By Asuquo Edem
Though events marking the Silver Jubilee celebration of the Akwa ibom State House of Assembly may have come and gone, the echoes are still reverberating and won’t fade in just a while. The Assembly, which was code named ‘The Peoples Assembly’ is the Sixth in the series, after the first Assembly was inaugurated in January 1992 with Mr. Jimmy Ntuen emerging as the pioneer Speaker.
Going down the lane, the assembly has had eleven Speakers with Barr Onofiok Luke holding sway the helm of affairs as the eleventh Speaker.
The celebration which spanned for one week closed curtains
with an interdenominational service at the Full Life Christian Centre. Other activities that coloured the week long event included a day which was set aside to celebrate Staff of the Assembly, Public lecture, football match, visit to orphanage, gala/award night, and a joint sitting with the Cross River State House of Assembly.
The events which was set rolling with a joint sitting saw the lawmakers from both House brainstorming on a crucial matter of urgent public importance though a resolution brought to the floor by the member representing Odukpani State Constituency, Mr. Bassey Akiba urging the Houses of Assemblies to set up a legislative committee comprising of members from both Houses to look into the boundary issue between Cross River and Akwa Ibom which he said has led to the loss of lives and properties.
He averred that the "desire for State creation was to give rise to development. Now we have war, hate speeches and this gives to underdevelopment. Our responsibility is to protect lives as stated in our oath of office. It is our primary responsibility and we were elected to provide good leadership"
Other members who spoke in favour of the resolution including the Chief Whip of Cross River State House of Assembly, Mr. Okon Ephraim, Barr Ime Okon representing Ibiono Ibom State Constituency, Elder Mark Esset representing Nsit Atai noted that the lingering issue should no longer be treated with kid gloves but a holistic approach should be deployed to nip the issue in the bud.
Concluding on the issue, a legislative committee with Bassey Akiba, Barr Ime Okon, Mr. Okon Ephraim and Prince Idongesit Ituen as members was set up by both Speakers.
The Speaker of Akwa Ibom, Barr Onofiok Luke while making remarks described the joint sitting as historic and commended its sister House of Assembly for its effort at promotion development.
He emphasized that the Sixth Assembly was resolute in supporting Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel in his efforts on consolidating the excellent strides of his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio."
On his part, the Speaker of Cross River House of Assembly, Mr. John Lebo noted that they were happy and proud to celebrate with Akwa Ibom Assembly as it marks twenty five while attesting to the significant role the legislature has played since 1960. He noted that Cross River routes through legislative direction to identify that the future is determined by leadership. "Our responsibility is to make laws and we believe that the solution to challenges is through legislation.
Legislature is always sidelined which is why we need autonomy. Our people should realise the role of the legislature".
Lebo assured his counterparts from Akwa Ibom Assembly that the partnership will continue adding that the next joint session will be held at Cross River State.
The joint sitting also witnessed the motion on the need to entrench true federalism in Nigeria sponsored by Sir Udo Kierian and Barr. Ogana Lukpata
While celebrating staff of the assembly during the staff celebration day, speaker Onofiok Luke who was represented by his Deputy, Princess Felicia Bassey, appreciated the seeds of hard work which they have sown noting that the State legislature stands tall out of their sweats and the undying faithfulness to its ethos.
“There is no denying the fact that the growth of this arm of government has been so because of your sacrifices. You have been recognised as the institutional memory of this arm of government. This is why when I came in as speaker, I made specific deliberate efforts to blur the line between parliamentarians and parliamentary staff. And to make you reach your full potentials in service delivery, my administration has placed emphasis on your welfare and on the building of your capacity. This will continue on a larger scale as we progress in our institutional building efforts”.
The Silver Jubilee celebrations which featured a Public Lecture saw the inauguration of the first legislative internship programme, Akwa Ibom legislative internship programme (AKILIP) which as stated by the Speaker, is a capacity and career development initiative of this house that offer opportunities to Akwa Ibom graduates of higher institutions to supplement their academic trainings by learning and gaining practical legislative experiences at a close range. “This exposure to public policy-making and legislative processes will sharpen Interns to acquire skills and knowledge they can apply in their chosen careers and future life experiences. As a House, we found the need to establish AKILIP, because we found the dire need to raise a class of young nation builders and coach them through the values of volunteerism, community development, entrepreneurship and development of leadership skills. We will also present our midterm report chronicling our activities in the last 2 years”.
Barr Luke noted that getting the people to feel that their government is responsive is the foremost responsibility of the legislature stressed that the 6th Assembly has endeavoured to build on the formidable foundation of the past 23 years of legislative engagements where they have mandated themselves to do much better and improve on legislative functions especially as it concerns the agenda of participatory governance.
He described the Legislature as an arm of government which represents the people, presents the problems, difficulties and demands of people before the government, tries to ventilate their grievances while acting as a link between people and government.
“In order to build trust, governments need to have an efficient and effective parliament that is able to legislate and communicate in an open and transparent way about the past and future decisions of the government” he said.
He noted that the Assembly over the past years, has left a milestone of excellence through delivering on its core mandates which has led to many academic and healthcare institutions in the state being established, funded and stabilized, brought about agricultural reforms; infrastructural renaissance; and a boost in commerce and industry.
“Year to year, we have ensured the reflection of the choices and priorities of our people in the state budget through effective legislative participation in the appropriation process. Our outputs in all these years have been inspired by a combination of our commitments to service, our desire to do better, our deeply held political and policy beliefs and our intensely felt connections to our communities. These have been the deep currency driving the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly for the past 25 years”.
The Public lecture which had the theme ‘the role of the Legislature in the development of Akwa Ibom State in the past 25 years” was delivered by Senator Effiong Bob, had the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio and other stakeholders in attendance
To also spice up the celebration, the Lawmakers in a novelty football match, locked horns with the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria saw the lawmakers thrashing the Chairmen of Local governments to a 4 – 2 win.
Member representing Nsit Atai State Constituency, Mr. Mark Esset who emerged man of the match with Excellent ball control and dribbling skills, scored two goals for the lawmakers , while the Chairman, Conference of former Legislators, Mr. Saturday Akpan, who played number 5 wing, and Oron/Udunguko Lawmaker, Mr. Effiong Bassey, scored one goal each.
Other players who were a delight to behold during the encounter include, the member representing Onna, Otuekong Nse Essien, former House of Assembly member for Uruan, Barr Usenobong Akpabio, the Chief Whip, and member for Ini, Mr. Emmanuel Ekpenyong, who manned the defence.
The valuable contributions of Mr. Isong Isang, Idongesit Ntekpere, Usoro Akpanusoh, among others, through quality passes, fine shots and dribbling skills, earned the assembly team victory over the ALGON team.
Transition Committee Chairman for Oruk-Anam, Prince Ikim, manned the goal post for the ALGON team.
The week long event was brought to a close yesterday, Sunday with a thanksgiving service at the Full Life Christian Centre.