In this interview, the Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Honourable Micheal Adeyemo sheds light on bills and motions that have been considered by the Assembly in the past 15 months and why financial autonomy of the legislature remains a challenge. WALE AKINSELURE brings some excerpts:
It’s been about 15 months since the Eighth Assembly was inaugurated. What bills and motions have you attended to that you would regard as impactful on the people of the state?
We have passed some bills that have been impactful on the society. We have passed at least 13 bills and numerous motions. One of the essences of the legislative arm of government is to use the legal framework to address the needs and challenges of the society. Towards stemming the tide of the rampant cases of kidnapping in the state, we worked with the judiciary and security agencies to come up with a bill termed “Oyo State Kidnapping Prohibition Bill, 2015”. As soon as the bill was passed into law and assented to by Governor Abiola Ajimobi, instances of kidnapping have reduced. Prior to the passage of that bill, there was no law to address the now sophisticated methods of kidnapping, and no punishment for offenders. The kidnapping law provides adequate punishment for offenders, including those who aid or abet the criminal act. With the law, people are now more conscious about whom they lease or let out their properties to, because they know that their properties can be forfeited, if they are found to be party to the crime.
Also, the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill has gone past the Second Reading stage. This bill will turnaround our criminal justice system, assist in the decongestion of prisons, speedy trial of criminals, and make the police who are involved in investigation to be proactive. This means that people cannot just be locked up, under the system of withholding charge, even beyond the duration of punishment for the offence. We have also worked on the Oyo State Tertiary Institutions Staff Retirement Age Bill, 2016, where the retirement age limit for all tertiary institution staff is now 65 years. Furthermore, we have attended to the Revenue Administration bill aimed at addressing the challenges of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the state. This bill enabled the overhauling and repositioning of the revenue generating bodies for efficiency. We also investigated several issues affecting Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso where for example, contractors handling projects failed to execute them. Such contractors were invited, and some brought proposals on executing the contracts. We have passed motions that attend to the specific needs of the people and calls attention of government to areas of concern of the people like education, health, infrastructure, security, agriculture. Some of our motions have also charged agencies of government to be alive to their responsibilities. We have come up with resolutions that the concerned agencies have acted upon and we get the feedback.
In May 2016, the Assembly came up with resolutions on resuscitating moribund industries in the state like Oyo State Paper Mill Limited Oluyole, Ibadan; Cashew Nut Processing Industry Limited, Eleyele, Ibadan; and, Conpole Nigeria Limited, Moniya, Ibadan. Which moribund industry has been resuscitated since the Assembly passed that resolution?
The feedback I got from the concerned House Committee and the relevant department is that some of these industries, one way or the other, had been sold, while there are ongoing litigations involving others. There are some of the industries that have virtually nothing for its resuscitation. We are now trying to get interested partners, investors to resuscitate those companies that are free from litigations and those that have not been sold outrightly. The lack of continuity in governance, where different governments come to power and do away with what the previous government did, caused the state the loss of the benefits of having those industries. These industries can turn things around in the state, like, gainfully employing a lot of people.
Have you advised the executive arm of government accordingly, considering the ability of these industries to generate employment and boost the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR)?
They are working on it. But, the matter concerning some of these industries is in court, and we have suggested that the concerned agency should reach out to the concerned parties for settlement, in the interest of the state. We have advised that whatever interest, be it personal or political, should be buried. We believe that, with that advice, the executive will not fold its hands and will come up with something.
Has there been any occasion where you confronted or disagreed with the executive?
The judiciary and executive disagree but we do not hear such in public. So, must our disagreement with the executive be in the eyes of the public? We are not helping the system if we adopt that style of confronting the executive. There is nothing we will achieve through confrontation. Once the person we are dealing with is ready to listen to our genuine observations, and makes himself available, why do we have to be confrontational? If I notice that someone has done something wrong, what is ideal is to walk up to and tell such person rather than report to a third party. This is what happens in other climes. We do not hear reports about an arm of government going to the press to criticise or object the executive. We lawmakers are stakeholders in the business in governance. Therefore, the three arms of government must relate with mutual understanding and cooperation to address our people’s needs and concerns. So, it won’t be proper to be confrontational in resolving issues since the parties concerned are favourably disposed to discussion. Where the need arises, we harmonise and move on. Certain notions in public about the legislature may not be unconnected with previous experiences where the Assembly always witnessed crisis. We are now in an era of commonsense rather than the use of force to get things done.
At the last plenary of the Assembly, some lawmakers raised concerns over the bill seeking approval of the Assembly for the creation of Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). What is the fate of that bill?
What the issue of LCDAs creation requires is the amendment of a bill. The local government areas have been created in accordance with the due process of law – passed by the House of Assembly and the law has not been repealed. At about the same time when an additional 35 local government areas were created in Oyo State, Lagos State also created additional 37 local councils. But, Lagos was denied the take off due to political reasons. The state approached the Supreme Court and got a judgment which read: “The law creating the local government areas by the Lagos House of Assembly is valid. But, to make it finality, the National Assembly should adopt it in the constitution.” However, for political exigencies and reasons, this is yet to be done. So as to move on, the nomenclature was changed from local government areas to LCDAs. In the north, we have area councils aside from local government areas.
The constitution is so clear about the ability of the House of Assembly to determine the structure, administration, finances of local government areas. There is an existing 2002 law and what we are required to do is to amend the existing law, not the structure. This is because the structure passed through certain processes. The moment we try to remove or add, we tamper with the referendum that made the people accept the creation of additional local government areas. The comments made by members during the Second Reading of the bill showed a consensus on the need for additional local government areas in the state but they noted that certain adjustments have to be made. In 2002, some areas in the state declined the need for additional local councils, but, they now realise the need for additional councils. There are some areas, who failed to agree on their headquarters. What we are saying is that the existing law on the creation of 35 local government areas should be amended and put to use, then we can later put the machinery in place for additional local councils. Those with genuine agitations should make them known and we can now initiate another process.