Rt. Hon. (Barr) Aniefiok Dennis; Complementing Lawmaking with Legal Prowess.
By: Ekwere Paul
…..The media has been recently flooded with a viral video of an inhuman treatment meted on one Godwin Abraham Effiong by Uduak Aniekan Sam-Ekpo in Abak Local Government council premises linking his actions to his principal the Council Chairman. This incident received widespread condemnation from the civil society, international community and general public.
The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly during its plenary on Thursday July 25, 2019, coming under a Matter of Urgent Public Importance raised by Rt. Hon. Uduak Odudoh (Member, Ikot Abasi/Eastern Obolo) deliberated and ruled on this matter mandating its committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to look into the matter and report back within one month. The house further ruled by majority vote that the council chairman Hon. (Barr) Imoh Williams stands down during the period while the council’s Vice Chairman should act as Chairman pending the outcome of the investigation.
Rt. Hon. (Barr) Aniefiok Dennis (the mouthpiece of the 7th assembly) sealed the overwhelming position of the house by citing relevant sections of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to back up the house ruling on the matter.
He started by pointing out that since the mover of the motion has quoted various Bible portions, he is going to be “overly legalistic and less theological”.
Hear him: “Does the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has the legislative competence to look into this matter? The answer is Yes.”
He pointed out that section 128 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) provides the house such powers as quoted;
“(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a House of Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the Office Gazette of the Government of the State to direct or cause to be directed an inquiry or investigation into –
(a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws; and
(b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for –
(i) executing or administering laws enacted by that House of Assembly, and
(ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by such House.”
The Etinan Lawmaker further pointed out that the law guiding and having to do with the administration or otherwise of the Local Government i.e Akwa Ibom Local Government Administration Law 2017 (as amended) was enacted by Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. This inherently gives the assembly the legislative competence to the aforementioned matter.
He also cited Order 9 Rule 20 (1) (2) & (3) of the Standing Orders of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly (Sixth Edition) which gives the House of Assembly powers through its Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to oversee the activities of Local Governments in the State. For purposes of clarity and avoidance of doubt, Order 9 Rule 20 states as quoted:
“(1) There shall be a committee to be known as the committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
(2) The functions of the committee shall include:
(a) Overseeing the activities of local governments in the state.”
Section 3 of this rule further gives the committee jurisdiction over local government matters which clearly shows the nexus between the Local Government Councils and the State House of Assembly.
He thereafter said that the position of the state assembly is to give a fair-hearing in the matter. Hear him;
“Justice is not a one-way traffic but a three-way traffic which is justice for the accused (Hon. Imoh Williams), justice for the victim (Godwin Abraham) and justice for all (the society).
“It is interesting to note that Section 44 of the Akwa Ibom Local Government Administration Law 2017 (as amended) clearly stipulates the role of the legislative council in (subsection 1 – 4) and the House of Assembly in (subsections 5 – 14) in the removal of Chairman or Vice-Chairman but we are talking about investigating of misconduct here and not removal. It therefore goes without saying that the House of Assembly has unfettered legislative competence to assume jurisdiction over this matter.”
Briefing assembly correspondences immediately after plenary, the spokesperson of the 7th assembly threw more light to the public that the action of the assembly is not to remove the council chairman but to rather give him a fair hearing and by doing this, the Chairman has to step aside during the course the committee findings.