By Taiwo Amodu ([email protected])
Last Wednesday, Nsit Ubium Local Government Secretariat in Akwa-Ibom State played host to top players in the business community and notable politicians across the country. The Government House in Uyo was literally moved to the council secretariat, as Governor Udom Emmanuel, his wife, Martha and the deputy governor, Moses Ekpo graced the occasion.
Speakers from about 14 state assemblies in the federation, under the aegis of Conference of Speakers also stormed the community to ‘disrupt’ its serenity.
The occasion was the thanksgiving/ third constituency briefing by the Speaker of the Akwa-Ibom State House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke, who represents Nsit Ubium constituency in the state parliament.
Luke had emerged Speaker of the 6th Assembly on December 21, 2015, following the nullification of the election of the former Speaker, Aniekan Uko. His narration of his political sojourn in the State kept the gathering spell bound, just as his score cards and volume of empowerment programmes distributed to his constituents were heralded by tumultuous applause by the people. Delivering his thanksgiving remarks, Luke disclosed that his emergence as the PDP standard bearer after the primary election as well as his ultimate victory in the 2015 general elections, were miraculous as he noted that he had been marked by certain forces, not to return to the state parliament. His endorsement for the exalted position of Speaker equally stunned power brokers in the state, smarting for a showdown with him, as he was endorsed for the position by the 24 other lawmakers.
“I was not to return to Akwa-Ibom House of Assembly by the powers that be. For that God, who took me through the political journey and for that God that used my colleagues to elevate me as Speaker, when I was not in the calculation of the powers that be, I am giving glory to that God that lifted me up.’’ His score cards showed the celebrator as a politician, who has shown fidelity to his constituents by redeeming his electoral promises. He told the gathering that he has been Lead Sponsor of 13 bills, out of which four have been passed into law.
“So far, I have been able to sponsor four additional bills, bringing the total to 13 bills for which I have been Lead Sponsor since I got to the House. Four of these bills have been passed into law. “The latest that has been passed into law is the bill for the protection to the physically challenged persons in our society against all forms of abuse and discrimination. For me, every man and woman, every child who suffers physical impairment of any form in our state should enjoy same rights and privileges as any other person.
“This bill will become operational as soon as His Excellency signs it. I must mention that the outlawing of discriminations and ill-treatment of the physically challenged persons was imperatively built around the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. “Undergoing legislative processes are four other bills which I have sponsored as the member representing Nsit Ubium state constituency. They are the bills for a law to provide for the establishment of Akwa Ibom State Social Housing scheme and the establishment of an agency to manage the scheme; the bill for a law to establish the state health insurance scheme; the bill for a law to establish an agency which will promote and implement the Akwa Ibom State health insurance scheme; and the bill for a law to provide for Akwa Ibom state primary healthcare development agency and for matters connected therewith.
I believe, if found worthy by my colleagues to be made a law, these bills will touch significantly on the socio-economic life of Nsit Ubium people and Akwa Ibom people at large.
“Let me also mention that the social housing bill was woven around His Excellency’s efforts to pursue a robust housing scheme for the people of Akwa Ibom State. Also, the bill for a law to establish the state health insurance scheme is an attempt to domesticate the sterling benefits of the national health insurance scheme. It also takes its root from the universal health coverage ideology which is being widely adopted in many developing communities across the world.
Similarly, the primary healthcare development agency bill is founded on the philosophy of accessibility of basic healthcare services to individuals, families, and communities especially those in the rural areas.’’ Prior to his election to the state legislature in 2011, Luke served as Personal Assistant on Protocol Matters to the immediate past governor of the State, Godswill Akpabio.
He was later elected the pioneer Speaker of the Nigeria Youth Parliament, a national leadership and mentoring platform coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Youths and the National Assembly. In his capacity as Speaker of the youth parliament, he led a team of Nigerian youth to initiate the call for the adoption and execution of the National Youth Employment Action Plan (NAYEAP).
As a member of the 5th Assembly, he was Chairman, Committee on Appropriation and later served as Chairman, Committee on Agriculture. Upon winning election to return to the House for a second term in 2015, he was nominated as Chairman, Committee on Judiciary, justice, Human Rights and Public Petitions.
His responsibility as head of the committee was primarily the screening of nominees for high level government appointments. He later served as Chairman of the House’ committee on Education before he was elected as the 11th Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
While his efforts in initiating bills that would impact positively on governance would certainly make lasting impressions on his leaders, the likes of Senator Effiong Bob and Senator Basssey Albert, who represents Uyo senatorial district in the Red Chamber, for the peasants, artisans and indigent students, the most remarkable event of the day was the presentation of empowerment packages to the people of Nsit Ubuim. The packages, encapsulated as the Constituency Transport Scheme (CTS) and the Seed Fund for Business Start-up (SFBS), were aimed at supporting businesses run by women.
Luke noted that the schemes were meant to eradicate poverty and ensure prosperity for his immediate constituency towards sustainable development. Ten mini buses and six salon cars were distributed to women – five of the mini buses were however sourced through the support of the Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Programme, FEYReP, the empowerment initiative of the First Lady, Deaconess Martha Udom Emmanuel.
In his remarks, the state governor, Udom Emmanuel admonished other politicians to emulate Honourable Luke by ensuring that they cultivate people at the grassroots. “You must identify with your people. If all of us identify with our people like this, believe me, PDP will not struggle for votes. Let us cultivate our constituents like it is being done, today.’
He further admonished the beneficiaries to make judicious use of what the celebrator gave to them.
For the gesture, Reverend Pastor Ntia Ntia, who was the officiating minister at the thanksgiving service, lauded Honourable Luke for giving back to God whom he noted has lifted the latter from the position of Personal Assistant on Protocol Matters to former governor of the State, Godswill Akpabio to the enviable status of number three citizen in the oil rich state.
Some of the dignitaries who graced the occasion include Former governors, Colonel Yakubu Bako, Victor Obong Attah and Colonel Abdul Aziz Yar’Adua who came from Katsina State to represent the Yar’Adua family. From the corporate community were Udom Inoyo, Executive Director, Exxon-Mobil and representatives of Chinese civil engineering firm in Nigeria, Chinese Engineering Construction Company, (CECC), Zenith and Diamond banks.