1st Year Performance Report of Sam Onuigbo, Member, House Of Representatives

Representative Sam Onuigbo is member representing Ikwuano/ Umuahia North/ South, Abia State, federal constituency in the House of Representatives. His political party is the People’s Democratic Party(PDP). He is also Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change.

Brief Profile:
Samuel Ifeanyi Onuigbo was born in Umuahia on 1st of October, 1960, same day Nigeria gained independence from Great Britain. He had his early education in Ikwuano before proceeding to Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, Imo State to acquire the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE). He has a Diploma in Law from the University of Lagos; and Master’s in Business Administration from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu.

He has attended several courses and Executive Education Programmes including: John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA; the US Department of State Foreign Service Institute, National Foreign Affairs Training Centre, Washington, DC; Public Affairs Council, Washington, DC; and ASIS International at New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, London; Nigerian Institute of Management – Chartered; Member, ASIS International, Virginia, USA; and Patron, Nigerian Institute of Management, Umuahia Chapter.

Sam Onuigbo’s working career includes 17 years of unbroken and meritorious service with the US Embassy Nigeria, during which he held the highly sensitive position of the Supervisory Fraud Prevention Specialist before voluntarily resigning. During the period, he received several Long Service Awards from the Department of State; and Letters of Commendation from two former US Ambassadors to Nigeria.

Onuigbo has served as Special Adviser, Public Affairs, Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives, National Assembly, Abuja; Hon. Commissioner, Ministry of Lands and Survey (Abia State); Hon. Commissioner for Finance (Abia State); and a former Board Member, International Glass Industries Limited, Aba. In 2015, he got elected as the Member Representing Ikwuano/Umuahia North/South Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives and was subsequently appointed Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change.

A social and community mobilizer, Onuigbo, in 1998, attracted a grant of $3,000 from the US Government Self-help Project for the construction of a block of three classrooms for his Alma mata—Community Primary School, Obuohia Obi-Ibere. The successful execution of that project ended years of suffering by pupils who had to pack two-streams in one classroom because of lack of space. This project was commissioned by the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Howard Franklin Jeter and the former Governor of Abia State in May, 2001. Again, in 2003, Mr. Onuigbo attracted a grant of $10,000 from the US Ambassador’s Special Self Help Fund, with which he facilitated the establishment of a public secondary school, Ambassador’s College, in his community, Obuohia, Obi-Ibere, Ikwuano. This worthy project put an end to decades of hardship of the students who had to trek upwards of 12 kilometres to and from school every school day.

It is on record that he also attracted the on-going construction of the Okwe-Obuohia-Umuemenike-Ahiaorie Ring Road, in the 2013 budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC). Onuigbo is of the unshakable faith that education is probably the greatest gift that one can give to an individual. Accordingly, he has supported many indigent students from his community and beyond to actualize their academic dreams. This conviction is why he has been able to provide scholarships in various sums to students of Ambassador’s College, Obuohia Obi-Ibere, Ikwuano, Abia State. He also steadily supports materially and morally, members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving at the Ambassador’s College. In furtherance of his resolve to continue to support people academically and professionally, he has assisted many persons to become professional managers by sponsoring their registration with the Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered). All of these contributions to community and uplifting of humanity led to many recognitions, awards and honours for him, including the award of Okeosisi of Ikwuano by Ikwuano Development Union in 2001; Professional and Vocational Service Awards from Rotary Club International; and Award of Honour from the Forum of Commissioners of Finance of Nigeria. He holds two traditional titles: Odozi Obodo I of Ugwu-Ibere Ancient Kingdom; and Ebubedike I of Otu Uzo Autonomous Community.

A devout Christian, Onuigbo is married with children.

Legislative Accomplishments:
Sam Onuigbo has raised the following motions which were successfully carried by the House of Representatives within the period under review:

1. Motion on the need for an urgent completion of the Umuahia – Ikwuano – Ikot Ekpene federal road. Following this motion and other interventions by Mr. Onuigbo, FERMA has been directed to begin remedial work on the road.

2. Motion on the Need to Check the Admission of Students into Tertiary Institutions for Courses not Accredited/Approved by the National University Commission (NUC)

3. Motion on the Need to Stop the Deconstruction of Nigeria’s National Flag

4. Motion on a Matter of Urgent Public Importance on the need to immortalize two former National Football Coaches, Stephen Keshi; and Amodu Shuaibu who passed on.

Committee Participation/Oversight: The House Committee on Climate Change which Sam Onuigbo chairs has actively engaged with focal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) concerned with issues of Climate Change before, during and after the 2016 budget passage process. The Committee has also keyed into key oversight roles in the Ogoni Clean-up exercise launched by the Federal Government early June, 2016.

Constituency Accomplishments: Sam Onuigbo’s major constituency achievement is his interface with the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing to repair the dilapidated Umuahia – Ikwuano – Ikot Ekpene road which has been a nightmare to his people and transporters plying the route. He had raised a motion on the road on the floor of the House and followed through with direct inspection of the bad portions before getting the Ministry to begin repairs.

