Put The Interest Of Abia First – Senate Minority Leader, Abaribe Tells Abia State Lawmakers

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Senate Minority Leader, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe has advised members of Abia State House of Assembly to put the state first.

Addressing members of Abia State House of Assembly when he joined them during the plenary session on Wednesday at the Abia State House of Assembly.

He said, I am very delighted after 20yrs to return to this edifice (which I can see has been superlatively modified) to address you not as a member of the executive (which I was then), but as a comrade and colleague in the legislative arm of government.

I must say that this nostalgic feeling comes with some wistfulness and some elation.

Wistful in the sense that this House of Assembly (HOA) at the inception of our Fourth Republic in 1999, recorded many negative firsts; first to impeach a speaker in Nigeria, first to start an impeachment of a sitting deputy Governor, first house of Assembly to be burnt down by thugs.

Elation in the sense that it was also the House that resisted the pressures of the executive twice and refused to impeach the sitting deputy Governor. May I use this
opportunity to salute the patriotism and courage of the HOA class of 1999-2003 who despite all odds, followed the dictates of the constitution when it mattered. Some of those patriotic members of that house accompanied me to come to this event.

I remain very grateful to them because they suffered for my sake. My God will reward you in ways you do not contemplate.

Let me thank you Mr Speaker, Honourable Members for inviting me to address this august body. By giving me this courtesy, you have given me utmost respect and I know that it is a privilege not accorded to just anyone. I therefore feel indebted and willing to assure my colleagues here that whenever this assembly calls on me that I will surely respond.

Many constitutional battles between the Executive and the Legislature and even within the Executive were fought in this house during the period when I served as Deputy Governor and the judiciary was also (in line with their mandate) called in to adjudicate on several of these matters.

The interpretation of Section 188 and Section 189 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), relating to the method of impeachment of a Governor or Deputy and the constitutional requirements for doing so were canvassed and later adjudicated by our courts.

An issue which we canvassed then relating to the propriety of the Attorney General of a State representing the Governor in his personal capacity was recently laid to rest by the Supreme Court of Nigeria which held that it was improper.

This also relates to the Attorney General as a member of the executive representing the House of Assembly in litigation, an issue I kicked against in my battle with the then HOA.

Suffice it to say the interpretation of our statutes by the various courts which culminated in the landmark judgement by the Supreme Court on Ladoja vs Oyo HOA put paid to the events which originated from this chambers and engulfed many states in Nigeria in those days.

We are all the better for it and the robustness of the constitution in dealing with these matters have been fully tested.

MANDATE Section 120 (2), (3) (4),121 (2) and especially 128 (1) and (2) of the Constitution gives the HOA the rights and privilege to act as the conscience of the people in their relationship with the executive arm of government. In this wise one could legitimately ask this Assembly the following questions ?

1. How have you been meeting your constitutional responsibilities to the people of ABIA State which you swore an oath to uphold?
2. What is it that makes it look as if there is no oversight by you in the activities of the executive in Abia?
3. If environmental sanitation seems to be failing, why have we not heard of setting up of a public enquiry into the workings of the Agency?
4. If roads fail after a few months of being constructed why have we not heard of an interaction between the relevant committees of the HOA and the Commissioner for Works and heads of relevant agencies?

Such engagements could have been taking place but may not have been put in the the public purview. Public engagements have a reason to be. It makes the citizenry to be involved in governance by such interactions.

The citizenry thus have a buy-in on the activities of their representatives in the state as they also do for us in the National Assembly. Such engagements serves as feedback mechanism for the executive to know which areas of their “contract with the people” are failing and the officials responsible for such failures. Section 128 (2) (b) states succinctly that you (HOA) have an obligation to “ expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it”.

Whilst my constituents will expect me to protest any untoward acts by the Federal Government, I believe that they do not expect me to come back to query the actions of the Executive in the State.

That would mean that the principle of separation of powers between the HOA and Federal Legislature would have been breached. The constitution clearly states when we at the Federal Legislature could take over the functions of the States Legislature in Section 11 (4). This surely is not the case as you are already performing your functions.

Members of the National Assembly are usually accosted by well meaning members of the public about developments in their states and questions are all about the state of infrastructure and quality of life in the states.

The reason being that as Tip O’Neal (Speaker, US Congress 1977-1987) says……”All politics is local”. They reason that we cannot be seen to trenchantly criticize the Federal Govt while turning a blind eye to happenings in our home states. Nothing can be further from the truth. We do engage.

We are also concerned about happenings at home but since we do not have the constitutional mandate to query the state executive as you are mandated to do via a diligent pursuit of your oversight functions, we try to persuade behind the scenes and make our interventions private.

Maybe this may not go down well with those members of the public who expect us to openly engage the executive arm of the state as we do with the federal govt.

We can only entreat you as our representatives at the State level to be alive to your constitutional responsibility. Your mandate has been clearly spelt out as I earlier pointed out in 128 and 129 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

Our responsibility is to our citizens who have voted us into office. As it is said, the primary reason for government is the welfare of our people. Where a government fails to do so, you as a Legislature have been given the statutory powers to call them to order as we have also been doing at the Federal level in the interest of our people.

You only need to be courageous and fair in your oversight engagements with other arms of government.

Thomas P. O’Neal (Speaker of the United States Congress 1977-1987 has advised us thus…”Let us forget the frustrations of the past and think of our unfulfilled potential” I took this advice, and today I am the Minority Leader of the Senate.

As you discharge your constitutional mandate to the people of ABIA State may you with wisdom put interests of neither party nor person but interest of the people of Abia first.

I commend our prayer in the National Assembly to you. It says;

“Almighty God, Ruler of Heaven and Earth
We beseech, Thee to inspire and guide
All our Counsels and Action, So that we may always walk in the path Of Justice, Love and Charity to one another
Help us with thy grace to do

That will promote the Unity, Happiness and Prosperity Of Nigeria (in this case ABIA State)” Amen
I thank you for listening.

H Enyi
Senate Minority Leader

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