Dear distinguished colleagues, staff and supporting staff of the House, it is with a deep sense of gratitude to God that I make these end-of-session remarks today. I am thankful to our God whose compassion has seen us through a very eventful and challenging one year as a House.
You will agree with me that coming where we are today, we have had several huddles to cross together. We have had money, energy, and time-sapping court cases to handle as individual members. We had court judgements which led to unfortunate rerun elections and a brief disruption of the House leadership. But even in the face of all these, the last one year was a productive one in which we prevailed against the odds.
Dear distinguished colleagues and our guests, as we wrap up the year, I have no doubts in my mind that although we have not been able to accomplish all that we had set out to achieve in the last 12 months, we have been able to make a few notable statements in the areas of lawmaking and oversighting.
Despite the distractions owing to numerous court cases, the 6th assembly has in the last one year received 11 executive and private member bills. Two of these have been passed into law while others are at various legislative stages. In January, this House notably passed a bill for a law to amend the local government administration law 2007 and other matters connected therewith. We also gave expeditious passage to the appropriation bill 2016 to enable the state executive begin the implementation of its development programmes for 2016.
Owing to repeated trips to Abuja by some committee heads for election tribunals, some very important bills were regrettably not passed in the year under review. They are the bill for a law to protect the physically challenged persons against discriminations and provide for equal opportunities for all; the Akwa Ibom state revenue administration bill; the bill for a law for the classification, registration, and licensing of hotels and other tourism establishments in Akwa Ibom state; bill for a law to provide for control of rent for premises, recovery of possession of premises, and for other matters connected therewith.
To boost the state’s internally generated revenue, we considered during the year a bill for the law to provide for regulations of marine sector operations, fixed offshore and gas production facilities registration. Also at the committee level is the bill for a law to amend Akwa Ibom state town and community planning law and the bill for a law to make provision for the imposition of land-based charges to be called Real Property Charge for the levying and collection of the charge and for connected purposes.
We have in the last one year been responsive to the needs of the people through making resolutions arising from vital motions and matters of urgent public importance brought before the House. Several resolutions were arrived at from 14 motions. The House also ruled on a total of 18 matters of urgent public importance brought before it by members. About 23 matters are undergoing legislative processes.
Let me use this opportunity to thank members who took the initiative to bring urgent public matters to our attention. I also thank His Excellency the governor for encouraging our efforts through the speedy implementation of many of our resolutions.
The commitment of this house to the sustainable development initiative of the state government is so far evident in some of the approvals we have granted to loans request. Looking at the sincere appropriation of these loans to areas of needs, we have no regrets to have given approvals for those loans. We have set machineries in place through oversight functions to ensure the application of these loans to approved specific targets. As a house, we are aware of the issues surrounding the loan we approved for the repayment of Akwa Savings and Loans Bank. We have begun the process of looking into the issue and we are confident that this matter will be resolved.
On the representation plank of our responsibility, we must admit that we have not measured up to expectations in the last one year as a collective. As a listening assembly, we are not unaware of the palpable demands for constituency briefing by our constituents. We also do know that constituency briefings in our clime usually come with empowerment programmes. We often embark on those financial empowerment initiatives from savings made from our entitlements and emoluments as lawmakers. There is no provision made in the assembly’s budget for economic empowerment programmes such as those which come with constituency briefings. The last legislative year was one in which we had to expend so much man hour and personal resources pursuing court cases in Abuja. For this reason, some of us were unable to carry out constituency briefings in the expected manner.
It is our hope that in the next legislative year, we will be prepared enough to embark on the briefings and empowerment programmes as individual lawmakers.
As you know, the nation’s dwindling economy has affected the state and in turn the legislature as an institution. The situation is largely responsible for our inability to fulfil our promise in the area of human capacity development for lawmakers and staff. We could not take advantage of the several local and international contacts which we made towards capacity building. I must state at this point that although it would have been possible to push through with these trainings, we did not think it expedient in the face of declining revenue, and more pressing areas of public demands.
We guarantee our constituents a more robust year as we proceed to our second legislative year. We look to engaging more deeply with our partners on all fronts so as to actualise our human capacity development initiatives. As you may know, we have kick-started our engagements with the National Institute for Legislative Studies, NILS. We have also opened talks with the Denmark Embassy in Nigeria. We shall engage on all fronts with these strategic local and foreign partners like the USAID, the International Republican Institute, IRI, and the McAuthur Foundation. These efforts will be put in place towards making our legislative system work better.