He has also sustained his several scholarship programmes; maintained direct interface/engagements with his constituents through meetings and events; and projected the interest of his constituency in the 2016 budget which should be actualized during implementation.

In this interview with the ORDERPAPER team(A National Assembly Focused paper, which monitors National Assembly matters and members), Rep. Sam Onuigbo outlines his three-legged covenant of service to the people of his Federal Constituency of Abia State and what he has been able to achieve in the House of Representatives in the first 365 days.

How would rate your performance in the 8th Assembly one year down the line, especially with respect to connecting with your constituents?

By the Special Grace of God, I have been in touch with my constituency. The people elected me to the National Assembly to: one, participate in law-making; two, represent their concerns and legitimate aspirations; and three, engage in oversight functions. So in terms of connecting with my constituency people, I have tried to be able to relate with them by way of assisting them. I have helped those I can help to get employment; those I can help by getting or helping them get a means of livelihood I have also done either by way of training to empower them or by way of helping them to establish something like cooperative societies. I have done that for the nine clans that make up my federal constituency.

By way of actually conveying their concerns to the powers that be I am also doing my best. For instance, there is a federal road that runs through my constituency which has been bad; in fact that road is impassable. I have brought that concern to the attention of the authorities which is a critical aspect of why I was elected and now, I am sure something is being done. I have been able to get some money in the budget for us to do that road; not really to do the total overhauling that the road needs but at least to take critical palliative measures to ensure that the road is passable. And in the last few weeks, I have done several awareness activities by way of visiting the site, engaging the media; engaging the ministry of works and all that. Then you talk of those who have challenges with education, who want to go to school and things like that, I have been to assist on that.

I have also been able to put some things in the budget to address the legitimate concerns of my people and those which made it through (you know the 2016 budget suffered serious panel beating) I will ensure that the projects are implemented. On the floor of the House I have not failed to represent them by ensuring that I speak on issues that touch them and by moving motions that have meaning. These are some of the ways I have represented my people in the last one year.

How have your contributions on the floor impacted your constituents?

I know that my motions and bills and other contributions have both national impact and local consequences on my people. Take my motion on accreditation of courses in universities for instance. Young people would apply for courses as advertised in the JAMB brochure, sat for the exams, passed and were admitted into institutions. At the end of it all they say you read a wrong course and you are not getting any certificate to that effect. I moved a motion on the floor to have that anomaly corrected.

I also noted that there have been serial abuse of the national flag such that if you go even to Police headquarters; if you go to the airports in Nigeria; wherever you go you will see the Nigerian flag being abused; being bastardized such that instead of the Nigerian flag remaining Green-White-Green people have come with the strange idea of superimposing the Coat-of-Arms in the white section of the flag and this has become common place. I moved a motion on that issue and it was well received and we are going ahead to ensure that we prevent this kind of activity because every nation must have just one flag and not multiple flags. It is such a disturbing scenario that even ministers of the Federal Republic when you see them seated in their offices the flag you see by their side is the adulterated one. These days you see when children are being taken out for functions in schools the flag that is handed to them is the one with Green-White-Green and superimposition of the Coat-of-Arms. These are two separate important national symbols and should not be abused. I moved that motion.

You represent a constituency where the people are very entrepreneurial and commercial oriented. What legislative support can you bring to bear on these attributes to help them develop?

Apart from buying and selling, the people of the South-East as a whole are known for their entrepreneurial skills. Whether they are tailors or shoe cobblers they do it in such a way that it has national and even global appeal. If you go way back to the 1960s you will recall that Onitsha was a major industrial spot in Nigeria and if you cast your mind back to the days of the civil war the equipment used in prosecuting the war on the Biafra side were manufactured locally because the area called Biafra was blocked.

So the approach that I have and what am joining my colleagues to do is to come up with legislations that have economic impact such that we do not continue to gyrate and engage in policy somersaults in critical economic issues so as to allow industrialization to take place. This is the focus because we have found out that when our people (the Igbos generally) engage in their economic activities just one single policy cripples their business. For instance, right now you can see what is going on with the naira. So my sense is to focus on those legislations either by way of amendments or enactments of new laws that will really help those involved in economic activities not limited to buying and selling with the ability to make reasonable projections which is a critical aspect of business engagement. So that is the way to go.

Also my Governor, His Excellency Okezie Ikpeazu, is doing somethings in Aba to encourage commerce and industry. So all hands must be on deck in terms of legislation on economic policies and in terms of the implementation of the policies because you see it is one thing to enact a law and another entirely for the Executive to ensure faithful implementation of the law.

How accessible are you to your constituency with respect to picking up their concerns and getting appropriate feedback?

Thank you. That is an interesting question. Well let me go back and tell you how I ran my campaign. I campaigned on three cardinal points- one, effectiveness, two, accessibility, and three, responsibility. These were the three cardinal points I ran my campaign. The federal constituency which I represent which is called the great Ikwuano-Umuahia, the quality and calibre of people that make up the constituency are enough for you to know that if you are here to represent them you just cannot do anything less because if you do you are running a risk. My federal constituency is the place where the first (military) Head of State in this country came from; the first premier of the Eastern region, Michael Okpara also hailed from; we have had so many governors- the Paul and Emeka Omeruos, ministers – like Vincent Ogbulafor, Enelamah, just name them. So if by the Special Grace of God you find yourself being pushed forward by these people, it means you must be effective. And I promised that and I am working to continue to deliver on that.

