Legislature, weakest arm of government – Ndoma-Egba

Ndoma-Egba

Former Senate Majority Leader and three-term senator, who represented Cross River Central Senatorial District, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), in this interaction with select newsmen in Calabar, explains why he wants to return to the Senate. ANIETIE AKPAN was there.

As a three-term senator, what exactly did you forget at the National Assembly that you want to go back there?

Well, I forgot a lot of things there. I started the Iruan Dam in Boki and it is not finished. So, that is what I forgot at the senate.

I started the Egbe Water Scheme that was expected to supply water from Mbor, in Ikom to Nkonfab the last village before Ogoja Local Council.

That too has not been completed. I started a specialist hospital in Ikom, which is not completed; I started the Ikom–Otono-Agbokim waterfalls project, which is not finished; I started a police barracks in Itigidi, Abi.

That is yet to be completed too. I started the Faculty of Law Building in the University of Calabar.

It is still not finished yet. So, those are the things that I forgot in the Senate. And of course I have many bills, but only the Freedom of Information Bill became an act of the National Assembly.

The other 37 bills are still unprocessed. These are some of the things that I forgot at the senate.

There appears to be no continuity 0f service in the Senate. Why so?
 
There is no mechanism for continuity of the projects and that is the peculiarity of the legislature; there are no handing over notes in the legislature.

A legislature loses his election and just moves on because there is no time for him to interface with his successor and that is why it is advised that legislators return as often as possible.

That is why in the United States, we have legislators who were elected the year I wrote my school certificate examination.

Senator John McCain, who recently passed on entered the Senate the year I entered secondary school in 1968 and remained there till he died last year. 

This is the peculiarity of the legislature and it does not allow for handover notes and that is why they ensure that what is started is pursued to a logical conclusion.

In fact in the United States, constituents work hard for their members of the House of Representatives to chair the Ways and Means Committee, that is the most powerful committee in the US Congress. For you to chair that committee, you must have been there for a minimum of 28 years, so they kept returning such representative until he qualified and became chairman of that committee.

So, seniority and ranking in the National Assembly is crucial.

Therefore, for us and as an emerging democracy, we cannot afford the erosion of institutional memories that we have now because it is too costly for the system. 

If you take the judiciary for instance, if you are looking for a court judgment that was delivered in 1898, you will find it because the judiciary out there has this very sophisticated archives and retrieval system that no matter how old a judgment is, it can still be found.  

Then you also have what is called the hierarchy of courts. The courts are in a hierarchy from the customary court to the magistrate court, high court, the appeal court and then the Supreme Court. 

The moment the Supreme Court has delivered the principle of law, you have what is called judicial precedence, and all the other courts are bound to follow that precedence.

In the executive arm, the governor is handing over to a new one and there are handover notes, transition notes and this is systematic.

In our circumstances, the legislature, which is the weakest, should actually be the strongest.

Why do I say it is the weakest? I am saying so because we have had several years of military rule and each time the military strikes, the first thing that they do is to dissolve the parliament. 

So, the growth of the parliament has not been as consistent as it has been for the executive and judiciary. Each time the parliament is truncated, it looses memory. And to add to that, the high rate of turnover of legislators each time there is an election also leads to the loss of institutional memory because for the legislature, apart from our Hansard and other records, the institutional memory of the institution is the aggregate memory of the members put together.

That is what constitutes institutional memory, and that is why you see someone saying, ‘when this thing happened in the past, this was how we handled it.’

So, that explains why there is no mechanism for continuity in the legislature as an arm of government. This massive erosion of institutional memory is not very healthy.

What are APC’s chances in the forthcoming election in the state?
 
Cross Riverians have become very conscious and I have spent the last couple of weeks educating the people and telling them that for all the support we gave to the PDP for the past years, which is over four million votes, what have we got? We lost Bakassi, we lost 76 oil wells, we lost the hosting rights for the National Sports Festival, and during this time, paradise was lost in the state.

I remember a time when we had flights from Calabar to Obudu, Lagos to Bebi, Port Harcourt to Bebi, and Abuja to Bebi, do we still have those flights?

Once upon a time, we boasted of having the longest cable car in Africa, do we still have that? Once upon a time, the President spent his vacation in Obudu, does that still happen? Do we still have the mountain race? So, with the massive support that we have given to the PDP, our experience has been one loss after the other.
 
That had been our fate under the PDP, but Buhari said these people deserve something better, and he gave us Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

Yours sincerely is the Chairman of the NDDC, the Special Assistant on Prosecution to the President is also from the state, same goes for the Director General, Centre for Women Development.

As chairman of the NDDC, to what extent has the commission helped in developing the state?
 
I have said this before and let me say this again, in the past two years any road that has been tarred in the state, 90 per cent of the chances are that they have been tarred by either the NDDC or the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and I want to be challenged on this.

We have roads right from Calabar South, to Bakassi, down to Obudu. I want to be challenged. If you see any school that is being rehabilitated in the last two years, or built with furniture, 90 per cent of chances are that they have been done by the NDDC, or the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

Again I want to be challenged on this, and until we are challenged, these remain our achievements. 

You remember that once upon a time, the Calabar–Itu–Ikot Ekpene Highway was impassable, but it has been made passable by the NDDC, the same for the Ikom–Calabar-Ogoja as Calabar–Ikom–Obudu road.

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