The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has dismissed the claim in certain quarters that the current Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly is not properly constituted. Reacting to certain newspaper and social media publications, the Uyo branch chairman of the NBA, Aniekan Akpan, described the argument against the current status of the House as misleading.
He said section 91 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended deals with the “composition” of the various state houses of Assembly and not their quorum.
He explained that the section states clearly that the house of Assembly of every state should be made up of 24 and not more than 40 seats. He pointed out that the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly is made up of 26 seats. He said, therefore, that the current composition of the house has not changed despite the various judgments.
Barr. Akpan made this known in a presentation he made at the public hearing on the 2016 briefing and public hearing on the 2016 budget organised by the State House of Assembly today.
“About 2 days ago, we read in some newspapers and the social media, arguments tending to imply that this distinguished house, in the imagination of the writers, is not properly constituted and that the House as it stands had no powers to sit, or elect a speaker, or indeed receive the 2016 Budget from the governor.
“It is important to deal with this preliminary issue because if, as they claim, this House is not properly constituted, it would be a anathema for The Nigerian Bar Association to honor its invitation or otherwise associate with illegality in any form.
“The proponents of the argument made heavy weather of sec 91 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as variously amended, and came to the erroneous and/or mistaken conclusion that having lost some members to various judgments of the Court of Appeal that ordered rerun elections, the number of Honourable Members presently in the House being less than 24, the House can neither sit nor election a speaker, nor receive the Budget.
“With respect to them and others who may have been confused by this misleading argument, this interpretation is completely at variance with the words and spirit of the Consituation. Section 91 of the constitution deals with “COMPOSITION ” of the various state Houses of Assembly and not their quorum. This distinction is crucial and central to a proper understanding of the issue. The section states inter alia that the house of Assembly of every state should be made up of not less than 24 and not more than 40 seats (or state constituencies) the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly is made up of 26 seats (or state constituenices).
“This has not changed despite the various judgments. 2/3 of its membership would form a quorum, in this case 18. The house presently has 22 validly elected members. This is clearly above its required quorum. Consequently the house can lawfully sit and carry out any business Including the election of its speaker.”