides these bills, the National Assembly as a routine entertains motions that address pressing national issues. Through this process, the attention of the executive arm of government is dawn to issues that bother Nigerians. The issues that have regularly featured in our motions include national security, the plight of Nigerians in Diaspora, the state of public infrastructure, the cost of living, happenings in the financial sector and the decay in our educational and health institutions. I wish to state that the executive has found this platform a viable source of knowing the views of Nigerians. The National Assembly also regularly through its Public Petitions Committees listens to petitions from citizens on sundry issues. These over the years have included alleged wrongful dismissal from work, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, religion or health; and abuse of office by government agencies especially the armedd forces. These issues are considered and investigated by appropriate commit­tees of the National Assembly. Many of such petitions are resolved to the satisfaction of aggrieved citizens. The findings and recommenda­tions of the National Assembly help to improve federal agencies. It is unfortunate this is one of the least reported activities of National Assembly. In the exercise of its oversight function, the National Assembly has drawn attention to many atrocities committed in government. Public hearings by the National Assembly have afforded Nigerians informa­tion about their duties. Where such oversight function engagements turn up instances of corruption or mismanagement, the National Assembly has had cause to bring in law enforcement agencies to get public officials to account for their stewardship. One issue over which the National Assembly has been misunder­stood is that of Constituency Projects. At a point in the present dis­pensation, legislators at the federal level felt that government projects are not evenly distributed. As politicians who won election into par­liament on the strength of the pledges they made to the electorate, the legislators agitated that they should be involved in the determination of the distribution of such projects. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Our budgetary system leaves initiation of budgetary proposal to the executive. However, the elec­torates judge the efficiency of a legislator by the number of federal projects he can bring into the constituency. Where legislators are not involved in the distribution of projects, what projects get to his con­stituency becomes a game of chance. Yet, his worthiness as a repre­sentative is based on this. It was against this background that legisla­tors agitated that the budgetary process should involve them in the distribution of government projects. Their role is limited to this. It does not extend to the award of contracts for the project. It is heartwarming that since the commencement of this process, legislators have been able to attract government projects to their con­stituencies. This dividend of democracy in the local communities is one demonstration of the role of legislators as representatives of their people. I wish to seek the support of the media to help educate the Nigerian public that legislator do not award contracts and they should not be assessed by the number of contracts they can give out. Legislators should instead be assessed by how well they. represent their constituencies in parliament. Conclusion Let me conclude by admitting that the National Assembly is aware that many Nigerians expect more from it. We are aware of the expec­tations of Nigerians and are committed to meet these expectations. As we celebrate 10 years of democracy, I Make the pledge that the National Assembly will strive to meet these aspirations of Nigerians.

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Okowa Sends Names Of 18 Commissioner- Nominees To Assembly

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Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has forwarded the names of 18 nominees for appointment as commissioners to the state House of Assembly for screening and confirmation.
The names of the nominees were contained in a letter read by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori, during plenary of the Assembly in Asaba, yesterday.
The Tide reports that Okowa on May 18, dissolved the State Executive Council.
The 11 former commissioners that have been re-appointed and their portfolios, incelude: Mr Charles Aniagwu, Information, Dr Barry Gbe, Economic Planning, Mr Julius Egbedi, Agriculture and Mr Lawrence Ejiofor, Culture and Tourism.
Others are:  Mr Ifeanyi Egwuyenga, Youths Development, Chief Arthur Akpowowo, Urban Renewal and Chief Festus Ochonogor, Housing, Mrs Flora Alanta, Women Affairs, Mr Churchill Amagada, Lands, Chief Fidelis Tilije, Finance and Mr Chris Onogba, Environment.
The seven new nominees are:  Mr Jonathan Ukodhiko, Mrs  Evelyn Oboro, Mr Noel Omordon, Mrs Rose Esenwu, Princess Shola Ogbemi-Daibo, Mrs Kate Oniawan, and Mr Johnbull Edema.
The speaker directed the nominees to forward 35 copies each of their Curriculum Vitae to the office of the clerk of the assembly on or before June 21.
He called on the nominees to appear for screening and confirmation on June 22.
The Assembly, yesterday, also screened and confirmed the appointments of Justice Theresa Diai as the Chief Judge of Delta State as well as Justice Patience Elumeze as President of Customary Court, Delta State.
The confirmation of the nominees followed a motion moved by the Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Mr Oboro Preyor.
The motion supported by Mr Emeke Nwaobi, member representing Aniocha North Constituency in the state Assembly was unanimously adopted by the Assembly, when it was put to a voice vote by the speaker.