I also said since it is by the power of their thumb that I arrived at the National Assembly I have to remain accessible. When I hired my Secretary I told the lady this office is the office of the people of Ikwuano-Umuahia and when they come in here to see me please let them in. I know I am keeping to that. When I go home, I am accessible. People visit me; I go to visit people; I attend their ceremonies- child dedication, burials, whatever it is. And that is why I don’t spend my weekends in Abuja. I also made the promise that I will be responsive to the needs of my constituency according to my resources; according to my ability. That I am also doing because it is a privilege to represent hundreds of thousands of people particularly such a very high profile federal constituency.

Let me tell you, the phone number I used when I served at the United States Embassy many years ago before I came as an Adviser to the former Speaker here in the National Assembly that is the same phone number that I am using. After the elections some people would come and make a claim saying ‘I tried I didn’t get you I know you must have changed your number and I say change which number?’ This is the number I have and I am sticking with. So I have to remain effective and accessible because it is only when you are accessible that your constituency will be able to convey to you their concerns and legitimate aspirations which they will like you to push forward; and I am responsive to their needs according to the resources that are available to me.

How would you rate the House of Reps in the last one year from the perspective of being a member of the PDP, the minority party?

The 8th House of Representatives is a complex one in the sense that what used to be the ruling party is now the opposition and what is now the ruling party used to be the opposition party. That’s one. And there was the issue of who was being put forward by the ruling party and who was not to emerge as presiding officers in both house of the National Assembly. These things had their roles but eventually members of the House of Reps exercised the power of their votes during the election and elected Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker. It was a tough election with a slim margin. So initially there were these challenges of going forward- -is the ruling party in agreement and all that?

However, the House has consolidated in spite of these; there is unity and we are working as a family; the House is productive and focused. In terms of performance, this House under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara has performed outstandingly well and the pieces of evidence to support my assertions are all over the place. This House in spite of the fractions that happened initially has been able to pass 94 bills; we have been able to move well over 500 motions and only about 15 of those motions were negative.

When you look at that and the oversight functions; the public hearings that we have had to allow those that we represent and those that elected us to make inputs and express their feelings about a bill or law that is to be passed. When you put these on the table and evaluate without bias you will come to one conclusion- a House with outstanding performance.

What is your goal in the next one year and going forward in the House of Reps?

The last 365 days have been days of beginning, struggling and trying to put things in place. I believe that going forward say in the next one year, there will be a clear-cut economic policy from the Executive and from the Legislature, a coordinated effort to ensure that we support the Executive.

All these things that I have promised- being effective, accessible and responsive. I intend to deepen and sustain them. I am also very hopeful that I will be able to attract good projects to my constituency- -I do not expect the 2017 budget to be panel-beaten the way the 2016 budget was which adversely affected my federal constituency.

On a general note what is your take on the resurgence of separatist agitations- IPOB, Niger delta Avengers, etc, now plaguing the country?

When people are asking for their rights, recognition or that justice be done; those are things that can be handled. Why do I say so? The reason why you experience such is that people are feeling either they are alienated or that they are not fairly treated or that there is outright and intolerable injustice. Once you are pushed to the wall people are bound to come back and say ‘wait a minute, am I okay here or don’t you think it will be better if I move out of this place and stay somewhere else?’ So this is just the reason. So in terms of what I feel we have to try and build a balanced nation where all are treated equally; fairly; where justice reigns; where you do not allow either one ethnic group or religious group or political group to treat others as if they are conquered people. Once you just eliminate that, all will be well. We all condemn what is happening in the Niger delta, we do not want our economic situation to get worse than it is; as Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change, I do not want more oil to go into water and create more problems for generations unborn. But if we run a balanced nation where justice reigns; where we are not treating any group of people as if they are outsiders or second class citizens or we can take their resources and they cannot do anything; these things will just fade away. Let’s make this nation good for all of us. The beauty of this nation is the coming together of the diverse nations. I want to use this opportunity to appeal to my fellow countrymen- whether you are IPOB, Niger delta avengers or any group, please let us sheathe our swords and let the government engage these people and let us negotiate and solve our problems.

You prefer being addressed as ‘Representative’ and not ‘Honourable’ Sam Onuigbo, Why?

From our colonial past, members of Parliament who are ministers are addressed as ‘Honourable’ to the contemporary times, Ministers and Commissioners are also addressed as ‘Honourable.’ If you are elected you are representing the people but if you are a Commissioner or a Minister you are an appointee of the Governor or the President. Do not also forget that we are now running a presidential system of government like in the US where Congressmen are either just ‘Congressmen’ or ‘Representatives’.

*Do you any questions for Representative Onuigbo? Are you from his constituency and would like answers to any question? Send your enquiries to [email protected] , and they will be forwarded to him, for response.

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Articles by Nnaemeka Oruh