By IFREKE NSEOWO/OFONIME HONESTY
The year 2017 was one of the significant years in the history of Akwa Ibom State. During the year, the state clocked thirty years of existence. Other significant events and activities unfurled. This special report by TheMail Newspaper chronicles landmark highlights of the year under review.
The year began on a sour note for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a mass exodus of members in different Local Government Areas was recorded.
The defection of Senator Nelson Effiong in January 19, 2017 opened a floodgate of defections during the year under review. Effiong, who represents Akwa Ibom South (Eket) Senatorial District (where Governor Udom Emmanuel hails from) explained the rationale behind his decision: “No reasonable politician who is worth his salt would remain and allow his people to be drifting about without a direction. So I have decided today, the 19th day of January, 2017 to resign from the PDP and move to the party that is bringing peace and direction to this country, the APC. So I move.”
The PDP however went to court to reclaim Effiong’s mandate. The case has however staled in court. To political pundits, the possibility of a court sacking Senator Nelson Effiong, appears slim.
Frontline members of the PDP later dumped the party. A former House of Representatives member, Bassey Dan-Abia (Jnr.); a founding member of PDP, Chief Samingo Etukakpan; a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Ignatius Edet, former House of Representatives member, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, and several others, dumped the party.
In the wee months of 2017, the ruling PDP however welcomed some defectors when the only member of the opposition All Progressives Congress in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has defected to the Peoples Democratic Party.
Asuquo Archibong, who represents Urue Offong/Oruko State Constituency, was received into the PDP by the National Chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, in Uyo during the flag-off of the party’s campaign for the local government council elections in the state. Chieftains like Sunny Elijah and Samuel Effanga also dumped APC.
2018 is expected to witness more defection to and fro both political parties.
UDOM, NSIMA FACEOFF
The glaring rivalry between Governor Udom Emmanuel and the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, Obong Nsima Ekere, went a notch higher in 2017.
The rivalry which many link to the duo’s governorship aspiration in 2019 made headlines throughout the year.
Tempers flared at the convention of the Akwa Ibom State Association of Nigeria (AKISAN). The 42-man delegation of the Akwa Ibom State Government led by Senator Godswill Akpabio boycotted the event after arriving the venue. They were apparently incensed by the organizers decision to use Ekere’s picture on the cover of the convention’s programme, and demanded it to be replaced with that of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Reports also had it that “the delegation had sought to know why the APC members were allowed to hold a meeting on one of the floors of the hotel (venue of the convention).”
“This is the US and we will not pay thugs to disrupt their (APC) meetings or interfere with the right of people to peacefully converge. We told them that they could also pay for a conference room and have a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) meeting. We were surprised because we thought the delegation represented all Akwa Ibom people. We do not care about PDP or APC; they are the two faces of the same coin,” an official of AKISAN was quoted to have told the government delegation.
More emotions were spilled on October 3 2017 when the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, held a security summit for the people of the South-south in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Governor Emmanuel, at the event, severely tongue lashed the NDDC MD, Ekere, who was in attendance.
“The federal government should look at development agencies that were set up. Have they performed? You can’t set up a development agency and hand it over to politicians. They will politicise the development. Let development agencies go to people that know how to manage resources, people who have done it overtime and know what to do with it so that they can also bring development into the region.
Udom continued: “Let me also use this opportunity that the MD of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is here to state clearly that NDDC does not own even a piece of land. It is the governors that are in charge of land. NDDC should not enter any of the nine states to do any project without permission from the governors. That is why they have not been able to execute even a kilometer of road in my state, they have never commissioned even one kilometer of road in my state, because the projects are politicised.
“This thing is a joint force. The state government, federal government agencies joining together to actually make sure we impact on the lives of our people. When it is time for politics, we will play politics; when it’s time for development, let’s develop and impact on the lives of our people and leave some of these things that we are doing. Let’s know that it is time we come together and get some things done for our people”, he concluded.
In 2018, many Akwa Ibomites are of the opinion that the NDDC and the Akwa Ibom State Government should reach a truce for the good interest of the state.
2017 was a big year for the Akwa Ibom State Government. Governor Udom Emmanuel and members of his cabinet placed under the citizens’ microscope. Every action and inaction of government was analyzed. The State Executive was reshuffled by the governor even as a new ministry was created. The new Ministry of Labour, Productivity and Manpower Planning has new Commissionership intake, Sir Ibanga Akpabio, at the helms of affairs.
Prof. Victor Daniel Inoka replaced Pastor Paul Alexander Udofia in the Ministry of Education.
All other commissioners and Special Advisers retain their previous posts.
However, few days into 2018, Governor Emmanuel has sacked Hon. Udo Ekpenyong, who served as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. More reshufflings are expected in 2018.
MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM RESSURECTS
The hitherto dormant Ministry of Culture and Tourism literally resurrected under the stewardship of Hon. Victor Antai.
The Ministry properly showcased the state’s rich cultural heritage. Once again, the state has become a tourism hub. The Festival of Culture christened Usoro Uso, the 30th Anniversary celebration tagged Orange September and the End of Year celebration tagged Ukapisua, were successfully planned and executed by the Ministry. The Akwa Ibom tourism logo design however caused uproar and controversy in the media.
INI EDO VS CONSULTANTS
Nollywood actress, Ini Edo, made news when she masterminded the arrest of two tourism consultants, Ubong Ekpe and Joseph Utin. The actress who is also a Special Adviser on Tourism to Governor Udom Emmanuel, was said to have arrested the duo on grounds of threats and intellectual property theft. Reports had it that the duo stole her idea of the cancelled Ibom Fest 2016, and later threatened her life.
Sources divulge that Governor Emmanuel and other prominent figures waded in to settle the issue and sought an out of court settlement.
LAGOS LODGE PROTEST
The decision of the Akwa Ibom State Government to conceptualize the construction of a new governor’s lodge in Lagos State received rife condemnation. The unanimous rejection of the idea was headlined by a massive protest in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital, led by human rights campaigner, Inibehe Effiong, Esq.
The protesters marched on the streets of Uyo with brief stopover at Wellington Bassey Way, a shouting distance to the Akwa Ibom Government House. The protesters thereafter marched to the House of Assembly where a strong message was delivered to the Speaker, Hon. Onofiok Luke, and members of the Assembly.
The State Executive Council lost a female Commissioner in the person of Prof. Eno Blankson Ikpe. She was in charge of the Ministry of Investment, Commerce and Industry. She hailed from Etinan Local Government Area.
Ikpe, a Professor of History and International Studies, passed on in November 2017 after a prolonged battle with an undisclosed ailment.
NO CURE FOR APC CRISIS
The crisis in the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress lingered. The Senator John Udoedehe faction is fronting itself as the ‘landlord’ of the party even as the Dr. Amadu Attai led APC is recognized by the national leadership of the party as the bonafide chapter of the party in Akwa Ibom.
The Amadu Attai led faction had scaled past several hurdles, including court tussles, in its bid to prove itself as the bonafide APC in Akwa Ibom. For the records, this faction filed candidates for the December 2, 2017, local government elections.
LANDSLIDE VICTORY FOR PDP IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT/ COUNCILLORSHIP POLLS
The December 2, 2017 Local Government elections in Akwa Ibom was held after serial postponement by the umpire, Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC).
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the 31 Chairmanship and 329 Councillorship seats on offer.
GOOD YEAR FOR FOOTBALL
Akwa United Football Club, solely owned and financed by the Akwa Ibom State Government won her second major trophy in two years. The team defeated Niger Tornadoes of Minna to win the maiden edition of the AITEO Cup in Lagos. With the triumph, the club has qualified to represent Nigeria in the CAF Confederations Cup.
Also, the Super Eagles of Nigeria made the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium a home. Nigeria won all her home matches, and qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
AKWA IBOM CLOCKED 30
September 3, 2017, made it exactly 30 years since former Nigeria Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, created Akwa Ibom. Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was in to inaugurate projects as part of activities to commemorate the anniversary. Theme of the anniversary was: “Arise let’s build the future together.” The anniversary started on September 14, 2017 with church service presided by Pastor W. F. Kumuyi and ended on September 25, 2017, with the swearing-in of a new Chairman, State Council of Chiefs.
Emmanuel Enoidem’s fight with estranged political ally, Emmanuel Ekon was in the news for several weeks during the year under review. Emmanuel Ekon is seeking third term in the House of Representatives and Enoidem says “over his dead body” will he return to NASS. Ekon had petitioned the Police over the killings in Etim Ekpo. The police moved in from Abuja and arrested the LG Chairman, Udeme Eduo and Enoidem as part of their investigations into the crimes in the area. On a good note, the Former Commissioner for Special Duties in Akwa Ibom was elected as the Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the National Convention of the party in Abuja.
NEW CHAIRMAN STATE COUNCIL OF CHIEFS APPOINTED
Paramount of Ini Local Government Area, Edidem Ntoeng Udo Effiong Akpan, was sworn in as the 29th Chairman of the State Council of Chiefs. He succeeded Ibeno Paramount Ruler, Ovong Effiong Archianga.
IBENO PARAMOUNT RULER BECOMES TROMPCON
Paramount Ruler of Ibeno Local Government Area, His Royal Majesty, Ovong Effiong Archianga, assumed office as national chairman of the group, Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON).
FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF REIGNERS CHURCH COLLAPSE
Reigners Bible Church collapse in December 2016, but one year after, the state government is yet to release the report of the Commission of Enquiry set up to investigate the mishap. While many wait for justice on the issue, a suspicious silence from the authorities suggests a massive cover up attempt.
AKSG CHRISTMAS CAROLS FESTIVAL HELD
The Guinness World Record 9999 Carol service was held at the Uyo Township Stadium in Uyo. The event which was beamed live across the globe had as its theme, ‘Emmanuel is with us.’
Governor Udom Emmanuel was the conductor of the 9999 Carol Orchestra. The event has been held annually since 2008.
OBA’s COURT BATTLE: Bassey Albert Akpan, the Senator Representing Uyo Senatorial District in the Senate had a torrid time in the court as his election was challenged by Hon. Emmanuel Etim a.k.a BAFIL in court. The Federal High Court sitting in Uyo nullified OBA’s election but the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar reversed the judgment of the lower court.
SENATOR UDOEDEHE: He was constantly a thorn on the flesh of Nsima Ekere, Amadu Attai and others in the NDDC MD’s camp of the APC.
ITA ENANG: Just like Udoedehe was a thorn on the flesh of Nsima Ekere and the Amadu Attai faction of the APC, SSA to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang was a thorn on the flesh of Udom and the state government. He tormented the state government through his utterances via radio interviews to the extent that Akpabio jokingly named him an executive director of “Planet FM”.
AKISAN CONVENTION: This was on the front burner for several days on the social media with controversies over the decision of the state government to pull out of the event in US, the picture description mix up in the program of the event, the prominent role played by Nsima Ekere at the event and the alleged hijack of the event by the APC to embarrass the governor.
NSIBIET JOHN VS UNCLE MO: The Deputy Governor, Moses Ekpo a.k.a Uncle Mo arrested publisher of The Ink, Nsibiet John over a publication in the tabloid alleging the state’s number two citizen of receiving N250m security vote from the state’s coffers. The Eket born publisher was arrested by police on the orders of the Deputy Governor and charged to court for sedition. It was discussed for several weeks on the social media. The case is still in court.
ONOFIOK LUKE’S IMPEACHMENT SCARE: There was an impeachment scare in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. Onofiok Luke’s seat as the Speaker of the House was threatened with at least 5 members of the 6th Assembly alleged to be the “coup plotters”. The ring-leaders of the alleged impeachment threat on Onofiok were Hon. Nse Essien a.k.a Indo of ONNA State Constituency, Monday Eyo a.k.a Murray of Uyo State Constituency, Mark Esset of Nsit Atai State Constituency, Aniekan Bassey of Uruan State Constituency and. They were tagged anti-leadership of the Assembly by the hierarchy of the House. Some of the alleged coup-plotters lost their positions in the house hierarchy and sensitive committees. Former Speaker Rt. Hon Aniekan Uko was also said to be in the anti-Onofiok camp.
CLETUS EKPO: Cletus Ekpo is the younger brother of the PDP State Chairman, Obong Paul Ekpo. He met stiff opposition from some stakeholders of Etinan in his bid to become Executive Chairman of the Etinan Local Government Council. The stakeholders kicked against an alleged imposition of the younger Ekpo by Paul Ekpo. Cletus Ekpo however escaped assassination on his way to Etinan, going on to win the party primary and subsequent election conducted by AKISIEC.
IBOM SPECIALIST HOSPITAL: The hospital, said to be one of the best in West Africa by its initiator, Senator Godswill Akpabio shut down. The management shutdown the facility over inability to meet financial obligations and run the hospital smoothly.
ABDUCTION OF ELDER UDOM: The proprietor of Sure Foundation Polytechnic in Ukanafun, Elder (Dr.) Idongesit Udom was kidnapped on his way to church. The abductors of the ex-Mobil staff demanded N500m as ransom. He was held for several weeks by the abductors and when he was finally released, one of his hands was chopped off. Narrating his ordeal, Elder Udom said his abductors passed through 19 police checkpoints and even bribed the police officers while taking him to their den.
REAL PROPERTY CHARGE BILL: The property charge bill controversy raged for several weeks. They were protests on (social) media against the bill initiated by the Esit Eket/Ibeno representative in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon. (Dr) Usoro Akpanusoh. The bill was actually put aside for the controversy to die down before a public hearing was conducted for it.
