June 15, 2024

Mixed reactions trail Abia Assembly’s passage of only five bills in one year

Abia Assembly

. They ‘ve performed abysmally – Ex-Speaker Kanu, APGA, COSEYL

. No, they tried, legislation not easy – Ex-Deputy Speaker, Archbishop Opoko

. Don’t hide under Otti’s cloak, give an account of yourselves – Abia monarch

. Quality not number of bills matters – Varsity don

By Steve Oko

UMUAHIA – Mixed reactions have trailed the passage of only five bills in one year by the eight Abia State House of Assembly.

Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Emmanuel Emeruwa, had during a press conference in Umuahia, said that the House passed five bills into law out of a total of 15 bills it received for consideration in the period under review.

He enumerated the bills passed into law as the 2023 Appropriation Bill, the Greater Aba Development Authority (GADA) bill, 2024 Appropriation Bill, the Governor and Deputy Governor Pension Review bill, and the Medicine and Health Commodities Bill.

The Speaker, however, said that the outstanding bills had passed either first or second reading, and would be passed in due course, adding that the House has within the period under review treated 46 petitions, raised 55 motions and passed 50 resolutions.

An analysis of the bills passed into law showed that four of them including the two annual Appropriation bills were executive bills while only one is a fresh bill.

Speaking with Vanguard on the scorecard of the eight Assembly, former Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Chikwendu Kanu, said the performance of the current Assembly was below expectations.

The former Speaker and chieftain of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, scored the eight Assembly 10%, and challenged the members to wake up.

” In terms of the bills that they have passed, I don’t think that much has been done. For only five bills to be passed in a legislative year leaves much to be desired. It’s most unsatisfactory for a House. I will rate them 10%. “

The former Speaker also carpeted the House for the inability of the Speaker to swear in the member representing Aba North state constituency, Hon. Aaron Uzodike (PDP), many months after he was declared winner by the Court of Appeal.

” The inability of the House to swear in Hon. Uzodike after getting Appeal Court judgment is another big minus for the House”, the former Speaker fumed, challenging the legislators to stand on their feet.

However, another PDP chieftain and former Deputy Speaker of the House, Rt3. Hon. Emeka Stanley, gave the eight Assembly a pass mark, arguing that the result it posted was not a mean feat for any legislature in the first year.

The former Chairman of Abia State Oil Producing Area Development Commission, ASOPADEC, further argued that most of the members were first time legislators and needed some time to learn the art of legislation.

He said:” For a House that just started its first tenure you couldn’t expect more because most of the members are first timers. They are not used to the act of lawmaking. There is a learning process.

” So, if they could make up to five laws and pass up to 30 motions and other resolutions, they have tried.”

The former Deputy Speaker, however, added that a proper assessment of any legislature could only be done after its second legislative year.

According to him, legislators are also involved in oversight functions, interactions with their constituents, among other things they give attention.

” They interact with their constituents to know their problems and the knowledge from such interactions guide them in making impactful laws”.

Like Kanu, the ex-Deputy Speaker also faulted the House for its failure to swear in the PDP member- elect, Uzodike.

” Despite court judgement, the Speaker has refused to swear in his fellow lawmaker for reasons I don’t know. When INEC issues a member-elect with Certificate of Return, there is no further consultations again for the person to be sworn in. What the Speaker is doing is unconditional. That’s the only place I can fault them”.

But the Coalition of South East Youths, COSEYL, in its own reaction, passed a vote of no confidence on the House of Assembly, describing the scorecard as unimpressive.

President General of COSEYL, Comrade Goodluck Ibem, expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the eight Assembly, and challenged the lawmakers to sit up.

The COSEYL helmsman demanded an overhaul of the leadership of the House to give room for more proactive legislators to steer the affairs of the House.

He said:”If the House can only pass five bills in one year, it means they are unproductive. We are passing a vote of no confidence on the House. The House leadership should be overhauled so that more proactive legislators will take over the leadership of the House”.

In the same vein, the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, said that the passage of only five bills in one year was not a commendable feat by the eight Assembly.

The State Publicity Secretary of APGA, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwokoro, in an exclusive interview with Vanguard, scored the lawmakers 30% for under performance.

