Chiemeka ADINDU, Calabar
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr. Mba Ukweni, has said that the Cross River State governor, Prof Ben Ayade owes the people of the state an apology for failing to keep his promise on signature projects.
Ayade, during his campaigns had promised many mega projects for the people of Cross River. Some of the promised projects include 260km super highway which President Muhammadu Buhari performed the groundbreaking ceremony, as well as the Bakassi Deep Seaport.
Others include the proposed poultry farm in Ikom, Rice City in which an MoU was signed with the government of Thailand, mega cities of Calasvegas in Southern Senatorial, Centicut in Central and Nostraderm in the north.
He had boasted during an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, that he was out to do mega projects, and that “if the Cross River people need a governor that wants to do potholes and those small things, they should wait till that governor come.”
However, the narrative changed when the governor presented the 2021 budget tagged where he said: “We have decided to shift focus from infrastructure, from big projects and refocus on the people. So, this is the people’s budget, a budget in which for the first time, we are shifting from infrastructure and major projects that can create opportunities to focus on the very essence of existence, as well as reduce hunger and poverty.”
Reacting to this, Ukweni told TNN during an exclusive interview that the governor was yet to prove to the people that he had the capacity to transform the state.
He said: “What has changed? Tell me one thing that has changed. Because he is now filling potholes that he said he is not a governor of potholes. He said so publicly that he is not the governor of filling potholes.
“So if he decides to bury his shame then starts filling potholes, we should clap for him? Those ones are not credits that should come to a governor, those are not credits. Those are things that the ministry of works should do routinely. So they are not things that we should start clapping for him, I will not clap for him for that purpose.
“We have passed those stages in this state. Cross River state has passed those stages, so bringing us back to far beyond the stage we have passed is not what we should start clapping for. We expected him to take us further than where he met the state not to take us backward. Is there water flowing? Is there electricity? He calls himself digital but we have gone below analogue now; so that’s not what to praise him.
“If he fills potholes, he himself confessed that he is more than potholes, that he’s not a governor of patching roads; that he’s a governor of superhighway and spaghetti flyovers. But we’ve not seen those ones. So if he does show clearly that he doesn’t have the capacity to do superhighways and has no capacity to do spaghetti flyover and couldn’t meet up with his campaign promise, that should not make us to start clapping for him.
“He should apologise to Cross Riverians and apologize to us; that ‘I have failed you, I have been unable to fulfil my promises, let’s go to the ones I can patch. Please permit me to patch the roads.’ He owes us an apology and I knew from the beginning that he was not going to fulfil his promises and I told Cross Riverians. I did not hide my feelings. I said, I know this man doesn’t have the capacity to do this, don’t return him for a second term. I said so loud and clear. Don’t give him a second term; he will perform more poorly during the second term.
“Now we’re all suffering it; I’m happy that all of us are suffering it. Even the elders all across the state who summoned me to High Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong to put me under pressure not to continue in my campaign against him, they are all suffering it. There is no governance, I said so and you people have carried it in your newspaper. There’s no governance in Cross River state. There’s nothing like a government.
“Even now if you go to the governor’s office is he there sitting and running administration? Have you seen him read one memo and treat a memo? Have you seen the budget of Cross River state being implemented? They presented a budget, did they analyze the previous budget? After the budget presentation did the commissioner for finance address Cross Riverians as it is usually done, to make an analysis of the budget? This means he has no budget, there is no budget.”
Ukweni also frowned at the attitude of the governor by suspending magistrates from court sitting after owing them for almost years. “Unusual things are happening in Cross River state. Unusual things; very, very unusual things. It has never happened before that a court official, a judicial officer who has been doing his work is being suspended from doing his or her work.
“We’ve not seen a situation like this before. But the acting chief judge gave his reasons for doing that, he said he did it because they’ve not been paid and it pains him that somebody will be coming to work without being paid. That’s the reason he gave, so instead of them working without getting any income, they should wait until the issue is sorted out. That is his explanation when we confronted him on the reason why that should happen because it looks strange to us.
“He said he has not suspended them as magistrates, that we should get him clear, that he has not suspended them as magistrates. He is saying that whatever is their entitlement that is within his office to provide for them, that he is withdrawing them from sitting so that they will not run into corrupt practices.
“For instance a magistrate is posted in Ikom, Yala or those places and may not have money to go and do his case and may be tempted to start asking for money from the litigants or other sources to go and seat. Again, that is not a good thing for the governor to do, it is not proper. I make it clear that it is not in the place of the governor to appoint members of the judiciary, it is the work of the state judicial service commission”, Ukweni decried.