Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen fields questions from Okon Bassey on his encounter with the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and debunks insinuations that the Governor Udom Emmanuel signed a pact to serve one term. Excepts.
You are considered Governor Udom Emmanuel’s right man, is true that the Governor entered an agreement with the Oron people to serve one term after which an Oron person will serve one term to complete the mandatory two-tenures for the Eket Senatorial District?
Oron is in my senatorial district. I believe in evidence. There must have been people at that meeting. A document must have been signed. Where are these documents? Who were at this discussion? At the time Governor Udom Emmanuel was emerging, Oron people had gone to other camp. Most of their leaders were in the other camp. I believe with all my heart that Governor Udom Emmanuel will not tell a lie. People believe that in government, you must tell a lie to get things done. I am of a different school of thought that is why I am able to work very freely with the Governor. The Governor says it the way it is. There was no such understanding. If you tell me that the then governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio must have had some understanding, I may not argue because I was not there. Governor Udom Emmanuel was not there.
There was a disagreement between your ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over the execution of projects in Akwa Ibom State, has this been sorted out?
We expected that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will support the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, to add value to the lives of our people. We expected that they will tell the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, we want to help you here. Where do you need help? What we condemned was that, every time, the governor, goes to an environment and makes pronouncement, the following day, NDDC will deploy the equipment, sometimes without contract paper. Exactly what happened on the Youth Avenue, when the Accountant General of the state did thanksgiving, it was on a public holiday and he asked Ministry of Works that he wants that road to be done, and on Wednesday morning, we saw equipment being moved to the road and we asked where is the contract paper? There was none. Where is the design? There was none. I put a call through to the director in charge of NDDC projects in Akwa Ibom. He said he had not awarded the contract. It was a political thing. NDDC is expected to complement the effort of the state government. This is our money, not NDDC’s money. Akwa Ibom is the highest oil producer and gives the highest contribution to NDDC. We welcome those projects but not substandard projects,that every time rain comes, it washes it off. That money is recorded against our state in the books at the centre, that 18 roads were done in Akwa Ibom. In truth, no road was done, and we will go back to square one. That is the truth.
About two months ago, the Governor received a plea from the people of Edemeya, that there was no road linking Edemeya and other communities. The governor directed me to visit the area. I was walking through a bush path to get to the area. I reported back to the governor, that the area needs intervention. He directed that we should do a survey, we were still doing the survey, but what I heard when I came back was that NDDC has also sent people to go and do a survey. Why that particular one that has been lying down there till the governor spoke? And if we pull out of that project now, they will abandon it. It was the same with Hospital Road in Abak. We were on the design when NDDC put up a sign post, and we said okay, good enough, and we left. It became a political issue.
There were reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) invited you recently due to your relationship with estate valuers , can you explain why you were invited?
I will explain the compensation payment component that we met when we came on board in 2015. It was open to abuse in the sense that one man is the estate valuer and that same man will make payment. On that basis, the governor directed that we decongest that arrangement. We had to break the system into three, have the estate valuer to value for government, after valuation, you bring the report to the ministry of works, we go out for physical verification, after the physical verification, that report is approved and given to a payment consultant. If you had overvalued a property for whatever reason, you will not enjoy the goodies because you are not going to pay. You are not even associated with payment. If we go out for the physical verification of every property, and for instance, there are five buildings-one is N20 million, another is one is N5 million and the third one is N8 million, we ask why one building costs higher. Many times, the reconciliation has been in favour of government. Once we take that report, you longer have anything to do with that document.
Once I don’t find a property physically standing as at the day of my verification, it is eliminated from the list. It is what I don’t remove that the payment consultant pays based on the valuation and we pay 90% which is the net to the property owner, the 10% is supposed to be kept for the property owner who has not given out power of attorney to anybody, but we also discover that, some property owners were deceived into giving out power of attorney. There are several others that more than one person has the power of attorney. Under that circumstance, we suspend the payment, because you don’t know who to pay to.
What we concentrated in paying was the net value to have right of way.
These people that have been beneficiaries of the system are claiming that if we have N50 million to pay, they should be prioritised and I don’t agree with that and they went to EFFC. The EFCC wrote to the ministry, but by the time I did the explanation and I told EFCC, you are not debt collectors, if anybody has any problem against government, he should go to court. I told the EFCC that if you prove that one kobo is missing from the projects claim, I resign. We have done, the best and most transparent form of compensation payment in the history of this state. Time will tell who is telling the truth.
Is the payment of compensation not delaying the construction of projects in the state?
