Frugal Udom Saves Akwa Ibom from Indebtedness

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Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel’s decision not to take a bailout fund from the federal government last year in spite of the hardship that Nigerians witnessed is still being widely commended by his people, Anayo Okolie writes

While some governors saw the bailout fund gesture by the federal government as the opportunity to salvage hardship in their states while some others saw it as a means to enriched themselves but for the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, the fund would simply mortgage the future of Akwa Ibom State, hence he did not collect it.

The governor’s position has been widely commended by citizens of the state who also considered it as a way not to mortgage the future of the state though it is clear that the Nigerian economy is in crisis because of the various indices that has shown decline in the country’s economy.

Oil is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy and foreign exchange earnings and the country benefited immensely from sales of crude oil in the past but the decrease in the sales of crude oil at the international market has contributed mainly to the dwindling economy of Nigeria as the price of oil has fallen from about $140 per barrel to $40 per barrel.

The exchange rate and value of naira to other foreign currencies has also fallen as well and these developments also had negative effects on business transaction in the country.

Some school of thoughts have attributed bad governance and waste of public funds as another cause of the decline in Nigeria’s economic fortunes because of how officials mismanaged public funds and how some ex-governors mortgage the future of their states through foreign and local loans, which incumbent administrations are battling with in different states.

The consequences of the dwindling economy have weighed down many state governments and governors in their quest to provide good governance and basic need to the people. Many state governors are facing financial troubles today. Many of them have been finding it difficult to pay worker salaries and pensions.

In fact, some governors due to reduction in their monthly allocation from federation account, poor Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), foreign and local loans and lack of prudent management of resources are finding it very difficult to pay salaries.

As at today, about 19 states have backlog of salaries ranging from about two months to nine months despite receiving bailout fund from the federal government.

On September 18, 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through its spokesman, Ibrahim Mu’azu, released the list of 19 states that benefited from the workers’ salary bailout package which was in line with the resolution by the National Economic Council (NEC).

According to Mu’azu, the bailout was to ensure that the backlogs of salaries owed by affected states are cleared and he revealed that the package has 20-year repayment tenure for all states, except Ogun State, which opted for 10 year tenure.

The states that received the bail outs were Kwara, Zamfara, Osun, Niger, Bauchi, Gombe, Abia, Adamawa, Ondo, Kebbi, Ekiti, Imo, Ebonyi, Ogun, Plateau, Nassarawa, Sokoto, Edo and Oyo.

According to the information released by the CBN, the amount received by the states in billions is as follows: Abia (N14.152bn), Adamawa (N2.378bn), Bauchi (N8.60bn), Bayelsa (N12.85bn), Benue (N28.013bn), Borno (N7.680bn), Cross River (N7.856bn), Delta (N10.036bn), Ebonyi (N4.063bn), Edo (N3.167bn), Ekiti (N9.604bn), Enugu (N4.207bn), Gombe (N16.459bn), Imo (N26.806bn), Kastina (N3.304bn), Kebbi (N0.690bn), Kogi (N50.842bn) and Kwara (N4.320bn)

Others are: Nasarawa (N8.317bn), Niger (N4.306bn), Ogun (N19.00bn), Ondo (N14.686bn), Osun (N34.988bn), Oyo (N26.606bn), Plateau (N5.357bn), Sokoto (N10.093bn) and Zamfara (N10.02bn)

The release of the federal government largesse was commended by many people with the hope that it will assist state governments in settling their backlogs of salaries but it didn’t as many governors allegedly diverted the money and used it for purposes different from what the bailout was meant for.

The fund was used by some governors for projects and other government capital and current expenses and as at today, some of the states are back to the same spot they were last year and they are looking up again to the federal government for another bail out to settle backlog of salaries.

But Governor Udom, one of the few governors that do pay salaries as when due without owing civil servants in his state did not opt to take the loan. He avoided mortgaging the future of his state by not subjecting their states to another loan through collection of the bailout because there was no need for it, having managed the resources of Akwa Ibom State wisely and prudently to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people of the state.

Today, irrespective of the financial hardship being faced by governors, Udom, a reputable banker, seasoned administrator, chartered accountant and management expert before venturing into politics to serve his state, stands stall among his peers and the people of Akwa Ibom State are solidly behind him because of his remarkable performance and wise financial decision.

Speaking on why he rejected the bailout fund which some governors accepted passionately and joyfully to address their economic challenges, Udom during a town hall meeting with stakeholders in Uyo, said he refused to accept the bailout fund offered to states by the federal government because he did not want to mortgage the future of the Akwa Ibom people.

He explained that he would not borrow money he does not need and by so doing, leave a huge debt burden for future governors to pay.

Without mincing words, that his decision on the bailout fund is a wise decision considering that many of the incumbent governors are facing serious challenges in fulfilling their campaign promises and prompt payment of salaries because of the huge debt they inherited from their predecessors.

As at today, many state governments are using about 60 to 70 per cent of their allocations and IGR to service loans that previous administrations subjected them to.

Udom has maintained that he is passionate about the development of Akwa Ibom and the people of the state and that explains why the state always comes first in many of his decision in life. The governor resigned from a flourishing bank director top management job to become the Secretary to Akwa Ibom State Government in July 2013.

His passion for service and commitment to the growth and development of Akwa Ibom made the then governor and now senator, Chief Godswill Akpabio to back him for the number one position in the state.

