Kwara Assembly raising bar of good governance in the State
When the 8th legislature of the Kwara state House of Assembly was inaugurated on Monday 8th June, 2015, following the proclamation by the state Governor Alhaji Abdul Fatah Ahmed, the current Speaker was unanimously elected to lead the 8th legislature.
Dr Ahmad, a former Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Justice and former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, said the task ahead was daunting in view of the prevailing economic recession, unprecedented increase in youth unemployment, and security challenges bedevilling the nation.
The Associate Professor of Law said the first arm of government in the state under his watch had no option than to set agenda to be accomplished within the stipulated period to justify the confidence reposed in the All Progressives Congress populated House of Assembly.
Dr Ahmad said as true representatives of the people who share the yearnings and aspirations of their various constituencies, the lawmakers must be creative in proffering short term solutions and enduring panacea to address their problems.
He promised to ensure that the Eighth Assembly under his watch, would not relent in providing platform for good governance and collaborate with the executive arm of government in ensuring protection of lives and property, ensure advancement of the people's welfare and accelerate economic growth of the state.
The Speaker noted that the Eighth Legislature in the state, was unique as it a state House of Assembly without a single opposition. This, according to him, presents its own challenges of complacency, apathetic toleration and laid back attitude. He ,therefore ,stressed the need for the house to eschew drawback of consensus, saying that the consensus should be that the House was unified in ensuring transparency, as he said there should be no dissent in achieving the goal of accountability and good governance.
The legislature under the leadership of the Speaker assured that the House would be made to be a true House of people of all shades and orientation.
The head of the legislative arm of government in the state further promised to ensure that legislative intervention stimulate accelerated economic growth and development, pointing out that they would carry legislative assignments with thoroughness and dedication, fast track robust public hearing on all issues where stakeholders will have meaningful impact on how government function and collaborate with the state governor to quickly enact laws that would further rid the state of miscreants, drug addicts and cultists.
This write up therefore intends to examine the extent to which the 8th Legislature under the watch of an Associate Professor of Law and Lawmaker per excellence has been people oriented; to what extent has it been able to perform its constitutional responsibility of serving as the conscience of the people; check the executive arm of government and provide platform for good governance in the state or better put, examine the extent to which the current legislature which is now mid way in its tenure attains it's set goals and what legislative interventions have been provided by the current legislature to consolidate on what has been achieved; what has been the feedback from the people they are representing, especially the opposition? Also, a cursory look at the relationship of the House with the other arms of government, especially the executive, in the task of raising the bar of good governances in the State is explored.
The House which commenced full legislature session immediately after its inauguration, proved that it means business, by recording an unprecedented feat of sponsoring the first private bills since the inception of the House of Assembly in 1979. It is a bill for a Law on Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill 2015 sponsored by a member representing Gweria, Bani, Adena Constituency, Hon. Baziki Suleiman.
The 8th Legislature however made history on 16th march 2017 when it finally passed the first Private Bill, a Bill for a Law to Establish Kwara State Health Insurance Agency and Kwara State Health Insurance Scheme, sponsored by a member representing Kaiama/Kemanji/ Wajibe Constituency, Hoan. Ahmed Ibn Mohammed.
Other Private Bills sponsored by members of the current Legislature are People With Disabilities Bill 2016 by Hon. Aisat Boduarin Ibrahim representing Ilorin East Constituency, which has also been passed into law, while Prohibition Against Manufacture Sales and Consumption of Liquor in certain Areas of Ilorin Metropolis) Bill 2017 sponsored by a member representing Ilorin North West Constituency Hon Abdul Rafiu Abdul Rahman is still undergoing legislative process.
The State Health Insurance Scheme Bill which has been assented to by Governor AbdulFatah Ahmed seeks to make all segments of the state have access to affordable quality health care delivery with payment of just N500 premium in five years, while Persons with Disabilities Bill intends to outlaw any form of discrimination against People with Disabilities, especially in terms of gainful employment opportunities, having access to government basic infrastructural facilities and cheçk stigmatization against them .
Equally, the pro active nature of the Legislature manifested in giving legal backing to the establishment of the State Internal Reverence Service to enable the state government to be less dependent on the Federation Account for survival. This feat on 26th April, 2016 empowered the state government to successfully carry on with the business of governance during the economic recession which rendered most states of the federation incapacitated of paying workers' salaries and pensions and gratuities, talk less of executing projects for the wellbeing of the people who voted them into power.
