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RVHA: One Year Legislative Session In Perspective

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Rivers State Seventh Assembly was proclaimed on May 30, 2011 , by the state governor Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi in line with the constitutional provisions specified in the 1999 constitution.

The house made up of 32 members elected to represent various constituencies of the state, elected Rt Hon Otelemaba Dan Amachree, representing Asari-Toru constituency I, as speaker while Hon Leyii Kwanee, representing Khana constituency II, emerged as the Deputy Speaker.

Other principal officers of the house were elected on Thursday June 2, 2011, as follows Hon Chidi Lloyd (Emohua) leader, Hon Nname Ewor (Ahoada East I) deputy leader, Hon Ikuinyi Ibani (Andoni) Whip and Hon.  Irene Inimgba (Port Harcourt II) deputy Whip of the house.  All these elections were done in a carry-go-fashion but the importance of the exercise were not lost.

However, the appointments sorry, election of the officers were preceded with a lot of horse – trading, lobbying and particularly the invocation of the zoning principal of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That done, the lawmakers quickly settled down for the due discharge of their legislative functions which is to make justifiable laws that would bring about good governance of the state.

The 7th Assembly began its business with three members who were old wine in new wine bottles, namely Hon Leyii Kwanee, Hon Augustine Paul Ngo and Hon Godstine Ben Horsfall. These persons were state lawmakers when the state governor Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi presided over the assembly as speaker.

Interestly, eleven of the remaining   members were returnees from either the fourth, fifth or sixth Assembly. They are Rt Hon Otelemaba Amachree, Rt Hon Tonye Harry, Hons Chidi Lloyd, Aye Pepple, Ikuinyi Ibani, Felicia Barizasi Tane, Golden Chioma, Luvky Odili, Onari Brown, Victor Ihunwo and Irene Inimgba.

The 18 first timers in no particular order include Hon Nname Ewor, Andrew Miller, Azubuike Wanjoku, Dr Innocents Barickor, Ibelema Okpokiri, Dr Sam Eligwe, Martin Amaewhule, Evans Bipi, Josiah John Olu, Kelechi Nworgu, Fredrick Anabaraba, Legborsi  Nwidadah, Ibiso Nwuche, Gift Wokocha, Michael Okey-Chinda, Victoria Nyeche, Victor Amadi and Okechukwu Nwaogu.

Addressing  assembly correspondents recently after adjourning the House sine die at the end of the first legislative session of the 7th Assembly, the Chairman House Committee on Information and training, Hon Onari Brown, disclosed that the Assembly received and debated on a total of 19 bills.

Out of the number, 17 of them have been passed and assented by the governor and are now laws of the state; While the remaining two ie The Right of Women to Share in Family Property and Rivers State Agency for School Inspection and Monitoring are at the second reading and committee stage of legislative action.

According to Hon. Onari Brown, in keeping with session 4 (7) of the 1999 constitution, the House received both executive and private member bills which went through the normal three readings with the draft law being subjected to critical debates on the floor of the house.

At the committee stages robust public hearing were conducted that elicited inputs from stakeholders and the public which enriched the quality of the bills that were eventually passed. Consequently, within the period under review, the following bills were passed and authenticated as laws of the state with the signature of the governor.

These are Rivers state Carnival Development Bill, 2011, Rivers State Senior Secondary School Board Bill, 2011, Rivers State Local Government Bill, 2011, Rivers State Debt Management Office (Establishment) Bill, 2011, Rivers State Bonds, Notes and Securities Insurance Bill, 2011, Rivers State Contributory Pension Scheme for Employees in the Public Service (Amendment) Bill 2011.

Also passed into law are Rivers State Tourism Development Agency Bill, 2011, Rivers State Tenancy Bill, 2011, Handicapped Persons’ Welfare (Enhancement) Bill 2011, Rivers State Appropriation Bill, 2012, Rivers State Public Office Holders (Payment of Pension) Bill 2012, Rivers State Universal Basic Education Law (Amendment) Bill 2012.

Others include Rivers State Public Utility Protection Bill, 2012, University of Science and Technology law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, Rivers State Road Traffic Management law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, and the State Water sector bill 2012.

Similarly, The Tide learnt that pursuant to 24 motions brought to the House by members about 14 resolutions were reached that have direct bearing on the lives of Ricers people.

It is imperative to mention that as politicians representing different interests, members of the 7th assembly have contributed to various debates at the floor of the Assembly independently  for the benefit of the state in spite of the House being 100 percent PDP.

