It is Monday 30th September, 2019
Welcome to a new Legislative Day at the Abia State House of Assembly.
The Sergeant-At-Arms ushered in the Speaker, Rt Hon. Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji, the Deputy Speaker, Rt Hon. Ifeanyi Uchendu and other Principal Officers, to the hallowed Chamber of the Abia State House of Assembly.
The Member representing Isialangwa South, Rt Hon.Chikwendu Kalu, led the prayer for the commencement of the House sitting at exactly 1:13pm.
Observations and Adoption of VOTES and PROCEEDINGS of Wednesday, 25th September, 2019.
The Speaker asked the House members to check Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 25th September, 2019.
“Distinguished Colleagues, you are welcome to today’s Plenary Session this 30th Day of September, 2019. Before we proceed, as usual, may we go through the Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 25th September, 2019.
The Majority Leader, Hon. Solomon Akpulonu, moved that the House adopts Votes and Proceedings of Wednesday, 25th September, 2019; the Minority Leader seconded the Motion while Members responded in the affirmative when the Speaker put the Motion into vote.
MATTERS OF URGENT PUBLIC IMPORTANCE/PERSONAL EXPLANATION
The Member representing Isialangwa North State Constituency, Hon Ginger Onwusibe, brought a Matter of Urgent Public Importance over the high Acceptance Fee charged by the Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU).
“We also have a development fee of N60,000 and another accreditation fee of N30,000. Mr Speaker, Honorable Colleagues, this is apart from the School fee of over N150,00 being charged by the institution.
“This is the reason why I have to bring it to the floor of this House so we can intervene and save our people from this hardship”, he said.
He prayed the House to intervene and also called for the House Committee on Education to investigate the high increase in School fees payable by students.
The Speaker thereafter called for contributions from Members.
The Member representing Umuahia East, Hon. Chukwudi Apugo, said the exorbitant school fees by ABSU is akin to robbery without a gun..
“Most times there are even no receipts backing up the acceptance fee, so where is the money going to?
“Mr Speaker, I want to align myself with the Member representing Isialangwa North that you use your good office to stop this robbery without gun,” he said
In his contribution to the matter, the Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Paul Taribo said the high fee is totally unnecessary.
“There is no course that is bigger or more important than the other as far as a university environment is concerned.
“This is a matter that this House must address considering the level of Poverty and hunger in the Land.
“I therefore align myself totally with the House Committee on Education ensuring that no further collection is made by the institution until the Committee turns in its report”, he concluded.
The Deputy Speaker, Rt Hon. Ifeanyi Uchendu, on his part, urged the House to invite the Vice Chancellor of the University for explanations.
“It is better we invite the VC and know the reason why they increased this fee and resolve this matter thereafter”.
Member representing Isuikwuato State Constituency, Hon. Barr Emeka Okoroafor, in his contribution said the circumstances the University found itself might have necessitated the increase in fees charged by it.
“Most of those compelled to pay for the accommodation end up not getting it because there is acute shortage of it.
“Mr Speaker, it is the circumstances of this University that might have forced them to increase their fees.
At this point, the Speaker asked if the Member for Isiukwuato State Constituency was attempting to preempt the envisaged Committee report on the Investigation of some of the Institutions.
The Member representing Arochukwu State Constituency, Hon. Mike Ukoha said, “I’m so glad this afternoon that the member representing Isialangwa North presented this matter.
“I will second the Motion that the matter be referred to the House Committee on Education. Mr Speaker, I will implore my colleagues to support that the matter be referred to the House on Committee on Education”.
The Speaker on his part said the prayers are very simple and are as follows:
(1) That the House resolves to call on the House Committee on Education to Investigate the said increase in fees by Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU), and,
(2) That the House resolves to stop further payment of these fees until the House is done with its Investigation.
The Speaker further said that Abia State University is not a private university and that the House will ensure that whatever is done by the University is done in consultation with stakeholders and not by fiat.
“The purpose of consulting is so that you would not make mistake. ABSU ought to have consulted seeing that such matters as unilateral increases in fees by other institutions have caused chaos”.
The Speaker put the Resolutions of the House into Vote and the House responded in the affirmative.
The House gave its Committee on Education one week to come up with its report.
The House therefore mandated Abia State University, Uturu, to stop further collection of the fees until the House Committee on Education turns in its report.
The Leader of the House, Hon. Solomon Akpulonu, moved that the House suspend its Order 59, Rule 4 to accommodate more Matters of Urgent Public Importance. The Minority Leader seconded the Motion while Members Responded in the affirmative when the Speaker put the Motion up for Vote.
