July 19, 2024

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A’Ibom: How Political Leaders Corner LG Development Projects

8 min read

Last week, the Akwa Ibom State government announced plans to begin the second phase of what is now known as the Arise Agenda development projects meant for the 31 local governments of the state. Instead of getting excited, many Akwa Ibom people are having mixed feelings about the initiative.

The reason is simple: those who call themselves political leaders are the ones who seem to be the primary beneficiaries of the projects and they do so with impunity. They dictate and insist on where the project should be sited and what type of project should be executed, not minding what the masses think.

They do not seem to consult the people who filed out last year to vote for the governor. Their views do not count. What matters is the interest of the political leader. These leaders are in all the local governments.

In the first phase of ARISE Agenda projects, the Eno administration had sited projects worth over N700 million ranging from clinics to schools in each of the LGAs.

Our correspondent gathered that on completion of the first phase, Eno directed stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to pick projects of their choice and locations and submit proposals to his office for appraisal and approval.

It is understood that in the second phase, each project is equally worth over N700 million per local government area of the state.

TNN learnt that during the first phase, whereas many people had preferred the construction of building at WASCO, the premier secondary school in the Ukanafun, the people who pose as political leaders preferred the building of market stalls at the famous Akpan Assiek Market. In other words, they preferred a market to education. Till date, WASCO has remained abandoned, even though many of the political leaders are products of that same school. Some of the leaders in the Abak 5 local governments who had their way during the first phase of the project are again mounting pressure to site the second projects in their villages. Ironically, the government had already sited projects in some of those places.

It was observed that the leaders have recommended siting of the projects in villages with dwindling numerical strength at the detriment of thickly populated urban or local government headquarters for the siting of the projects, a situation viewed will negatively impact on the majority who should benefit from such people-oriented projects.

Abak

Findings by our correspondent show that a few privileged political leaders in the area have proposed the project to be sited at Convent Primary School, Abak.

Though the school is within the urban, our correspondent learnt that the school is situated along erosion-prone area.

Unfortunately, the pipe- jacking project constructed by ex-Governor Goodwill Akpabio from UduakAbasi Clinic, Ikot Ekpene Road is emptying into the school’s premises, making the school looks like a cemetery.

In addition, the school is sparsely populated, though with dilapidated buildings and a population of about 300 pupils.

A community leader in the area, Etim Udoh saw the project as a waste pipe owing to the location.

According to him, there are more suitable locations for the siting of the project to benefit the majority, not to where it will satisfy the selfish interest of a few.

He called on the state government to critically appraise the project with a view to siting such at a convenient area to benefit many in line with the governor’s ARISE agenda.

Lady Atim Inyang, a teacher in a primary school near the area, was sad how people could not differentiate politics from governance.

The Catholic faithful said the location was unsuitable, asking Governor Umo Eno to open his eyes to truncate ambition of selfish politicians scheming to achieve their personal interest, thus rubbishing his good intentions of empowering the masses.

She, therefore, called on the governor to ensure the project is sited where many would benefit from it, not in a waterlogged area.

Etim Ekpo

Reports from the area show that a leading political light in the area has decided to site the project at Group School, Utu Nsekhe/Utu Ikot Eboro.

Utu Ikot Eboro is the hometown of Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, the International Co-ordinator of defunct Maintain Peace Movement (MPM).

The school is located along Nkwot Ikono-Utu Nsekhe spur bursting into Abak-Ukanafun Road.

Our correspondent who visited the area discovered that ex-Governor Goodwill Akpabio administration under Interministerial Direct Labour Committee awarded contract  for the construction and renovation of the school’s infrastructure.

Again, the ex-Governor Udom Emmanuel awarded contract under Interministerial Direct Labour Committee for the renovation of the school.

Moreover, our correspondent discovered that the State Basic Education Board (SUBEB) has severally intervened in the renovation of the school.

At present, it is learnt, SUBEB is constructing a parameter fence in the school duly handled by Hon. Okon Ekpo, a one-time Special Assistant on Projects to ex-Governor Udom Emmanuel.

However, our correspondent gathered from the grapevine that the political Leader in Etim Ekpo, Mr. Enoidem had summoned a PDP stakeholders’ meeting and told them that he wanted to site the second phase of ARISE agenda’s project in the same school that has had several government’s interventions.

This newspaper heard that the unilateral decision displeased many attendees of the meeting and community leaders who saw the idea as a conduit by him to siphon the humongous amount to private use, thus defeating the ARISE Agenda’s mission of taking dividends of democracy to the grassroots.

