Following the Supreme Court verdict that confirmed the election of His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel as the duly elected Governor of Akwa Ibom State, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, in this interview, bares his mind on the issue and other matters in the State. Excerpts:
Sir since the February 3, 2016 verdict of the Supreme Court that confirmed His Excellency Mr. Udom Emmanuel as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, the political temperature in the State seem to have changed. What exactly is the situation?
First I will like to say that the Almighty God did justice to Akwa Ibom State. The people voted massively for his Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel in the April 11th 2015 gubernatorial elections, and of course, they expected the mandate to be confirmed. So the Supreme Court did exactly what was expected and indeed restored the sanctity of the judiciary.
You may recall that when the Governor returned from Abuja after the Appeal Court judgment, he told the people of Akwa Ibom State not to waiver because he believed that the Supreme God will work through the Supreme Court to restore justice. He had always expressed confidence in the judiciary as the last hope for the common man. His believe in the sanctity of the law and judiciary has been justified. Since that judgment which confirmed Governor Udom Emmanuel, the people have been happy. So the mood here has been that of celebration, joy and thanksgiving to the Almighty God.
I often told the press that those who had no political base nor structure here had engaged in falsehood and propaganda, confusing those they could outside the State. They said they will take over Akwa Ibom, and we wondered how? What do they have to suggest they can win any election in the State? Again, looking at the reasons the Supreme Court gave for setting aside the judgment of the Appeal Court, it clearly explains everything even for a lay man to understand. Let me join my voice in condemning those who are vilifying their Lordship the Justices of the Supreme Court and the judicial institution, including a partisan Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
So, the temperature in the State it has been that of excitement, it has been all about giving thanks to God. The reaction to the Supreme Court judgment was spontaneous, the State erupted in joy across the 31 local government areas. The Governor moved around the local governments to see the people and thank them for such show of support and appreciation. As a man who loves God and appreciates Him, the Governor started with thanksgiving the morning after. From then on it has been reception, accolades, honours, moments of joy. All of these culminated in a major thanksgiving by the Government and the good people of the State on Wednesday February 10 at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium. It was a show of love and appreciation to God Almighty. You may recall that during that State thanksgiving, the very revered Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church, did say that “the victory of Governor Udom Emmanuel at the Supreme Court is celebration of light over darkness.” He prophesied light and development for Akwa Ibom people. We believe and stand by that.
Were there people who out of fear of the unknown, left PDP for APC in Akwa Ibom State? If there were, what advice do you have for such people?
In his broadcast to the people, shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, His Excellency the Governor said it was time for greater work for the greatness of the State. He extended the olive branch to everyone to come join hands towards the development of the Akwa Ibom because, the State is bigger than anyone, political party or interest. He did that from the stand point of a statesman and he should be applauded for that. The governor has done his part, we however, did not see any movement of any consequence, because those people that were mentioned were not even with us from the primaries, so their position or movement was inconsequential
Governor Udom Emmanuel has consistently said that the focus of his administration is industrialization. But nine months down the line, many people are wondering what has happened to the industrialization promise.
The industrialization process is alive. He has performed ground breaking ceremonies, which is a starting point in industrial process. I have often said that industrialization or developing an industry takes a lot of time. It involves various levels of approvals, authentication and licensing. For instance, he performed the ground breaking ceremony for the Automobile Assembly plant from MIMSHAC Group in July last year, today the firm is on site with container load of equipment. They had to go through licensing and other registration processes, ditto for several others.
The Electric Meter Manufacturing Plant is on course and will roll out meters in about six months. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been signed for the take-off of the Coconut Plantation and Processing Refinery. Same goes for the LED Manufacturing Plant. With tonnes of containers of appliances and pre-fabricated steel structures on ground, a smooth process is assured. Also, the Fertilizer Blending Group that came to Abak has started work on site. Investors are coming from all over the world to invest in Akwa Ibom.
In furtherance of the governor’s noble agenda of developing the State into a strong economy with abundance of business and employment opportunities in the Gulf of Guinea, over 1000 youths have been engaged for ORACLE training and certification, while 200 others were sent to Israel for training in agriculture, with another 200 trained in the power sector. Gladly, the State now has a license to produce additional 540 megawatts electricity, thus the critical need for trained personnel to man the power sector. The Governor is also developing the Aviation sector. Work is ongoing to complete the second runway in record time, while efforts are also in top gear for the development of the main terminal building and the cargo terminals. And, the newest project is Akwa Ibom Entrepreneurial and Employment Scheme, AKEES, which will engage and empower about 10,000 youths to work for themselves. Clearly, the industrialisation promise of the governor is in on.
