June 11, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

Why legislators’ core functions suffer neglect

Hon. Samuel Nkem Otuibe, 38, is the lawmaker representing Ahiazu state constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly. This calm, well-spoken state assemblyman with next level potentials has been speaking on various issues in politics, especially concerning the role of a legislator.

He comes across as one who understands his turf well, and humbly, without shirking the (dreaded) forthrightness to sting where the need arises, as many a politician is wont to do. One politician once told this reporter that “it is not necessary to speak the truth at all times.” This political savoir faire did not seem to jell with the personality of Hon. Otuibe when he spoke to CentralNews in his New Owerri home last week.

You would get a hang to his bluntness when he asserts bare-facedly that, the functions of a legislator in these climes are often largely neglected. The process of law-making suffers a set-back in the process! Taken up on such bold testimonies, the discussion proceeds thus:

CentralNews: So, what responsibilities of the legislator are we speaking of?

Answer: The core duties of the legislator are, making laws through the Legislature, for the benefit of the people. This you do by effective representation; you must know to harness every strategy to ensure the piece of legislation coming out includes your input, bearing in mind that you speak for your constituents.

At all times, you are the voice of the people you represent. If they needed other people to ensure that their interests are protected, it is you who would canvass such others for support to objectify those interests. You are making certain, to include in the policy framework any and everything necessary to satisfy the needs of your your people, and to exclude anything that could detract from the stated objectives.

The legislator would also propose, sponsor, and support motions to check, and control any anomalies in policy evolution and implementation. That would come in the form of participating adroitly in debates at plenary, and oversight functions. Having satisfied yourself that you have these duties done to your people, anything else you do for them is extra, out of passion.

CN: How about promises not kept?

Otuibe: From this onset, let us establish that, provision of roads, water boreholes, schools, hospitals, and sundry social and capital infrastructure are not the responsibility of the legislator. His concern in this regard is to make certain that, at the point of allocation of state resources to the needs and aspirations of citizens by way of appropriation (Budget), those needs and desires are captured in the policy document– the Appropriation Act — for the Executive to implement. It is now for the executive arm of government to see to actualization, and I dare say, subject to availability of resources. Where the Executive says or is seen not to have garnered the full assumptions in it’s revenue projections, it may not do everything budgeted.

But this does not translate to a legislator’s failure to keep promises.

CN: What about not doing constituency projects?

Otuibe: I am serving the first three months of my four-year second-tenure as state legislator. So, I can say authoritatively that, that subject should be for another day. There are no such funds being collected or allocated at state level, not in Imo at least; I’m not aware of other states either. Perhaps at Federal level, maybe.

That is why all of us must pray for the local governments to regain their full autonomy in every material matter and manner, because those amenities you look up to legislators to provide are the responsibilities of local governments. Let me say again that it is not in the core mandate of the legislator to bother about amenities.

CN: What should the people do in all these?

Answer: Our people need political education; they never seem to know that it is the Executive to act on the policy initiative of the legislature to provide the amenities and infrastructure. That is why when executive action is not consummated satisfactorily, people bicker at the legislator. That is why I also say that the process of legislation suffers a setback, and the lawmaker’s core functions are neglected because another arm of government might have failed to fully actualize its part of governance. The people need to know the difference.

People must know where the boundaries of responsibilities are. Repeat: every legislator prays that local governments regain their full autonomy so that, they being the nearest political authority to the generality of the masses of our people, would stand in the gap and do these most-simple needs of the people. Then, the people themselves should pray for legislators: for wisdom to make positive laws that impact their constituents. All of us also need to be patient with government, believing that our country’s vagaries concerning the economy and security would change for the better.

CN: Are there milestones you would wish to be remembered for when you might have served out your terms in the legislature, whenever that might be?

Ans: One could only do so much: one is very honestly concerned about empowering our people meaningfully: capacity building, that is.

In this respect, I engage in a passionate yearly ritual — WASSCE/UTME registration fees of students in my constituency, especially those whose parents/guardians might have found it difficult to cope with. In 2019, we did 200 students; 250 in year 2021, and the numbers are increasing as the years pass. As of 2021, 49 of the total we paid for successfully passed both exams got admitted to universities. Last year alone 65 achieved the same feat.

Also, we target old market-women — those who deal mainly in everyday farm produce like vegetables and such-like. More critically we look out for children having medical challenges like surgery, beyond the capacity of their parents to procure. God helping us, we aspire to do much more in these areas, especially.

CN: Next on the agenda?

Ans: No comment.