Akwa Ibom Seventh Assembly Too Weak for Democracy, CLO Alleges

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…Assembly now like one of the MDAs of govt, member backs CLO

…We are committed to our responsibilities, Assembly spokesman insists

Okon Bassey in Uyo

The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in Akwa Ibom State has alleged that the seventh state House of Assembly ‘is too weak’ to be called an arm of a government in a democratic setting.

The state Chairman of the CLO, Mr. Franklin Isong, made the allegation yesterday while interacting with journalists in Uyo, the state capital.

Isong alleged that the Assembly lacked initiative to carry out its oversight functions, just as a member of the Assembly also anonymously side with the CLO, claiming that the state Assembly is now like one of the Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) of the state government.

According to him, the state legislature is being tied to the apron string of the executive, and merely passes motions to approve loans for the executive arm without monitoring the utilisation of such funds.

Speaking on the recent committee set up by the Assembly to probe the alleged N1.057billion constituency project as indicated in the annual report of the Accountant General of the state, Isong regretted that the state legislature could not unravel such claims before it came public.

The CLO state boss said: “From the Accountant General’s report, the state government claimed to have given the state House of Assembly the sum of N1.057billion for constituency projects.

“Now we have not seen any of these projects on ground, and the Assembly waited for this to come public before reacting.

“That means that each of the 26 state constituencies may have smiled to the bank with N40.6million. Now show us what you have been able to do with the money?

“For me, the state seventh Assembly is tied to the apron strings of the executive arm of government. You only pass motions authorising the executive arm to receive loan without monitoring how the loans were utilised.

“If you attend their sittings, you would observe that the Assembly is no longer interactive because of the quality of men there.”

The state chairman of the CLO carpeted the Assembly over non-implementations of recommendations by members of the public during public hearing on the budget.

He recalled how observations on the ongoing worship centre, which he said was not meant to be built with public funds, were ignored by the Assembly.

While affirming the CLO’s position, a serving member of the Assembly, who pleading anonymity, said the Assembly has lost its relevance as an arm of government.

He said: “The state seventh Assembly is now like one of the MDAs of government; it is no longer fit to be considered an arm of government. The people working on budget have no clear-cut understanding of what they are doing.

“They go for oversight functions but cannot ask relevant questions. Members no longer have the boldness to query the issues they are not comfortable with, just because they do not want to be starved of funds.”

However, while reacting to the report, the Chairman of the state House of Assembly Committee on Information, Aniefiok Dennis, said the seventh Assembly is alive to its responsibilities and not influenced by anyone.

“It was the responsibility of the executive to implement the budget. But, as a legislature, we have, through our various committees, remained committed in the discharge of our oversight function,” he said.

On the alleged N1.057billion constituency project fund, the lawmaker confirmed that a committee has been set up to look into the report, and promised to update members of the public as soon as report of the committee is out.