By Benjamin Jimmy
The member representing Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency, Hon. Aniekan Umana has lambasted his constituents and the people of the South-South, saying they are suffering from poverty of knowledge.
Umana was responding to questions on the functions of the legislators during a live interactive programme tagged: ‘Open Square’, South-South edition, organized by Daria Media, in partnership with MacArthur Foundation, Channels and Radio now 95.3FM held on Saturday at Ibom Icon and Golf Resort, Uyo.
According to the lawmaker who spoke via zoom, it was wrong for people to think that legislators in the current 9th Assembly of the House of Representatives had not done enough in the cardinal areas of law making, oversight and representation.
Umana, who disagreed with some contributors from remote locations that the legislators have not provided effective representation to their constituents, accused them of suffering from poverty of knowledge on how the legislator carries out his functions.
“ I think my people have what I would call ‘poverty of knowledge’. From records, we have over 2,000 Bills in the current Assembly bordering on several issues and subjects affecting different areas of our livelihood in the nation.
“ The job of the legislator is to appropriate funds to the Executive and having done that in the current Assembly, it is now our duty to oversight. But the issue of release of funds and implementation rests squarely with the Executive. And that is how it works.
“ Nigerians must be educated to understand that the law maker has no budget to operate. He has no fund to release. His only job is to ensure that the budgetary provisions are made.
“So, people must situate the responsibilities of the law makers very clearly and also understand how they operate”.
Umana, while debunking an allegation from Mrs. Doris Okpefun who spoke vie zoom from Edo State, that legislators had become a conduit pipe where money passes through into their pockets, dismissed the allegation as unfounded, and therefore, urged the people to be conversant with the responsibilities of the law makers to avoid a misrepresentation.
The former Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom State wondered why people would be talking about certain issues that are clearly within the realm of the Executive, and reiterated that law makers are only saddled with the responsibility of legislation and what he termed ‘constituency outreach’.
He said although the current 9th Assembly has not performed 100 per cent of its responsibility, he would be inappropriate for anybody to accuse the legislators of ineffective representation.
Also speaking on the functions of legislators, Hon. Onofiok Luke, member representing Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium/Etinan Federal Constituency who was live on the programme, explained that the legislators have three functions to carry out.
Luke, who listed the functions to include; law making, oversight functions, as well as representation in terms of attracting projects, said members of the current 9th Assembly of House of Representatives had performed well in the three functional areas.
According to him, effective legislation is dependent on collaborative efforts of all the members, saying no private-member Bill can scale through the stages of legislative processes and get accented to, eventually.
The former Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly disclosed that in the last three years as a member of the House of Representatives, he had sponsored 29 Bills, some of which include; Bill for constitutional alteration, delisting of maritime operations from the Exclusive list to the Concurrent list; Bill for delisting of railway operations from Exclusive to Concurrent list, among others.
In his words: “ I have been able to have, by the grace of God, 29 Bills. Let me start with the Bill that has to do with constitutional alterations. As part of my engagement with my constituents, we have discovered that the development of maritime is in the Exclusive list.
“So, having realised this and having understood the need for a sea port and the benefits that will accrue to the people of Akwa Ibom State and other states, I sponsored a Bill seeking to delist maritime from Exclusive Legislative list to Concurrent list so that a state like Akwa Ibom can have a seaport”, look stated.
Luke, responding to a question from James Akpan Moses, a contributor from Cross River State on why law makers do not consult their constituents before carrying out projects, said the standard laboratory that he attracted to College of Health Technology, Etinan was a project he had consulted with his people, urging the CSOs to begin to set an agenda for the 10th Assembly.
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