By Ekemini Simon
Corrupt contractors and government officials across all levels of government may no longer find Akwa Ibom State safe for their activities as their operations are now being tracked.
Akwa Ibom Citizens Network Against Corruption – AKCNAC, a network of community members drawn from various local government areas of Akwa Ibom State and the leadership of labour and trade union in the state has kick-started tracking of public funded projects and has identified abandoned schools and health facilities coupled with unexecuted projects across various local government areas of the state with a resolve to hold the responsible institutions accountable.
The network during their tracking exercise on Thursday, September 23, 2021 berthed Issiet Ekim in Uruan local government area and uncovered a State owned model School with 30 block buildings, some with storey building abandoned since 2006 and now overgrown with grasses.
The Network also tracked Health Post, Oti-Oro in Okobo local government area which the Federal Government through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has carried out renovation but is yet to put the facility to use. The project is reported to have been completed in May 2021.
In Oron, the Network followed through on the N34 million renovation and furnishing project of Health Post along Market Square road awarded by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Although the renovation has taken place, the facility is yet to be furnished.
At St. Patrick’s Primary School, Mbokpu Eyokan in Urue Offong Oruko, the N20m project tagged ” construction and furnishing of 1-block of 2-classrooms with Teacher’s Office” awarded by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Education neither have project on ground or an indication of commencement.
At Health Post in Eka Midim Clan in Abak local government area, a Federal Government project with Federal Ministry of Health as the client which is tagged “Development of Outreach Centre with laboratory Department” has a budget of N30m but the project after months of being awarded only recently witnessed demolition of existing staff quarter with reports that the said project will be erected at that point.
Briefing Journalists after the project tracking exercise, the Coordinator of the Network, Dr Happiness Uduk noted that the next step the network will take will be to Intervene and interact with various stakeholders and institutions that are concerned in each of the project.
She added “We will write and thank those who have carried out the project to a reasonable extent and urge them to complete it to specification. The projects that have not been executed, we will make further findings on the contractors and engage them to carry out their work and complete it.”
Uduk said the network is equipped with various strategies and approaches depending on the circumstance of the project.
She maintained that the overall of the tracking exercise is for the citizens to have benefit for public money expended on projects stressing that the tracking is continuous and the network is poised to follow through on all projects.
The Akwa Ibom Citizens Network Against Corruption was recently inaugurated in the State by the Say No Campaign team during an anti-corruption engagement with community members on the need for members to drive public accountability in their various communities.
The campaign by AKCNAC which is an initiative of Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), and supported by MacArthur Foundation aims to build the capacity of community members, across the country, to raise their voices against corruption and hold government accountable at local, state and national level.
The network is made up of community members from various local government areas in Akwa Ibom State and the leadership of labour and trade union in the State.
According to Executive Director, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), Comrade Ezenwa Nwagwu, through various trainings on social accountability process, the campaign has empowered its network to actively participate in monitoring budget implementation and project executions across the State.
Represented by the Program Officer of PAACA, Freda Ukpoju, she offered insight to the fact that Akwa Ibom Citizen Network Against Corruption has already identified abandoned projects deemed critical for community use and have indicated their interest to engage all stakeholders to ensure their completion.
Ukpoju said some of these projects were reportedly abandoned since 2003, with facilities overgrown by weeds, lying in waste while communities suffer the lack of such facilities.
The Program Officer noted that others although reoccurring in budget, are nonexistent at the proposed site of the project as cited in the 2021 Federal Government Appropriation Act.
She lamented that the key reason citizens fail to benefit from funds disbursed for their projects is lack of interest and sometimes tolerance of corruption.
Ukpoju stated that for the narrative to change, it is imperative for citizens to key into the fight, take ownership and raise the tempo to achieve the desired result in the fight against corruption.