Since the inception of the present Cross River State 8th Legislature on the 11th of June, 2015 with the emergence of the Rt. Hon John Gaul Lebo as the Speaker, Rt. Hon Joseph Bassey as Deputy Speaker and other principal officers, a breath of fresh air evidently has over run the Institution. Thanks to Hon Hilary Bisong, a member of the present House of Assembly whose campaign sobriquet during the last election was ‘fresh air’. Hon Hilary Bisong’s incurable fresh air has ostensibly infested the entire architecture of the present Cross River State House of Assembly.
Even His Excellency, the governor of Cross River Senator Professor Ben Ayade seemingly must have been overdosed with ‘fresh air’ such that he gave the Assembly the liberty to operate without any inhibitions or interference unlike other States’ Assemblies inseparably attached to the executives’ apron strings and reduced to mere rubber stamps.
Explicitly, the dynamism of the governor Ayade’s administration with injection of fresh ideas into governance, his passion for a better Cross River, ingenuity and sagacity gave him away as an epitome and apostle of ‘fresh air’ which he allowed to saturate the entire Cross River State House of Assembly.
Change is now synonymous with operations of the House and Hon members as well as staff have adjusted to this obviously infectious positive wind with a mind-set akin to that of the Speaker who had indicated from the inception of his leadership that the 8th Legislative Assembly will be different from previous ones.
Indeed the difference began to manifest within the short period of the existence of the 8th Legislative Assembly as it started recording milestones of achievements which are unprecedented in the legislative annals of the State and even Nigeria.
Within the space of 100 days, the Assembly has enacted nine laws that will change the face of governance in the state while impacting on its collective fortune and the livelihood of the people. The Infrastructure Fund Law, Infrastructure Safety & Regulatory Agency Law; the Kidnapping Prohibition Law, Waterfront Infrastructure Management Agency Law, Corporate Social Responsibility Domestication Law as well as the Wharf Landing Fee Law, will ensure that more revenue which will be judiciously applied, accrue to the state; more infrastructures will be developed and effectively managed, and the state will become safer for tourism to flourish and the people better secured.
Other laws like the Tax Exemption Law will leave more money in the pockets of low income earners whether in the Public or Private sector, the Social Housing Scheme Law will ensure that more Cross Riverians own houses.
The respective laws so far created by the Cross River State House of Assembly are human centred. They all aim at enforcing good governance in the state and offering the people a new and better lease of life.
These Laws address issues of poverty, unemployment, economic regression, Infrastructural deficit, Insecurity and Fiscal imprudence.
The Rt. Hon John Gaul Lebo, championing many laudable reforms in the House has brought his legislative acumen and incorruptible zeal to bear in the affairs of the Assembly which before now may be said to be stereotyped as ‘literally xenophobic’ to prevalent times, trends and innovations according to recent media allusions.
Albeit, the marks made so far by the Cross River State House of Assembly, one cannot submit that the Assembly has attained perfection or that marks made by previous Assemblies in the state should be obliterated or that they are inconsequential. Howbeit, the velocity at which the present Assembly is operating is none the less distinctive, dynamic and totally a departure from the usual.
Receding to the subject of this piece ‘Cross River 8th Legislature, Media & Us’, today we find an Assembly that is very media friendly and Peoples’-needs –driven.
Shortly after its inauguration, the House became sensitive to the Press and opened wide its doors to the Media. This was in appreciation of the enormous roles played by the media in democracy particularly, Nigeria’s Bicameralism where the legislature is seen as the nucleus of the system.
The Assembly needed to not only to be seen but to also be heard by the general public; the activities of the Assembly and individual members could no longer be restricted to the chamber and the ears of a privileged few; the constituents needed to know, monitor and assess the performance or activities of their representatives and more so, the Assembly saw it as an obligation to let Cross River People and indeed Nigerians know about its affairs. The Media became key to accomplishing the cravings of the House of Assembly; and to convey and facilitate the expectations of the people.
