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Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem: A true Patriot of Oro Nation

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http://www.nigeriatoday.ng/2018/04/dr-emmanuel-ekuwem-a-true-patriot-of-oro-nation/

By Meflyn Anwana

There is no better time than now to celebrate a true patriot, a man whose public service credentials, intellectual prowess, stellar characteristics among others necessitated his appointment by governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state as the secretary to the state government.

Dr. Ekwuwem who was named “the most productive individual” and was conferred with the prestigious award – the National Productivity Order of Merit – NPOM by former president Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001 will be honored tomorrow by the people of Oro nation.

Tomorrow’s celebration by Oro nation is a testimony of how governor Udom Emmanuel has changed the storyline of politics in Akwa Ibom state forever, proving beyond doubts that the Oro nation is a big part of Akwa Ibom political landscape.

It is worthy of note that Ekwuwem as a technocrat  is nationally and internationally recognised as a foremost telecommunications genius and had served as a former president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, president of Nigerian Internet Group, the immediate past board chairman of the Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) and until his appointment, was the president of the Teledon Group.

As Oro Nation gets set to celebrate Dr. Ekwuwem and appreciate governor Udom Emmanuel for his magnanimity tomorrow, this will pass a strong message to young people that hard work, consistency, and commitment is vital to success.

Congratulation! Dr. Emmanuel Ekwuwem.
Of a truth Emmanuel is with us

 

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OPINION

2019 budget: blueprinting the next phase of Akwa Ibom By Edidiong Udobia

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In his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, Governor Udom Emmanuel reaffirmed the pact he made with Akwa Ibom people during the electioneering campaigns, and the main thrust of his manifesto was industrialization. Less than a year to the end of his first term, the governor is leading a skyscraping industrial revolution in the state. A graphical representation of his performance within the last three years would have the slope hanging at the roof all through – from infrastructure, security, power, education, health, to job creation, economic and rural development, etc. But judging from last Wednesday’s presentation of the 2019 budget before the State House of Assembly, it appears the governor is only getting started.

Tagged, “Budget of Industrialization for Poverty Alleviation”, the budget, besides being a working document for the 2019 fiscal year, is an intrinsic part of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s overall second-term plan for the state. Going by the realities on ground, it can be said that the industrialization drive of the governor, so far, has been a deliberate alteration of the old socio-economic settings of the state. This is evident in the fact that industrialization was annexed to consolidation in the 2018 budget. “The 2018 Budget was named Budget of Consolidation on Industrialization. It was so named as the State had started witnessing a breakthrough in industrialization through the construction and commissioning of some industries that are currently in full operations”, the governor said while presenting the 2019 budget.

This alteration, otherwise breakthrough, in the current phase is essential to lay a solid foundation for the next phase. “The State has remained so long as a “Civil Service State” that it requires a re-orientation of the minds of the populace to make them realize that they can move away from depending so much on the Government, to becoming self-reliant and even provide employment to others”, the governor added. With industrialization as the base of the 2019 budget and poverty alleviation as the cardinal objective, Governor Udom has clearly shown the direction for the next phase. So, going forward, it is expected that the industrialization drive will move from job creation to wealth creation, which is the chief panacea for poverty alleviation.

The biggest beneficiaries of the current industrialization drive are graduates and highly trained/skilled citizens. This has slightly left many others behind, like the hardworking undergraduates, teeming entrepreneurs, local manufacturers, and most importantly, people in the rural communities who are fairly enlightened and predominantly, farmers and petty traders. But Governor Udom has formulated a workable plan primarily targeted at bridging the gap in the next phase, such plan as attracting more industries that will have direct economic impacts on the people who seem to be left behind in the current phase. For instance, more agriculture-based industries will provide direct opportunities to the local farmers, and traders/manufacturers of agricultural products.

