The Fifth Delta State Assembly: Excellent?… The ayes have it!
Words were not spared to describe the vibrancy of the 5th Assembly of Delta State. What was advertised as a lecture to mark the first year anniversary of the 5th Assembly (2011-2015) of Delta State last month soon morphed into a festival of ideas. The concourse of humanity who has thronged the expansive dome at the state’s Convention Centre accentuated the import of the day’s event. The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, was on hand to welcome the special guests which included the governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal. The governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi (represented by his deputy, Tere Ikuru), Professors Michael Ikhariale and Fidelis Odita among others completed the ensemble of special guests.
Speaker after speaker gave a thumps up to the Delta legislature not just for its fecundity at making laws for the good governance of the state but for complementing the Executive in ensuring that peace is sustained in the state. Delta State was once a theatre of fatal combat among ethnic nationalities. To add to the fizz, youths in the state joined their colleagues in the Niger Delta to protest the injustice meted out to their communities by oil majors in cahoots with the federal government. But the state Assembly particularly the fifth Assembly working closely with the Executive has been able to quell the rage of the youths.
Courtesy of the cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature, Delta has transformed to one of the fastest developing states in the country. Urban and rural roads, electrification projects, housing, the promotion of free enterprise, job-creation through agriculture and micro, small and medium scale enterprises have continued to define governance in the state. Education, one of the strong points of the state is being remodelled, more independent power plants are being built, an international airport is already functional and the waterways are being expanded.
Ochei in his welcome remark attributed this to the quality of laws from the state Assembly and the willingness of the Executive to see the legislature as a partner in the overall development of the state. “We have the most vibrant legislature in the country and it shows in our experience, quality of legislation, and impact our laws have had on the people. It shows in our oversight skills and ability which has brought stability in the polity as well as helped to cut cost of governance”, he told the audience.
For the speaker, the last 12 months of the Assembly had been eventful, epitomised by the passage of bills and sundry legislative duties. “Our commitment to the legislative business is evident in the passage of six bills out of 19 so far received, four of them signed into law by the Governor of Delta State besides 96 motions, 86 of which were adopted, seven negatived and three later withdrawn. We have also carried out our oversight functions through the 20 standing committees”, he said.
Delta fifth Assembly consists of 29 members – four female and 25 male – which begs the 30 per cent Affirmative Action, but even that has not silenced the voice of the women in the Assembly. “We may be few but we have made significant contributions to the law-making process and oversight duties of the House that would justify the people voting in more women to represent them next time”, one of the female legislators, Hon. (Mrs.) Amaechi Mrakpor (Aniocha South) told Nigeria Political Economist.
At inauguration, the fifth Assembly took off with 17 PDP members, nine members from the DPP, one from ACN and one from the UDP. The fifth Assembly was birthed on June 6, 2011 with Rt. Honourables Victor Ochei and Basil Ganagana unanimously elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. Both came into the House with a pedigree of experience in public service and outstanding performance in the private sector. Whereas Ganagana has been a constant face in the House since 1999, Ochei made it to the House in 2003 and has since manifested peerless leadership qualities. Under his leadership, the House has remained stable and has collaborated effectively with other arms of government. The 1993 engineering graduate of the University of Benin (he also holds an MBA from the same university among other post-graduate degrees from overseas universities) has for the past 12 months ensured that the rights and privileges of every law-maker in the state are guaranteed.
The Governor of the state, Dr. Uduaghan attested to the immense contribution of the Ochei leadership to the successful implementation of the three-point agenda of his government. ”Yes, as the Executive, we have had our challenges and differences with the legislature but at all times we were able to mutually resolve those differences for the common good of the state. I want to place on record that I have enjoyed a cordial relationship with the state legislature. This is very key. Every disagreement and agreement we have had with the legislature has been in the interest of the people of Delta State.
“Sometimes people measure the success of a legislature by how many times they threw chairs at themselves or by how many times they disagreed with the Executive, that is not the character of a successful legislature. You know a successful legislature by the quality of its laws, the maturity and discipline of its members, its internal stability, its independence even while collaborating with other arms of government and its oversight abilities. All of this I have seen in the Delta State legislature”, Uduaghan said, drawing a sustained applause from the crowd.
Uduaghan is right. Delta State fifth Assembly has demonstrated a clear understanding of legislative responsibility anchored on the ramparts that their mandate is a collective mandate given by the people hence must be used for the common good of the people. This has seen them show urgency on matters of state importance. For instance, it passed the 2012 appropriation bill in 2011, the first time in the history of the state. This is what the federal legislature has not been able to achieve since 1999.
Speaker Tambuwal who chaired the occasion scored the Delta fifth Assembly very high. He said they have demonstrated urgency, maturity, insight, legislative sagacity and efficiency. He urged all Assemblies in the country to intensify their public enlightenment drives, outreaches and public hearings as a way of deepening the nation’s democratic space.
Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, took the audience through the labyrinth of the doctrine of separation of powers. Modern idea of the separation of powers was explored in greater details by French political writer Baron Montesquieu in his work ‘The Spirit of the Laws’ (1748). It was an expansion of earlier works on the same subject by great philosophers and writers namely Aristotle, Plato, and Niccolò Machiavelli and much later, English political theorist, John Locke.
But for the concept of separation of powers which assigns specific duties and powers to the three arms of government, dictatorship would have flourished even in the best of democracies. Amaechi, who was a lawmaker in his state before he became governor, said all legislators have a joint mandate: to make laws for the good governance of the people. He said there is always a tendency for the Executive to assume superiority over the other arms of government. This is wrong because all the three arms must complement one another. He said democracy thrives when the Executive and Legislature complement each other as partners, not as individual institutions trying to undo or outdo each other. But within the context of such collaboration, each of the institutions must maintain its individual independence, rights and privileges.
The cumulative verdict on the fifth Delta Assembly is that of excellence. The swiftness with which they have responded to issues, the stability they have wrought in the state, the resourcefulness they have manifested in the business of law-making all attest to a legislature working assiduously to have its name etched on the bright side of history.