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Cross River Assembly Clerkship Tussle: Facts and Fiction

By Amawu Cletus

I am constrained as a Journalist and as a reverend of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, concerned Cross Riverian, savouring in the season of sweetness from our darling Sweet Prince and condemned to fact check to keep society abreast from misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation from citizens like Ekanem with a penchant to mislead gullible in the society as a merchant and peddler of falsehood.

We have seen how he tried in futility to malign a Senator from the State and pitch him against His Excellency in his utopian figment of imagination.

Permit me to put the record straight for Cross Riverians to know, and for His Excellency, Senator Prince Bassey Edet Otu our Governor who has demonstrated the determination to rescue Cross River State Civil Service from years of misgovernance, which almost led to the total collapse of the Service.

The tussle for who become the next Clerk of the Cross River State House of Assembly (CRSHA) has been on for some months now; This tussle climaxed with the miscarriage of justice and led to the release of the appointment circular of Mr Patrick M. Edi by the Office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) last Week.

Pertinent questions to be asked are:

1. Between Barr. Catherine U. Ubi and Mr Patrick M. Edi, who is a senior in Service and deserving of the appointment?

2. Was this appointment done in conformity with the provisions of extant Laws?

3. Was the Office of the Secretary to State Government, deriving its powers from the Governor, properly guided in making that decision?

4. What was the misleading role of the Cross River State Assembly Service Commission in this whole saga?

5. Did the Powers that be take that decision because of Barr. Catherine U. Ubi is a Woman?

6. What is the “(in)famous” role of the Speaker of the 10th Assembly, Rt. Hon. Elvert Ayambem?

As a Journalist, I have done my findings to seff the truth from the chaff. Hence, gotten to the roots of the case; I hereby challenge Citizen Ekanem, or anyone with superior evidence to invite me for a debate, or fact-matching discussion on this issue.

Between Mr Patrick M Edi And Barr. Catherine U. Ubi, Who Is Senior In Service?

By the provisions of the Civil Service Rules, Seniority is determined by two cardinal pillars, while the third pillar is optional and at the discretion of the Chief Executive of the State.

The first Piller is (i) Date of entry into Service., while the second Pillar is (ii) Rank of entry into Service.

In determination of Seniority, these two pillars must be considered side by side. Date of entry simply refers to the time in which a Civil Servant is given an appointment, while Rank of entry refers to the Grade Level in which a Civil Servant is offered an appointment.

It is pertinent to State here that Seniority in Service, between Graduates as to headship of Government Agencies, is basically determined by Grade Level. In other words, Graduates on higher Grade Levels must naturally head Graduates with lower Grade Levels. This has been the position since the introduction, or let me say importation of Civil Service into the Country.

Before setting forth to State the Facts and Fiction, it is necessary to draw your attention to the fact that the Grade Level of entry into the Service is determined by the qualifications of applicants. In other words, a First School Leaving Certificate holder, a Senior School Certificate holder, an OND/HND Certificate holder, a First-degree Certificate holder, and a Professional degrees Certificate holder all have different Grade Levels of entry into the Service.

The Professional Degree Certificate holders, like Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Chartered Accountants, and other professions where the holders have Professional Certificates in addition to First Degree, get higher Grade Levels at the entry point. The implication of this is that where a first-degree holder joins the Service on Grade Level 8, a professional degree holder who joins the Service later on higher Grade Level automatically becomes senior to the first-degree holder on Grade Level 8.

This position is given without prejudice to the Rules of Promotions and Growth governing the Civil Service. I enjoined readers to confirm this position from seasoned Civil Servants or retired Seasoned Civil Servants, as we proceed on this voyage of Facts and Fiction.

The Fiction: Citizen Ekanem alleged that Mr Patrick M. EDI is senior to Barr. Catherine U. Ubi by virtue of the date of first appointment. This position of Citizen Ekanem is fictitious because he failed to consider the twin pillar, rank of entry, in making his uninformed postulation.

The Fact: Mr Patrick M. Edi joined the Service of Cross River State in 1991 on Grade Level 8, while Barr. Catherine U. Ubi joined the Service in 1995 on Grade Level 10. Recall that I earlier informed you that seniority in Civil Service between two graduates is usually determined by Grade Level. While it’s a fact that Mr Edi joined the Service before Barr. Catherine, Barr. Catherine, however, became his senior by virtue of her Rank of entry, which was Grade Level 10.