To butress his decision to infuse agriculture into his industrialization drive in the next phase, the governor said; “The importance of agriculture in the socio-economic and industrial development of the State cannot be over-emphasized. Government intends to continue investing in agriculture in order to alleviate poverty among the people, attain food security and boost agricultural production for domestic, industrial and foreign consumption. Our target is to boost production and the marketing of cash crops, Staple foods, livestock and fisheries through institutional and infrastructural empowerment of private, small, medium and large-scale crop and livestock farmers. This will not only provide food to the populace, but also generate much needed jobs and create wealth for Akwa Ibom citizens.”

In the 2019 budget proposals, N13.064 billion is appropriated for agriculture. The figure only comes below the N157.311 billion appropriated for roads, works and transport; N53.625 billion for land, housing and urban development; N18.021 billion for health; and N15.050 billion for education. This clearly shows that agriculture will be a priority in terms of investment and will be made an essential part of the industrial revolution and expansion in the next phase. Talking of investment and industry, Governor Udom has assured that the N1.531 billion appropriated for investment, commerce and industry will be judiciously expended to support genuine entrepreneurs, local manufacturers, and other small and medium scale enterprises.

“Investment and commerce are major contributors to economic growth and development. Inputs, investments and commerce fuel economic growth; while outputs/outcomes, the volume of investment and commerce are significant indices of economic development. The major aspect of the State’s interest in investment and commerce are in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, real estates, mining, energy, and services. As a major policy framework, the State has put measures in place to encourage major conglomerates, core investors and professional service providers (banks/finance houses and servicing companies for major multi-nationals) to create regional/zonal offices and major production/distribution hubs in the State. This will mitigate capital flight, create jobs, and grow the economy”, Governor Udom assured.

From all indications, Akwa Ibom is heading into a future where local farmers will no longer be questioning the rationale behind building a Syringe Factory, or creatives and techies lashing out at government for establishing a rice farm. The governor’s plan is to expand the scope of the industrial revolution to the extent that every hardworking Akwa Ibomite will have where his or her services are sufficiently required. 2019 is just a tiny part of Governor Udom’s bigger picture, and the N670.718 billion 2019 budget is only a sketch of his blueprint for the next phase of Akwa Ibom, beginning May 29, 2019 – a phase that will be characterized by an accelerating economic growth across all sectors of the state. He has done the hardest part, which is proving that industries can thrive in Akwa Ibom. The next part will be much easier with our continued support.

Edidiong Udobia is a journalist and writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.

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OPINION

Aniekan Udofia: Why Votes Will Count in 2019 General Elections

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By Aniekan Udofia

One subject I have laboured to argue on with friends and colleagues has been the sincerity of the electoral reforms in Nigeria. While I hold that there has been a significant progress and that come 2019 General Elections, votes will count in Nigeria. Many hold a contrary view.

Those who argue against this position of mine, quickly tell me to see what happened in Ekiti and Osun States and I ask what happened ? They will say to me see what the Independent Electoral Commission (Inec) did and what they failed to do. Then I say, state clearly what you think Inec did or failed to do, the answer will vary from one person to the other but one common factor in their argument is that Inec and the security agencies did nothing about the issue of vote buying and electorate being disenfranchised.

Were there cases of vote buying in Ekiti and Osun States ? Emphatically yes. Where the electorate disenfranchised? Some. Then since those were the cases, our electoral reforms has scored high. The people have suddenly become very important in the process. Suffice to say that a significant evidence of our improved electoral system in Nigeria is the case of “vote buying”.

I say this with every element of sincerity that we have moved miles away from what it was in the past. From what was a manifestation of gross electoral fraud. Where electoral umpires owed no one any explanation for poorly conducted elections and were obligated only to the government in power. Several Governors needed the court to declare them winners of the election and some needed the court to affirm their victory.

Vote buying has returned power to the people. The power to rule must be derived from the people in any democracy. It is what gives legitimacy to a government to exercise authority. Vote buying clear evidence that the people now matter in elections.

For too long in Nigeria the flawed electoral system had relegated the people to the background. Voter apathy gripped elections across the country . We have seen cases where less than 50percent of the total number of registered voters turn out for elections.

