Governor Udom Emmanuel
By Harris Emanuel
THE last 12 months in Akwa Ibom could best be described as a mixed bag of sorts for the people of the oil-rich state. The outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic seemed to have taken the shine off the relative gains of the state government.
Kudos must be given to the Governor Udom Emmanuel-led administration for adopting a proactive approach after what looked like a faulty start in the fight against the novel illness.
So far, government has constructed a 300-bed Isolation Centre, installed 3G cameras in all busy borders to battle the pandemic. In addition, the Inoyo Toro Foundation in conjunction with Stanbic-IBTC has delivered a testing laboratory to the state. Palliatives were also given to the vulnerable segment of the society.
Apparently due to the adverse effects of the pandemic, the Appropriation Bill was reworked by the State Legislature before passage into law with a considerable chunk of the expenditures yanked off to save the government from running aground. About 33 percent of the total budget proposal was sliced off. Political appointees equally bore the brunt when their salaries were cut by 20 percent. This also affected some capital projects that could have had positive impact on the lives of the people. Indeed, there is a lull in construction activities especially road projects across the state.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the State Legislature, took the Executive to the cleaners over alleged poor road construction which were not done according to specifications. Particular mention was made of the Nsit Atai/Okobo road which has remained under construction for donkey years.
Despite the economic downturn, the state government run airline, Ibom Air, acquired a fourth aircraft in May this year, in a bid to ramp up an aviation business it began nearly four years ago. On the whole, the citizens and other nationals living in Akwa Ibom can attest to the fact that the state has enjoyed peaceful atmosphere and security of lives and property. The state has consistently been adjudged by security agencies to be one of the safest states in the country.
The state government cannot be said to be deliberately trampling on the rights of her citizens. But the arrest and prosecution of a sports journalist, Kufre Carter, over the allegation that he defamed Dominic Ukpong, commissioner for health, may have cast a pall on the pious posture of the state government as one that cannot hurt a fly
The alleged blackmail had to do with a phone conversation which Ukpong had with a certain doctor and the reporter may have been critical of the state’s response to COVID-19 – forming an opinion on the basis of the phone conversation. Governor Udom Emmanuel believes that his administration has taken the state to the heights where no other state in Nigeria has attained.
In its first tenure in 2015, the government rolled out a five-point agenda, job creation, wealth creation, poverty alleviation, infrastructural consolidation and expansion, political and economy inclusion. The overriding objective of the agenda was to achieve the dream of industrialization and turn the state to a tourist destination. Part of the objectives was also to make the state an agricultural hub because of its abundant rainfall all year round.
To consolidate on the gains of the first term, the government enlarged the agenda to eight points, christened ‘The Completion Agenda’.
From the look of things, time would however tell whether it can deliver on the mandate following dwindling oil revenue occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic which has stymied socio-economic development and growth.
The electorate would definitely hold the government accountable on those eight points.