By Akume Raphael and Abraham Uwuasom, from Makurdi
Although his first 100 days in office may be too short to assess the performance of an arm of government like the legislature, the steps taken within the same period are enough to provide an insight into what should be expected in the long run.
When the member representing Ushongo State Constituency, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyange emerged Speaker of Benue State House of Assembly following the inauguration of the Benue State 8th Assembly, he outlined the philosophy of his Speakership which include inclusiveness through wide consultations and the resolve of the Assembly under his leadership to uphold the interest of the state above political, tribal, religious and other parochial and primordial interests.
Hon. Ikyange also promised respect for the principle of Separation of Powers which guarantees mutual respect and independence of all the arms of government, sustained training and retraining for both lawmakers and staff to ensure quality legislation, and a conducive working environment for members and staff by ensuring the completion of work on the new office block and the general upgrade of facilities at the Complex.
A close examination of the performance of the Hon. Ikyange-led Benue Legislature shows that the Assembly is on the right track. For instance, as a first step towards achieving set goals, the Speaker has instilled the idea of time consciousness in both the lawmakers and staff, as sittings of the House now commence at 10am as against the endemic late sittings experienced throughout the last Assembly.
In view of the financial burden inherited by the present administration and the need to put smiles on the faces of Benue workers who were owed several months salary, coupled with the fact that the Ortom administration needed a smooth take off, the Benue State House of Assembly wasted no time in approving a Ten Billion Naira Loan facility on the request of Governor Samuel Ortom.
One other milestone achieved by the State lawmakers was the prompt passage of a resolution approving the restructuring of commercial Bank Loans into Federal Government Bonds. The benefits of this restructuring to a state like Benue that was thrown into high indebtedness are numerous.
For instance, the restructuring will allow the Federal Government to take over Bank Loans standing against the state and spread the recovery period to between 15 and 20 years. The implication is that the monthly deductions from the state share from the Federation Account will be such that will not affect the income of the state to the extent that government will be able to meet her financial obligations.
In the same period under review, the 8th Benue Assembly also on the request of the Governor, granted approval to the state government to access a 5.5billion loan for counterpart funding of some critical projects and programmes.
It is important to note that the approval of this loan facility by the lawmakers is borne out of the fact at the time the Ortom Administration came on board, almost all the Development Partners had left the state due to non-payment of the state share of the counterpart funds to enable Benue benefit from the services rendered by these Development Partners.
In order to make sure that the state benefits from the bailout package meant for states owing salaries and pension arrears put together by the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Hon. Ikyange-led Assembly recently passed a resolution authorizing the Benue state government to access a loan of Twenty Eight Billion Naira.
The Assembly not only approved the Governor’s requests but has always insisted that it will go all out to ensure judicious application of the funds in a manner that the purpose for which the monies are collected is achieved.
Still within its first one hundred days as a House, the state lawmakers approved seventeen Special Advisers for the Governor, screened and confirmed the nomination of thirteen Commissioners and Caretaker Committees for the Twenty three Local Government Areas in the state.
In the area of lawmaking, the Hon. Ikyange led Assembly has passed three bills and several resolutions in line with public interest.
For instance, the Assembly, upon consideration of motions of Urgent Public Importance moved by members at different times, had course to summon Heads of security agencies in the state with the view to finding lasting solutions to the incessant assassinations which were fast portraying the state in bad light.
Similarly, when the Assembly was inundated with complaints from the people of the state over the poor attitude of medical staff towards patients in public health facilities, the Benue State House of Assembly rose up to the occasion by summoning heads of medical institutions in the state, including officials from the state Ministry of Health for an interface to findlasting solution to the lingering problem.
The good news is that the meeting with these heads, both in the security and health sectors availed them the unique opportunity of feeling the pulse of the people’s representatives, while at the same time giving the lawmakers a deeper understanding concerning their operations.
Only recently, after considering a motion of urgent public importance, the House resolved not to only condemn the recent attack by some rampaging Military Officers of Nigeria Army School of Military Engineering, NASME, Makurdi, but also invited the Commandant to appear and explain the circumstances surrounding the attack.
Worried by the bizarre condition of Federal roads across the state, the Benue state lawmakers within its one hundred days of inauguration constituted a Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the matter and ancillary issues, with the view to make appropriate recommendations to put the roads in order.
In recognition of the importance of training and retraining to the performance of any legislative body, Hon. Ikyange-led Assembly has successfully sponsored two-workshops for both Members and Staff of the Assembly bothering on various aspects of lawmaking, while the leadership of the Assembly under Hon. Terkimbi Ikyange has secured the approvals of the Governor for the completion of work on the new office complex under construction, as well as the total renovation of the main building which is in a sorry state.
All these landmark achievements within this short period of time would not have been possible without the doggedness and uncommon display of leadership acumen by the Speaker, Mr. Terkimbi Ikyange and the cooperation of members and staff of the Assembly.
While it may not be out of place to commend the Speaker and his team for achieving a lot in just one hundred days, it hoped that the Assembly will sustain this tempo in the years ahead.