If the estimated population of Ekiti State is said to be 2,398, 957 ( Two Million Three Hundred and Ninety Eight Thousand Nine Hundred and Fifty Seven) and it took just 198,462 (One Hundred and Ninety Eight Thousand Four Hundred and Sixty Two) people for Mr Kayode Fayemi to be elected Governor, it therefore meant that a thinny 8.27percent of the estimated population of Ekiti state voted to return him elected. A number that X-rays the people disposition towards the process. This win margin was nearly impossible in previous elections conducted in this country.

We have moved a great deal from the era of 500,000 to 1,000,000 votes allocated to the winner while a meagre less than 100,000 votes allocated to the first runner up.

The situation was so bad in 2007 that a sitting President Late Alhaji Musa YarAdua came out to the public to say that the elections that brought him to power was flawed and he condemned the process. Prof Maurice Iwu will always be remembered for conducting that election. A watershed in our electoral system.

Coming to 2019 why do I think that votes will count? My answer is simple. If it didn’t count why did the politicians resort to buying votes? That vote buying replaced massive thumb printing in Ekiti and Osun States showed that we have attained measure of electoral integrity. At least we have respected the sanctity of one man- one vote.

The Card Reader – The game changer. The introduction of the Card Reader in 2015 did little to improve the electoral system as the electoral law of the land did not recognise it. So while incident form was introduced in places where the Card Reader were said to have failed as a mode of accreditation, politicians mass filled the forms and mass thumb printed to Manufacture fake votes.

Hardly could any aggrieved party or person claim his or her mandate, as the Supreme Court was always on hand to remind all that the Card Reader was alien to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Not even forensic proof of mass thumb printing could nullify election results.

Today the game has changed. The electoral law now provides and accepts the Card Reader as the means of accreditation of voters. Any reported case of violence or ballot box snatching in a polling unit can nullify the result of that unit. Card Reader accreditation will be transmitted to the central server. Results must correlate with figures transmitted and also result at every polling unit to be counted and announced at the units. Amongst several other measures put in place to forestall electoral fraud.

Again I say votes will not only count in 2019 , votes have already started counting in elections conducted so far. True winners will emerge at the General Elections from genuine health votes or votes bought at least not mass thumb printing and ballot box snatching will determine the outcome of the election. .

For Akwa Ibom State that has not tested General Elections with the government at the centre a different political party from the government at the State since the return to democratic rule in 1999, it will be a real test for her to experience a credible election. There will be no 30,000 police officers to the deployed to one state as the will mean 1,110,000 (One Million One Hundred and Ten Thousand) police officers to send to the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. A number we don’t currently have. The interference of the security agencies will be limited. The plea will be more of a level playing field to be provided for all. Even if any other party thinks otherwise it will count for nothing with the current electoral reform.

Almost gone are the days when parties candidates were, President, Governors and Legislators – Elect before General Elections were conducted. Most of what that was needed to be elected was for your party to control State apparatus.

So while you wait to manipulate the elections, humbly campaign vigorously first, so at least popular vote can save your face the shame that will come from attempting to circumvent the electoral process that measures have been put in place to achieve credible elections.

Before you condemn vote buying please accept that it is a sign of power returning to the electorate in our emerging democracy. It is not that vote buying is new to our political system but the magnitude it was relied upon proved that it was a potent tool for winning the election.

The journey of a thousand mile begins with a step. We have began the journey towards electoral integrity and we may not have been there but as a nation is moving towards destination free, fair and credible elections.

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OPINION

Tackling the plight of Niger Delta region

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By Grace Omowumi Semudara

Niger Delta, as a geographical entity, her folks and the enormous gift of nature (crude oil) have been the cynosure of all eyes as their struggles dominate national discourse. It can be said with all sense of humility that the region and her people, by their endowment with abundant natural resources, should not have anything to do with stifling poverty, as postulated by many. But that is not the case, the tale of the Niger Delta is that of misery, despair, penury and haplessness in the face of immeasurable wealth, that would have accrued them, if the proceeds of their crude oil resources are judiciously used to develop their polluted lands. The region is only a microcosm of the dense citizenry of our African Giant Nigeria.