This position of Seniority has never been in dispute throughout the period that both of them were deployed on secondment to the House of Assembly. The following documents are essential for proving this fact. (A) Appointment Letters of both Mr Edi and Barr. Catherine. (B) Nominal Roll of the House of Assembly, which carries records of both of them. (C) Letters of last Promotion of both of them.
And from my investigation, Barr. Catherine has always been senior to Mr Edi, as no document was seen to prove that Mr Edi benefited from any fiat promotion to make him rise above Barr. Catherine. The last document, mentioned above, which is the Letters of Promotions shows that Barr. Catherine was promoted to the Rank of a Director some years before Mr Patrick Edi.

Conformity To Extant Laws:

It is pertinent to state here that the main Law guiding the appointment of Clerks and Deputy Clerks of the House of Assembly is the Cross River State House of Assembly Service Commission Law. Before the enactment of this Law in 2020, appointments of Clerks and Deputy Clerks were carried out at the discretion of Governors; but this discretion was exercised in accordance with the Civil Service Rule of Seniority in Service.

It was in this line that past Clerks, beginning from Mr Otonko (under Donald Duke), Mr John A. Okon (under Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke), Barr. Bassey Ekpenyong (under Liyel Imoke and Ben Ayade), Mr Adie Akabisong (under Ben Ayade), and Mr Dominic Akiba (under Ben Ayade).

It is necessary to also state here that appointments of Clerks up to Barr. Bassey Ekpenyong was all done before the enactment of the Assembly Service Commission Law.

After the enactment of the Assembly Service Commission Law, the Commission was given the power to recommend to the Governor the person to be appointed the Clerk and also Deputy Clerks.

Is this power of recommendation by the Commission without any form of checks? The answer is No.

By the Provisions of Section 14 of the Assembly Service Commission Law, the Clerk of the House is to be appointed from amongst the three Deputy Clerks, as enshrined in the same Law. In other words, for anyone to be appointed the Clerk, the person must have first been a Deputy Clerk.

The pertinent questions to ask the Assembly Service Commission, headed by Mr Justin Ugbe, is on what basis did they recommend Mr Patrick Edi to the Governor for appointment as Clerk, knowing that Mr Edi has never been a Deputy?

This amounts to a flagrant breach of the very Law that established and appointed them into Office. It goes to show that either the members of the Commission do not understand the Law that puts them in office, or they deliberately set out to mislead the Governor for a sinister reason I would refrain from stating here.

Another fundamental aspect of the Assembly Service Commission Law which I wish to draw the attention of Cross Riverians is the appointment of Deputy Clerks. Section 18 of the Assembly Service Commission Law states the criteria for the appointment of three Deputy Clerks.

The three cardinal issues for consideration before appointment are (a) Seniority in Service. (b) Legislative Experience and (c) Fitness for the job, both of mind and body.

And from my investigation of the workings of the Legislature, the following suffice as an explanation for the above consideration for the appointment of Deputy Clerks.

The first one, which deals with Seniority in Service generally had earlier been explained, and the third consideration, which deals with fitness of the mind and body does not require explanation, given its simple and literal nature of it.

I will rather take time to explain the second, which is Legislative Experience.

Legislative Experience, As A Parlance In The Legislature:

Let me state here that from my investigation, I discovered that the Legislative Arm of Government is one Institution that takes pride in its culture that evolved over the years.

The Legislature, as one of the three Arms of Government established by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) stands the weakest, in terms of longevity of existence.

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This is majorly due to the fact that at every period of Military takeover of the Government, the Legislature was suspended. This has affected the Institution, in no small measure, as workers with institutional memory are inadequate; unlike in the Executive Arm, Judicial Arms of Government.

This position is what informed the requirement of Legislative Experience, as a major consideration for appointment as Clerk and Deputy Clerk.

This simply means that to be appointed, you must have good knowledge of the Law, must have worked in the Legislature for such a long time, in such positions, and performed such duties as to be able to guide the Speaker and the entire House. This particular requirement is not considered lightly.

It is worthy of mentioning here that there was an era where Staff in the Legislative Cadre were considered as best suited for the position. But that era is long past as the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly no longer use that as the basis for appointment.

Legislative Workers from other Cadres and Departments are now appointed as Clerks and Deputy Clerks, provided the three criteria are satisfied.

