Tag Archives: Akwa Ibon

Of #Warsaw and the #VictorySong

18 Mar

By Emmanuel Ndon
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Until late last year, very little was held about the memory of Warsaw because of its brutish elements. But the Polish city gained prominence in Nigeria’s political lexicon when former Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) with search engines linking Akpabio with entries on Warsaw.

For the purpose of a brief introduction, Warsaw was the most damaged city of World War II. The Nazis killed many more people in Warsaw than even in Hiroshima and Nagasaki which suffered atomic bomb attacks. Warsaw also achieved its prominence as the capital of Poland. The death and destruction in Warsaw resulted from a long history of anti-Polish sentiment in Germany intensified by Hitler’s antipathy towards Poland and the Polish people. Hitler saw the Jews and Slavs as the primary threat to Germany.

Senator Akpabio during the build-up to the political campaigns had threatened that the APC which he had defected to, would take over Akwa Ibom State like German dictator, Adolf Hitler, took over Poland. Speaking about his defection at a funeral ceremony in Enugu State, the Senator said “..it was watched in 59 countries and somebody asked what happened there, and I said just how it happened in Poland. When they did ask Hitler’s minister of information about the war in Poland, and he said Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw…I will say that in 2019 Warsaw shall see war and war shall see Warsaw. The return will be a victory. May God grant us all victory”.

Since that infamous outbursts, it was believed that Akpabio had declared war on Akwa Ibom people following his earlier promise to stop the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, from having a second term in office. And in response to that, the people also prepared to match Akpabio albeit through the ballot.

Senator Akpabio has a penchant for unguarded utterances. His Warsaw anecdotes were preceded by a series of superficial boasts which alluded to his supremacy and all-conquering personality. He had told President Buhari, prior to the elections, that he was going to deliver Akwa Ibom State to the APC in an election he said would last not more than three hours. Given such a wide mouth, nobody will doubt that Akpabio had the state in his pockets, and can trade out anyhow he wishes. In another breath, he boasted that Governor Udom Emmanuel can never get a second term because the PDP died the very day he left the party.

These and many other vituperations, to a large extent, were vexatious to the people of the state who believed strongly that Akpabio’s power and influence were bestowed on him by the people, hence he could not have been invincible.

Indeed, his utterances built up a lot of tension while everyone was surprised over the sinister intention of Akpabio to unleash terror on the very people who made him ascend the throne, and on whom he still intends to represent in the National Assembly. The same feeling resonated at the party. The Peoples Democratic Party has been the party of the people and it was the same platform Akpabio rode to power, yet the same party he chose to abandon without any reasonable explanation. This explains why Senator Akpabio could not win a return ticket to the Senate. It was never in any way a result of compromise or manipulation but a perfect resolve of the people to whom power belongs.

To a large extent, the people’s resolve and prayers doused the mounting tensions and storms which gathered during the elections. Truly speaking, the All Progressives Congress bigwigs had orchestrated some dangerous gambits capable of instilling fear and violence in the state. It was strange to find the Army, for instance, launch Operation Show of Force few days to the election, in spite of the widely acknowledged peaceful nature of the state. Prior to the elections too, the commissioner of police had been changed twice. There were viral videos and audios exacerbating drums of war.
Indeed, most of these threats came to be during the election. On the first date where elections were eventually postponed, at least ten vehicles conveying electoral materials and personnel were burnt in Obot Akara in Akpabio’s Ikot Ekpene senatorial district. During the presidential and national assembly elections, Senator Akpabio was said to have allegedly abducted electoral officials in a bid to manipulate election figures. The same incident was also reported against him during the governorship and House of Assembly polls of March 9.

On Wednesday, stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ikot Ekpene senatorial district unveiled the many atrocities the senator and his agents and supporters allegedly committed during the election. At a press conference led by the party leader in the area, Chief Michael Afangideh, the party highlighted how electoral officials were manhandled in PDP strongholds in a bid to falsify election results in favour of APC.

Part of the communique read: “That after INEC had distributed materials to the Voting Units andPoints; Senator Godswill O. Akpabio used Military men in Armoured Vehicles and “Policemen” in 6 Hilux Vehicles to pack Election Materials and Ad-hoc Staff of INEC in some Wards and Units into his Coaster Bus and took them to the compound of Barr. Ibanga Akpabio where APC members thumb-printed the ballot papers in favour of APC. The Wards/Units affected were as follows:- (i) All the Units in Ukana West Ward 2 (ii) All the Units in Ukana West Ward 1 (iii) All the Units in Ukana East Ward1 (iv) All the Units in Ekpenyong Ward 1 (v) All the Units in Odoro Ikot Ward 2. The above malpractice was immediately reported by PDP Agents in the Units, Wards and Local Government to the Electoral Officer, Essien Udim Local Government Area in writing”.

