As 3rd session of DTHA's 5th Assembly begins
Whenever we take a cursory look at democracy, we hardly fail to see the visionary import of the philosophy and precept of liberal democracy which makes it tower above other models because of self-evident advantages. It is indeed a credit to the clairvoyance of the originators who fittingly gave the legislature a prime position as the first arm that is pivotal to the optimal functioning of democracy. What probably makes it so critical is that when it efficiently performs its constitutional duty, the legislature could provide the compass to the executive and judicial arms of government.
This feature has largely characterised the operation of the Delta State House of Assembly, DTHA, since the proclamation of the First Assembly in 1992. It can be recalled that the premier assembly sought to find the rhythm of its existence by providing the legislative framework that guided the administration of the pioneer governor, Olorogun Felix Ibru, despite the limitations which arose from the usurpation of power by the military cabal at the centre.
Shortly after its proclamation by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan on June 6, 2011, the Fifth Assembly quickly moved to tackle the challenges of effectively legislating for a state where the people are yearning for all-round development. Inspired by a peculiar mission and determined to build on the achievements of preceding assemblies, the leadership headed by the Speaker, Victor O. Ochei, promptly unveiled its vision of reinvigorating the DTHA to facilitate the performance of its function as spelt out in the 1999 Constitution as amended.
By last June, the House went on a recess after a fruitful engagement in legislation, representation and oversight, and undertaking what has become a phenomenal physical transformation of structures in the Assembly ground. While the break lasted members of the House utilised it for a capacity building programme in the United States of America which, despite the jaundiced views of critics, exposed them to international best practices and further enriched their legislative skills
With the resumption of plenary for the third session of the Fifth Assembly there are expectations and challenges. While the constituents would crave to have more laws that would widen the frontiers of socio-economic benefits to them, the legislators are conscious of the fact that this is the most auspicious period to attend to issues they might have unknowingly glossed over or left undone in the past two years.
Unarguably, the readiness of the Fifth Assembly to deepen the course of good governance through its lawmaking function is not in doubt. For one thing, the legislature has acquired some experience after an uninterrupted existence for 14 years. In addition, there is a general consensus that this current assembly is one of the most vibrant in the history of Delta State due to its proactive handling, consideration and passage of bills from June 6, 2011 to date. If the mid-term progress of the house is anything to go by, then we would see some sort of fireworks as it attends to numerous bills to promote the orderly development of the state.
Flowing from the above, the House is likely to witness robust sessions of lawmaking procedures, particularly at the committee stage, which is the engine room of legislative activities where the Committee of the Whole engages in meticulous examination of bills, clause by clause. This was one of the vital factors that accounted for the passage of 23 out of 31 bills received by the Fifth Assembly from June 6, 2011 to June 5, 2013. Of that number, 18 bills were assented to law by the Governor of Delta State.
In furtherance of its legislative role the House will receive many motions (though perceived as intangible vis-a-vis bills), which would be transformed into potential resolutions on issues it wants the authorities to address. It could surpass the feat of last session in which it adopted 31 resolutions, amongst which were the Rules of the DTHA, dissolution of DESOPADEC Board and its reconstitution with the same number, screening and confirmation of statutory commissions such as the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission, DSIEC, confirmation of the Clerk of the House, and members of the Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy, ACPM.
It will also carry out its oversight function by looking at petitions and providing redress to them through recommendations informed by the merit of each case as well as the extant provisions of the law. Last session alone received a total of 18 petitions, 10 were processed and six already acted upon. In the same vein two petitions are awaiting report while two others are still being investigated.
Similarly, the House will organise public sittings, probably in greater number than last session in which nine committees held such sittings that provided opportunities to Deltans to contribute to the process leading to the consideration and passage of bills.
The House would certainly sustain its capacity building programmes at home and abroad because, as one of the defining features of the Fifth Assembly, it has considerably improved human capital and enhanced productivity of legislators and staff of the Assembly. Between 2012 and 2013, tangible gains accrued to the House as a result of the training programmes for the 29 members, firstly at the Oxford University, London, United Kingdom, and secondly, at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, United States.
*Mr Eke, a political observer, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.