Fiction:

Citizen Ekanem, in one of his publications on this issue, posited that Mr Patrick Edi has more Legislative Experience than Barr. Catherine Ubi.

His reasons were that Mr Edi has served longest in the House of Assembly and that he is also of the Legislative Cadre.

It is worthy of mentioning here that except for the past few years when the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies began Professional Courses in Legislative Procedure, there was no such thing as a Professional Legislative Cadre in the Civil Service.

There was no Course of Study as a “Legislative Course”. On the basis of that, those admitted to the Legislative, just like Mr Edi, were taken from any field of Study ranging from Agriculture, Sociology, Education, etc. They were given only 2 weeks of tutorials on the Workings of the Legislature.

Fact:

Both Mr Patrick. Edi and Barr. Catherine Ubi were posted to the House of Assembly on secondment in 1999. Mr Edi, who studied Education (I stand to be corrected) was posted from Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, while Barr. Catherine Ubi, who studied Law, was posted to the Assembly from the Ministry of Justice. In terms of longevity of Service, they both have served in the House of Assembly for the same length of time.

Talking about Legislative Knowledge, as part of the requirements of Legislative Experience, I will briefly state the functions that both of them performed so far and allow you to be the judge.

Mr Patrick Edi, Educational Qualification (B.Ed) and 2 Weeks Certificate Course of Legislative Procedure, etc.

Functions in the House of Assembly include serving as Secretary to House Committees, taking down Votes and Proceedings at Plenary, and writing of Motions for Hon. Members.

Barr Catherine Ubi, Educational Qualification Bachelor of Law (LL.B), Barrister-At-Law (BL), Post Graduate Diploma in Law (Legislative Drafting and Procedures), Certificated Courses on Legislative Drafting and Procedures from National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, etc.

Functions in the House of Assembly include Drafting of Bills, Advising Mr Speaker on issues of Laws and Procedures, Drafting of Motions, Advising the House on matters of Litigations, where the House is sued, Liaising with the Ministry of Justice on matters of Litigations, Serving as Secretary of some special Committees, vetting of Votes and Proceedings of the House.

From the above positions of both Mr Patrick Edi and Barr Catherine Ubi, who is better qualified as having Legislative Experience?

Was The Office Of The SSG Properly Guided By The Assembly Service Commission?

As earlier stated, it is the place of the Assembly Service Commission, headed by Mr Justin Ugbe, to properly guide the Governor on the appointment of Clerk and Deputy Clerks of the Assembly. The major question posed here is whether the Commission, in its recommendation to the Governor carried out due diligence.

In other words, what parameter did the Commission use in recommending Mr Patrick Edi for appointment as Clerk of the Cross River State House of Assembly?

In the course of my investigation and citing of documents, I discovered that the Commission erred in the following ways:

(a) The Commission erred in Law, as it recommended Mr Edi who has never been a Deputy Clerk, as required by Section of the Assembly Service Commission Law.

(b) The Commission erred in misinforming the Governor that Mr Patrick Edi is senior in Service. From the available documents examined, in the course of my investigation, it is very clear that even though Mr Patrick Edi joined the Service before Barr. Catherine Ubi, Barr. Catherine, however, joined the Service on a higher Grade Level, which automatically made her senior to Mr Patrick Edi, and this position was maintained and never disputed as shown in the Nominal Roll and Letters of Last Promotions appointing them into the rank of Directors.

The pertinent questions to ask the Assembly Service Commission Chairman, Mr Justin Ugbe, is, why did they set out to deliberately mislead His Excellency, the Governor? Could it be in furtherance of their impunity carried over from the previous Administration, where junior workers were promoted and appointed to lead their seniors in Service?

It is necessary that Cross Riverians must know that the Cross River State Civil Service is at its lowest ebb. This is as a result of the impunity, and nepotism imported into the Service in 2015. Before that time, the Cross River State Civil Service was considered a beacon and standard, of which most States come to understudy us. All that was washed away by the previous Administration.

I must commend His Excellency, Senator Prince Bassey Otu, for the steps taken so far to reposition the State Civil Service; and I do hope this will be given serious consideration as it would go to show whether the reformation of the Service is real or not.

Is It Because Barr. Catherine Ubi Is A Woman?

Cross River State, just last week, joined the rest of the World to celebrate the International Women’s Day. The Theme of this year’s Celebrations was “INSPIRE INCLUSION”.