Unexpectedly, the Speaker Rt. Hon John Gaul Lebo declared that press men be granted unrestricted access to cover the activities of the House. Subsequently, the Media gallery at the Chamber was enlarged to accommodate more Journalists in view of influx as a result of the liberalism of the Speaker and honourable members.
To broaden reportage of the activities of the Assembly, for different perspectives in reports emanating from the white chamber and for wider spread, the Legislative House saw the need to have representatives of the various Print, Broadcast and Online media to cover its activities. Following this, the Speaker thought it apt to constitute the Assembly Press Corps.
Again, the Speaker on behalf of the House of Assembly instituted a Monthly Press Briefing coordinated by the House Committee Chairman on Information & Communication Technology Hon Nelson E. Ofem. The rationale for the monthly briefing is to enable the Speaker and Members retrospectively and prospectively highlight the activities of the House and the respective Committees, challenges and expectations to journalists who will in turn inform the general public of same.
For the ease of effectively reporting the House of Assembly, the Speaker went ahead to establish the Assembly’s Press Centre, to be furnished, and equipped with Information, Communication and Technology gadgets including internet access.
Today, the relationship between the 8th Cross River State Legislature and the media is robust, cordial and very courteous. Confidence seemed to have been restored.
All these result-oriented innovations would not have been possible without the liberalism of Mr Speaker, the goal-oriented members and their unflinching support as well as the cooperation of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Cross River State Chapter led by Pastor Ndoma Akpet and the Association of Cross River Online Journalists, ACROJ, under the leadership of Iwara U.Iwara.
Not oblivious that they hold the peoples’ mandate as representatives of the 25 State Constituencies of Cross River State, the Assembly in its wisdom thought that since the people were the reason for their membership of the legislature, it was mandatory to carry the people along in the activities of the House.
This concord of thoughts necessitated the commissioning of the Citizens Legislative Agency Project (CLAP) 2015-2019, which is geared at making the people the centre of legislation and partners in the business of the legislature.
Highlight of the CLAP as unveiled by Hon Hilary Bisong, indicated that Members of the Legislature are representatives of the people, by a natural synergy that is created by the constitution. The legislature and the people therefore, are supposed to be partners in the process of law Making. Thus should see laws enacted by the Assembly as ‘our laws’ instead of ‘their laws’. This collective possession can only happen if the people are involved in the process of law making.
The people’s involvement enhances transparency and openness which is the hallmark of Good Governance, the Assembly reasoned.
Going forward, Mr Speaker in consultation with members felt that a support structure or incubator that will help bring about a superlative legislative ‘pattern’ in the country and beyond was necessary.
The need for the Cross River State Legislative Institute (CROSLI) became expedient to serve as a vehicle that will be used to shape this ‘pattern’ into a sustainable Legislative culture while producing competent managers to drive an instituted wholesome legislative system in the state.
The vision of the Institute is to build a robust Legislative Institution with a sustainable culture for Cross River.
Then, the Democracy Club and the Youth Parliament was inaugurated by the Speaker in a bid to mentor young democrats for the future as well as build future liable legislators for the state through the Youth Parliament.
With this twin youth Initiatives, the Assembly sensed that building a generation of youths to take over from the present crop of legislators would safeguard the culture of responsible and responsive Legislature being established in the state by the 8th Legislature. If this novel culture must be sustained, then grooming future generation of youths for continuity remains a prerequisite.
In 100 days, the Cross River State House Assembly, so far has practically demonstrated a rare savvy in its obligations and duties.
Embracing the Media wholly was only instructive to the collective resolve of the Assembly to offer remarkable representation while making the citizens/constituents the drivers of the activities of the 8th Legislature of the Cross River State House of Assembly under the outstanding leadership of Rt. Hon John Gaul Lebo with a complement of impregnable, erudite and rare breed legislators representing the 24 State Constituencies of the state as well as the 26th unelected member, the indefatigable clerk of the House.
Azogor Ideba is Chief Press Secretary to CRSHA Speaker
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