From LAYI OLANREWAJU, lIorin
Kwara State has a peculiar political terrain where consensus institutionalized by the late strongman of Kwara politics, Dr. Olusola Saraki, has become the norm.The consensus politics has been the hallmark of Saraki’s politics which he once said was the best measure to minimize intra-party conflict.With Saraki’s demise, his first son, Bukola Saraki (now Senate President) took over the political dynasty of his late father and sustained the consensus arrangement in determining positions for his political family.The emergence of governor Abdulfatah Ahmed as the candidate then under PDP in 2011 was a product of consensus. His second term ticket was borne out of an in-house arrangement where others who wanted to contest were persuaded to shelve their ambition to allow Ahmed complete his second term in office.
Other offices are usually allocated to loyal members of the dynasty including the speakership, and so primary elections are usually formalities in the state. It would be recalled that former Speaker of the House, Razak Atunwa, who is now a member of the House of Representatives, was commissioner for works before a member from his constituency was persuaded to step down for him to enable him represent that constituency and he ultimately emerged as Speaker.
So when Ahmad, who was elected to represent Ilorin East/South Federal constituency in the House of Representatives in 2011 was asked to come home and contest for a lower position as a member of the state House of Assembly, it was glaring from the beginning that the lawmaker was not being demoted as some observers suggested. With Ahmad contesting for Ilorin South constituency, it was more like a fait accompli that he would emerge the next Speaker of the House given his personality and track record.
As a member of the 7th House of Representatives, Ahmad did not only head the Justice Committee, he was also a member of the ad hoc committee which investigated the fuel subsidy regime. In a report, titled, “Status of Bills, Petitions and Other Legislative Measures,” released on the authority of the former House Speaker and now governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, 169 lawmakers sponsored bills within the period.
However, among the total bills sponsored and co-sponsored by the legislators in the four years, Ahmad topped others overwhelmingly with a total number of 36 bills sponsored.He was followed by Uzoma Nkem Abonta with 32 bills and Femi Gbajabiamila with 20. It would be recalled that 10 of his bills were passed in a session, having scaled all the processes. The 10 bills bother on criminal justice system.So on 8th June when the 8th Kwara Assembly was to be inaugurated, it was seen as a formalization of the selection of Ali Ahmad as Speaker of the 24-member House wholly populated by All Progressives Congress (APC) members. He was nominated by Hasan Oyeleke representing Ojomu/Shao constituency of Offa local government council and seconded by Adamu Usman (Okuta/Yashikira constituency of Baruten local government. He was unanimously elected by other members of the House.
When the Kwara State House of Assembly was inaugurated precisely on June 8, 2015, it could be rightly observed that it was a period Kwarans were charged with high hopes of having a legislative arm of government that would function effectively, efficiently but work independently as enshrined in the nation’s constitution.
This, it is gathered was due to the people’s belief that an efficient House would go a long way in enhancing the state governance and importantly complement the Executive in administering the state.
Similarly, it was a time Kwarans and all the stakeholders prioritised having another set of lawmakers that would quickly set the tone for the Executive and surpass the 7th Assembly’s feat adjudged as one of the best in the country. The expectations were for the lawmakers to focus on enactment of good laws and as well embark on oversight functions especially ones which are their primary objectives. These, it was believed would assist in putting the state on the right path.
However, in achieving these objectives, the Honourable members it is expected must first of all elect officers among themselves who would administer the House for the next four years the lawmakers mandate would lapse. In doing this, the Honourable member representing Ilorin South Constituency, Hon. Dr. Ali Ahmad was elected as the Speaker along with his Deputy while other Principal Officers were also selected immediately after the 8th Assembly was inaugurated.
In his acceptance speech, Rt. Hon. Dr. Ali Ahmad reminded the lawmakers of the daunting task ahead. He said as representatives of the people who share their aspirations and pains, they must be creative in finding short-term panacea and long term solutions to the peoples plights.
The Speaker pledged the Legislature’s readiness and eagerness to work with the Executive in ensuring protection of life and property of all Kwarans and most importantly ensure advancement of their welfare and economic well-being.
He noted that though the 8th Assembly is unique as it was without a single member of the opposition but also reminded the lawmakers that it comes with its own challenge of complacency, apathetic toleration and laid back attitude. He warned that they must avoid negative drawback of consensus and their own version of consensus must mean that they are united in ensuring transparency, and that there is no dissent in achieving the goal of accountability and good governance.
The Speaker assured Kwarans that the lawmakers would carry out their legislative assignments appropriately including oversight functions with thoroughness and dedication in order to ensure that their people are proud of them. He reminded the legislators on the need to strive to surpass the feat recorded by the 7th Assembly as one of the most vibrant in the country, adding “8th Assembly too shall not only maintain the tempo but will leave the House better than we met it’’.
