Ex-AKHA Speaker Goes Tough!
…moves to sanitise the House
Elder Aniekan Uko is the Member representing Ibesikpo Asutan state constituency in the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly. The immediate past Speaker of the sixth Assembly who is the Chairman, Committee on Rules, Business, Ethics and Privileges had during Tuesday’s plenary session of the House, caused a stir in the AKHA, when he drew attention of the Speaker to the “indecent dressing” of his colleague, the Member representing Itu, Hon. Idongesit Ituen and caused Ituen to be barred from speaking throughout the plenary.
He also advised the Speaker to send the Member representing Nsit Atai, Hon. Mark Eset to legislative training and re-orientation on account of Eset’s “poor knowledge of the legislative proceedings.”
As usual, RADAR Newspaper’s Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Otuekong Franklyn ISONG led the paper’s House of Assembly’s Correspondents, Evelyn AFFIA and Ememobong OKONG on expedition to Rt. Hon. Aniekan Uko’s residence.
We present you this no-holds-bared-interview with Elder Uko. Enjoy reading:
Good morning Rt. Hon. Aniekan Uko, yesterday, you shocked everybody including your colleagues when you raised a Point of Order, praying the Speaker of the AKHA to stop the Member representing Itu state constituency, Hon. Idongesit Ituen, from either speaking or contributing to debate on the floor of the House which was upheld by the Speaker. Please could you shed more lights on that?
I was just doing my work as the House Committee chairman on Rules, Business, Ethics and Privileges of which one of my jobs is to check the behaviours of my colleagues on the floor of the House and also shape those that needs to be shaped. In our Standing Order; Order 4, Rule 4 Subsection 8 states clearly of the behaviour of members which also has to do with dress code during plenary.
Do you think it was necessary for you to draw the attention of the Speaker to Mr Ituen’s dressing, considering the fact that he is your friend and in-law?
The Standing Order of the AKHA did not mention personal relationship of members. It is very explicit. If you are putting on corporate dress; you have to wear a suit with tie and if you want to be on traditionally; you have to complete it by putting on your a traditional cap. You would recall that, on the day I was sworn-in by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, he (Speaker) dressed traditionally and that was okay! By the Order of the House.
So far, so good, these are the correct mode of dressing in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, but now I don’t know why people are hyping it, especially on the social media, because I did not even see it as something that should be hyped. I was only doing my job as the Chairman of the Committee charged with the responsibility to restore order in the House using the standing Order of the House. I am saddled with that responsibility by calling the attention of Mr Speaker to the fact that the Member Representing Itu state constituency was not properly dressed as stipulated in the standing order and the Speaker agreed with me. I was not taking on anybody and the Speaker saw that all I was saying was the truth and in line with our standing Order, that was why he sustained the ruling. If anyone wants to take anything outside that, then the standing order of the House must be amended.
It is not even the first time I have done it. I had also done it to Rt. Hon. Friday Iwok, the Member representing Abak state constituency, during last Thursday’s plenary. This thing has been going on; it is not a new thing in the House of Assembly.
The issue of people saying I am fighting Mr Speaker because I want to be the Speaker is very funny and unfounded. You can ask my colleagues, since my re- election, I have not gone to the house of any of my colleagues to say that I want to be the Speaker. So, I don’t know whether it is a crime for someone to discharge his legislative duties on the floor of the House. Let us abide and play by the rules, what I am doing if other people were ignoring it, I will not ignore it because I know my job.
When you were the Speaker but you ignored most of these things, so the people are asking why now? I used to observe all these things when I was the Speaker, but since it was the job of the Chairman of that Committee, the Speaker must be neutral on every issue. So, it was just for the Committee Chairman to draw the attention of the Speaker to the defaulting Member even though the Speaker may have seen such a member.
Okay sir, assuming the Speaker had ruled you out of order yesterday, how would you have felt?
Mr Speaker is a 5-Star Legislator, well-experienced and he could not have ruled me out of order, because what I said was not Aniekan Uko’s idea, but it was what is stipulated in the standing order of the House and as the sixth Assembly, we adopted this standing order. We can only go otherwise when this standing order is amended. But until then, it remains our guideline.
How did you feel when your order was upheld by the Speaker and Mr Idongesit Ituen was barred from speaking throughout the plenary?
I did not feel anything because I knew that I was doing my job and these things are there in the constitution. Though, I feel happy that the Speaker upheld my Point of Order in order to restore sanctity to the House.
How do you feel getting some knocks from the Media over Yesterday’s plenary?
That one is left for the Media. I was only doing my job and I expect journalists to do research before publishing, so that only facts are let out for the public to read.