A nation so blessed with human and mineral resources, yet its people live in abject poverty and sickening squalor. No thanks to the haphazard and ill planned oil exploration activities, most villages and towns of many Niger Delta states, have been polluted, due to oil spillage, apart from rendering aquatic life extinct.

The thoughts of the villagers whose peasant occupation is fishing not having to practice their age-long fishing tradition for instance, only leaves one neglected. In the face of these odds, the menace of militancy sprouted. The youths started to revolt against the government. Soon, oil rigs and pipelines became their targets. They were bombarded by aggrieved youths belonging to various dreaded militant groups. As their lands were further contaminated due to wanton level of oil pollution, so was the nation loosing enormous revenue because of pipeline vandalism. Niger Delta militants As condemnable as the militancy attacks appeared, it became the only way to attract governments attention and sympathy. Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, had in the wake of the needless and constant attacks in the creeks, a decade ago, swung into action.

He soon established the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and unveiled the Amnesty programme for repentant militants to surrender their arms. Other laudable programmes and activities, aimed at rehabilitating the irate militants were launched. The result was remarkable as a sizeable number renounced their membership of various groups. Soon, they were trained in various vocational skills both at home and abroad and given monthly allowances, together with starter packs immediately they rounded up the artisan trainings. Brilliant youths sponsored to acquire degree certificate abroad returned with amazing results, some even bagged first class.

Part of the deliberate measure, and perhaps, the most laudable measure taken by the erstwhile late President , was the establishment of the ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. No prize for guessing, but everyone knew what the motive and cardinal objective of setting up the special ministry was. Has the ministry lived up to expectation? That is a topic for another discussion. In recent times and specifically in the last three years of the APC-led federal government- there has been bombardments of pipelines. Some hitherto repentant militants have taken up arms again, hence returning to their ‘diabolic’ venture, it seems. However, several media reports that some of those who were sent overseas for studies are now stranded in foreign lands, are replete.

Like their peers, Governors of the Niger Delta States, have been complicit in the art of misappropriating, diverting and ‘personalizing’ the allocation of their various states. Little wonder, the oil producing states despite the additional 13% derivation fund given to them from the federal monthly allocation still epitomize under-development and backwardness. Over 1500 illegal refineries destroyed in Niger Delta The narrative of the geographical entity called Niger Delta needs to be changed. Reviewing some of the earlier launched empowerment programmes, will be the first step to addressing the perceived injustice meted out to Niger Delta masses.

Then, massive infrastructural development, provision of basic amenities and speeding up the activities of cleaning their polluted lands, namely the Ogoni clean up should follow suits. These, and many other activities or programmes can be embarked on by government to assuage the feelings of the Niger Deltans. Since they (the activities and programmes) are not rocket
science, the government has no alibi to offer if they fail to do the needful. We envisage immediate action, and enough of rhetoric. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.

Semudara, an intern with PRNigeria and Economic Confidential, wrote from Abuja.

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FEATURES

Hon. Emmanuel Ekon in the Eye of the Voter

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In the next couple of days, the political tempo in the country would further heighten with the official flag off of campaigns for the 2019 general elections.

With the successful conclusion of party primaries and the emergence of flag bearers, it is expected that political parties and their candidates would now focus more on issues in their quest for votes rather than resort to name callings and blackmail of opponents.

In Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State, the coast is clear for the All Progressive Party (APC) candidate, Hon. Emmanuel Ekon to unfold his package for the people to judge whether he merits a return to the National Assembly for another four year tenure. Going by his record of performance so far, Hon. Ekon is expected to defeat his opponent in the general election.

Aside the human capital development which has resulted in the training of over 300 youths from the Federal Constituency in different areas of oil and gas in addition to some of them being gainfully employed, Hon. Ekon has done remarkably well in life touching projects across the three local government areas that make up the Federal Constituency. He started with the building of three ICT Centers strategically located in Abak and Etim Ekpo Local Government Council Secretariats respectively while that of Ika was sited at St. Augustine Secondary School, Urua Inyang.

Unfortunately, the Center at Abak was destroyed by erosion. The essence of the Centers fully equipped with desktop computers and internet services was to bring Information Technology closer to the grass root.

