Following the Supreme Court verdict that confirmed the election of Mr. Udom Emmanuel as the duly elected governor of Akwa Ibom State, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, in this interview with Davidson Iriekpen, speaks on the issue and other matters in the state. Excerpts:
Since the February 3 verdict of the Supreme Court that confirmed Mr. Udom Emmanuel as the governor of Akwa Ibom State, the political temperature in the state has seemed to change. 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 11, 2015 governorship election, 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 judgement, he told the people of Akwa Ibom State not to waiver because he believed that the Supreme God would work to restore justice. He had always expressed confidence in the judiciary as the last hope of the common man. His belief in the sanctity of the law and judiciary has been justified. Since that judgement, which confirmed Governor 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 judgement 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.
Were there people who out of fear of the unknown left PDP for APC in Akwa Ibom State?
In his broadcast to the people shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, the governor said it was time for greater work for the greatness of the state. He extended the olive branch to everyone to come and 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.
The governor has consistently said that the focus of his administration is industrialisation. But nine months down the line, many people are wondering what has happened to the industrialisation promise. What is your take on this?
The industrialisation process is alive. He has performed ground breaking ceremonies, which is a starting point in industrial process. I have often said that industrialisation 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 loads 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 has 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 Fertiliser 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 1, 000 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 on-going 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, which will engage and empower about 10,000 youths to work for themselves. Clearly, the industrialisation promise of the governor is on.
What is your reaction to the recent advertorial mocking the publicised achievements of the governor?
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 on-going. Government is constructing over 140 kilometres of road. Work is on-going 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.
What is your response to the allegation that some persons employed by the state government more than one year ago as teachers and others in the civil service have not been paid salaries since their employment?
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 put on the payroll 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.
How would you describe the relationship between Governor Udom Emmanuel and his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio?
Governor Emmanuel and his predecessor, the Senate Minority Leader, Chief 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 the 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 and Senator Akpabio. There is stability, cooperation and unity among the leaders in the state.