Our lawmaking capacity will be more fecund. With fewer distractions, we will ensure that pending bills and motions enjoy accelerated legislative actions. We intend to embark on the enactment of newer legislations especially in four key areas. Firstly, we will channel our legislative actions towards giving robust content to our free and compulsory education programme. We plan to partner our state university, polytechnic, and the colleges in their mission to gain accreditation for more courses. Secondly, we look to initiating laws to vitalize the administration’s efforts towards strengthening our internally generated revenue. Amidst less fortune from oil, we intend to make laws to support the state executive’s exploits in the non-oil sector. Thirdly, we shall be targeting an improvement in the primary healthcare delivery initiative of government. From the basic to secondary and to tertiary healthcare delivery systems, we have identified areas which require very urgent legislation for better service to our people. We hope to meet these needs in the coming months. Lastly, we look to doing more than make resolutions on security matters in the state. With the rising menace of attacks by Fulani herdsmen and other threats to our security, the House shall consider legislations which will enhance the work of security operatives in Akwa Ibom. The aim of this is to ensure peaceful coexistence in our dear state.
I must mention at this point that one of the major achievements of the state assembly in the last one year has been the harmonious relationship between the House and the state executive. This has led to the speedy approvals which we grant to development-oriented requests by them. This gesture is in turn responsible for the fast-paced development in the land as evident in the number of commissioned projects across the state to mark the 1st year in office of His Excellency, the governor. I can say that the legislative-executive-judiciary partnership in Akwa Ibom state is in the overall interest of our people.
As a House, we believe in productive partnership. Development cannot come in an atmosphere of rancour. Development cannot come through partnership of rascality; it only come through purpose-driven cooperation. Sustainable development can only come to pass in an atmosphere of peace. This is why we have embraced our constitutional role of oversight to check the executive rather than engage in unnecessary antagonism. Through our various committee engagements, the 6th assembly has been up and doing in its oversight role. We have committed a lot of time and energy into monitoring the implementation of budgets. To further strengthen our oversight responsibility in the coming year, we have concluded plans to begin from this year, a mid-year assessment of budgetary performance of the respective ministries, departments, and agencies. This is one way through which we shall periodically hold the executive to be more fiscally accountable to the people.
Finally, I thank His Excellency the governor for his unalloyed support to the leadership and entire membership of the House. Some of our areas of strength were established through his support. I thank members of the state executive council for partnering us especially in the area of effective oversighting. The members of the state judiciary have been great partners in the progress of the last one year. I thank our various constituents for standing by us; for supporting us through thick and thin in the last one year. I am particularly grateful to the electorate of Ibesikpo/Asutan, Etinan, Ikot Ekpene Obot Akara, and Oron/Udung Uko state constituencies for rising in unison to return our colleagues to us in the rerun elections. Most especially, let me thank the first leadership of the House before my humble self. We could not have had a smooth run in the last 6 months but for their huge supports upon returning to the House. I cannot thank the current House leadership and members enough for standing by me in ensuring that we fulfil our mandate. Thank you for making me first among equals. I also thank members of staff of the House.
Your efforts are acknowledged in no small measure. Our immense thanks to our spouses through the president of LEWA and my wife for ensuring massive support to enable us succeed.
The last one year has been a wonderful experience with the press community. As a House, we have never had it so good with the media. Compared to our relationship in the 5th Assembly, we have had a pleasant relationship in this first year. I pray that we will continue on this path of constructive criticisms and assessments of our actions in the remaining three years.
As we look forward to another year of robust legislative engagement, I promise Akwa Ibom people, on behalf of honourable members of this House, that we shall put the interest of the people ahead of our personal interests as we have done in the last one year. We shall work to ensure that government meets its mandate and remains answerable only to the people.
I thank you all.
* BEING AN ADDRESS BY THE SPEAKER OF THE AKWA IBOM STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, RT. HON. ONOFIOK LUKE, TO MARK THE END OF THE FIRST LEGISLATIVE YEAR OF THE 6TH ASSEMBLY, TODAY, JUNE 8, 2016, AT THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY CHAMBERS, UYO