BY Demola Akinyemi
The Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Abdulrazaq Atunwa, has traversed the executive and legislative branches of government. Popularly called Atunwa One, he was commissioner for information, works and later finance.
Atunwa who vied for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP at the twilight of the Bukola Saraki era was edged out based on the geopolitical permutations that were put under consideration but subsequently took a seat in the state House of Assembly. Atunwa spoke in an interview with newsmen on issues pertaining to the House among other issues recently.
What is your view on financial autonomy for the state Houses of Assembly?
I believe it should pass. The sensitisation among the state Houses of Assembly is very high. All speakers are aware of the need for financial autonomy for the legislature and I believe that we will get the two thirds majority of the Speakers of the Houses of Assembly to pass the financial autonomy Act.
Financial autonomy of the legislature has more direct importance to the masses. If you have a legislature that can only bark and cannot bite because it is financially dependent on the executive, then you have elected a lame duck Assembly, an assembly that cannot enforce the civil and political right of the masses, that cannot check the executive and demand performance from it.
The Assembly that is not financially independent cannot enforce any law against the executive because it will come to the executive to ask for money. So the executive continues to dictate for the Assembly and if that continues to happen, the legislature cannot act in the best interest of the constituents.
Any governor or anyone indeed that seeks to frustrate or undermine that autonomy cannot have the best interest of the masses at heart, because these people elected the representatives to ensure that their views are heard. So any governor that wants to frustrate the financial autonomy simply wishes to be a dictator.
How has the journey been so far and what are the landmark achievements of the House under your leadership?
I am happy to say that the journey has been rewarding in terms of ability to serve one’s people. The journey as legislator has been one of fulfillment and illuminating journey. We’ve been able to achieve in terms of social issues and legislated on them. We did comprehensive oversight function, and of course, the 2013 budget too was a major event.
During last year, we brought about innovation of inviting commissioners to the House to answer questions every Thursday about their various ministries. Oversight function is not just going out to view projects, but also inviting commissioners to brief parliament on what each ministry has been doing. It’s meant to keep commissioners and executives on their toes, and to continue to perform as it should be. We started in 2011. So altogether till present date, we’ve been able to pass 87 resolutions, 28 motions and 14 bills.
The 7th legislature has been able to impact on the people positively through quality legislation and oversight function and because of the quality of the members. They are meticulous and we scrutinise bills very well before passage. The bills cut across wide variety of issues from the security Trust Fund bill to state’s statistics bill, Asset management Agency bill, Community Health Insurance bill etc. These are meaningful bills with direct impact on the life of the people, not forgetting Appropriation bill. Also are resolutions arising from petition having meaningful impact on the people.
How will you say these bills, resolutions and the rest have impacted on the people of the state?
Taking a look at resolutions arising from petitions, which are asking for boreholes, electrification, roads etc, all these will later impact on the people after resolutions are passed. For example, due to resolutions passed by the House, the state government has provided transformers to many areas as a result of our resolutions. By and large, state government has been implementing all other resolutions as we pass them. Again, for example, the community health insurance bill ensures primary healthcare is provided to everyone, particularly in rural communities.
How do you see the level of cooperation of people with the House?
The quality of resolutions and bills we pass in this 7th Assembly is very high. Thus, people see us as being responsive to their needs and happy to write petitions to us on complaints. What we do is refer some of the petitions and complaints to relevant ministries to take action. If they fail to take action, we then take it up on the floor of the House. Our job is the bridge between the masses and the government. EXecutive should do the job first, but if they fail to, we take it up on behalf of the people as the last hope of the masses. We are meticulous to scrutinise bills. We allow members to talk, go through clause by clause, even if it takes days.
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