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RSHA: Legislative Year In Retrospect

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The words of former United States Congressman, Senator Evereth Dirkson that  “congress is like a water logged scow, it doesn’t go too far, it does’t go too fast, but it doesn’t sink” aptly describes, the 2011 record of the 7th Rivers State House of Assembly.

When the 7th Rivers State House of Assembly was inaugurated by the Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi in may 2011, the Speaker Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Amachree assured a significant improvement on the achievements of the 6th Assembly.

With the timing of the 2011 general elections deciding the legislative session, it became apparent that the Assembly had barely seven months to make its impact for the legislative year.

Mapping out identified areas of weakenesses became paramount as the Assembly prepared to commence its legislative duties.

A major concern in this regard was the fact that over 70% of lawmakers that formed the 7th Assembly were first timers with no pedigree of legislative experience.

This development placed the 7th Assembly on a delicate stand, especially in view of its promises of a significant breakthrough from the previous Assembly.

Rivers people watched the 7th Assembly with great expectations, as it commenced legislative business, and with the 2011 legislative year ended, an appraisal of the legislative year against the promises of effective legislation became necessary.

Barely few days after its inauguration, the7th Rivers State House of Assembly was confronted with what appeared as its first litmus test, which was to give approval to a loan request of N100bn from Guarantee Trust Bank, by the Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi.

The Assembly granted the loan request and became the butt of public criticism. Many critics, saw what they considered ‘hasty’ approval by the Assembly as a disservice, and branded the Assembly as an appendage of  executive decisions or, simply doing its biddings without recourse to thorough legislative debates.

The subsequent approval by the Assembly to the executive’s request of securing, N200bn bond from the capital market, swelled the criticisms of pundits and opposition who threw aspersion on the Assembly with utmost indignation.

But the  State’s House of Assembly rose to the occasion in defence of its actions, arguing that the purpose of acquiring the loans and bonds was convincing as it was meant to carry out projects in the state.

The Assembly also assured that it will exert proper oversight to ensure that all money sought as loan or bond is judiciously administered for specific projects, and all such monies paid back by the same administration that borrowed it.

Determined to beat a debt trap in Rivers State and to allay the fears of the public over the tendency of abuse of funds acquired through bonds and loans, Leader of the Assembly Hon. Chidi Lloyd sponsored a bill seeking the establishment of a Debt Management office in Rivers State.

The Debt management Office bill, was the first privately sponsored bill on the floor of the House.

For effective deliberation, planning and utilisation of Personnel, the Assembly organised a one week legislative retreat for training of lawmakers at Tinapa, Cross River State.

The retreat which was flagged off by the Rivers State Governor, was a follow up to the demands by fresh lawmakers to get proper legislative training to boost their performance in the House.

The Speaker also approved funds for training of legislative staff, under the supervision of the Clerk of the Assembly, Sir Emmanuel Ogele.

The aim of the training, according to the Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Amachree  “is to add impetus to legislative process of the Assembly”.

During the year under review, three new bills passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly were signed into law by the executive Governor of the State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi.

Out of the three bills, two were executive bills which included Rivers State Tourism Development Agency Bill and the State Bond and other debts security issuance Bill, while the Rivers State Debt management Bill was privately sponsored. All the bills passed into law passed through public hearing and stakeholders input.

The House, however, deferred debate on the fourth bill in line, the local Government amendment bill, after a committee report was submitted by  its chairman Hon. Lucky Odili.

The deferment was to give room for proper perusal of the report by the lawmakers.

With the signing of the bills into law, and the over 11 motions moved by the lawmakers on the floor of the House, many analysts believe that the 7th Assembly has performed considerably well.

Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi while signing the bills into law also commended the Assembly for displaying faith in the ability to carry out the business of legislation for the interest of the state. The Governor said the various laws when put into practice will strengthen the economic base of the state.

The public hearings were a critical aspect of legislative duties that stimulated public interest. Most critical among the various hearings conducted by the Assembly within the period under review was the one conducted by the House Committee on education headed by Hon. Augustine Ngo.

The public hearing opened cans of worms on the institutional mailaise in the premier University of Science and Technology. Also of great public concern was the public hearing organised by the Committee on local Government which called for review of local Governments, including that organised by the Committee on SSG, HOS, establishment which called for a review of Rivers State Pension Scheme in line with a more harmonised pension regime.

While many critics of the Assembly describe its posture within the period under review as indifferent, the Speaker  of the Assembly Hon. Otelemaba Amachree proved such pundits wrong. During the presentation of the 2012 budget on the floor of the Assembly, the Speaker asserted the independence of the legislature when he engaged the Governor in a tough-talking session, drawing his attention to some critical areas of development in the state.

The Speaker said, while the legislature had always approved all budgets presented to it, “implementation had always become problem”. The Speaker expressed worry over the ongoing Monorail project, among others and called on the Governor to complete all projects embarked upon by his administration, especially some on-going road projects in deplorable condition.

The Speaker also tasked the executive on the need to ensure that qualified contractors are engaged in project execution for effective delivery of services, and promised that the Assembly will also monitor ongoing projects through its oversight functions.

