An Assessment of Anambra 7th House of Assembly in one Year
By Ebuka Onyekwelu
The Anambra state House of Assembly today marks its one year in office. The 7th Anambra State House of Assembly was inaugurated on the 11th day of June, 2019, with all the thirty members of the Assembly representing thirty state constituencies spread across the twenty-one Local Government Areas in the state. Significantly, the 7th Anambra State House of Assembly is the only Assembly in recent memory with all the thirty members sworn-in a year ago, still retaining their seats after Election Tribunal which was concluded some months ago. In the 5th and 6th Assembly for instance, it was not so, as some members sworn-in at the inception of those Houses, lost their seats to rerun or at Election Tribunal. In the 5th Assembly, Hon. Obinna Emenaka was sworn-in at a later time after the Election Tribunal delivered its judgment in favour of his party then, the PDP. Hon. Obinna who was later sworn-in to represent Anambra East constituency in the state Assembly by the then Speaker; Rt. Hon. Chinwe Nwaebili decamped to the ruling APGA after he joined the House. Also in the 6th Assembly, Hon. Azubike Okoye took the seat from Hon. Francis Okoye after the INEC declared him winner of the rerun election ordered by the Tribunal. Hon. Azubike was sworn-in after INEC had issued him with his Certificate of Return and he resumed as the member representing Anaocha constituency 1 in Anambra State House of Assembly. In both instances, the House marked one year in office with new members.
However for the 7th Assembly, all pending Election Tribunal cases have been exhausted by the courts and all elected members as sworn-in are fully representing their various constituencies with none losing his or her seat. Importantly, in the House of Assembly of Anambra state, just as it is obtained in various Houses of Assembly and at National Assembly, the 7th Assembly has an handful of members who are instrumental in shaping the activities of the Anambra State 7th House of Assembly. In the spirit of the season, Kaluza can confirm that no fewer than ten bills have been passed by the Assembly in its one year life span. Nevertheless, out of about eighty-three motions so far submitted for consideration at plenary, only about sixty-five have been considered and passed. Worthy of note is that out of the ten bills passed so far, none is a private member bill. Although the 7th Assembly enjoys the strong hand of an experienced Clerk of the House who have served through the 5th Assembly to the 7th Assembly as the Clerk of the House; the House also enjoy the experiences of other parliamentary staff. As simple as these may appear, it was not so for the 5th and the 6th Assemblies. To deepen efforts at this assessment, we carefully selected some of the honourable members of the House; two each from the three senatorial zones and reached them to ascertain their assessment of the performance of the 7th Assembly thus far.
Responding, the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Rt. Hon. Pascal Agbodike, and the member representing Ihiala Constituency 11 recalled how exactly one year ago, he assured Anambra people that the 7th Assembly will be the best and he averred that so far, that is what Anambra people have had from the 7th Assembly. In his words, “I assured ndi Anambra that 7th Assembly will be the best in terms of making viable laws and we have witnessed that. Though we still have thirty-six months to go and Anambra people are still expecting a lot from us”. When asked by to make a comparison between the 6th Assembly which he was a member and the 7th Assembly, Hon. Pascal said that he does not wish to make any comparison but that for anyone who wishes to make any comparison, the difference is clear. “I do not wish to compare the 6th Assembly and the 7th Assembly, but the 7th Assembly has been the best. For instance, the 6th Assembly had some issues of leadership tussle which was manifest even before one year in office. But here, the Speaker and I emerged unopposed from the free will support given by our colleagues and we enjoy good rapport among ourselves”, the Deputy Speaker had said.
Hon. Nonso Okafor the member representing Nnewi North and one of the most vocal members of the 7th Assembly is of the opinion that the Assembly is trying its best although there are still rooms for improvement. “I believe the Assembly is trying and has done her best. But I still believe there are rooms for improvements. You know, setbacks like post election court cases were an issue for almost all members. But so far so good. Yet, we are not at our best. For me, we have capacity to do more. The first year is a learning curve. It’s a work in progress. I am doing my bits and many of my colleagues too are doing well in their various constituencies. But I am confident that the coming years will be our defining moment”, Hon. Nonso Okafor concluded.
For Hon. Pete Ibida, member representing Njikoka 11 constituency, the 7th Assembly is together and focused. “We are working together synergizing with the Executive and Judiciary arms of government”. Again, for him, “the House leadership is relatively doing well”, that summarizes it for Hon. Ibida, a very influential member of the 7th Assembly, who also served in the 6th Assembly. But for Hon. Nnamdi Okafor, the Majority Leader of the 7th Assembly, “My assessment is in tandem with what the Speaker will say during commemoration of our one year in office tomorrow, being Friday”.
In his response, Hon. Uzoma Eli, representing Onitsha North 1 constituency observed that for some new members of the Assembly, greater part of the one year was spent learning the process. “Usually, for some of us who are new, we started learning the game. I must tell you, it’s a different game from the politics of getting elected, so we try to learn the basic tenets. Though coming from the legal background, it helped in my contributions to bills and motions still, I needed to do a lot more learning on the job”, Hon. Uzoma said. For him, on a general assessment of the House, the Assembly has done well. “On the Assembly generally, I think we have done well. But there is a lot of room for progress. There have been mistakes or what I call learning outcomes, but in all, they will strengthen the outcome of the coming years”, Hon. Eli added. Hon. Somto Udeze representing Ogbaru 11 constituency and the Minority Whip of the Assembly took a bird’s eye view in his nuance evaluation. “In general terms, the Assembly is on cause. First, I think if we are assessed on the basis of the Legislative Agenda that was set by the House at inception, then, I think we are doing well. Although a lot can still be done. But so far, I think the young Speaker the House has is playing a major role at moving the Assembly forward. The Speaker’s open door policy is also a plus”. Speaking on the challenges of the Assembly, Hon. Udeze said pointedly that more training is required for members. “The only challenge I believe is lack of training. This is for the fact that more than half of the members are first timers. With training, the members will do more”. Looking at the executive / legislative relations, he said the House has cordial relationship with the executive arm. Going further, Hon. Somto observed that “the pandemic affected the House as well. The 7th Assembly was barely seven months before the outbreak. However, the manner members of the Assembly rose to occasion in terms of helping to sensitize people, create awareness and in giving palliative to various indigent constituents, is extremely commendable. It has not been easy, but generally the 7th Assembly is on cause”, he concluded.
On the side of the Executive arm, Hon. Amala Anazodo who is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Anambra State on National and State House of Assembly Matters weighed in. For Hon. Amala, “the 7th Assembly is doing well so far. As it is often the case, lawmaking requires experience. What I have to say is that most of the first timers have learned really fast, adding colour to legislative debates among others. I think also the leadership of the House is doing a great job. Then also the entire arms of government in Anambra state is focused on how to give the people of Anambra the best shot at good governance, as a result naturally, the executive and legislature enjoys good relationship. So, well, what we have seen so far is not the best, but certainly the future looks brighter and I congratulate the Speaker and the leadership of the House as well as all members of the 7th Assembly”, Anazodo said.
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