It said, “Senator Godswill O. Akpabio used his brother, SUPOL Idorenyin Akpabio, who is O/C, Anti-Robbery at the Akwa Ibom State Police Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, in company of other policemen to shoot gun from Unit to Unit in the said Wards of theL.G.A to carry INEC materials and arrest some PDP supporters who were detained on that Election Day at Essien Udim Divisional Police Cell, Nto Nsek. Those detained were only released at the night of the Election Day”.

The stakeholders rejected totally the published Results of the 2 Wards of Adiasim and Ukana East which they said were procured under duress, and urged Senator Godswill O. Akpabio, “our son, to desist from further advertising of his declining and dwindling political status in the Country by false Press interviews that deepen his failing image before reasonable thinking members of the Nigerian society”.

Other instances of Senator Akpabio’s unguarded utterances could be traced to the past. During his reign as governor, the first of such missiles was his attack on his predecessor, Obong Victor Attah, whom he accused of leaving behind an empty treasury. This verbal attack ensured that Akpabio remained on a collision course with the elder statesman all through is eight-year tenure.

Akpabio had also bragged that he alone could determine who becomes what in the state. Thus, other than his official status as governor, he also ordained himself kingmaker of the state. At one occasion, he had intimated how he replaced the winner of an election by the crossing of his name.

His electoral conquests were often characterized by needless battles. This had set off a series of atrocities including kidnapping, assassination, etc, which characterized his eight-year reign of terror. A typical instance was the 2011 elections where so many people were kidnapped or assassinated as well as the theatre of blood which political campaigns eventually became. Thus, it was not to be taken with kid gloves when he proclaimed his Warsaw saw war and war saw Warsaw.

It must be noted that Senator Akpabio’s political life has been mendacious. Even when he preached zoning of political offices in the state, it was nothing more than rhetoric. For instance, everybody knew that Eket senatorial district would produce a governor after him, many including him had thought it would go to Oron extraction. Akpabio had nominated two people from Oron with corresponding empowerment with political appointments only to abandon them thereafter.

When he was about to step down as governor, his senatorial ambition was against the zoning principle in Ikot Ekpene. As at that time, it was the turn of Abak 5, but he overruled it. He got away not only because he was governor, but because he had the love and support of the people.
The lesson here is that his political exploits did not necessarily emanate from his prowess, but flowed from the kind support of the people. It must also be said here that in spite of his reign of terror, he could still sail through because the people were still behind him. His downfall came the very day he left the PDP because he lost the support of the people. Note also that the people here are at home with the PDP. His rejection by the people could be seen from the number of people that followed him to the APC – a paltry two commissioners (one his blood brother) and an initial one House of Assemblymember (from his constituency).

Evidently, his fall is a massive failure. Of course, it came first from his very own constituency. And then all the five former House of Assembly members that were to join him later in the APC, all lost their elections. It is the same story with the former commissioner who contested for Oron federal constituency seat. This is the testimony of a man who has been rejected along with everyone around him.

Senator Akpabio must begin to learn lessons in leadership. First, he must admit that the people made him and not otherwise. That the pride and arrogance to which he was soaked, are as always, the banana peels of leadership.
In this direction, it was unwise for the Senator to deride the outcome of the elections because of his failure. This is perhaps the first time any election conducted in the state has been peaceful, despite his threats of war. It is the first time campaigns went without blood – no kidnapping, no assassination, no gunshots anywhere. Now, peace has come to stay in Akwa Ibom State. Let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end. Akwa Ibom has been liberated from bondage, cultism, and occultic affiliations.

Akpabio only needs to retrace his steps and beg for forgiveness from Akwa Ibom people less he sinks into the abyss. As he rightly noted in his Warsaw chants, the return has brought victory, albeit not for him but for the people and the state.

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THE OVERLY #CORRUPT, SELF-LOATHING, BACK-STABBING, FULANI-WORSHIPING, COUNTRY BUMPKIN SENATOR GODSWILL AKPABIO’S INFLUENCE IS LIMITED TO IKOT EKPENE !!!

6 Aug

By Amah Jones

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Goodwill Akpabio is doing what’s best for him personally. Yes, it’s all about his personal interest, that’s all. It has been said that he EMBEZZLED in excess of $2 BILLION from Akwa Ibom; and, with the DARK CLOUD of EEFC prosecution hanging around his THIEVING NECK, he has succumbed to Janjaweed Jihadist Buhari’s “TRUMP CARD”—a well-calculated political BLACKMAIL scheme.