Apart from passing 14 Bills into law within the last 24 calendar months, 4 other Bills are currently at the final stage of passage into law, while 7 other Bills have passed through the First Reading stage.
The 8th Legislature under the leadership of the Speaker in the bid to ensure that laws enacted by the House were practicable and stand the test of time increased stakeholders' participation in Public Hearings and inputs emanating from such public hearings were mostly reflected in the final passage of such Bills.Some of the Bills that had scaled through Legislative hurdle and had been assented to by the State Chief Executive have started having meaningful impacts on the people of the state.
Such Bills include Kwara State Revenue Administration (Amendment) Bill 2016, Kwara State Revenue Court (Amendment) Bill 2016, Secret Cult and Secret Societies (Prohibition) Bill 2016, Kwara State Health Insurance Scheme 2016, Kwara State Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education ( Amendment) Bill 2016, Kwara State Land Charge Court (Amendment)Bill 2016 and Local Government (Miscellaneous Provision)(Amendment) Bill 2016.
The Legislature is also at the verge of passing 11 bills into law as the House had conducted all inclusive Public Hearings on each of the affected bills. The bills include Public Procurement Bill which seeks ,among other things, to increase mobilization fee to between 30% and 50%, a bill giving legal backing to the State Internal Revenue Service under the Revenue Court Amendment Bill,ex perte against defaulters, to enable the IRS maximize its revenue collection ability, since the house has vowed not to allow increase in tax rate for the time being.
The Urban and Regional Planning and Development Bill before the House is a fallout of the experience of the Assembly with strong cabals in the planning and development industry, as the house had tried to control illegal petrol stations and other illegal changes to land uses.
The bill is geared towards correcting the weak laws in the sector and complement the People With Disabilities Bill just passed by the House to enrich the lives of the vulnerable people.
Equally, the signature and most revolutionary law in the history of criminal Justice administration in Nigeria is the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which our darling Speaker single handedly sponsored to apply across Federal Courts in Nigeria during his days at the National Assembly. Kwara State is now ready to enact the law in its newest and most progressive version.
Abubakar Sola Saraki University Bill which seeks to include Attorney General in its Governing Council, while other bills concerning hoteliers, hospitality and tourism industry, licensing for quarry and industrial goods and levy for manufacturing processing are also in the works.
The 8th Assembly has equally through its ---Motions and over 200 Resolutions arising from Public Petitions, Matters of Urgent Public Importance and Matters of General Public Importance significantly assisted in ensuring that relevant government agencies, governments at all levels, corporate organizations and individuals live up to people's expectations of addressing the yearnings of the people of the state.
These include Extortion of Pilgrims for Free Saudi Arabia Visas, Proliferation of Petrol Stations in Residential Areas in Ilorin Metropolis in which 6 Filling Stations were unanimously resolved by the House through its resolutions, that they should be demolished to the forestall loss of lives and valuable property of the helpless downtrodden of Ilorin, the speaker state capital.
The House equally succeeded in drawing the attention of the Federal Government to the deplorable Ilorin-Jebba Highway by
collaborating with the Niger State House Of Assembly in moving the sessions of the two Legislative arm of government to the highway.
This, no doubt prompted the immediate response of the Federal Government in rehabilitating the highway which links southern and northern part of the country as well as the nation's capital city.
It also resolved the contradiction arising from Issuance of Certificates of Local Government Origin, resolved motion in respect of Promoting the Welfare of Widows in the State; Appraisal of Corporate Social Responsibility of Companies and Industries in the state; Need for Awareness on Fire Prevention and Control; Need For Full Autonomy for the Judiciary of Kwara State; Putting Oke-Oyi Silos into use to ensure food Security; Extending the services of the Kwara State Road Traffic Management Agency(KWARTMA) to other cities in the State; Utilizing the Multi Million naira state of the art Vocational Centre in Ajase-Ipo; Urgent attention on Kaiama--Kishi road; Need for the Construction of Second River Niger Bridge in Edu Local Government Area of the state and Need to check Indiscriminate Parking of Trailers in Oko--Olowo Area of Ilorin.