He defeated 22 other aspirants to emerge as the governorship flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and defeated his closet rival and his predecessor, Umana Okon Umana, who contested the April 11 gubernatorial election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Since his swearing-in on May 29, 2015, he has not relented in delivering dividends of democracy to Akwa Ibom people and the future of the state is paramount to him in any decision or policy he made about the affairs of the state.

During his inaugural address on May 29, 2015, Udom promised pursuit of a greater Akwa Ibom State. “I place a demand on all Akwa Ibom people, at home and abroad, to come with hoes and shovels, and let us bury the twin evils of ethnicity and tribalism, which could slow us down in the race of development.

“At the same time let us sow the seeds of brotherhood, love and unity, which will energise us to maintain our current momentum and leadership position. Let us remember that with the spirit of brotherhood, love and unity, no foe can defeat us, and no rival can overtake us.

According to him, “My dear compatriots, our Heavenly Father, history and posterity will not forgive our generation if we fail to continue the search for a better estate and pursuit of a greater Akwa Ibom State.

“This search we anchor on the timeless promise that whoever asks shall receive, whoever seeks shall find and who ever knock, the door shall be opened unto him. This promise is therefore God-given, and it is large enough to shelter every boy and girl, man and woman, young and old from the scorching heat of injustice.

“As we seek to build a greater state founded on prosperity and justice, we should be reminded that in this Land of Promise, God will surely honour His own,” he promised.

Committing himself to the growth and development of Akwa Ibom State, Udom promised to keep his covenant with the people of the state by executing the programmes he enunciated during his official declaration to run for the office of governor.

“I stand before you today not as a master but as a servant and not as a boss but as a co-labourer. I accept, with great humility and sense of responsibility, the mandate you have freely given to me to hold power in trust for you are your Governor. You have kept your part of the covenant and I intend to keep my part by executing the programmes I enunciated to you during my official declaration to run for the office of Governor. These include:

“To leverage and build on the uncommon transformation of the Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio administration; to transform the economy of our state via industrialisation and sustained public-private sector initiative, thereby opening up opportunities for growth and improved living standards; to respect and uphold the tenets of democratic governance which our great party (PDP) unflinchingly stands for, as well as respect the party’s structure, decisions and hierarchy and to ensure the security of lives and property of the people at all times, while adhering to the principal of the rule of law, thereby ensuring equity, justice and fair play.

“Others are; to promote unity and oneness across the state, with due respect for traditional institutions and the elders of our society; to continuously develop, mobilise and empower our women and the youths via planned and well-articulated welfare and capacity-building programmes; to give all Akwa Ibom persons (both within Nigeria and the Diaspora) a proud sense of belonging-built on good governance, economic advancement and due respect for the Fundamental Human Rights of all; to pursue the task of rural development and integration with all vigour, bring the benefits and dividends of our democratic governance to every nook and cranny in the state, and provide basic amenities of life to all and to ensure accountability and transparency in government by fighting and tackling corruption in all facets of our administration.

“Our government also promises to provide trade, commerce and tourism between Akwa Ibom and the rest of Nigeria, and in fact, the rest of the world; to foster, develop, and maintain a good working relationship with both the legislative and the Judiciary arms of Government in the state, as well as ensuring an effective local government administration for grassroots development, mobilisation and empowerment and to attract all possibly required Federal presence to Akwa Ibom State, by developing and sustaining a harmonious and very cordial relationship with the government at the centre.

“These are the milestones we have set for our democratic journey under my stewardship. We invite all of you to think of what you can do for our State to achieve these milestones, and not what our state can do for you. We urge you to keep this administration in your thoughts and prayers. We will gladly welcome your ideas and contributions.

“We will accept your constructive and open-minded criticisms. Akwa Ibom State belongs to all of us, and it is only in the development of this State that we can attain our individual goals and aspirations,” he said.

The policy thrust of the Udom-led administration in Akwa Ibom State is to provide adequate infrastructure that would affect the lives of its citizenry and attract Investors to the state. And without any iota of doubt, the governor through the Ministry of Works has done tremendously well in execution of its mandate in the areas of roads construction and maintenance, bridges construction and rehabilitation, electrification and fire services.

Some of the laudable projects of the administration are: emergency intervention on gully erosion ravaging along Calabar-Itu road at Enen Atai, Itu local government area by direct labour; emergency intervention on gully erosion ravaging the school of Nursing, Anua, Uyo by direct labour; construction of 3.5km Ikot Udom road with 15m span bridges in Ibiono Ibom local government area; construction of 5km Ikot Usop-Ikot Edeghe-Ikot Ekpuk road with 30m span bridges in Mkpat Enin local governmentaArea; construction of the 5km-Mkpok-OkaT road in Onna local government area and emergency works in the completion of outfall and urban roads in Oron.

Others are reconstruction of knocked down 33kv Inter-Town connection (ITC) to Oron at Ifa Atai, maintenance and operation of street lights in Uyo, Abak, Ikot Ekpene and Oron metropolis; dualisation of Uyo-Etinan road; construction and re-modelling of selected roads, strategic round-about and junctions in Eket metropolis (Phases I & II); construction of internal roads in Cornelia Connelly College (CCC)- Afaha Oku-Uyo; construction of Etinan-Ekpene Obom (QIC Leprosy Hospital Road) and construction and dualisation of Etinan-Onna road with two bridges.

However, as Udom celebrates his first year in office, one thing the people of Akwa Ibom are commending him for, was his decision not to mortgage the future of the state by not requesting for the bailout fund because if he had joined other governors in collecting the bailout, the debt would have been on the state.