During the first term, he assisted over 60 youths to secure employment in the Federal and State Civil service as well as the Army, Navy, Civil Defence, Police, Air Force and the private sector. It was through his instrumentality that the 13 Air Traffic Controllers trained by Akwa Ibom State government between 2008 and 2009 were employed in the aviation sector and posted to various airports across the country in 2013.

As a liberalized Legislator, Hon. Ekon has never limited his scope of representation to his constituency alone. He believes that as far as Akwa Ibom is concerned, any project or programme attracted would have a multiplier effect on all and sundry. With that mindset, he was able to secure 220 laptop computers to Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic and the Federal Polytechnic, Ukana. From the same source, he also facilitated the donation of 30 desktop computers each to Northern Annang Secondary Commercial School, Utu Etim Ekpo, Government Technical College, Abak and Secondary Commercial School, Utu Ikot Ekpenyong.

In the area of community development, the five star legislator built and equipped a Town Hall in Utu Ikot Eboro Community, constructed a three classroom block with a VIP toilet and a borehole at Government Primary School, Ikot Udobong and a Primary Health Center with a borehole in Iwukem Village among others.

Faced with the challenges of infrastructure decay, Hon. Ekon also ensured that some communities were provided with potable water and electricity. He built two community water projects with reticulations at Ikot Akpan Anwa and Nto Mbadum in Ika Local Government Area in addition to providing 500 kva transformers to Ikot Obong Afaha Obong in Abak Local Government Area, Utu Ikot Eboro, Eka Uruk Eshiet, Mopol Base 25, Iwukem. He also added 30 solar street lights each to Utu Ikot Eboro and Utu Nto Obio Ekpo villages while Iwukem got 50.

It is noteworthy to mention that one of the most remarkable impact of Hon. Ekon’s representation is the construction of Iwukem-Ukanafun-Ekparakwa-Azumini dual carriageway. Those familiar with the geography of the area would know what the state of the road was before 2011. Hon. Ekon changed the narrative and fought to ensure that the project was removed from the budget of the Ministry of Niger Delta which had for years appropriated a paltry sum of three hundred million naira but never awarded the job to any contractor for paucity of funds. He personally took the matter to the presidency and got Sure-P to re-award the contract to CCECC. It is still work in progress and he is not relenting until the project is fully completed.

As Chairman Committee on Local Content, he has in the last three years attracted projects and training packages to Akwa Ibom State. The Akwa Ibom Oil and Gas Training and Research Center operated in partnership with Halliburton is his brainchild. The multi billion naira Center offers over 50 courses in oil and gas development including drilling and completions engineering, well interventions solution as well as digital technologies. There is also a proposed deep sea diving training facility for the Maritime Academy, Oron. Still in that capacity, Government Technical College, Abak would also be a proud beneficiary of a well-equipped Woodwork Factory while an Industrial Park is built in Ikwe Community in Onna Local Government all courtesy of the Lawmaker.

Hon. Ekon has also extended his magnanimity to some secondary schools in the state with a proposed multi million naira ICT Centers. The benefitting Schools are: Church of Jesus Christ Comprehensive Secondary School, Atai Otoro Abak, Iwukem High School, Etim Ekpo, Independent High School, Ukana Essien Udim and Science College, Ndon Eyo.

Despite the distractions of the last three years coupled the dwindling economy of the country, Hon. Ekon has remained undaunted. Even his worst critic would attest to the fact that he has not been found wanting in the discharge of his duties. Those who are against his reelection are doing so for pecuniary reasons but the youths the women of the Federal Constituency who have benefitted from his welfare packages are hell bent on returning him to the National Assembly.

Many of them are of the opinion that he has more to offer and that the Federal Constituency and the entire state would benefit more from him than a total greenhorn with no experience. They believe that his short stint as Committee Chairman has been very impactful and from all indications, he has a lot of juicy opportunities for the youths who have formed the bulk of his primary supporters.

Uduak Iniodu, Senior Legislative Aide to the Honourable Member Writes from Abuja

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