The exit of Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State on 29 May 2023 will not be a joyous moment as apathy cascades over his abandoned projects and unfulfilled promises, writes OFONIME HONESTY.
Barely a couple of months to the end of Mr Udom Emmanuel’s eight-year reign as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, a cross-section of Akwa Ibom people have posited that his administration has performed abysmally.
Respondents said, to the disappointment of the Akwa Ibom people, most of the promises during Emmanuel’s electioneering in 2015 and 2019 have been unfulfilled.
Hinging their stance on indices including unemployment, poverty, huge debt burden, lack of fiscal transparency, dearth of infrastructures, poor healthcare delivery, crippled civil service, out-of-school children, poor welfare of retirees and others, the respondents asserted that the next administration in the state has a huge task of clearing up the woes befalling the state since 2015.
In spite of Akwa Ibom’s reputation as a ‘peaceful state’, residents have, however, noticed that under the reign of Emmanuel, the prevalence rate of violent crimes has been quite high.
As the Chief Security Officer of the state, Emmanuel is said to have failed to sufficiently galvanize the security architecture at an optimal level. His reported injections of support of only vehicles and communication gadgets have been grossly insufficient.
Essien Udim, Oruk Anam, Obot Akara, Ika and riverine areas like Mbo and Oron have been witnessing prolonged communal and cult-related clashes. Those areas are also epicentres of banditry, kidnapping and sea piracy.
Also, Oku Iboku in Itu Local Government Area has been repeatedly attacked by invaders from Cross River.
A resident of Essien Udim Local Government Area, Pastor Julius Eshiet, said that although the Federal Government should take the blame since the security agencies are federal institutions, state governors like Emmanuel shouldn’t be exonerated because they have failed to support the security agencies as expected.
He said: “In neighbouring Oruk Anam, the police averred that the only operational van is dysfunctional. How does one expect such a large local government area to be effectively policed? State governors should support the police and other security agencies. The naval men in the riverine areas also need support from the state government.
“Monthly allocations and internally generated revenue of Akwa Ibom State is very massive, so part of it should be ploughed into tackling crimes.”
It was learnt that the state government, since 2015, has donated about 15 operational vehicles to the Akwa Ibom State Police Command but such is deemed insufficient. Also, many police stations in the state are dilapidated.
With an estimated population of over 7 million, more than 52 per cent of the youth in Akwa Ibom State are unemployed, according to the National Bureau of Statistics corroborated by the European-African Economic Journal.
The causative factors are the poor state of the economy, falling educational standards, poor attitude to agriculture, poor enabling and secured environment, and poor remuneration for government employees, among others.
According to the European-African economic journal, the prevailing unemployment has triggered social vices such as prostitution, armed robbery, oil bunkering, internet fraud, drug trafficking and addiction, rape, kidnapping, political thuggery, assassination and other forms of criminalities.
The journal advised the Akwa Ibom State Government to redesign the school curriculum to become technology-based to enhance skill acquisition for self-employment and encourage the youths to embrace agriculture as a profitable business venture.
“Honest effort should be made towards revitalizing the moribund and ailing industries in the state,” the journal suggested.
Failed and abandoned projects
Observers say the Udom Emmanuel administration is bequeathing liabilities of failed and uncompleted projects to the next administration.
Data sourced from our correspondent cut across road projects, purported industries and other structures.
Chinese Market in Eket, Otung Aya Bridge project in Oruk Anam, Mbiatok Bridge project in Oruk Anam, fictitious bamboo plantation for the industrial value chain, fictitious Mexican cattle rearing, abandoned fertilizer factory in Abak, fake revamping of Peacock Painting Limited, Ikot Ekan, Etinan, dead Pencil and Toothpick Factory, were some of the projects Emmanuel deceived the people to have initiated and completed.
Others are false claims of CCTV camera installation in parts of the state, unyielding multi-billion-naira coconut plantation, fictitious ultra-modern International Market project in Uyo, Ultra-modern International Market project in Itu LGA, the fake claim of Eket Remodelling, fictitious Ibom Super highway, abandoned ONNA Sports Complex, and lots more.
Those are among projects on the long list of failed and abandoned projects of the state government. Also, hundreds of abandoned road projects dot the landscape of Akwa Ibom State.