Her Excellency, Obonganwan Bassey Edet Otu, the Wife of the Governor, took the lead in marking this year’s Women’s Day Celebration, and from the activities of the First Lady, since assuming Office, several lives have been touched, ranging from her health Outreach to Women inclusion in Governance,

The position and place of Womanhood in the State has been elevated by His Excellency and supported by Her Excellency. Unfortunately, the First Lady’s attention hasn’t been drawn to this. Or could it be that Barr. Catherine Ubi has no one close enough to the First Lady to transmit her plights on how she is being emasculated by the male dominating Assembly Service Commission.

It is worthy of mentioning here that, just like every other sector, the Legislative Service is witnessing the growth of Women in Management positions. Currently, the Clerks of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly is a Woman, the Clerk of Imo State House of Assembly is a Woman, and the Clerk of even Kaduna State House of Assembly (in the North where Women are considered inferior) is a Woman.

Why then is Mr Justin Ugbe’s Assembly Service Commission attempting to drag Cross River State backward by deliberately misinforming and misleading the Authority into flouting the Laws of the State and dragging the Legislature backward?

It is my wish that Her Excellency comes to the rescue of Barr. Catherine Ubi. Hence, she’s truly deserving of the position of the Clerk without bias.

The Purported “(In)Famous” Role Of The Speaker Of 10th Assembly

I wish to draw the attention of Cross Riverians to the fact that from my investigation, there is no love lost between His Excellency, the Governor, and the Speaker of the 10th Assembly, Rt. Hon. Elvert Ayambem. The Articles published by Citizen Ekanem are very misleading. The 10th Assembly, under the Leadership of Rt. Hon. Elvert Ayambem, so far has placed the interest of the people at the forefront of Legislative governance. The accomplishments of the Assembly, in just this about 9 Months, are unparalleled in the history of Cross River State House of Assembly. Just like His Excellency, the Governor, the Speaker declared in his inaugural Speech that the welfare of Cross Riverians comes first in all the activities of the House, both in Lawmaking and Legislative Oversight.

Further investigation, by my interactions with Staff of the House of Assembly, it was discovered that the Welfare of Workers of the Assembly is being given attention like never before. A clearly in the Assembly even testified to how the Speaker, without even being prompt, increased their stipends for all of them. Note that these Cleaners are casual Staff, and were placed on very meager allowance for up to 10 years with no form of increment. The Cleaner even expressed her gratitude to the Speaker and prayed for him.

From the senior Staff, my investigation revealed the improved working environment. The Sanitation and hygiene status of the Assembly Complex has been greatly improved from how it was. There were times when female Staff could not even use the Convenience in the Assembly. But all that is a thing of the past, as Hon. Elvert Ayambem has given due attention to the comfort of both Honourable Members and Staff.

From the above disposition, it is very clear that the Speaker is insisting on Barr. Catherine Ubi is made the Clerk because he believes she rightly deserves it.

The Speaker, from my interview with Staff, has proven himself to be impartial in the execution of his duties. With all the available records before the Speaker, it is only just that he sticks with what he believes to justice.

And as a matter of fact, it is the Speaker that works with the Staff of the Assembly that truly understands the qualifications and capability of the Workers under him. It is only natural for the Speaker to draw the attention of His Excellency, the Governor, to any issue that appears to showcase a miscarriage of justice, like in the current case.

Let Cross Riverians know that the Speaker is only standing for the truth, by guiding the Governor not to fall into the misleading position of the Assembly Service Commission of not appointing the right person; as this would have a great adverse effect on the morale of workers of the House of Assembly.

Let me reiterate once again, that I challenge Citizen Ekanem to a debate on this issue of appointment of Clerk of the House of Assembly, or that he should provide evidence to counter my findings.

It is my appeal that His Excellency, the Governor, a man of honour and justice revisit the issue of Clerkship with a view to having the most suitable person as the Clerk and may chastise those responsible for misinformation, disinformation and malinformation to bring them to book as a deterrent to others in the future.

God Bless our Sweet Prince and Governor.

God Bless Cross River State, and
God Bless Nigeria.

About The Author

Comrade Amawu Cletus Albert Amawu is an nvestigative Journalist, and Publisher of EpistleNews. Views expressed in this article are his and not that of CONVERSEER and, or it staff.

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