PASSAGE OF APPROPRIATION BILLS:
Equally the House has not been found wanting in the performance of its cardinal function of passing Appropriation Bills into law to enable the executive arm of government embark on both Capital Projects and Recurrent Expenditure which would, among other things, improve the quality of lives of the electorate, as members had always handled the passage of budget vigorously and with tenacity of purpose to make its implementation by the executive easier, hence the Speaker personally supervises budget defence by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in 2016, to ensure that the 2016 budget model serves as template for the subsequent years.
The Speaker had in his opening remark at the 2016 budget defense, insisted vehemently that budget should be reality based by not unnecessarily bogus, adding that passing practicable budget determines the success or otherwise of any legislative arm of government.
Members equally during 2017 budget defense by MDAs raised critical questions inspite of the fact that all the 24 members belong to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)and sought for verifiable explanations, new proposals to reflect the aspirations of the State Governor of using agriculture to stimulate sustainable economic development, job and wealth creation and food security for the people and address the yearnings of the people of the State.
The Legislators were particularly dissatisfied with allocation of N133m to the agricultural sector, non inclusion of Owu f Fall road project, low allocation for payment of Bursary/Scholarship to indigent students of Kwara state in tertiary institutions across the country, Light Up Kwara project and unanimously resolved that allocation to agriculture sector be increased to N6.76m to enable peasant farmers have access to agric loan, tractor hiring scheme, fadama III project and other services that would boost food production in the State.
Apart from ensuring that for the first time communities initiated projects to be executed in their localities, the House ensured that Capital Expenditure takes the larger part of 2017 budget and resolved to be conducting oversight function quarterly for better appraisal and transform, the budget of hope into reality to enhance the wellbeing of the people of the state.
The current legislature had on several occasions intervaned in resolving industrial disputes between the state government and labour unions to restore industrial harmony in the State. Examples of such interventions are the industrial crisis between the state government and staffers of the state owned tertiary institutions, industrial disputes between government and the state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE).
The Speaker equally demonstrated that he felt the pains of Basic Education Teachers and Local Government Employees not receiving salaries for months when he personally donated hundreds of bags of food items to cushion the effects of the harsh economic reality. To show that, security of lives and property were paramount to the legislative arm of government, the speaker recently personally donated mobility to the Ilorin East and Ilorin South chapters of the Vigilante Groups of Nigeria to enhance their surveillance.
The former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the State, showed his passion for teeming youths of the state to be gainfully employed when he established Free Computer Literacy and Free Internet Browsing Programme for youths in his constituency. He also successfully hosted Kwara State indigenes who bagged first class degree award in Universities across the Country, to inspire others and encourage more academic excellence in various disciplines of educational pursuit.
HOSTING OF CONFERENCE OF SPEAKERS OF STATE HOUSES OF ASSEMBLY:
The Legislature also within the period under review successfully hosted Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly and Workshop on adoption of Dr. Ali Ahmad sponsored Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) by State Governments.
The World Vice Chairman of Global Industrial Union (IGU) Comrade Issa Aremu in his assessment of the current Legislature in the state said the Speaker had put his wealth of experience into bar in making the legislature in the state the conscience of the people and succeeded in making democracy more meaningful to average Nigerian.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the State, through their Chairmen Comrades Yekini Agunbiade and Kola Olumoh noted that the 8th Legislature under the watch of the speaker had demonstrated that it is a true Peoples' Assembly and urged it to sustain the tempo to further reinforce the peoples' confidence in it.
The State Chairmen of the Nigerian Union Teachers and National Union of Local Government Employees described the current Legislature as responsible and responsive to the yearnings of the People of the State.
The opposition members, especially the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in its weekly Radio Programme " PDP Gbode", on several occasions noted with delight that the legislature had served as effective check on the executive arm of government, as the lawmakers, they noted, had been critical of the executive arm of government, where necessary.
The state Governor, Alhaji AbdulFatah Ahmed, during his signing of 2017 budget into law, described the current legislature as one of the most vibrant Houses of Assembly in Nigeria, noting that the legislative arm of government had been a source of inspiration for raising the bar of good governance in the State.
As the 8th legislature begins the second lap of its 4years mandate, it is reassuring to echo the position and assurance of the leadership and members that in a every circumstance the House will remain the Assembly of the people of Kwara State.