The legislature as an arm of government saddled with the core responsibility of making laws and undertaking oversight functions over the other arms, has inherent complexities in its operations. As the representatives of the people, it is needful that their workings and modus operandi be made more accessible to the people. This accessibility will create a bi-directional flow of benefits i.e while the workings of the legislature will become more known to the people thereby earning the legislators the gratitude which they deserve; it will also offer hands on training for young graduates to obtain knowledge in relevant areas of legislative business.
The founder of the pioneer Legislative Internship Programme in Nigeria, Honourable (Barr) Onofiok Akpan Luke decided to draw from global best practices by establishing a programme that engages young professionals in legislative processes like bill drafting, budget tracking, media relations, over sight functions and community relations. It is expected that this programme will become an appetizer to the participants in either seeking to join the legislature as support staff or contesting for elections into the parliament. It is worthy of note that in our country, some legislators entered the legislative chambers for the first time during their inauguration, and even on face value, that is not good for the system as the person begins from the scratch to learn. It is needful to refer here to the fact that the founder had once worked as a Personal Assistant to a Member of the Akwa Ibom State Assembly, where the workings of the parliament attracted his interest and few years later, he now sits as the Honourable Member representing Nsit Ubium in the State House of Assembly. In Florida, Adam Hasner was a legislative intern in 1993 and in 2002 he became a member of that same Parliament. Many examples abound to show the workability and beauty of the Legislative Internship Programme.
The Onofiok Luke Legislative Internship Programme (TOLLIP) admits 15 young professionals and undergraduates from across Nsit Ubium and the 3 senatorial districts of Akwa Ibom state as well as voluntary youth organizations such as the Boys Brigade, Girls Guide, Red Cross Society, and the Nigeria Youth Parliament.
A highly competitive process was put in place in administering the first batch of interns. The applicants were requested to send in a 500-worded essay along with their curriculum vitae. The essays and oral interviews were the bases for selection. A team of academics including Dr Uwem Akpan of the Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo, Mrs Comfort Umanah of the Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Itoro Columba, CEO of Zenith Bound Media, comprised the assessment team.
The internship is open to recent graduates or final year undergraduates of reputable tertiary institutions who have an interest in and desire knowledge of the legislative process.
Successful applicants are being trained on legislative drafting, public speaking, mock hearings and floor debates, report writing, media relations budget implementation tracking, volunteerism, research basics, conflict management, entrepreneurship, and talent development. Tours and meeting with top government officials are also arranged for the interns intermittently. The candidates get Certificates of Accomplishments upon successful completion of the 6-month programme.
Candidates get the sum of twenty-thousand Naira (N20, 000) as monthly stipend for the period of training.
This internship programme has collaborated with international NGOs and development partners in a bid to properly expose the participants to a wide range of issues relating to legislative engagements. The following individuals and institutions are currently partnering with TOLLIP to facilitate the 15 interns: