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Unpaid emoluments: Commissioners’ list hangs as Akwa Ibom lawmakers boycott plenary again

Unpaid emoluments: Commissioners’ list hangs as Akwa Ibom lawmakers boycott plenary again

Members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly again boycotted sitting over accumulated emoluments which have not been released to them by the governor.

Thursday’s boycott by the lawmakers makes it 3 weeks without plenary sessions where a total of 6 sittings have been missed.

This has left the list of commissioner-nominees sent by Governor Udom Emmanuel hanging and unattended to by the lawmakers.

Several competent sources in the Assembly who confided in our reporter said the list had been sent in by the governor since last week and would most likely not be treated if the governor does not meet the demands of the legislators.

“The lawmakers are not happy. The governor is not treating them well. They have been surviving on salary and imprest for the past one year. Their salary is less than N500,000 (five hundred thousand Naira) and they are facing so much pressure from their constituents amidst other responsibilities”, said an inside source in the Assembly.

“Some of them may leave the House of Assembly in 2023 poorer than when they actually got in to office. Some still haven’t cleared the debt the incurred during the rigorous tribunal and appeal cases which drained them financially. Some of them had to borrow money for legal services during their court cases which ran in to several tens of millions and they are yet to pay back.

“Legislative aides, particularly those working with the first-term members have not been paid their salaries since June 2019 which they came into office. The members have severally complained to the Assembly Service Commission, SSG, and even the governor and other relevant government officials but no action has been taken till date. These aides are to be paid directly from government purse but the situation has left the MPs taking care of them within their capacities for the past one year.

“Now, due to the effects of Covid-19, the state government wants to implement the 20% deduction policy on the salaries of the lawmakers. This is one of the reasons they are protesting and boycotting sitting. They are saying that the governor should not touch their salaries as they are an independent arm of government and elected government officials not the governor’s appointees.

“One year is gone and the constituents are waiting for briefing and empowerment from the legislators. The governor has equally not released money for them to execute this. These are just few of the grouses the lawmakers have”, said our source who pleaded anonymity.

TheMail learnt on good authority that the lawmakers met with the governor recently where they expressed their grievances and demands.

A member of the state legislature who spoke with our reporter on condition of anonymity said none of the governor’s request would be treated until he implements the agreements reached during their meeting with him.

We learnt on good authority that the lawmakers had an executive session on Tuesday ahead of the plenary of the day, but the latter was postponed abruptly because of the several unresolved grouses the members have against the governor, especially over poor funding of the house.

“We won’t treat any of the governor’s requests till our demands are met. We met with the governor and agreements have been reached. He promised that payment of the legislative aides of the each of the members which is always handled directly from the state government coffers would be taken care of.

“He also promised to look into some of the other demands we presented before him. He has promised to award contracts for renovation of primary and secondary schools as our constituency projects. But the constituency projects should not be uniform. Some of us are more interested in doing other projects other than renovation of schools. Projects like rural electrification, provision of water, etc are the peculiar needs of some of our constituencies not school renovation. The governor has asked us to compile the proposed constituency projects and send to him for consideration and funding. We are at that level now. We should be proceeding for our annual recess soon but we can’t embark on that without money. For now, we may not have sitting if the salaries of our aides are not paid”, said the lawmaker.

If the governor and the lawmakers were on the same page, names of the commissioner-nominees would have been read on the floor of the house during sitting, with screening and confirmation done subsequently.

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Our reporter noted that some of the lawmakers who went to the assembly complex on Thursday dressed casually, indicating that no plenary session or any other serious activity that needed the collective attendance of the members was billed for the day. Some of the lawmakers didn’t spend up to two hours in the assembly complex as they quickly attended to the waiting guests in their offices and left thereafter.

The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey however was not among the lawmakers that showed up at their offices but TheMail can report authoritatively that notice of sitting was sent to members for this week’s supposed plenary sessions on Tuesday and Thursday which did not hold.

It could be recalled that the House last sat on June 18, 2020 with the speaker adjourning plenary to Thursday, June 25, 2020. The sitting failed to take place on the last adjourned date and plenary has not taken place since then.

Speaking with our reporter on Thursday evening, the spokesman of the lawmakers, Rt. Hon. (Barr) Aniefiok Dennis denied any boycott of sitting by the state legislature. He said the legislature under the leadership of Speaker Aniekan Bassey maintains a cordial relationship with the governor and the entire executive.

“We now have plenary sessions once a week. We had an executive session on Tuesday and we’ll definitely have a plenary session next week Tuesday”, he said.   

The Etinan-born two-term lawmaker said members of the assembly are pre-occupied with other responsibilities.

“No, there’s absolutely no boycott. We are concentrating on oversight and committee works. The Speaker directed all committees to submit their reports before recess”, he said.

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