Ahmad, who said the tasks ahead were daunting, added that economic reality in the country was frightening as youth unemployment remained high.
His words, “We must be creative in finding short and long term solutions to the challenges, including security of lives and property.”
He urged his colleagues not to be complacent just because there was no opposition.And to stave off any wagging of tongues, especially by the opposition party,
The ruling APC issued a statement commending the process which produced the Speaker.The party in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Sulyman Buhari, noted that the lawmakers in their “own volition chose their leaders without let or hindrance.
The party urged all other state Assemblies “to take a cue from the maturity and decorum which were the hallmark of the inauguration of the 8th Assembly in Kwara State.”It also admonished the newly inaugurated lawmakers to support the administration of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, especially at this critical time when the nation grapples with the challenge of dwindling allocation. However we wish to remind the legislators that they are coming on board at a time the state and the country at large are witnessing a shortfall in revenue needed for critical infrastructure and economic advancement. It therefore behoves them to rally round the Gov. Abdulfatah Ahmed-led government in the onerous task of governance of the state at this critical period,” the statement said.
It added, “We particularly commend the choice of Dr. Ali Ahmad as the Speaker of the Assembly. Coming at a time that reports emerged that Dr. Ahmad was the sponsor of the highest number of bills during the life of the out-gone 7th Federal House of Representative, the choice of Ahmad couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Over the years, Dr. Ahmad has proven his mettle as a brilliant and cosmopolitan team player, as well as a loyal and disciplined party man who is ready to sacrifice personal interest for the larger interest of his party. As a party, we are convinced that Dr. Ahmad will consolidate on the achievements of his predecessors.
” The people of the state expect the new Speaker to bring his experience to bear in driving legislative business. Analysts express optimism that the newly inaugurated Assembly would build on the performance of the last legislature through passage of people-oriented bills and motions and thorough supervision of the executive arm of government towards delivering the much desired democratic dividends to the people.
However, in the last legislative year of the 8th Assembly which exactly clocked one on June 7, 2016, it could not but said to have performed better. This is in terms of numbers of activities the House has engaged in vis a vis several numbers but important motions moved by members, resolutions passed by the House and bills debated on; all of which have come to define the 8th Assembly. Undoubtedly, the House has in the last one year demonstrated its eagerness to make life better for Kwarans in spite of several challenges facing the state.
Despite the fact that the 8th Assembly has several numbers of new legislators with only 6 returnees, the House, it is noted had been able to carry on with its activities adequately with experiences of the returning lawmakers. Also, of great assistance to the successes recorded in the last legislative year was the training workshops organised for members to acquaint them on the nitty-gritty of lawmaking business. This, has in no small way equally enabled them perform their legislative functions adequately.
It is noteworthy to state that the 8th Assembly had in the last one year received 9 bills namely Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Bill, 2015; Revised Appropriation Bill, 2015, Kwara State Waste Management Agency Bill, Appropriation Bill, 2016, Abubakar Sola Saraki (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Kwara State Revenue Administration (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Kwara State Revenue Court (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Kwara State Land Charge (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Secret Cult and Secret Societies in Kwara State (Prohibition) Bill, 2016 respectively.
Out of the 9 bills, 6 have been passed into laws while 3 of them have been assented by the governor. Similarly, motions resolved are 40 in number while completed reports are 13.
Meanwhile, the Speaker’s assurances in his acceptance speech that the House would not cease to do the right thing in spite of the fact that it has no single opposition member has always come to the fore in the floor. Also, the assumption especially from the oppositions that the 8th Assembly might lack robust debates on issues brought to the floor have since been defeated and as such proved wrong.
Little wonder, the House since its inauguration has on daily basis gathered more recognition. It has come to be associated with by Kwarans as the voice of the voiceless. The House never cease to conduct of public hearings on issues affecting the generality of Kwarans.
Out of many achievements recorded during the legislative year was the step taken by the Kwara State House of Assembly to encourage its counterpart, the Niger State House of Assembly on the need to call Federal Government’s attention to the abandoned reconstruction of Ilorin-Jebba road project. It would be recalled that the ever busy road has since become a death trap for the users while several lives and property have been lost as a result of the dilapidated state of the popular road.
The move however became a reality as both Houses met at a spot along the road and passed a resolution to urge the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency come to the people’s plight. Not long after the move that the Minister of Works, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) visited the road while work subsequently commenced on the abandoned road. Presently, the contractor handling the project has covered several kilometres and the road users continuously express appreciation for the lawmakers’ action.