The affected House Rule was Subsequently suspended.
The Member Representing Osisioma Ngwa North State Constituency, Hon.Kennedy Njoku, brought his Matter of Urgent Public Importance about plans by youths of his area to protest against the NNPC management in Osisioma.
“Mr Speaker, you will recall that there was a pipeline explosion that occurred in October 2018 where over 200 people lost their lives. Mr Speaker, it is worrisome that management of NNPC has continued to carry out its activities without any form of compensation to the affected victims.
“Mr Speaker, I remember those who campaigned for me, most of them lost their lives in that unfortunate incident.
That the House resolves that the State Committee set up by the Governor come to the House to explain how far the funds for the victims have been distributed.
(2) That the House urge NNPC to live up to its expectations which is not in place as at today.
Responding, the Speaker thanked the Member for Osisioma Ngwa North for bringing the matter up. He therefore called on the House members to debate the issue extensively since the matter involves death of fellow citizens.
The Member representing Osisioma Ngwa South State Constituency in his support to the Motion called on the House to take a step further by inviting the MD of NNPC, Aba Depot.
“Mr Speaker, we need to as well invite the Managing Director of NNPC, Aba Depot, to tell the House what has happened to the relief materials given to them while urging them to do a thorough cleaning of the premises.
The Speaker said the Member representing Osisioma Ngwa South added another prayer to the Motion and the Members affirmed it.
The Prayers were therefore amended.
The Member representing Ikwuano in his contributions said having lost 200 lives in the incident, the House should compel NNPC to alleviate the sufferings of the families of the individuals affected by the explosion.
The Member representing Ukwa West, Hon. Godwin Adiele, in his contributions urged the House to support all the prayers as moved by the by the originator of the Matter.
“NNPC is warming up. By October now they will start pumping fuel through that same line again without doing the needful to victims of the last explosion. All the prayers by my colleague should be adopted.
“I am aware that donations have been made in the course of this incident, let us know whether those who made pledges are yet to fulfill their pledges or the funds have been diverted into private pockets”, he said.
The Speaker on his part lamented the unfortunate incident where lives of people were lost in such a large number.
“Even if it was one person that died, it is the life of an Abian, not to talk of when it is 200 persons, and that is why I consider this matter a Matter of Urgent Public Importance.
“The essence of this is to find out ways of redeeming the pledges made by people.
The Speaker thereafter read the Resolutions as follows:
(1) That the General Manager in charge of NNPC Aba Depot be invited to give account of the donations
(2) That the House also resolved to ask NNPC to take actions in helping those affected by the incident.
The Motion was adopted by the House.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
The Clerk of Abia State House of Assembly, Sir John Pedro Irokansi, read the Orders of the Day as follows
(1) Continuation of Screening of Commissioner Nominees
The Majority Leader moved a motion for the amendment of the Order Paper to include the presentation of report of the Abia State House of Assembly Ad Hoc Committee that investigated the abandonment of Estates in the State. The Minority Leader, Hon. Abraham Oba, seconded the Motion while the House responded in the affirmative when the Motion was put to Vote by the Speaker.
Presenting the report, the Chairman, Hon.Solomon Akpulonu, said the Committee discovered that developers have abandoned the projects.
(1) That any development in all Government Estates should henceforth be suspended till further notice.
(2) That the Governor revoke the Certificates of Occupancy granted the developers for breaching the terms.
In his remark, the Speaker commended the Committee for the job.
He thereafter committed the report to the House Committee of the Whole for further legislative action.
Continuation of Screening of Commissioner Nominees
The Sergeant-At-Arms ushered in Prof. Ikechi Mgbeoji for screening.
The Speaker started by asking the nominee to introduce himself and identity his immediate Representative which he did by naming Hon. Obinna Ichita.
The nominee said Aba is being represented by three Lawmakers, Hon. Obinna ichita, Hon. Abraham Oba and Hon. Uzodike Aaron.
The Members Representing Aba North, Aba South and Aba Central all gave the House the nod to go ahead and screen the Commissioner Nominee.
The Speaker then called on the members to go ahead and ask the nominee their questions.
The Deputy Majority Leader and Member representing Ukwa East State Constituency, Hon. Paul Taribo, commended the Commissioner Nominee for his performance in the last assignment that was given to him by the Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, he called on the House to give him due attention by giving him accelerated screening.
The Speaker said accelerated screening is reserved for former Speakers and Deputy Speakers.
