The Furore Over AKHA Tour Of Councils

By Franklyn Isong

Mr Mark Esset, Chairman of the AKHA committee on Local Govt and Chieftaincy Affairs flanked by his colleagues during the tour.

The Speaker of the seventh Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Aniekan Bassey had while delivering his inaugural address, assured Akwa Ibom people that the Assembly under his leadership would be the “The People’s Assembly.” This aspect of his address had never made news on the social media, perhaps, because Akwa Ibom people might have formed a negative perception about the state parliament over the years.

Of course, it is not new that the assembly before the seventh assembly, had successfully carved a niche for themselves. They were either called a “robber stamp” or an “iron seal” to the other arms of government.

Abandoned council project

The previous assembly had hardly carried out their constitutionally required duties particularly, OVERSIGHT function.

Section 88 of the 1999 CFRN (as amended), requires the Assembly to carry out investigations within its competence in order to prevent and expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution of projects and implementation of the state budgets, as well as in the administration of laws in the state by the executive arm of government.

It is on this backdrop that I join Akwa Ibom people to applaud the seventh assembly under Aniekan Bassey’s speakership for doing the unthinkable thing. Akwa Ibomites woke up on Tuesday morning to the excitement of reports trending on social media that the 12-member AKHA committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs led by its chairman, Mark Esset, was on an unscheduled tour of the 31 local government councils in the state. Oh my God! This was a big shocker to so many people in the state.

Ibesikpo Asutan council chairman fielding questions from the lawmakers during the tour.

The AKHA investigation which is meant to ensure an improved administration and effectiveness of the third tier of government, has been greeted with mixed feelings especially, that it exposes the inaptitude, incompetence, and carefree attitude of most of the council officials, who, hitherto, were not being oversighted because, the assemblymen slept over their function. The investigative tour had, so far, took the assemblymen to: Ibiono Ibom, Ikot Ekpene, Abak, Ibesikpo Asutan, Nsit Ubium, Eket and Nsit Atai local government councils and the revelations were earthshaking!

Findings: In all the listed councils, it was disturbing, and shocking that only Ibesikpo Asutan council chairman was found on seat. No council official at the other six councils could explain the whereabouts of their executive chairmen to the assemblymen; and none could give accurate account of the running of the councils. Also alarming is the worrisome fact that majority of these councils, the vice chairmen, secretaries of council, directors, Head of Service, councilors, supervisory councilors, junior and senior staff were not seen.

Of serious concern, is the poor sanitary condition of these visited councils which leaves much to be desired. These council secretariats stink for crying out loud for any human inhabitants and pose health challenges for its inhabitants. The offices are dilapidated and some part of the structures are collapsing already. At these councils’ premises, overgrown weeds and grasses were seriously competing with refuse indiscriminately dumped on ground at every corner.

While, I thank the seventh assembly for this thoughtful oversight function, I invite the House not to shy away but, to go round the 31 councils before coming up with its findings and recommendations.

We need good legislations that will improve the local government administration in Akwa Ibom state such that all council officials MUST be compelled to reside within their respective local government, so that they can feel the pulses of their people at grassroots.

This is a good start of the seventh assembly. More grease to your elbow the truly “The People’s Assembly”.

 Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator and conscience of the society

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