Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Chairman of the Committee on Information in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr Aniefiok Dennis, has said the legislature has enacted a stricter law to prevent rapists from escaping conviction on technical grounds when prosecuted.
Speaking with Daily Sun as a follow-up to a press briefing to mark the first legislative session of the 7th Assembly, Dennis who is the sponsor the bill “Violence Against Persons Law”, said the law became necessary to deal with the rampant cases of rape, incest and other sexual violence and abuses, particularly as it affects minors.
According to the lawmaker, convicting rapists has become very difficult because the existing laws seem obsolete and cannot deal with the technicalities of securing rape convictions.
The rape bill is one of eleven pieces of legislation which have so far been passed into law by the state House of Assembly in the last year.
Apart from the eleven laws now pending the executive assent, the House within the last year has also considered 20 other bills which are at various stages between first reading and public hearing/stakeholders engagement.
‘Over 35 motions and matters of public importance have been raised on the floor of the 7th assembly and several committee reports submitted between inauguration to date. Details are stated below showing titles of bills/motions, lead sponsors and their various stages of legislation,’ Dennis said.
Explaining the rationale for the recent suspension of two local government chairmen in the state by the House, the lawmaker said the Akwa Ibom State Local Government Administration Law (2017) gives the House the power to make laws covering the administration of the local government councils in the state.
While admitting that the House has no power to impeach the council chairman or vice-chairman of the council or dissolve a democratically constituted local government council, the House information chief explained that based on the constitutional provisions which give the House the power to make laws covering local government councils and the state local government administration law, the House is empowered to listen to petitions against local government officials and effect their suspension pending the result of investigations into such allegations.
‘As legislators, we are first and foremost seen as the representative of our people. As one of our core legislative function in the past twelve months, we have collectively as a House pursued an active strategy of improving service to Akwa Ibom people and as individuals to our respective constituencies.
‘Our powers of legislative oversight are usually carried out by each standing committee on their relevant authorities, LGAs and MDAs.
‘May I use this medium to inform further that our legislative oversight over public funds and budget is a constitutional provision. While the legislature has the primary responsibility of monitoring budget implementation, the media and general public have a complementary role to play here as well.
‘Our range of oversights in the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Akwa Ibom State Government and even in the Local Government Councils has yielded positive impacts in complementing the completion agenda of this administration. Our budgeting cycle now conforms to the globally accepted standards to drive the wheels of our state development.
‘With the insurgence of COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need to revisit and or revised our budget, the House reconsidered the 2020 Budget which was initially NGN597.74BN and same was slashed to NGN366BN representing a 38.8% reduction in the State’s budget. Same was passed on the 30th day of April 2020,’ Dennis said.