Arising from several uncomplimentary comments about the House, Hon Brown has debunked insinuations in some quarters that they are mere rubber stamp of the executive arm, pointing out that the synergy between the legislature and the executive stems from the fore knowledge of House processes by the state governor who had directed its affairs for eight years (1999 – 2007).

It is therefore not surprising that the peaceful working relationship among the arms of government has placed the state in a better pedestrian for growth and development. The achievements recorded so far  by the present administration would not have been realizably if the lawmakers were at daggers drawn with the executive. Thanks goes to the leadership of both arms for the understanding exhibited in  running government.

Credit must equally be given to the new members in the House who came with varying degrees of experiences deployed to legislation and have learnt so fast that hardly would anyone differentiate them in the conduct of House proceedings.

Within the period under discussion the leadership have been open and transparent hence the Assembly enjoyed the usual peace that have become synonymous with the state lawmakers. The purchase of official vehicles for members that tended to create disaffection was quickly resolved before outsiders heard about it and they had continued to work together with ought most good faith.

Another critical area in which the 7th Assembly can beat its chest for posterity to judge is in the performance of over sight duties. Relying on section 128 and 129 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, the lawmakers with recourse to existing legislation has either invited some members of the executive arm, companies and institutions operating in the state to answer questions were necessary.

The intervention of the Assembly in the recent Egi gas eruption in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area, the crisis in the State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), and the discriminatory practices of companies operating in the state among others are cases in point.

However the support of the parliamentary staff to the lawmakers cannot be under estimated as they work behind the scene in different capacities to enhance the work of the House. These has earned them cordial relationship with the management as quarterly meetings are held to articulate and resolve issues.

From the above, it is crystal clear that the first session of the Rivers State 7th Assembly has recorded modest achievement as a united House without the vagaries of political interference, rancor, bitterness and unnecessary sentimentality to derail the  focus of engendering a purposeful governmet.

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Buhari Approves Deployment Of Nine Perm Secs

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the deployment of nine Federal Permanent Secretaries to Federal Ministries.

In a circular, HCSF/CMO/AOD/012/IX/59 dated August3, 2021, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, disclosed the deployment takes immediate effect and handing over and taking over process should be completed on or before Friday, August 6, 2021, with the exception of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health whose take over will be on August13, 2021.

The deployed Permanent Secretaries are, Bitrus Bako Nabasu from Ministry of Petroleum Resource is deployed to the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy; Dr Evelyn Ngige, Service Welfare Office, OHCSF has been deployed to the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment; Mammam Mahmuda, Career Management Office, OHCSF is now in the Federal Ministry of Health; Dr.Nasir Sani Gwarzo, Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment has been taken to Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Dr Anthonia Akpabio Ekpa, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs to Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs.

Others are the newly appointed Permanent Secretaries, Dr. Onwudiwe Maryanne Ngozi; Dr. Ogunbiyi Marcus Olaniyi; Yusuf Ibrahim Idris; and Adebiyi Olusesan Olufunso; who were deployed to Service Welfare Office, OHCSF; Career Management Office, OHCSF; Common Service Office, OHCSF and Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, respectively.

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Court Orders EFCC To Unfreeze Dokpesi’s Account

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The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, yesterday, in Abuja, issued an order unfreezing the bank account of the Chairman of Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi.

Justice Tsoho gave the order while delivering a ruling on Dokpesi’s application argued by Mr KanuAgabi, SAN.

The judge ordered that the account domiciled at one of the new generational bank be immediately ‘unfrozen’ since the criminal charges which precipitated the restriction on the account had been dismissed, and Dokpesi discharged and acquitted by the Court of Appeal.

The judge said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had no basis to put a post no debit order on the account in view of the subsisting and valid judgment of the Court of Appeal.

He held that there was no application by the EFCC for stay of execution of the appellate court’s judgment which quashed the criminal charges against Dokpesi.

Justice Tsoho said that in the absence of a stay of execution, the court was bound by law to recognise the judgment of the appellate court.

He ordered that the freeze order and post no debit on the account be immediately removed in compliance with the appellate court’s judgment.

Ruling on the claim by the EFCC that it had appealed the appellate court’s decision at the Supreme Court, the judge held that the notice of appeal filed at the apex court could not in law stay the execution of the subsisting judgment .

He added that the anti-graft agency ought to have obtained a stay of execution of the judgment.

He further ordered that all documents seized from Dokpesi should be immediately returned to him.