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Anambra Guber: CLO Calls For Level Playing Ground

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The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), an NGO, has urged political parties participating in the November 6 governorship election in Anambra to ensure free, fair, credible and generally acceptable primaries, devoid of acrimony and manipulations.
The Chairman of CLO, Anambra, Mr Vincent Ezekwueme, made the appeal while speaking with newsmen in Enugu, yesterday.
Ezekwueme urged political parties to adhere strictly to the principles of participatory and constitutional democracy; thus ensuring the tenets of internal democracy.
According to him, it is pertinent for party leaders to be honest, transparent and selfless in the conduct of their various primaries.
He urged political delegates to the various primaries to get it right by voting for the most credible, God-fearing, articulate and most qualified candidates that would render selfless service to the citizenry.
The CLO boss advised party delegates to vote with their conscience and conviction, devoid of monetary inducement or influence by political leaders and stakeholders.
“CLO decries with great disdain any attempt to impose candidates on the delegates or unjustifiably screen out or bar some candidates from contesting after collecting outrageous nomination and expression of interest fees, to pave way for emergence of anointed or favoured candidates.
“Significantly, it is only justice that will precipitate credible elections and guarantee peaceful atmosphere before, during and after the elections. This is the best and greatest yearnings and aspirations of all Anambrarians.
“Let all the stakeholders work harmonious with patriotism and selflessness for the conduct of free, fair and credible primaries and the November 6 governorship election,’’ he said.
Ezekwueme noted that any party that could not conduct free and fair primaries would be unable to guarantee and ensure a free election in the main gubernatorial contest.
The CLO boss, however, appealed to all the political parties to zone their governorship candidates to Anambra South Senatorial Zone.
“This appeal is in the spirit of justice, equity, morality and good conscience in tandem with the zoning formula propagated by former Gov. Peter Obi and which has helped douse political tension in the state.
“We commend the unique wisdom and political sagacity of Obi and we implore Anambra political gladiators and stakeholders to respect the zoning arrangement for the interest of peace and unity,’’ he said.

