THE 9th Assembly, as the current Benue State House of Assembly is often called, recently clocked one year.
To mark the anniversary, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Honourable Titus Uba, who represents Kyan Constituency (Vandeikya LGA), spoke with select journalists on the achievements, challenges and prospects of the 9th Assembly.
Hon. Uba also spoke, among other things, on the recent Executive Order 10 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the recently concluded local elections in the state. Aboh Agbochen of National Record’s Benue State Bureau, was there.
Question: Sir, you just clocked one year in office; what are the challenges, achievements of the 9th Assembly under your leadership in the past one year, and what do think are the prospects?
Answer: Thank you very much. When we came in, I was a little bit worried considering the fact that the 9th Assembly witnessed the few members that came in from the 8th Assembly. The Assembly was constituted of very many young men and two young ladies. It was my fear then that we would not be able to kick-start well. But surprisingly most of them are very vibrant and they keyed in very quickly to begin the process of lawmaking.
We started very well and today, many people are giving kudos to the 9th Assembly for what we have achieved so far. When we came in, one of those milestones we did was the Appropriation Bill. It was the first time for many of the members to engage in that process and that test came very early with an early Appropriation Bill laid before the House. That is, the 2020 Financial Appropriation Bill was laid. It was the second week of November. That was the earliest in the annals of legislation in the House. And before 31st of December, it was passed into law. It was the earliest ever laid and fastest ever passed. It was quite a milestone and we became very excited that the Assembly was going to do very fine and that is what they are doing today.
So many other bills came in; we got about 18 bills between the period and they were passed to the various committees in the House. Subsequently, 14 were passed into law, with only 4 pending at the various committees. I think that is very remarkable.
We also got nominees for appointments from His Excellency [Governor Ortom] for Special Advisers, Caretaker chairmen, Commissioners; to mention but a few, and these were all screened speedily. I think that this too is quite commendable for the young and youthful 9th Assembly of the state.
The challenges are mostly financial considering the constraints of the state. It also bounced back on us as we cannot go back to our Constituencies to do those things that are required of us by the electorates to feel our impact. But basically, His Excellency is doing very well with us as it’s our hope that as time goes on we shall be better off.
Question: Benue State Electoral Commission (BESEC) has just conducted the local government election; your party the PDP swept the polls. Giving the fact that your party won every available position in all the local government areas; people are saying that the outcome is an inclination towards a one-party system in the state. What is your view on that?
Answer: Ehm… when elections have come and gone, you expect people to make comments and you’ll definitely have different views, most especially from the opposition, the APC.
You may also agree with me that one or two political parties bought forms for this election. I think the APC, which is the strongest opposition in the state, refused to buy forms to participate in the elections. We cannot go and beg them to come and buy forms for the elections.
“The President has actually achieved one of the greatest milestones in the history of democracy in Nigeria. On the part of some state governors not being happy with the passage of Order 10 by the President, I want to publicly declare that surprisingly the first person to call and congratulate me was Governor Samuel Ortom. In fact, he has been asking me about this law and the day it was announced by the president he was happy that this law was passed.”
I think what BESEC did, in line with its mandate, was to make sure that the election was done transparently and nobody questioned the process. I was there like every other person in my own constituency and the processes were free and fair, very transparent as we went to all the polling booths and because no other persons contested, the processes were witnessed by some officials from the national office and it was hailed by them as our party came out victorious.
My charge to the newly elected Council Chairmen and the Counselors is to do what the people expect from them, which is the good representation. We are happy that the local government system is not like before. Now that they have the financial autonomy and with these improvements, there will be more projects as expected of the council chairmen. They are also going to be better placed with their counselors. I hope that things will be better off in our local government areas.
Question: Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order 10, which is aimed at giving a bite to the implementation of the financial autonomy to state legislatures and judiciary. As the Number-One lawmaker in the state, what is your reaction to Executive Order 10?
Answer: I am excited with this question. That very evening, 23rd May, 2020, that the news was aired, we all knew that the financial autonomy was going to come, but that day we were all surprised that it came very soon. I think this is one of the milestones in the history of our land and kudos must be given to President Muhammadu Buhari.
If you want to practice democracy, you have to go wholly and in all ramifications. Every democracy world over started from somewhere. Nigeria too started from somewhere and we must get to where other advanced democracies are today. But it’s going to be step-by-step.
The President has actually achieved one of the greatest milestones in the history of democracy in Nigeria. On the part of some state governors not being happy with the passage of Order 10 by the President, I want to publicly declare that surprisingly the first person to call and congratulate me was Governor Samuel Ortom. In fact, he has been asking me about this law and the day it was announced by the president he was happy that this law was passed.
Governor Ortom has been advocating for the financial autonomy for the state legislature each time we met. He told me few days after the announcement that the state is waiting for the guidelines for the implementation of the Order. He has already promised that he is going to sign the FMC (Financial Management Committee) of the assembly and also the Assembly Service Commission (ASC) into law.
The governor is eager as this will help in removing all the bottleneck processes in governance. It’s also going to give our people a sense of belonging and make them to have the feel of democratic dividend. This is wonderful!
Question: There have been recent renewed herders/farmers crises and other communal conflicts in the state. There are also issues related to Ruga settlement in the State. What has the House done so far about this in helping the state government address these issues?
Answer: When we came in as the 9th Assembly, one of the motions we took that also gave us applause was the refusal of Ruga settlements in the state; we completely rejected it in Benue State. Though it started from the 8th Assembly, and we also stood up against it. Today as you are aware, the state is relatively enjoying peace between herders and farmers.
Question: Recently, the government set up the Committee on Covid-19, and we heard that members of the House of Assembly were complaining of their non-involvement in the committees set up in the constituencies. Are they being involved now?
Answer: The Assembly is the representation of every facet of the state. It is the representation of the grassroots. When such things come up, it is very important to involve the members.
The Assembly has a Committee on Health with a chairman and as such, we feel we should be involved. When we discovered that the chairman was not involved, we found it completely out of place and we took it up to His Excellency and we came together with the Chairman of the Covid-19 Committee and it was ironed out.
When the palliative was brought to the state, the Assembly was involved and we took it to our constituencies and did the distribution. I think that issue has already been put to rest.