The Rivers State House of Assembly (RVHA) last week, held only one plenary session and public hearing, as well as an oversight function.
Last Tuesday, the House screened and confirmed nominees for Caretaker Committees (CTC) for 10 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and also okayed the re-nomination of members for 13 other LGAs.
Those confirmed were charged by the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon. Ikninyi-Owaji Ibani, to be proactive in discharging their statutory duties as soon as they were sworn in by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
Ibani reiterated the Assembly’s readinesss to monitor the activities of CTC chairmen and members of various LGAs as part of its over sight function in the state.
Also on Tuesday plenary session, the Assembly gave its nod to the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue Service.
The Board chairman confirmed was Mr. ThankGod Adoge Nortee from Gokana LGA, while Mr Echward Mark (Ahhoada West), Mr. Chibuzor Ahoorlu (Port Harcourt) and Sofiri Ezekiel-Hart (Bonny) were okayed as Board members.
The Board chairman designate, Mr. Nortee promised to create a tax friendly atmosphere where all the tax payers would be relieved of multiple taxation.
The speaker expressed happiness with the calibre of nominees for the Board, charging them to bring their wealth of experiences to bear on the revenue generation effort of the state government to engender development.
Also same Tuesday, the Assembly deliberated on a bill to repeal the Rivers State Honours Awards law 2,000 and to re-enact the Rivers State Honours Law 2017.
The bill was tendered by the majority Leader of the House, Hon Martin Amaewhule at the Assembly’s plenarys session, and it was immediately passed for first reading at the floor of the House.
The bill entitled, Rivers State Honours Law, 2017, when passed into law, would provide the awards of the State Honours by Warrant made by the Governor of the State for matters connected there to.
The bill stipulates that the Governor of the State might confer Sate Honours in the name of the government and people of the state to any indigene, body, unit, association, corporation or any person in the State.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Education headed by the lawmaker representing Degema Constituency, Hon. Farah Dagogo held public hearing to finally repeal and re-enact the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) Law Cap 133 Law of the Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Ikumyi-Owaji Ibani, represented by the majorty Leader of the House, Hon. Martin Amaewhule, declared the public hearing opened, saying the bill is an Executive Bill seeking to produce the much needed result-oriented scientific and Technical manpower for the State.
The public Hearing was attended by the both the management of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) and the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education (IAUE), representative of the State Ministry of Justice Mrs Florence Fiberesima, Students Union Government of RSUST, ASUU, NANS handing among other stakeholders and dignitaries across the state.
Same Wednesday, the Assembly Committee on Environment, led by its Chairman, Hon. Christian Ahiakwo, interacted with the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) at the corps command office in Port Harcourt.
At the session, Hon. Ahiakwo appealed to the NSCDC to employ alternative means of destroying illegal refineries and products instead of burning them as that was contributing to black soot currently being experienced in the state.
The committee Chairman also suggested, the option of handing over seized illegal petroleum products to the Nigeria National Petroelum Corporation (NNPC) to proper refining instead of destroying same.
The Rivers State commandant of NSCDC, Mohammed Lawal Haruma noted that all illegally refined products were adulterated hence it cannot in any way be re-refined to lawful consumption in the country and the global market.
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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