Worthy of mention is the approach adopted while considering the state 2016 budget. Every detail was scrutinised during budget defence and each sector was invited to defend the fund allocated in the appropriation. It was a clear departure from the way budget was done before now as the Speaker personally attended virtually every session and contributed effectively in the defence. The House ensured that only projects that are realisable are in the budget to ensure prompt implementation.
Equally, the House embarked on curbing proliferation of filling stations in residential areas in the nooks and crannies of the state which has hitherto become very worrisome to the citizens. Prior to the House intervention, it should be noted that investors willingly purchase plot of lands and built filling stations wherever they deemed fit for their business not minding the effect of having such venture in residential areas would have on the people. The House in the course of the assignment closed several filling stations sited in areas not suitable.
Another feat recorded during the last legislative year is beefing up of the Information Unit at the Assembly. The development has had tremendous improvement in the sittings reportage while the public is now more acquainted with day-to-day happenings in the House while the feed backs are acted on appropriately.
As the second Legislative year, begins on June 8, 2016, the legislators, it is hoped would not relent on the feat recorded in the first legislative year but strive to further achieve more success as they embark on their legislative assignments.
A member of the Kwara state House of Assembly Honourable Usman Adamu representing Okuta/Yashikira constituency called on politicians in the country to always place national interest above personal and sectional interests or ego as only emphasis on national interests at all times could act as a strong catalyst to get the nation’s democracy deepened.
Adamu who expressed this view in Ilorin said the executive has more important and strategic role to play in the assignment of deepening democracy as it is an arm of government that can ensure the true independence of the two other arms of government.
‘It is clear that Nigerian politicians are not showing good signs of learning the rope when it comes to actual commitment to deepening true representatives democracy, the originators of the system known as democracy in their logical reasoning came up with the idea of three distinctive independent arms of government with a clear intent to bring about checks and balances. The legislature also stands out among the co-equals as there is no democracy without legislature we can all remember that even under military admnistrations the judiciary and executive are kept intact while the legislature is shut down, legislature’s reopening naturally signals the resumption of democracy. The legislature should be made to enjoy its true independence by being allowed to function effectively and free of influence from any quarters, we are all witnesses to the developments at the federal level when it comes to relationship between the executive/legislature’ he said. The lawmaker who expressed strong optimism that there is a greater day ahead for the country submitted that Nigeria would survive the teething problems posing as challenges as it would all fizzle out soon.
‘The problems of insurgency, kidnapping and militancy would soon become a thing of the past the government has been doing the needful in terms of military action while Nigerians have also gone solemn and maintained a prayer mood, we would get over it and move ahead am sure we would achieve the vision of the nation’s founding fathers’ he stated.
Adamu however cautioned Nigerians on the need to purge themselves of the odd trait of mutual suspicion which has religion and tribe as the dividing lines. Kwara Assembly commences 2016 budget performance evaluation
The Kwara State House of Assembly commenced the review of this year’s budget.
The appraisal of the budget is being coordinated by the joint committee of the House on Public Account as well as Finance and Appropriation.
The exercise which kick started with the state Minstry of Education and Human Capital Development, State Universal Basic Education Board saw MDAs briefing the Legislature on the funds appropriated to them, revenue profile, project execution and fund so far released to them.
Speaking at the opening oversight function, the leader of the House, Alhaji Hassan Oyeleke and the Chairman of Public Account Committee Alhaji Abdul Rasheed Taiwo Abdullahi described the oversight function as one of the cardinal functions of the Legislature, to make the State Government deliver on their electoral promises to the electorates.
They said the Eighth Legislature under the watch of Dr. Ali Ahmad would continue to invoke section 129 of the 1999 constitution to make government accountable as well as appraise them for better performance.
The Legislature explained that as representatives of the people, the oversight will enable them to brief their respective Constituencies on the performance of government, stressing that democracy could be better strengthened when people were adequately and better informed about the activities of government and their elected representatives.
They therefore requested heads of all MDAs to come up with all relevant documents that will fast track comprehensive budget review exercise of the Legislature.
It would be recalled that the House had on Tuesday, 9th August in a session presided over by the Speaker Dr Ali Ahmad had adjourned plenary for two weeks to enable the House standing committees conduct comprehensive appraisal of the 2016 budget to afford the Legislature the opportunity of knowing how far the State government had gone in the implementation of this year’s budget.
KWHA makes case for Town Planning funding
…insists on filling stations proliferation resolution execution
The Kwara State Governor Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed has been urged to immediately provide funds to the State Town Planning and Development Authority (TPDA) to enable it carry out the resolutions of the State House of Assembly on the demolition of six illegally constructed filling stations in Ilorin metropolis.