Agabi, while making arguments in support of the application, prayed the court to issue an order unfreezing Dokpesi’s  bank account frozen on the strength of the alleged N2.1billion fraud charge  against him.

The senior lawyer had submitted that the criminal charges in respect of N2.1billion had since been dismissed by the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division but the EFCC wanted to continue to hold his client in bondage.

Agabi had further argued that the charge which led to freezing of the account no longer existed following the decision of the appellate court on the matter.

He had tendered two judgements of the Court of Appeal to establish his claim that the criminal charges against Dokpesi had been quashed.

He held that until the judgments were set aside the EFCC could not continue to freeze his client’s account.

However, EFCC counsel, Mr Oluwaleke Atolagbe, had opposed the application on the grounds that the anti-graft agency had already filled a notice of appeal against the appellate court’s judgment at the apex court.

Atolagbe had urged the court not to unfreeze the account yet until the final decision of the Supreme Court in the matter, adding that the N2.1billion logged in the frozen account formed the basis of the charge.

He also opposed to the request for the release of Dokpesi’s document in possession of EFCC on the grounds that no specific document was mentioned in the request.

On April 1, a three-member panel of the Appeal Court in a unanimous judgment freed Dokpesi from the charges after it held that the prosecution failed to establish the ingredients of the charge.

The EFCC had in 2015 dragged Dokpesi to court, accusing him and his company of illegally receiving funds considered as proceeds of crimes from a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd).

He pleaded not guilty to the charges and went further to file a no-case submission after the prosecution closed its case in November, 2018, after calling 14 witnesses.

However, the trial judge, Justice Tsoho, rejected the no-case submission, and ordered Dokpesi and his firm to enter their defence.

Not satisfied, the defendants then approached the Court of Appeal, with a request to nullify the decision and free him from the charges on the grounds that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

In the unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Elfreda Williams-Dawodu, the appellate court agreed with the appellants that the case of the respondents lacked merit having “failed woefully to establish a prima facie case against the appellant”.

According to the judgment, for any case to be established against the defendants, it is necessary to first prove the ingredients of offence in the predicate offences in counts 1 to 4 of the seven-count charge which bordered on criminal breach of trust, division of funds, money laundering and corruption.

The court further held that EFCC failed to prove that the N2.1billion allegedly received by the appellant was proceed of breach of trust, and accordingly set aside the decision of the lower court which held that the appellants had a case to answer.

“No case was made against the appellant in counts 1, 2, 3 and 4 to warrant his being called upon to open his defence.

“There is no possibility that the appellant can be convicted because the evidence are manifestly unreliable.

“I am of the view that irrespective of the ingredients stated earlier, and those by the appellant and first respondent respectively, prior proof or establishment of the predicate offences in count 1,2,3 and 4 of the amended charge is sine qua non to the proof of the offences of money laundering specified in the said counts”, the court said.

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Enugu Assembly Approves N200m Virement For Auditor-General Offices

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The Enugu State House of Assembly has approved the virement of N200 million for the offices of the State Auditor-General and Auditor-General for Local Government.
The Tide source reports that the house also passed the 2021 State Audit Amendment Bill at an emergency plenary session.
The Leader of the House, Mr Ikechukwu Ezeugwu, said the approval of the virement became necessary to provide funding for the two newly created offices, which were not envisaged during the 2021 appropriation bill.
Ezeugwu said the funding would include capital and recurrent expenditures, adding that the N200 million would be provided by the office of the governor.
According to him, the virement would give the offices the needed independence to effectively discharge their statutory responsibilities.
Also contributing, the member representing Awgu South Constituency, Mr Johnson Chukwuobasi, said the new offices would be redundant without funding.
The Speaker, Chief Edward Ubosi, said the fund was meant to perfect the Audit Amendment Bill passed by the Assembly.
Ubosi said it would be an irony to create the offices without approving funds that would make them functional.
He said such a development would amount to building something on nothing.
In another development, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has forwarded a list of nominees for the State Civil Service Commission (SCSC) and Local Government Service Commission (LGSC) to the House for confirmation.
The nominees for the SCSC included Mrs Eucharia Offiah (Chairman), Mr Nathaniel Anike, Mrs Chinenye Odike and Mrs Stella Ekweremadu (members).
Also nominated for the LGSC were Prof. Ossy Okanya (Chairman), Mr Frederick Ugwu, Mrs Florence Igboji, Mr Peter Nnaji and Mr Eugene Odoh (members).
The Speaker directed the nominees to submit 25 copies of their Curriculum Vitae on or before Monday, August 2 to the House.

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