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Ayade And The APC Albatross

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Like Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State before him, Prof. Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, did not take many by surprise when he eventually broke camp with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and pitched tent with the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party at the centre on Thursday, May 20, 2021.
A pointer to the fact that Governor Ayade had long signaled his romance with the APC was evident in the statement of welcome by a party chieftain and one-time leader of the 7th Senate of the Federal Republic, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, when he noted that Ayade had “consciously navigated the ship of governance in sync with the APC-led Federal Government”.
Of course, for a long time, close watchers of the Cross River State Governor had noted how he had openly expressed admiration for the president and leader of the APC while overtly distancing himself from every criticism by the PDP, his party then, against the Federal Government and the ruling party. In fact, it was even obvious to casual observers that all was not well between Ayade and the PDP when he became consistently absent in the meetings of his fellow governors on the platform of the party and other high profile party engagements.
However, there has been some interesting political developments in Cross River State following the defection of the state Chief Executive, and leader of the PDP until that select group of APC governors and other top ranking party leaders stormed the Government House in Calabar to receive him into their fold. Buoyed by the gathering of members of his cabinet, members of the Cross Rivers State House of Assembly led by the Speaker, some National Assembly members from the state, Chairmen of local government councils and their councilors, and other stakeholders in the state including Dame Princess Florence Ita-Giwa and High Chief Asuquo Ekpeyong, Prof. Ayade boldly declared that by virtue of the event of his detection, Cross River State had become an APC state.
As if to prove the point that there could not be another party, particularly the PDP, without the government that he leads, the governor ordered the annexation of the PDP state secretariat and convert all its property into the use of the APC just two days after. Responding to the turn of event at the party secretariat, Christian Ita, Chief Press Secretary to the governor said the PDP could not claim to be the ones to continue to occupy the property as the rent was paid by the governor. He said the rent for the said property was only renewed recently by the same PDP that has now totally collapsed into the APC.
“The same officials of PDP who occupied the property when it was secretariat of the PDP still occupy it, having switched allegiance and moved to the APC with the governor”|, he said.
In a swift reaction, the PDP Federal Lawmakers and Stakeholders Forum in Cross River State dissociated themselves from the governor’s move. Addressing a press conference on Friday, May 21, 2021 in Abuja, the forum pledged to remain in the PDP and declared Cross River State as a stronghold of the party.
“As far as I know, till date, the National Assembly caucus remains intact. I don’t see any of us leaving. We are legacy members of the party who have been in this party for the past 15 to 20 years. So, we are not going anywhere”, Senator Geshan Bassey who spoke on behalf of the lawmakers said, accusing Ayade of not consulting them but insisting that even if he had “we will not follow him”.
On the same occasion, Senator Liyel Imoke, former governor of the state, on behalf of the PDP Stakeholders Forum in Cross River described Ayade’s defection as regrettable, even though not unexpected.
According to Imoke, an overwhelming number of Cross Riverians remains resolute with the PDP, emphasizing that “our key stakeholders, members of the national and state assemblies, and strategic grassroots mobilisers are still members of our great party. We, as a party, therefore, remain virile and strong. Our shell remains uncracked”.
Imoke said “We understand that the people of Cross River, who have stood firmly with the PDP since 1999 and other lovers of the state are deeply disappointed by this move made by a governor, who has won all his elections under the platform of the party. Given the overwhelming support which he enjoyed under the PDP and the fact that PDP has undeniable strong grassroots in the state, we affirm that Cross River remains a PDP state”.
As developments have shown, Governor Ayade may not have had the support of all his close functionaries in his voyage as he has had to offload not less than four of his commissioners and a number of aides believed to still be loyal to the PDP.
In a press statement signed by his CPS/Special Adviser Media and Publicity, Christian Ita, the governor, relieved the appointment of Mr Mike Usibe, Commissioner for New Cities Development; Rita Ayim, Commissioner in charge of Women Affairs, Mr Asu Okang, Commissioner for Information and Ntufam Donatus Etim, Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry.
On the part of the PDP, the regrouping of forces, especially the return of the likes of former governor Donald Duke, has not been without hitches.
Recently, the state caretaker committee chairman and secretary of the party were constrained to issue a warning to party stalwarts to restrain themselves from unguarded statements capable of causing division among their ranks. “The party will like to caution all stakeholders that this is a time for rebuilding, restoration and reconciliation. It is not a time for trading blames.
“The larger purpose of the development of Cross River State should remain our unwavering focus and should insulate party stakeholders from all other distractions”, the statement said in reaction to unauthenticated social media post by Ex-Governor Donald Duke accusing his successor in office, Senator Liyel Imoke of running a dictatorial administration.
The party, however, commended the courage of former governor Duke for returning to the party at such a time as this, hoping that his return would further strengthen the party to face the new threat posed by the APC and Governor Ben Ayade.
“We congratulate His Excellency Donald Duke for finding the courage to re-join the party on whose platform he twice contested and won elections as governor of Cross River State.
“It is our firm belief that his coming back to the party is not only indicative of the party’s strength in the state, but more importantly, will help in rebuilding a strong and virile party”, the statement said.
Prof Ben Ayade may have left the PDP but it is difficult to say if the PDP has left Cross River State. With the regrouping of battle-tested war horses in the state under the umbrella, the governor and his new party may have to work extra hard to dislodge the deep roots of the PDP in the state.
Asked how the governor’s move will affect the fortunes of the PDP in coming elections in the state, Senator Imoke said. “I think in the past, you would see that states that have that type of strength, irrespective of a defection, tend at all times to remain strong. There’s a reason for that. What you perceive as power will determine how you lead. If you perceive power to be a political party, then you will be moving from one political party to another, but if you understand that power ultimately is the people, and that it belongs to the people, you’ll appreciate that it’s not about the party.
“PDP in Cross River State has always been about the people and I think we still remain about the people; so the party has endeared itself to the people and as such a movement by the governor does not, of its own, translate to the people moving into another political party because they have already identified strongly with the party-the PDP. It is sort of like what you have in the United States and other countries where there are strongholds – a state like California, it is defined as a Democratic stronghold. Cross River State is a PDP stronghold”.
Even Ayade himself is without a doubt that Cross River State is a PDP stronghold but for how long this stronghold will hold is what is now being put to test as the governor has already made inroads into the traditional institution from whom he has extracted the same commitment and support they had always given to successive governors and their political agenda.
However, politics is about politicians and Victor Ndoma-Egba tells Ayade: “As you join us in the progressives fold, my expectation is that your coming will enrich our internal democracy and I enjoin you to be consultative, inclusive, democratic, transparent and accountable because these are the hallmarks of the All Progressives Congress family. I also expect that your presence in the APC will further strengthen the party and improve our electoral fortunes in Cross River State”.
Ndoma-Egba’s expectations are not just his expectation and those of the members of the APC in Cross River alone, they were the same expectations of the party faithful in Rivers State in 2015 and the ones in Edo State through the reign of Adams Aliu Oshiomohole. Whether the APC members in the Peoples Paradise will have a different experience remains to be seen.
What is certain is that the South-South region has not been a welcoming environment for the APC and it does not appear as it is ready to change that disposition just yet because of Prof. Ayade. He may just soon find out that what could flourish in the Southeast may require humongous effort to sprout on South-South soil.

By: Opaka Dokubo

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