An advertorial was published, not long ago, criticizing the publicised achievements of the Governor. Are the criticisms justified?
They are certainly not justified. The publication is false and meant to put the administration in bad light. All the projects of the government are ongoing. Government is constructing over 140kms of road. Work is ongoing on Eket-Ibeno Road, Eket-Etinan Road, Ikot Udom Road in Ibiono and Mkpat Enin axis. Also Eket urban remodelling is on course and so on. People must realise that no project can be started and completed in one week. Government is carrying out the projects through a very methodical and scientific process to ensure success. And when they are completed, Akwa Ibom will be a better place.
Some citizens were employed as teachers and others into the Civil Service. There are rumours that since their employment over one year ago, they have not been paid salaries. Is this true? And if true, why?
On the civil service employment, government found out that there was racketeering, where some people gave out fake appointment papers to unqualified candidates. So government had to set up a committee to verify and ensure that only qualified persons were employed. That process is over and those genuinely employed have undergone biometric capturing, they were pay-rolled and they got their January salaries. You can be sure their arrears will be considered and paid in due course. In the teaching service, a certain syndicate also sold appointment letters to unqualified candidates, who neither had National Certificate of Education nor degree in Education. You cannot allow people who are not qualified to go into the classrooms as teachers. The seeming delay is not intended to hurt anybody. Since government has started with the civil service you can be sure that issues in the teaching service employment will also be sorted out and salaries paid to qualified and genuine employees.
we are hearing so much at this end.
What is the relationship between Governor Udom Emmanuel and his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio?
His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel and his predecessor, the Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio have maintained a cordial relationship, thus showing a good example of how a predecessor and a successor can relate well in the interest and for the development of the State.
You need to understand that in line with agenda of the sitting Governor, there is inclusiveness in Akwa Ibom State. The Governor invites all former Governors both military and civilian, stakeholders and elder statesmen. He consults with them on important State matters. I want to disabuse the minds of the people about the relationship between the Governor Udom Emmanuel and Senator Godswill Akpabio. There is stability, cooperation and unity among the leaders in the State.
Nine months since taking over the mantle of leadership. What specific achievements would you say Gov Udom Emmanuel has recorded?
I have mentioned some of the achievements of Governor Udom Emmanuel in this interview. However, let me reiterate that as a meticulous administrator, Governor Udom Emmanuel has taken time to encapsulate his vision for the State in a five point agenda of Job Creation; Poverty Alleviation; Wealth Creation; Economic and Political inclusion; Infrastructural Consolidation and Expansion.
To achieve his vision, therefore, he inaugurated a Technical Committee on Foreign Direct Investment, Technical Committee on Ibaka Deep seaport project, Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, and rehabilitated and re-commissioned the Peacock Paint factory in Etinan.
Also, to consolidate the infrastructural edge of the State, the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel has ensured the clearing of 85 hectares of land in Eket for 100,000 barrels per day petroleum refinery, and another 15 hectares along Eastern Obolo – Mkpat Enin axis for coconut plantation and refinery.
As I speak, over 50 foreign investors have indicated interest in coming to setup shops in Akwa Ibom State, while ground breaking ceremonies have been performed for the take-off of a number of industrial concerns.
The administration carried out emergency intervention on gully erosion at at Enen Atai along Calabar – Itu Highway and behind Independence Hall, Abak. The special intervention at the St. Luke’s Hospital Anua, in Uyo is also deserving of mention. the governor constructed a new Gynaecology Block in addition to rehabilitating the Children and Male Wards. He equally intervened and salvaged the Nursing School of the hospital from a ravaging gully erosion.
Are there other thoughts you will like to share with our readers?
I want to call on the people of Akwa Ibom to continue to support Governor Udom Emmanuel. The State is moving on the path of development and greatness. We thank Akwa Ibomites and other Nigerians for their support and prayers. We should all pray more for Akwa Ibom State, President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria to come out of her present economic difficulties.