Pomp and celebrations heralded the inauguration of the local government administration in
Akwa Ibom state about some seven months ago. Their mandates among other things as was reechoed to them by the inaugurator-in-chief of the day, Governor Udom Emmanuel was to key into his economic vision and drive of industrialization at the grassroot level. The plainly excited Council helmsmen with their entourages were given the highest hope and financial assurance which they all took back to their domains.
Fast forward to seven months later, the reverse of all those mouthy, sugarcoated promises has been the case. From the undulating hills of Itu to the swamps of Mbo down to the wartorn, desolation of Ukanafun, there is a general belief that the council areas but for a few who are surviving wholly on their locally generated revenues, have been suffocated and institutionally manacled by the new found devious and insincere attitude of the state government under the leadership and orders of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
A distraught council helmsman, who for fear of the governor's victimization, spoke to this reporter on the conditions of anonymity lamented about the sad, deplorable and financially stringent situation the local governments have been forced into thanks to the desperation of Gov Udom to gag, censor, and mutilate council chairmen and councillors under his armpit in his bid to ensuring that his second term ambition is realized even if that means a total demise to the third tier of government.
According to the chairman, "Governor is just a wolf in sheep clothing. He paints this image of a visionary, industrialization driven leader meanwhile, he is highly inept and grossly incapacitated to ever make such bold claims happen. For fear that incoming council chairmen may come and out-perform him in the areas of real time development, he has practically cut short finances into the areas, leading to most of the council areas operating on purse strings."
The milking dry and the cutting of the financial oxygen to these council areas has left most of them totally paralyzed to even run their day-to-day affairs.
It is no longer news that Akwa Ibom receives the highest allocation from the federation's account and other sundry crude profits yet under the leadership of Gov Udom, the state has been made to appear like it is struggling financially leading people to wonder in bewilderment what exactly is the Governor is doing with the huge funds coming into the state.
A startling data from BudgetIT.com has revealed that with the money Akwa Ibom receives in a month, the local governments are supposed to receive between 80 - 180 million Naira monthly (which would have translated to approximately more than 1.2 billion Naira so far), a figure which is still dwarfed by the yearly financial budgets of most of the LGAs.
But in shock reality, for eigth long months (December - July) now, the highest the council areas have received is between a paltry 5 - 14 million Naira (which would amount to about 125 million Naira or so for the period in review, a far cry from the actual inflow of cash).
This sad scenario is indeed dire and has totally demotivated most of the council helmsmen with most of them swearing to withdraw their grassroot support for the Governor's re-election bid except there is an upturn of fortunes to at least 40 million Naira monthly. Also, point of note is that the council heads who all double as their political leaders in their respective areas are without functional vehicles to ease the cost of doing business. A lot of them are on rickety cars while most are moving on rented vehicles. Meanwhile, neighbouring Rivers State who just elected their Council heads have all been given brand new staff vehicles with backups.
It would be pertinent to note at this point that, this is a state whose Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is more than 3 billion Naira per month and who is receiving regular royalties from some of the biggest multinational companies operating in the state such as Exxon Mobil, Frontier Oil, Universal Energy, Total Elf, Oriental Energy, Julius Berger, etc.
Thus, the key questions on everyone's lips are: Where is the Local Government Funds diverted to?
Why hasn't the Governor hold any meeting with the council chairmen since they were inaugurated seven months ago?
Is he afraid of being told of his unpopularity at the grassroots?
Where are the practically evidences of the huge amount gotten monthly from the state's IGR?
Why is the government happy that retirees under the local government payroll are not paid?
Is the governor very comfortable with the stagnation in the council areas?
Aren't these situations totally counter-productive to his much vaunted industrialization drive in the state?
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The people demand answers to these posers and the earlier they are addressed the better, if not, one fears that in the governor's all consuming desire to return in 2019, an "Ekiti" may befall him.