OGOGORO LAW SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED IN BENUE - BENUE SPEAKER
BY PETER DURU
Hon. Dave Iorhemba, the new Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly is what one would call a child of circumstance. He came on board recently after the Appeal Court sitting in Makurdi upturned the election of the immediate past Speaker, Hon. Terhemen Taazor. In this interview, Barr. Iorhemba who represents Guma State Constituency on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party speaks on his agenda for the 7th Assembly among other nagging issues. Excerpts
What is your agenda for the Assembly?
Government is a continuum. We started this journey since 2007 and his Excellency, the Governor of the State, Dr. Gabriel Suswam has already set out an agenda for his government and it is that agenda that we are pursuing. We have crossed over from the (first) four years to another second term and we are still continuing with the agenda which he termed 'Our Benue Our Future'.
As a legislative house, all we intend to do is to enact laws for good governance of Benue State. We also want to collaborate with the executive to create an enabling environment for investors to come in to do business in the state. The laws must be there to protect the business man's investment and that is our agenda for now.
The parliamentary workers in the assembly have threatened a show down over the nonpayment of their accumulated out-fit allowances. How is the leadership reacting to it?
Well, part of the money has been paid to them and I am sure they are working out the modalities for the payment of the last part of the allowance.
The code of conduct bureau has complained over the lukewarm attitude by the past and present assembly members to the activities of the bureau. Are you concerned?
Benue Speaker, Hon. Iorhemba
Well, speaking for my colleagues, we were on recess when they came and most of them were out of the state capital to their various constituencies and so very few of us were available for the exercise. But since we resumed, most members have turned-up for the verification of their assets. But I really want to encourage those who have not done so to hastily go and do it.
Code of Conduct Bureau assets declaration is a constitutional matter and if they file a case against you, you will be prosecuted. So I urge them to go and do their assets verification and declaration, if they don't, the law will take its course against them. The bureau is not a respecter of defaulters no matter how highly placed. Once you are unable to declare your assets, it will go after you. And I am happy that my colleagues have started responding.
The people of the state are complaining about non implementation of laws particularly, the child right law and the Ogogoro law which have been passed but without implementation by the executive. What is the state assembly doing to ensure implementation of these laws?
You see, the issue of execution of laws passed by the state assembly is not an issue of the assembly again. Once a law has been enacted by the assembly, and the governor assents to it, it becomes a law of the state. And so, we are calling upon the relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure that these laws are enforced. It is not for us.
We don't have any oversight functions over execution of laws. The laws are in place and what the Benue people are expected to do is to abide by the laws. For instance, the Ogogoro law is just like any other law captured in the penal code, so if any person is found violating it, the law should take its course by prosecuting and convicting the person.
And I am sure if that is done the people will become afraid. I also encourage the media to make noise about this to encourage the law enforcement agents to implement these laws; let them make arrests, let them arraign people in court and subsequently, try them and that is how it is supposed to be. I urge Benue People generally to be respecters of laws. It is not just merely passing the laws; it is the enforceability of the laws that matters. The law enforcement agencies should be up and doing in their jobs.
Mr. Speaker as a lawyer, what in your estimation is the implication of the Supreme Court judgment ordering for the retrial of ACN case against Governor Gabriel Suswam bearing in mind that the electoral gives 180 days for the conclusion of trials?
As a matter of fact, the Electoral Act has specified 180 days for all petitions to be held to conclusion. Now, even if the Supreme Court has given that ruling, the petition itself has elapsed having exceeded 180 days. The proper thing for them to do is to strike it out.
They should take a cue from cases like this that have been struck out in Borno State and some other states and so it is not only in Benue State. The petition itself has elapsed. It is like something that is in the mid air, it is not down, it is not up and did not reach where it was supposed to be. So, the will bring it back here and strike it out.
You are a second timer in the state assembly and we want to know what areas you would want to improve on in the 7th Assembly?
As far as I know, the 6th assembly transcended into the 7th assembly and so we will continue with what we were doing there and that is law making. But on a more serious note, I would like to encourage my colleagues to sponsor more private bills. These bills must not always be coming from the executive but should also be privately sponsored by the public and members of the house. You will recall that I proposed a bill on uniform color for taxi caps in the state in the 6th assembly and I am going to ensure that it passes through.
You happen to come from a Local Government that suffered attacks from the Fulani herdsmen and measures were taken to resettle these people in their places. What is the situation now?
In that regard, there was a joint committee set up by the Benue and Nasarrawa state Governments, and that committee's report has not been submitted yet. Government is still waiting and it is only when that report is received and a white paper released that implementation will commence. But I am sure the committee has captured most of the issues that posed problem in the area.
We shall take care of most of these agitations of the Tiv farmers and the Fulani cattle rearers. For now, lets us not preempt the report; they are in the process of submitting it. You know it involves two states and they need time to put it together but the earlier the better to forestall further crisis.