Poor welfare of civil servants
Under the current administration, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has on many occasions, complained of non-payment of promotion arrears and leave grants. Promoted civil servants stay on their previous salary scales.
Non-payment of gratuities
Checks reveal that the Udom Emmanuel administration only paid a backlog of two years (2011 and 2012) gratuities. Civil servants especially retired health workers and teachers, have not received gratuities.
Exploitation of transporters
Mr Julius Akpan, a commercial taxi driver and member of the Township Drivers Association of Akwa Ibom State, bemoaned the administration’s failure in the public transportation sector.
He said despite humongous sums allocated to the Ministry of Transport, the state through its agents has subjected transporters to misery through exploitative taxation, harassment, and arrests.
“That is why our organization (TDAAKS) sued the transport ministry, environment ministry, and other ministries for exploiting us. We say no to exploitative taxation and levies. We need interest-free loans or grants for the purchase of vehicles. For now, the government is against us,” a livid Akpan said.
Lack of fiscal transparency
A notable feature of the administration is the lack of transparency in the finances of the state. Spending on budgetary appropriations is not easily monitored. Government’s reluctance to come clean on the various external and internal fund streams. Paris Club refunds, 13% derivation arrears, ecological funds, and others have so been unaccounted for.
Perceived exploitation of Local Government
A staff of Uyo Local Government Area who pleaded anonymity said Udom Emmanuel is the worst thing to have happened to the local government system. She said the governor has been milking the local governments since 2015.
“The situation is that funds from the Federal Government are first cornered by the governor who later disburses only 10% of the total allocation to respective local government areas. That is why the local government is ineffective, she told our reporter.
It is widely believed that Udom Emmanuel has over time earned notoriety for failed promises. Ace entertainer, James Essien, reinforced the stance in a Facebook post made on Tuesday.
He said: “I served for 7 years as Secretary, Akwa Ibom State Entertainment Industry Working Committee. A position I was opportune to have first-hand information about plans of Government to Entertainers. We had lofty ideas and expectations from the Governor.
“His Excellency promised us ENTERTAINMENT VILLAGE, FREE INTEREST LOANS to aid startups, but sad to say that for more than seven years up to this present time, the governor has not fulfilled any of the two promises he made.”
He added that within Emmanuel’s seven years plus as governor, his boss and SA (Essien) on Entertainment hosted about four events yearly and NONE HAD THE GOVERNOR HONOURED WITH HIS PRESENCE.
“The only time entertainers had the governor attend their event was the day he came to seek our support for a second term, and he didn’t spend up to 30 minutes with entertainers but he captured us with his wordings, we believed & trusted him.
“During his speech that day, he told us to PUT UP OUR BEST SO WE CAN EARN HIS SUPPORT.
“OUT OF EXCITEMENT: WE TREKKED FROM IBOM HALL TO HILLTOP MANSION, just to show him we are ready to do our best. That trekking kept me sick for 1 week, but I never bothered, knowing it was part of the requirements to make the governor see my best.
“Every time event is hosted on his behalf, we go out to borrow money to finance and pay artistes, with the hope of refunds. Yet upon the stress, NOTHING CAME OUT. All efforts to have him at our events kept bouncing back till now. I toured 31 LGAs, 10 Federal Constituencies etc., driving my Hyundai Coupe Sports car to all campaign venues, but that car suffered.
“The last time we had a Governor whose love for people was massive was Godswill Akpabio. He loved crowds, he was always fond of breezing into markets, burials, and marriages uninvited.
“He often goes on project supervision at night to have a glue of an assignment he gave people. Akpabio RAISED boys to become independent MEN. He was a giver to the core. His happiness was seeing others happy. He used State allocation to fund projects and left office with the massive COMPLETED project. He was loved because he was not just closer to citizens, but he also executed people-oriented projects/policies.
“He loved and supported entertainers and won’t just host events without having them dance with them. Akpabio never deceived Entertainers with appointments that will make you run from the village because the salary isn’t even enough to reach people in the village,” he said.
Emmanuel is one of the most fortunate governors in Nigeria with the largest monthly allocation from the Federation Account, but it is glaring that he will leave office in three months’ time with a long list of unfulfilled promises and project execution.