A community leader in Utu Nsekhe, Mr. Cyprian Akpan felt disappointed that a project of such magnitude would be sited in a school that has witnessed several government’s interventions, despite the fact that many schools in the area are begging for interventions.

Akpan, therefore, called on the state government to stop siting of the project at the school with dwindling pupils’ population but direct it be taken to another school with thick population and dilapidated infrastructure.

Another community leader from Utu Etim Ekpo, Mr. Andikan Ekpo wondered why an individual would suggest the siting of such project in the school, attributing this to his political influence in government.

Ekpo said Native Authority School, Utu Etim Ekpo has thick population with more than 1,000 pupils and dilapidated infrastructure, yet nobody suggested the siting of the project there.

He, therefore, called on the state Governor to look into the plights of the area by siting the project at a central but acceptable location to benefit many.

Apart from trying to influence the siting of the second phase project in his village, our correspondent gathered that the community leaders also accused Enoidem of alleged cornering of many key projects meant for the area using his cronies and kinsmen.

For instance, the newspaper discovered that he is alleged to have been awarded the building of Model Primary Health Centre, Utu Ikot Nkor, which is ongoing.

It is reported that his crony is the person handling the project worth N700 million, but he is still angling to supposedly hijack the second one.

Our correspondent learnt that community leaders including most politicians in the area are bitter with him for abandoning Electrification project (Sub-station) at Utu Nsekhe/Utu Ikot Eboro awarded to him by ex-Governor Udom Emmanuel administration years ago.

Other projects still handled by his lackeys are the construction of Compassionate Home, Obong Ntak; construction of Nto Unang-Utu Ikot Ekpo Road, which has been abandoned as well as the ongoing Local Education Authority (SUBEB) secretariat, Utu Etim Ekpo.

A community leader in Utu Ikot Ekpo, Mrs Catherine Umoh, who is a trader plying her wares in Mkpok Eto market in Ika was unhappy over the abandonment of the road.

Mrs Umoh, therefore, called on the state government to review the project with intent of either completing it or terminating and re-awarding to a competent hand.

A community leader from Nto Unang, Mr. Udo Unangetor expressed disappointment over awarding contracts to one person in the area, but during election every member of the party will be involved.

He called on the state governor to be wary of concentrating many jobs and financial resources in one hand, knowing that the person could become power drunk in working against the common good of all.

Ukanafun

Our correspondent learnt that the second phase of ARISE agenda’s project is billed for Ikot Udo Mbang, the hometown of Obong Eno Sampson Akpan. He is the PDP political leader in Ukanafun.

The project which is Primary Health Centre seems to complement the Health Centre abandoned by NDDC in the area.

Political observers see the siting of Primary Health Centre in Ikot Udo Mbang as a balm to soothe Obong Akpan’s wound since the first project of ARISE Agenda – Model Primary School was sited at Ikot Okusung, the hometown of Elder Aniekan Akpan, the State PDP Chairman.

But, some political pundits see the intriguing siting of projects between two political ‘generals’ in the area as “winners-take-all” affair.

Anietie Udosen, a PDP member from Idung Nneke, blamed the government for seemingly succumbing to pressure of leading political leaders in projects execution at the expense of other PDP members.

He pleaded with the Governor to set up a strong monitoring team to verify sites of the projects before approval to forstall denying majority the benefits of his government.

Ika

In Ika, the political pendulum rotates around the Nwokos- Uwemedimo and Utibe- and the rest follow.

While Uwem is the Ika PDP political leader, Utibe, his brother is the Transition Chairman of Ika.

The first phase of ARISE agenda’s project- Primary Health Centre is at Abiakana, the village of Uwemedimo and Utibe Nwoko.

Obong Victor Udo, a community leader from Ikot Osukpong, is concerned that cabal politics has been allowed to permeate the membrane of projects’ siting.

According to him, this is unhealthy to the political oxygen of PDP in the area as majority in the party are not given opportunity to make any contribution in the siting of the project.

He called on the Governor to revisit the project to ensuring equitable distribution of social amenities to all in the area.

Oruk Anam

Oruk Anam is one area that enjoys the support and cooperation of most party’s members.

Though the first project was QIC Primary School, Ikot Ibritam, the second one Oruk Anam is alleged to have been nominated by Personal Physician to the Governor, Dr Emmanuel John to be sited at Ikot Osute, his village.

To many people, the first project received an overwhelming support of the people, but for the second, they are speaking in muted voices.

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