The Deputy Speaker in his question to the Commissioner Nominee asked what his efforts would be over the number of school drop out among children.
The Commissioner Nominee responded by saying Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children.
“We are the only state where our pupils are fed from Primary one to six”
Prof Mgbeoji said Abia State ranks high in trying to get children to school.
The Member representing Ugwunagbo State Constituency, Hon. Munachim Alozie, asked the nominee his age, marital status and address.
The Nominee in his response said he is from Aba South Local Government Area.
“I am 51years old, I am married with four children and I have been trained in many Universities across the World. My Primary school was County High School in Aba. I also attended Eziama High School. My Colleague, John Okiyi Kalu, was my junior at that time.
“I stand bold to say that my colleagues are aware about my contributions in the education sector in the State. After one of my lectures, the Kenyan Ambassador to Nigeria copied my Paper”
On the issue of tax, Prof Mgbeoji said as a former member of the dissolved State Executive, his taxes were deducted from source.
The Speaker asked the nominee to forward his Proper Curriculum Vitae to the House of Assembly rather than only his Professional details.
“Even if you are new, you would have ordered your P.A or whoever to go to the Board of Internal Revenue to prepare your tax receipts”
The Speaker asked the Nominee if he was aware of a letter written by a Commissioner over the engagement of a Consultant to manage the affairs of Abia Poly and ABSU, and if such a letter was discussed at the State Executive Council
The Nominee said he was not aware of any letter with respect to the engagement of any Consultant.
“That letter did not emanate from my office. I am not aware. I am even surprised that the letter could go to that level without my knowledge as the Commissioner for Education.
“I expect that before that letter could be of any effect, the Commissioner for Education should have been aware. No such letter was ever discussed with me or the State Executive Council”.
The Speaker thanked the nominee for his response.
The Minority Leader, Hon. Abraham Oba, in his question to the Commissioner Nominee reminded him of his media briefing where he claimed that Abia Poly has 10 PhD holders, he then asked the nominee if he was aware of the downsizing exercise at the polytechnic.
At this point, the Speaker called the Minority Leader to order, saying the nominee was not in office when the exercise was carried out.
The Member representing Bende North State Constituency commended the nominee for his detailed responses. He however asked him a question thus:
“As I was going through your CV, I observed that there was no where your service to Abia was mentioned. I want to ask, are you proud to be an Abian?
The Nominee said he is a very proud Abian.
Hon Chijioke on his part asked the nominee if he thinks the current increase of School fees in ABSU was proper.
The Member representing Aba North State Constituency, Hon. Aaron Uzodike, asked the nominee his plans over mushroom schools sprouting at every corner of Abia.
Hon. Mike Ukoha in his question said he was very sad as an Abian over the proliferation of private schools in the State. He asked the Commissioner Nominee to tell the House how many Private Schools there are in Abia and why the schools employ incompetent teachers.
The Commissioner Nominee in his response to the question by Hon.Chijioke noted that education is expensive but differed on the way and manner the fees in ABSU are being implemented.
“If you want to increase school fees, you should inform parents and guardians”
The nominee further said he was opposed to the way and manner the school fees in ABSU was increased, positing that fees should be increased with human face.
On the approval of schools, the nominee said despite his order against approval Of private schools, staff at the Ministry of Education went ahead to approve such schools.
“It is the Permanent Secretary and some staff that approve establishment of schools, so the Commissioner just stay there without being involved in any way,” he said.
Prof Mgbeoji said the process to get the Commissioner involved in the approval of schools is currently in theory but not yet practical.
The Leader of the House, Hon. Solomon Akpulonu, asked the Nominee if a State can be a Prosecutor and Defender at the same time.
The Member representing Obingwa West, Hon. A.C Thomas Nkoro, commended the nominee for his Performance as a former Commissioner for Education in Abia State.
“In what ways can you help to improve the Ease of Doing Business in Abia State?
The Member representing Umuahia South State Constituency urged the nominee to provide all the certificates he quoted in his CV.
“Under your watch, some teachers were employed, many schools lacked teachers; because of this lack of teachers, you employed some since January but till now they have been assigned to schools yet they have not been captured to pay salaries.
The Speaker asked the Nominee if SEMB is under the Ministry of Education and whether it is SEMB that should employ teachers and shift to ASUBEB to absolve.
The Commissioner Nominee, Prof.Ikechi Mgbeoji, in his response to the question by Hon.Uzosike said the lack of Science Teachers in the State necessitated the move to hire 140 new teachers.
