Rt. Honourable Udo Kierian Akpan is the Deputy Speaker of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly. He represents Oruk-Anam state constituency. In this Interview with DAVID ODAMA, Akpan speaks on impeachment and other issues in Nigeria democratic system. Excerpts…

Suddenly, impeachment has become a weapon used rampantly in state houses of assembly; does this portend anything good for our democracy?Udo-Kierian-Akpan

Impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution. However, I think the problem with impeachment is following the processes involved in carrying out this constitutional provision I don’t see anything wrong with impeachment if it is done in good faith. It is only wrong when it is done with bias, when it is an attempt to clear the coast for something that cannot be easily understood by the general public. Impeachment at the 11th hour is not really the issue because anybody that commits an offence at the 11th hour can be punished depending on who has committed the offence and what the people in general want to achieve by the punishment. The major difference between impeachment at the first hour and the 11th is just the processes involved. If the processes are tidy and the intentions are clear, there is nothing wrong about impeachment, as far as I am concerned.

Autonomy for state houses of assembly has been a thorny issue and many have reacted differently to the issue, what is your position on this?

The issue of autonomy is presently beyond the state houses of assembly. Recall that at the last attempt to amend the 1999 constitution, the houses of assembly, throughout the federation, had unanimously voted in favour of autonomy for the legislature. But now, that is within the purview of the National Assembly into the issue vis-a-avis the intervention of the Supreme Court since the amendment of the constitution is now a case between the Presidency and the National Assembly. Hopefully, when the matter is resolved and there are no further issues over the amendment to the constitution, we shall enjoy autonomy for state assembly.

The persistent complaint is that most state houses of assembly are actually stooges of governors, what is your reaction to this assertion?

It depends on who is making the claim and the reasons the person proffers, or from what point of view he is making that judgment. I don’t believe state assemblies are stooges to the executive arm. I recalled that in one of the interviews I granted when I came into office, I said ‘if being a stooge is to ensure good governance, is to rubber stamp good roads, infrastructure, free and compulsory education, then I will be part of that rubber stamping. And I am willing to be called a stooge for that’. But when it comes to being a stooge for nothing to be done that will impact positively on the lives of our people, I don’t think many members of state assembly will be prepared to play that role. I have served in the Akwa State House of Assembly for about four years now I don’t recall members attaching themselves to a motive that is primarily different from that representative of the needs of the generality of the people. In Akwa Ibom, it doesn’t happen but since I don’t belong to all houses of assembly l don’t know how correct it would be to describe all state assemblies as stooges. However, because of the attitude of some states assembly of late, when it comes to the issue of impeachment and threats of impeachments to the Speaker and state executives, it is obvious some are being used. But it is important to differentiate this from the general norm by calling a spade by its name.

Since the inception of the present legislative session, which bill passed by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly would you say has impacted positively on the people?

We have been very focused on enacting laws that touch on the lives of the masses of Akwa Ibom state. The one that touches me most is the Appropriation Bill because every year, we allocate 80 percent for infrastructure- capital budget and 20 percent for recurrent expenditure. This has accounted for the massive infrastructural developments in the state. If you had been to Akwa Ibom state some five years ago, I bet you, today if visited the state you will see clear differences in all facets of life in the state. The people are not interested in infighting but they want to see changes that make meaningful differences in their lives and environment, and we are determined as a body to assist to effect the changes. Again, if doing this amounts to being a stooge, I am very comfortable to be that stooge provided that my people derive the benefits of my being part of the government.

The APC seems to be gaining ground in Akwa Ibom, hitherto a PDP dominant state, and this tends to generate political conflict; what do you think should be done to avert the conflict among the people?

It is important for you to note that other parties had existed in Akwa Ibom and in Nigeria from 1999 when democracy returned to the fore till date. From AD, APP, ANPP to ACN and all that, the APC is just a new label in the arena that came some two years ago. Many who are now in the APC were formerly in the PDP. They decamped to the APC just because they lost at the primary elections. For instance, the APC governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom in the last election was the Secretary to the Government of Akwa Ibom state from 2007 to late 2012. So, members of the opposition party are actually not really born as opposition members, they are just the same characters who had been in the system before, persons who moved from one platform to another depending on what they want to actualise and who they want to serve. It doesn’t matter what party they belong to because what is important to them is the political platforms or political offices they want to secure. So, once these processes are concluded the bickering will stop. Don’t forget that in the last process the court or tribunals ended their deliberations and made their pronouncements known all those things will stop and we will focus on the next elections again. And life will move on.

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