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CROSS RIVER LAWMAKERS IN COLD WAR WITH IMOKE OVER WELFARE PACKAGE

By NBF News
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Barely one year to the end of the fourth legislative year, the Cross River State law makers are said to be engaged in cold war with Governor Liyel Imoke over what they described as lack of commitment to their welfare and other sundry privileges.

Governor Imoke had, during one of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus meetings at Peregrino hall, Government House, Calabar, castigated the Assembly members for being busy building hotels rather than engaging in projects that would be beneficial to their communities. He was said to have gone further to lash at them for not connecting with their constituents and for only visiting them during elections to canvass for votes.

This statement, Daily Sun gathered, did not go down well with the legislators. They saw it as a calculated attempt to pitch them against the electorate and later dump them before 2011 election, They also fell it was a betrayal from the leader of the party, who they had expected to protect them or at worst present the true picture of their financial constraints occasioned by cash crunch being experienced by the state.

Consequently, manty of the progressive-minded lawmakers had started discreet moves to woo the former governor Donald Duke with a view to giving them tickets to run election under the labour party instead of losing out completely from the power equation.

These progressives were said to have been holding nocturnal meetings, strategizing on how to plot for their 2011 elections as they were afraid that the incumbent governor might have concluded plans to ditch them for fresh candidates in spite of their contributions to stabilizing his administration in the last three years. As at the time of going to press, some of these legislators were said to have approached the leadership of Labour Party on how to work out modalities for the 'political marriage'.

Speaking to Daily Sun on the condition of anonymity, one of the lawmakers lamented the poverty-stricken nature of the house members and wondered how they would be able to go back to their communities to ask for another mandate when they could not boast of even a single constituency project in four years. The legislator, who confided in our correspondent, admitted that initially they agreed with the executive arm of government to make sacrifice based on the lean resources of the state but were marveled at the recent statements credited to the governor during the recent caucus meeting in which he lashed out at them

According to the honourable member, 'we are now being chastised for being good party members and for showing understanding when the state was passing through hell; we have been used and dumped because election is around the corner; we have passed a total of 39 bills in the last three years without asking for any form of gratifications; we operate without offices; our aides and drivers are treated shabbily as there are no provisions for them.'

'We have been pauperized, we were promised plots of land and up till now, nothing has been heard about it. During the governor's re-run election in 2008, he made a promise to return all of us to the assembly and further promised that for those who might have obstacles in their various constituencies, he would do everything humanly possible to return them as a way of compensating them,' he lamented.

Daily Sun investigations revealed that the legislative arm of government in the last three years had been passing through serious austerity measures as a result of poor finances the state has been faced with. It became worse in march 2009 when the 76 oil wells were ceded to neighbouring Akwa Ibom state following the re-adjustment of the boundary by boundary commission.

Since then, some allowances and privileges that normally accrue to them had been denied, thereby hindering them from carrying out some of their legislative functions as well as meeting up their constituents' needs and demands. It was learnt that since 2007, when the present crop of legislators came into office, they have not received any constituency allowance neither have they been given any constituency projects as used to be the case. rather, it was learnt that they were advised to source for facility from financial institutions and some donor agencies if they must execute projects or carry out some welfare programmes.

Besides, the law-makers have never enjoyed any form of Christmas bonus until last year when the Governor, in his magnanimity, approved the sum of n100, 000 each and without rice and other condiments. In his address during the resumption of the 4th legislative year on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, the speaker of the house, hon. frank Adah, admitted that much that the house has in the last three years been very eventful as 'the hallowed chamber has remained consistent in its commitment to enhance good governance and delivery of democracy dividends to our people through legislation and resolutions.'

though he did not mention anything about welfare package, but he admitted that they are faced with infrastructural difficulties which have affected their operations.