Ques: Apart from that of your colleagues from Itu, we also heard about what happened between you and the member representing Nsit Atai constituency, what really happened?
What really happened between me and the Nsit Atai Member, Mark Eset, was that in the House of Assembly, when we are for debate; a specific time will be allotted for people that want to speak in support and for those against. So after the sponsor of the Bill had talked about his proposed bill, Mr Speaker gave a chance for Members who wanted to speak in support of it. So my opinion was very true, even though, I was speaking against it. I was speaking from what I know. You cannot be building laws from existing laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So I drew the attention of the Speaker to the Nigerian Tourism Development Commission Act that came to be in 1992.
It was a military Act and when democracy came on board, the National Assembly adopted all Acts enacted by the military government.
So the law says: “No person is authorised in any circumstance to operate tourism establishment unless he/she has applied for and obtained and remain in the possession of the current Nigeria Tourism Development Cooperation Certificate of Registration testifying that the ownership of the establishment where the hospitality and tourism is carried on the premises etc…”
Secondly, and that “every certificate obtained from this commission elapses every 31st November of every year; that every 1st January, you have to go and renew your license.” That simply means if at the end of 31st you don’t renew your license its means that hotel you are operating is illegal. So NTDC has the power to sustain or revoke the authority they gave to you to operate it, if you don’t renew your license.
That was my opinion and so, if we have this law as one of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is wrong for you to say that you want to come and make another Bill at the state level that will regulate the operations and matters concerning Hotels and Tourism. People may see it as an Assembly of people who does not understand what we are doing. So that was my position.
The issue of I and Mark Eset was that all those people to speak for and he was supposed to be the last person to speak for, but when, I started speaking, he now rose up and said “point of order”. ‘Mr Speaker it was not yet time for people that will speaker against the bill,’ so, I now said, Mr Speaker, ‘there is need for you to organise a re-orientation for Members, so that, we can now know that, I don’t need to wait for Mr Speaker to announce to me, before speaking, when, he had earlier said that Mark Eset was the last person to speak for,’ meaning that the next person to speak after Mark Eset was to speak against the bill. So I did not need to consult my standing order to know that I was to speak against. And even when, he stood up, Mr Speaker told him that he asked me whether, I was speaking in support or against the bill and I said that ‘I was speaking for against it.’
Don’t you think you were a little harsh on your colleague, Mr Eset?
When I said organising a re-orientation for Members, that means I am included, because even as a Member representing Ibesikpo Asutan, I need more orientation on several areas, even yesterday, Mr Speaker thanked me for saying that. He did not know that there is a body called Nigerian Tourism Development Commission until I mentioned it on the floor of the house during my submission.
As a former Speaker who used to call the shots, how do you feel that somebody else will have to recognise you before you can speak on the floor of the House?
It is one of those things in life and the primary thing was for me to come and represent my people in the hallowed chamber. I did not buy form from my party to come and become the Speaker. It was the decision of my colleagues that I should become the Speaker and I was not impeached as the Speaker, it was the court that nullified my election and some other person who is Barr. Onofiok Luke was elected the speaker. So after my re-run and my inauguration, I am back to the House as somebody who is representing Ibesikpo Asutan state constituency and the chairman, House Committee on Rules, Business, Ethics and Privileges. So the issue of how I feel is part of the legislative Business, which I’m part of.
How do you feel that the Speakership position is not zoned by PDP to Uyo Federal Constituency, even when, Etinan federal constituency had produced Speaker in the person of Rt Hon. Sam Ikon, and the axis currently has both the Speaker and the state PDP chairman?
I leave that question for the party to answer. We know our party, the PDP stands may adopt zoning, but the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says that “Members shall elect their Speaker,” that was why when I emerged Speaker, so many people were saying so many things about the standing order, and I said that the standing order cannot supersede the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that says; “Members shall elect their Speaker.” So the issue of Atai Uyo and zoning does not come in.
As a person do you think that Justice is done to the people of Uyo Federal Constituency?
I leave that question for my party and we supported PDP and it is for them to decide, because it has nothing to do with the Legislature.
What is your kind advice to your colleagues as the Chairman, House Committee on Rules, Business, Ethics and Privileges?
People should not see me coming to do my job as retaliation, because it is very wrong. I don’t really know why people are having such wrong impression.
If Mr Speaker says that I should not do my job again, and he will assign me to another Committee, fine and okay. But for now, as the chairman of House Committee on Rules, Business, Ethics and Privileges, I must restore the sanctity of the House and I will not spare anybody, even if, it is Mr Speaker that dresses wrongly; I will call everybody including Mr Speaker to Order, which, I know that Mr Speaker cannot default.