Further deliberations and debates on the 2012 Appropriation Bill was suspended following the adjournment of the House to  January 10, 2012.

Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Otelemaba Amaechree had earlier promised a speedy passage of the appropriation bill to fast track development in the state.

Thats how The Tide saw the Rivers State House of Assembly last year.

 

Taneh Beemene

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Govs To Hold Virtual Meeting On Judicial, Legislative Autonomy

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The Governors of the 36 states of the federation will hold a virtual meeting today to further discuss the issue of financial autonomy to judicial and legislative arms in states.
This is contained in a statement by NGF Head of Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo on Monday in Abuja.
Bello-Barkindo said efforts were already being made in all states to either constitute State Accounts Allocation Committees (SAAC) or inaugurate them.
This, according to him, is preparatory to the granting of full autonomy to the two arms of government at the subnational level.
The Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) had since embarked on a nationwide strike on the issue.
He said the governors had been working day and night to establish modalities for the autonomy in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.
He said that the governors would also be updated on the activities of the Presidential Steering Committee on Covid-19 by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, who headed the governors’ interface with the committee.
Bello-Barkindo said that the meeting would also review the agenda of the National Executive Council (NEC), which would take place a day after.
“Other items on the agenda include the regular update on the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability for results (SFTAS) to provide states’ status on their DLI’s and upcoming deadlines.
The meeting would also receive presentation from the Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises, regarding unlocking liquidity through sale/optimisation of state-owned redundant/sub-optimal assets,” he said.
He added that the Policy Development Facility (PDF) bridge programme would also discuss diversification and non-oil export opportunities for states in post Covid-19 era.

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2023: PDP Flexes Muscle Over C’ River

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Leading members of the main opposition PDP converged in Calabar, Cross River at the weekend to strategise on how to retain its grip on power in the state.
This is contained in a statement e-mailed to newsmen in Abuja, yesterday.
The Tide source reports that the PDP has been in power in Cross River since the return of democracy in the country 22 years ago but the defection of the current governor appears to mark a turning point.
Political pundits argue that the defection of the state Governor Ben Ayade from the PDP to the ruling APC may affect the fortunes of the PDP in the years ahead.
The governor’s departure is now seen as a major test for the PDP in what is now seen as a game of wits between the PDP and the APC.
Addressing the party’s chieftains, the National Chairman of the party, Mr Uche Secondus, declared that Cross River would “remain the stronghold of the PDP, in spite of Gov. Ayade’s defection.
“PDP will work to retain the confidence the people of Cross River State reposed in our party and retain its dominance in the state.
“Our party has governed since the return of party politics in 1999.
“Cross River will remain the stronghold of our party well after 2023,’’ said Secondus, flanked by other chieftains of the party, including Sen. Bukola Saraki and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
Secondus told PDP members in the state to remain resolute to make the party retain power in the upcoming general elections.
Also speaking, a former governor of the state, Sen. Liyel Imoke, gave assurance that no other party would take the state from the PDP, “being the dominant party in the state.
“PDP is the only party known to our people. I assure the leadership of our party that we will deliver victory in 2023,’’ he stated.
Imoke governed the state from 2007 to 2015 when he handed over to Ayade now of the APC.
Other PDP chieftains, who were present at the event included former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra, former Gov. Donald Duke of Cross River and the Chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee, Mr Efiok Cobham.
Also present were Hon. Daniel Asuquo, Hon. Etta Mbora and Hon. Essien Ayi, all serving members of the House of Representatives among other party’s chieftains.

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…Vows To Take Over Anambra

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The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, says the party remains focused to take over the state in the upcoming governorship poll.
Nwobu said this in an interview with newsmen in Awka yesterday, adding that he would not be distracted by those trying to destabilise the party in the state.
He lauded the National Executive Committee of the party for organising successful ward congresses in the state.
He described the success of the exercise as a sure step to the party’s free, fair and credible primary election.
“We want to conduct our primary election, where party people will freely vote and produce a candidate that will be acceptable to Anambra people at the November 6 poll.
“This is not time for distractions. We are focused on taking over government from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
“The party has shortchanged millions of Anambra people in terms of governance.
Nwobu said he remained the valid chairman of PDP in Anambra, having emerged from a valid process that was upheld by a Federal High Court in its May 24, 2018 judgment.
He said the judgment had not been reversed by any higher court and was “unfazed by any court judgment”, which purportedly removed him.
“My leadership is still subsisting, no superior court has set that judgment aside and a court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot do that.
“Our team of legal experts is taking care of that. The decision to appeal will be advised,” the PDP chairman said.
The Tide source reports that Chief Chukwudi Umeaba at the weekend announced that he had taken over the party in the state as the Acting Chairman of the Caretaker Committee.
Umeaba, who announced the suspension of the ward congresses, said his action was predicated on the judgment of an Abuja Federal High Court.
According to him, the judgment delivered on June 9, nullified the process that produced Nwobu’s leadership.

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