The contractor always gives us a percentage to pay the compensation. What we have eliminated was that wholesome payment. Before now, money would be released to the contractor, he surrenders all of it and pays compensation for 10 kilometres of raod and no money is left for the construction and they would say that the road is abandoned. We now have a strategy that we will pay by installment, even if you give me N5 billion, I will not pay a whole sum as compensation. You give a contractor N5 billion, the highest you can ask him to give is N250 milliom because the other N4.75 billion would not construct the two kilometres of road. Why take the money and pay compensation and leave the road undone? What is more critical is not the compensation payment, it’s the construction of the road. That is what people are going to use. What we do is, we are pay in alignment with the work done. Any road that the contractor has not exhausted the right of way earlier provided, we don’t pay any new one. If construction is not going on on any road, it means that government has not funded that project and therefore there will be no compensation payment on that road. As soon as government funds that project, we take a small percentage of that money to pay compensation and the work must finish on the portion that has been paid for. There are false expectations. People celebrate when their houses are on the right of way. They believe that they will make a whole lot of money.
What is your comment on the assertion that Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District was neglected or never benefit from the current state administration in terms of provision of infrastructure?
We met Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, though commissioned, at 42 per cent completion. Right now, that road is at kilometre 23 with all the side drains. The road is remaining two kilometres to the Four Point Sheraton Hotel. In Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, we went to Obot Akara LGA there was no road in Obot Akara and we did 6.4km that links Nto Edino. We also awarded another 4 km at Nto Ndang. We went to Ikono and we did 4.6km that opened up the College of Art and Science. Today, it is becoming College of Technology. We went to Ini LGA, the food basket of the state, we are working from the headquarters, Otro-Ikpe to Arochukwu with bridge which is on-going now. When the governor went for his three years anniversary inspection, he was told that the first governor who got to Arochukwu through the area was Paul Omu when he was Military Administrator of Cross River State and he came on motor cycle; that governor Emmanuel was the first governor who has driven in a car to Arochukwu. We went to Oruk Anam. In the last administration, the only road awarded in Oruk Anam was Ikot Akara-Ibesi-Okpokoro. That road terminated in the middle of no where. We are bound to complete that road. The governor awarded Ikot Eka Idem-Okoro-Ikot Ebritam 23km is on-going from Ikot Ebritam to Ekefe. It had even been in the federal budget for several years. In Oruk Anam alone we have four projects. In Abak when the governor went to open the Girls Model School in Ikot Ikan. That road has been completed. We have done three other interventions in Abak. What the governor has done in that senatorial district is amazing compared to the record we met on ground. Records of fair sharing of infrastructure have been more pronounced during this government than any other government. The governor has directed me to do the Ika Road. Ukanafun Road is on-going. Out of 10 LGAs in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District we have touched seven.
Few months to the election year, many states have started shutting down from construction site, but the Akwa Ibom state government is going ahead to embark on many road projects, how long can this be sustained?
The governor believes that working for the people will determine his next level. He believes that he was brought here by God to serve the people, not minding what a few people will say. He believes that his tomorrow will be determined by God and the people of Akwa Ibom State that he is working for. I have always told people that we have found a connection between the construction we are doing, the infrastructure we are putting on the ground with the heart of Akwa Ibom people. The question is, because of election, you suspend development in your state, where is that money going to? I’m of the opinion that without anybody pressurising you, with what governor Udom Emmanuel has done, you will vote for him. We will remain on site. Udom Emmanuel has brought a true change to the infrastructure dynamics of Akwa Ibom State. The people are happy. You cannot stop doing what is right because the people are appreciating what he is doing. He is not going to buy the heart of the people. What he has got to do is to sustain his good works and the people will decide. They will make their choices.
A construction company, VKS is handling the road from Nkana in Etinan to Awa in Onna, it cuts across Afaha group of villages, the drainages have been made and the road seems to have been abandoned, what is happening?
That community is not being fair to the government, the governor doesn’t just sit over that community, he sits over the entire state. The governor rations the money into several projects. The governor initiated that project, it’s at 60% completion, so that community should rather be thanking governor for God to provide more and it will be completed. They wouldn’t think that because governor has come to that place to start that job, every other should be suspended. It is not done that way. For the people of Awa group of villages to think that the governor who has come and has done 60 per cent will not finish the road in their area and they are angry, I think they are not being fair. Let me also tell you this, there is a major trunk road that if it is not completed, the other ones inside will not have value. Which one is more important, Etinan- Ndon- Eyo Road or the Awa Village Road? The governor is a strategic thinker and he believes that if we can do Ikot Oku-Ikono- Etinan Road, Etinan-Ndon Eyo Road, Etinan-Eket Road to open up the main system, the other small alignment can take place. So the governor right now is concentrating on finishing Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, which is a key alignment, rather than go into one village to do one small road. How do you even access the road when the main alignment has not been done? If the governor leaves Etinan-Ndon Eyo that is going to be the centre piece to open up the entire state to construct the Awa-Nkana road it would not make sense that you drive in a bush track and enter a tarred road in your village. It will be completed. Delay does not mean that it has been abandoned. Every project by this government will be completed. It may be delayed because of funding but, the governor is determined.