“We cannot pay the salaries of teachers without additional funding and that is why we came to this House with a Bill and I must commend the House for the passage of the Abia State Education Trust Fund.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji, said he has it on good authority that ASUBEB has rejected all those employed by SEMB, he advised the nominee to ensure he resolves the issue if returned as Commissioner For Education.
The Member representing Isialangwa North, Hon. Ginger Onwusibe, asked the nominee about his views on the increased Abia State University Acceptance Fees payable by fresh students from N65,000 to N150,000.
Responding, Prof. Ikechi Mgbeoji, suggested that the House of Assembly takes a very hard look on the processes leading to the increase in school fees.
The Speaker advised the nominee to seek out the relevant Chairman of the Committee overseeing the Ministry he is assigned to.
“We expect a very good relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.
“The Situation where we are made to be viewed as a people that are merely poking our nose into the affairs of the Executive does not augur well for any society as the Constitution guarantees us that oversight”, the Speaker said.
The nominee was subsequently asked to take a bow and exit the Chamber of the Assembly.
The Sergeant-At-Arms was asked to usher in the next Commissioner Nominee, Chief Bob Chiedozie.
After taking his place, the Speaker asked the nominee to identify himself and his immediate Representative which he did by naming Hon Ginger Onwusibe.
The Member representing Isialangwa North State Constituency in his remark about the Commissioner Nominee said the nominee is qualified to be appointed as Commissioner but that he has his reservations.
“I have reservations about this nomination, although not personal but political” he said.
The Speaker, Rt.Hon Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji, called on the Members to make their contributions.
The Member representing Isuikwuato State Constituency asked the nominee if he was called to the Bar with a Statement of Result and whether he resigned as a Lecturer in ABSU in 2004.
The nominee in his response said he was called to the Nigerian Bar with his Statement of Result. On the issue of his resignation, he said there was a recommendation for downsizing of Lecturers, however, he said the matter is in Court even up to the Supreme Court
Leader of the House, Hon. Solomon Akpulonu, asked the nominee to explain details of the Agency of Government he was heading.
The Commissioner Nominee in his response said the Agency Abia State Integrated Infrastructural Development Agency was established by the Governor Of Abia State In 2015.
The Member representing Obingwa West Constituency asked the nominee how he could place the right priorities in any Ministry he finds himself.
The Member representing Umuahia South State Constituency, Hon. Jerry Uzosike, wondered why the nominee didn’t capture his head of an Agency in Abia State in his CV.
“You didn’t gather any experience on the Parastatal you headed in Abia?”, he asked.
The Member representing Bende South, Hon Emmanuel Ndubuisi, asked the nominee what he would do over restoration of Master plan of Umuahia.
The Member representing Aba South State Constituency, Hon. Obinna Ichita, said he was compelled to believe that the donor agencies quoted by the nominee has done nothing.
The Speaker asked the nominee if he was a Politician, Technocrat or beureacrat.
In answering all the questions, the Commissioner Nominee said most times the Budgets are not being implemented, but he believed that things would improve for the better.
On the Issue of his non Inclusion of his experience as the Head of an Agency in Abia in his CV, he said he was being paid per sitting but promised to include his experience in his updated CV.
The Nominee said he is a card carrying Member of the Peoples Democratic Party but said he is also a technocrat.
The Speaker advised the Nominee to carry the youths in his Constituency along.
“Our problem is when a politician finishes their work, technocrats would now come to take the glory.
“We want to see about ten youths around a Commissioner when he is moving as a way of giving them a sense of belonging”, he counseled.
The nominee was asked to take a bow and go.
The Majority Leader, Hon. Solomon Akpulonu, moved a Motion that the House revert back to full Plenary with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman occupying their places as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively with the mace uncovered for the purposes of reporting Progress from the quasi-Plenary.
The Speaker reported what happened at the quasi Plenary.
The Clerk Read the Next Item on the Order Paper.
The Leader Moved that the House adjourn Plenary to reconvene on Monday, the 7th Day of October, 2019. The Minority Leader, Hon. Abraham Oba, seconded the Motion while the House Members responded in the affirmative when the Speaker put the Motion up for Vote.
The Speaker made some Announcements.
The Abia State House of Assembly subsequently adjourned Plenary to reconvene on Monday, 7th October, 2019, at exactly 4:15pm
Courtesy: Media Unit,Office of the Rt.Honourable Speaker,Abia State House of Assembly.