He said:” Five bills in one whole year is not a good result by the legislative arm of Government. It’s not encouraging. They should go and have a rethink. They didn’t do much. They should do more. Passing five bills in one year means 20 bills in four years at average.

” In my own assessment and assessment by APGA as a political party, I cannot score them more than 30% because they have not really done much. Five bills in one year is not enough.

” They should do better in subsequent years by passing many bills that impact positively on the lives of Abians. I don’t know the impacts of the ones they passed on the general well being of Abians”.

However, the Methodist Bishop of Umuahia Ecclesiastical Diocese, Archbishop Raphael Opoko, gave the lawmakers a pass mark, saying that most of them were new and needed some time to learn the ropes.

The cleric also commended them for working in harmony with the Executive arm which translated into the prevailing peace and visible developments across the state.

He, however, expected them to also improve on the number of bills they would pass into law in their second legislative year.

“The cooperation of the House in supporting positive and transformative change in Abia State is a major milestone that they have achieved. There is a great understanding between the House and the Governor.

“Let me give them a pass mark because a lot of them are new. One will use one year to learn, and one year to appreciate the art of legislation.

” When they started, some of them had court cases but now they would have learnt what they came to do.

” But I expect from them more bills that will impact positively on the lives of Abia people as they go into their second legislative year.”

In his reaction, former Chairman, Council of Traditional Rulers, Umuahia North Local Government Area, HRH Eze Philp Ajomuiwe, said the number of bills passed into law by the lawmakers was too small, and urged them to wake up.

The monarch further charged them to complement the efforts of Gov. Alex Otti in changing the Abia narrative instead of hiding under the cloak of the Governor.

” Our expectation is that as our Governor is going higher, the House should draft bills to complement his efforts. Abians expect them to do more. Five bills in one year is nothing. The House should wake up.

” You see what the Governor is doing? That’s why everybody is praising him. The House should measure up as well”.

Speaking also with Vanguard, a Professor of Political Science at the Abia State University Uturu, ABSU, Professor Hatz Ofoeze, said quality and not quantity of bills matters.

” The issue is not the number. What’s important is the quality of bills. The laws so made, to what extent have they affected the interest of the people?

” Saying they have not performed because of the number of bills is a wrong assessment. People should look into the quality of bills- whether executive bills or private member bills. Usually most of the bills that come to the House are executive bills. There is nothing wrong with that, and if they have successfully passed some of the executive bills, that’s good as long as they have relevance.

” So, it’s wrong to fault them based on the number. When we look into the quality of the bills I think they have tried their best. I’m not interested in the quantity but in the quality. And if you look at the quality of the bills like the one that proscribed life pension for former Governors and their Deputies, it’s a fantastic bill.

“So, I think no person should blame them for few bills. The quality is what is important. In fact, impressed although they may have their own little faults here and there”.

Recall that the eight Assembly inaugurated by Gov. Alex Otti on June 24, 2023, amid high hopes, is controlled by the ruling Labour Party although the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, initially had a slight majority of 11 members leaving LP with 10 members, and Young Peoples Party, YPP; and the All Progressives Congress, APC, with two and one members respectively.

However, the recent defection of the two YPP members to LP, and the non inauguration of the PDP member- elect for Aba North State constituency, Hon. Aaron Uzodike, had put the ruling party in comfortable control of the House.

The Speaker had during the press conference, said that the bills passed into law were devoid of rancour as members of the House had already reached agreements before the bills were presented on the floor.

He, however, regretted that members of the House were yet to receive their official vehicles a year after inauguration, blaming the delay on the supplier, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing(IVM) Company.

He said the House had decided to patronise IVM following Governor Otti’s policy of encouraging indigenous companies, adding that the company “has received all the money for the vehicles (but) has not been able to supply the vehicles after one year”.

The Speaker, therefore, issued a two week ultimatum to Innoson motors to deliver the vehicles as agreed warning that “this House has been patient enough.”

“He has to produce the vehicles within the month or give us our money back”.

He also acknowledged that the House of Assembly had maintained a good working relationship with the executive arm in the overall interest of the state.

The Speaker commended Governor Otti for being supportive to the House

On the lingering inauguration of the member- elect for Aba North State Constituency, Hon. Uzodike (PDP), the Speaker hinted that a political solution would soon be used to resolve the issues delaying his swearing in.