ESARAGATE: The then Chairman, Itu Transition Committee, Hon. Elsie Esara was in the news for the wrong reasons. There was a petition against her by few members of her transition committee. They accused her of sharing revenue generated from the Itam Market with some politicians in the state, especially those from the LGA. She was summoned by the House of Assembly to make some explanations on the allegations levelled against her. Member Representing Itu State Constituency, Prince Idongesit Ituen was accused of being the mastermind of Esara’s trial. She refused appearing before the House committee and when she was summoned to the open plenary, she fumbled. When asked why she didn’t appear the first time she was summoned, she said her political mentor, Senator Anietie Okon advised her to do so. When the “heat” was much on her as a result of the missiles from the House members, she said she suffered a “blackout”. She was later sacked by the Governor on the recommendation of the House of Assembly.
NSIMA EKERE’S ACCIDENT LOCATION: This also created a buzz in the social media. The convoy of the MD/CEO of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Obong Nsima Ekere was involved in accident. According to a press release from the media mangers of the NDDC boss, “the accident happened along Calabar-Itu Road, just by a T-Junction after Uyo, Akwa Ibom State”. This was busted as the real location of the accident was said to be along Essene in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area. Not less than two persons lost their lives in the accident.
UKANAFUN INSURGENCY: The killings and other crimes in Ukanafun was on the front burners for most part of 2017. Scores were killed and robbed as Ukanfun became an area engulfed by terror. The chief terrorist of the area, Akaninyene Jimbo Uko a.k.a Isoakpaefit ‘m’ of Ikot Ibekwe Ukanafun was however declared wanted by the police.
APOSTLE NSIKANABASI ESE: The Uyo based pastor was involved in a marital controversy that (nearly) affected his church. The founder of Kairos Rhema Embassy had crisis with his wife which found its way into public domain and dominated the media space for weeks.
AKPABIO BREACHES STATE PROTOCOL: The immediate past governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio was accused of breaching state protocols. He arrived government events late after the governor was already seated. He attended 2016 AKSG Carols Festival after the governor had already taken his seat. But the one that broke the camel’s back was when he went late for the New Year solemn assembly organized by the state government to usher in the year 2017. This generated discourse on the social media, with several persons kicking against the breach of state protocol which was seen in many quarters as an insult on the office of the governor.
EKA UDO: The owner of popular open fast food eatery, Eka Udo fell sick in the dying moments of 2016. There were insinuations and rumour that she was dead after confessing of using “corpse water” to cook meals for her customers. This trended on social media till the early part of 2017.
AKAN WEEKS: Reigners Bible Church, located at Uyo Village Road, collapsed on December 10, 2016 during the Bishopric Enthronement of its founder, Apostle Akan Weeks with scores losing their lives, leaving several others injured. The unfortunate incident was discussed in the media for several months of 2017, especially with the Panel of Enquiry sitting to find the remote and immediate cause(s) of the tragedy. The report is yet to be made public.
SAMMY PAPARAZZI: Young, vibrant and one of the most popular photographers in Uyo, Samuel Ekerendu popularly known as Sammy Paparazzi lost his life. He was shot dead by robbers who stormed his residence. It is reported that he struggled his work equipment such as laptop and camera with the criminal, and was shot in the process.
IDONGESIT ITUEN/INIOBONG ESSIEN FIASCO: The Member Representing Itu State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon. Idongesit Ituen allegedly beat up the Commissioner for Environment, Dr Iniobong Essien. The lawmaker was said to be playing football with his supporters at West Itam sports facility on sanitation day. According to reports, when the Environment Commissioner stormed the venue for inspection on the compliance of the government directive, an argument ensued between him and the MP and the younger politician was accused of molesting the 57 year old former personal physician to Godswill Akpabio in the process.
AKISIEC AND IKOIWAK: Former Chairman AKISIEC, Gloria Ukpong was sacked and replaced with Aniedi Ikoiwak. The latter’s appointment raised controversy as the APC accused him of being planted there by the PDP to rig the LG election.
ISEMIN’S WIFE: The wife of the first civilian governor of the state, Obonganwan Imo Isemin died. The APC chieftain died after a brief illness. She was buried late last year and it was attended by APC politicians and government functionaries in the PDP led by the governor.
AKWA UNITED PLAYERS’ PROTEST: Some ex-players of Akwa United Football Club, protested the non-payment of their entitlements for winning the FA Cup in 2015. They were promised houses and N2m each by the governor but they accused the new management of denying them their rights by excluding their names from the list of the actual beneficiaries.
KEKE ROBBERY: Many residents/visitors alike fell victim of ‘Keke robbery’. There were increased cases of robberies by rogue tricycle operators. While some were robbed and their valuables taken from them, some were not so lucky as there were injured, thrown out of the ‘Keke’ while some females were raped.
2017 is gone forever but the successes and shortcomings recorded during the year will surely have a direct impact on 2018 and subsequent years. It was a year interwoven with high and lows. Will 2018 be a better year? Only time will tell.