This is part of the resolutions of the legislature at its resumption of Second legislative session of the House shortly after the chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Proliferation of filling stations in Residential areas in Ilorin Metropolis Hon Kamaldeen Fagbemi briefed the House on the level of compliance with the resolutions of the House in respect of the demolition of the affected Petrol Stations in the State. It would be recalled that the House had at its last sitting ordered that six petrol stations constructed in residential areas, without the approval of the State Town Planning and Development Authority be demolished to safeguard unnecessary loss of lives and property in the State capital.
The House equally urged the State Governor to order the sealing off of Atinuke Filling Station at Osere in Saw Mill within 48 hours for contravening the resolution of the House.
Reading the resolutions of the House, the Speaker Dr Ali Ahmad explained that the resolutions of the House were in the interest of the public, warning that the House would not condone a situation where the State would be turned to a lawless State.
The Speaker while commending members of the Ad-Hoc Committee for their uprightness assured that the legislature would continue to protect the interest of its people.
The Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee Hon Kamaldeen Fagbemi had while raising a Matter of General Public Importance, briefed the House that the resolutions of the House were yet to be complied with due to lack of funds and equipment to carry out the directive by the State Town Planning and Development Authority.
The House equally directed its Joint Committees on Land, Housing and Urban Development as well as Agriculture and Water Resources to look into the issue of indiscriminate construction of shops on set backs along GSS-Fate road and Water Reservoirs opposite University of Ilorin staff quarters along Umaru Audi road.
The Joint Committees according to the Speaker was directed to conduct public hearing on it by inviting all relevant stakeholders and report to the House within three weeks.
The Speaker while speaking on the matter said the need for government to stop further construction on the shops became imperative to enable the House have access to Ilorin Master Plan with a view to avoiding further compromise.
A Member representing Ilorin North-West constituency Hon Abdul Rafiu Abdul-Rahman had while raising a Matter of General Public Importance had raised alarm that the construction of the affected shops was against public interest and urged the House to wade into it in view of the public outcry against it.
KWHA Grants Govt’s Request to Access Budget Support Facility
… Approves N973 Million SUBEB Counterpart Facility
THE Kwara State House of Assembly approved the state government’s request to access the Federal Government Budget Support Facility (BSF).
With the approval, the state government is free to access not more than N1.3 billion whenever there was shortfall in the state allocation which might hinder the government from performing its obligations.
The House gave the approval during during an emergency plenary.
The House had since June 16 began annual recess and expected to resume on August 9 but the recess was broken to attend to the state matter
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed had through a letter dated June 21, read by the Speaker, Dr Ali Ahmad, sought for legislative approval to enable the state access the Federal Government Budget Support Facility and Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP).
He said the meager allocation from the federal government had been making governance very challenging for the states, adding that some states were already winding down on the payment of staff salary in the face of the current economic downturn.
The governor said the Federal Government had put in place a fiscal sustainability action plan to be adopted and implemented by intending states in order to access the proposed budget support facility following the approval by the National Executive Council.
He added that the Federal Ministry of Finance had identified and negotiated with potential lenders and had formally convened an offer of a total sum of N14.16 billion to support the Kwara State Government to be made available in three tranches.
The disbursement under the BSF according to the governor required intending states to among other things obtain the resolution of the House of Assembly authorizing the facility.
The letter reads in parts: “The facility which has a single digit interest of 9 percent, is secured with an irrevocable standing payment order on the state FAAC as well as the corporate guarantee of the Federal Government.
“This facility when accessed will give Kwara State Government a sigh of relief in the implementation of its policies and programmes especially as spotlighted in the slogan Shared Prosperity”.
The governor urged the House to provide a resolution authorizing the state Executive Council to access the BSF from the Federal Government.
The Speaker, Dr Ali Ahmad, said through the BSF , the Federal Government would make N90 billion available for all the 36 states to bridge the gap of lack of funds to support the budget.
He said the state government would be able to access N1.3 billion wherever the state allocation drops less than the expected but if the Federal allocation improves, the state would not access the loan.
He said it was to cushion the effect of the financial challenges being experienced in the state, adding that payment of workers’ salaries must be the priority of the government whenever the fund was accessed.
The House Leader, Hon Hassan Oyeleke said the request was not only meritorious but timely because it was meant to address salary issue.
He said the House had the understanding with the state government that the loan must only be premised on the payment of workers’ salaries.
Oyeleke however assured that the public account committee of the House would investigate how the previous loans granted had been utilized and for what purpose.
In their contributions, Hon Abdulrafiu Abdulrahman of Ilorin North West Constituency and Hon Ahmed Ibn Mohammed of Kaiama/Kemanji/Wajibe Constituency, called on the state government to assist SUBEB and local governments’ workers through the opportunity.
Also speaking, Hon Jimoh Akanni Abdulrahman who represents Share/Oke-ode Constituency, noted with displeasure that political office holders could no longer walk freely in the state due to embarrassment created by non-payment of salary.
He urged the House to approve the request to bring succour to civil servants in the state
Motion for approval was later moved by Oyeleke, seconded by Hon Mohammed Mobolaji Amosa of Afon Constituency and it was unanimously approved by the parliament.
Meanwhile, the Kwara State House of Assembly has approved the state government request to access N973 million loan facility from Skye Bank Plc to finance the provision of SUBEB counterpart funding to enable the state access the 2014 Universal Basic Education Matching Grant from the Federal Government.
The approval was sequel to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed’s request, seeking legislative consent on the facility.
The request was presented at yesterday emergency’s plenary by the Speaker, Dr Ali Ahmad.
The governor said the provision of SUBEB counterpart funding was a major prerequisite for accessing the Federal Government Universal Basic Education Matching Grant.
He said the state government was unable to source for the fund internally due to the continuous fall in the federal allocation receipt.
He added that the Skye Bank had offered the government a term of loan facility of N973 million to enable it access the grant for the year 2014.
The facility, according to the governor which had a tenor of 12 months with 22 per cent interest rate per annum, was secured with an irrevocable standing payment order.
While urging the House to approve the request, he said the consent of the parliament was part of the conditions required by the bank.
The Speaker, Dr Ali Ahmad said the loan was to ensure conducive atmosphere for learning in schools.
He said if the loan was granted, contract would be awarded and it would impact positively in the state economy.
Some of the members contributed to the debate, said granting the request was very in order because it would go a long way in addressing infrastructural problems in the schools.
They noted that the loan was to be given because the state was still credit, adding critical gap of infrastructural facilities would be addressed.
Motion for the approval was later moved by the Leader of the House, Hon Hassan Oyeleke and seconded by Hon Umar Gunu of Ilesha/Gwanara Constituency. It was unanimously approved by the House. The house which was on recess has to cut short its holiday to attend to matters of urgent and public interest. At its sitting on Tuesday September 6, 2016. The House had harsh words for the state Town Planning and Development Authority (TPDA) for allegedly impeding the aggressive revenue drive of the state government.
Members of the House had cut short their recess to drill the Secretary to the state Government, Alhaji Isiaka Gold over the alleged failure of the TPDA to implement some of the resolutions passed by the house. The House had hitherto passed a resolution directing the TPDA to demolish five illegal petrol stations in Ilorin, the state capital to no avail.
Speaking during the interaction with the SSG, Speaker of the House, Dr Ali Ahmad brow-beat the TPDA for not doing enough to generate money to the coffers of the state government.
His words: “The amount of money Lagos state Town Planning Town Planning Authority is making for the state is humongous. Our town planning in the state is passive and inactive. It is not generating revenue for the state. We have passed resolutions but TPDA is not implementing them.
“Many residential buildings are being converted to commercial purposes. GRA Ilorin has become something else. You see shops springing up illegally and not paying anything to the government coffers.
“All this nonsense in the civil service where a government officer would in the name of the governor and government of the state, abuse the trust that is given to by the governor then we will go back to the governor and tell him that such officer/officers must go.”
In his contribution, House Leader, Alhaji Hassan Oyeleke said that: “The TPDA has not been friendly to the House, has not been friendly to the government and people of the state. It has not been friendly to the environment and we are not really proud of the authority.
“The house has resolved that those five illegal filling stations must be demolished. The resolution was not taken in the living rooms of members of the parliament. The sanctity of the house must be respected as record and history will judge individuals.”
Responding to some of the questions raised, Alhaji Gold said that “the order directing the state government , to carry out the sealing off of one of the filling stations was carried out, but the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Alhaji Kalmadeen Ajibade counseled that status quo ante be maintained as there is a pending litigation on the matter.
“On the issue of funding I am sure the Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Muideen Alalade would seek approval from the state governor as regards that.
“Let me assure you that at the executive end, when we see resolutions from this house we have always taken them with serious concern. As we always pass them to the affected ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) for immediate implementation.”
However, the Speaker has enjoyed tremendous cordial relationship with the honourable members as majority of issues raised at the plenary are being resolved without crisis.
The House usually has fruitful delibrations. Meanwhile, there has never been any impeachment move either against the Speaker or the Governor in the past one half year.