You see, Jihadist Buhari has always had the CORRUPTION thing on AKPABIO. When he talked about having the government of Dubai seizing more $800 Million in stolen funds hidden away there by a former Nigerian governor, he was basically referring to Godswill Akpabio. Now, It’s quite conceivable that Akpabio will give up a good chunk of his LOOT to the A PC in exchange for freedom from EEFC prosecution for agreeing to decamp from PDP.

If Jihadist Buhari approves that arrangement, like he’s already expected to do, that’ll amount to nothing but a RE-LOOTONG OF STOLEN WEALTH—-MONEY THAT REALLY BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE OF AKWA IBOM STATE.

In fact, Janjaweed Buhari threatened to expose Akpabio earlier on in his presidency but cleverly chose to wait until this moment—-a time when he, Jihadist Buhari, fearing a real REJECTION by NIGERIANS, chose to rein in AKPABIO in a desperate move to cling on to power.

It was the MAJORITY IBIBIO who gave power to AKPABIO in Akwa Ibom, but he so rudely BETRAYED the IBIBIO after becoming governor. He supervised the MURDER of more than 300 IBIBIO CITIZENS.

That, we shall never forget. Not today, not in 100 years. Somebody must be held accountable at some point.

Bottom line, Gov. Udom Emmanuel DOES NOT NEED AKPABIO, period !!!

Akwa Ibom: Former Gov Akpabio spends billions on #WhiteElephant projects, while its education system rots away.

2 Jul

, Premium Times

Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State 3 _ Photo credit_ Mapio.netRelated NewsGov. Emmanuel presents N651.5 billion budget to Akwa Ibom Assembly Poverty killing Akwa Ibom residents, supporter tells Akpabio. How corruption and poor governance are killing Nigeria, By Godswill AkpabioAkwa Ibom people not free under Gov. Emmanuel — Ex-MinisterEx-Akwa Ibom deputy governor defies Akpabio, picks PDP Guber formIn 2008, the Akwa Ibom State government embarked on the construction of a multi-billion naira massive leisure and business complex, with the hope of turning the oil-rich Nigerian state into ‘Dubai’.The complex, named Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, sits atop 168 hectres of land in Uyo, the state capital.It has a 14-floor storey building, the tallest in the state, meant for a 258-room five-star hotel, a Cineplex (six cinema halls), shopping mall, 5,000-seat convention centre, and a theme park, comprising wet and dry parks.“My vision is to produce a small Dubai within the Niger Delta (region of Nigeria),” the then governor of the state, Godswill Akpabio, who initiated the project, said in early 2012.By then the cinema was already open to the public, while the other components of the ambitious project were still under construction.“I have given them Dubai standard Cineplex,” Mr. Akpabio had boasted in a government-sponsored TV programme aired on Africa Independent Television (AIT). “So, you walk in there to watch films and you think you are sitting down in Dubai.”The complex was scheduled to open for business by the end of 2012.But 10 years after take-off, and three years after Mr. Akpabio left office, the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, remains unfinished, despite the huge money sunk into it; except for the Cineplex and the bar close to it, the rest of the complex has been abandoned. The tall building and the area meant for the theme park look desolate.A popular retail business, Shoprite, in August 2015, laid a foundation stone for the building of its mall at the Tropicana. After a long lull, Shoprite just started work on its proposed mall in June 2018, PREMIUM TIMES learned.The Akpabio administration had said its construction would cost the state N33 billion, but three people familiar with the project said the cost was later reviewed upward to N120 billion.Aerial view of Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene _Photo credit_Skyscrapercity.com ” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Aerial-view-of-Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-_Photo-credit_Skyscrapercity.com_-1.jpg?fit=349%2C349&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Aerial-view-of-Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-_Photo-credit_Skyscrapercity.com_-1.jpg?fit=604%2C604&ssl=1″ src=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Aerial-view-of-Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-_Photo-credit_Skyscrapercity.com_-1.jpg?w=600&h=600&crop=1&ssl=1″ width=”600″ height=”600″ data-original-width=”600″ data-original-height=”600″ itemprop=”http://schema.org/image” title=”Aerial view of Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene _Photo credit_Skyscrapercity.com” alt=”Aerial view of Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene _Photo credit_Skyscrapercity.com” style=”margin: 2px !important; padding: 0px; border: none; font-weight: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, “times new roman”, times, serif; vertical-align: middle; height: 600px; background: 0px 0px; box-shadow: none; max-width: 100%; width: 600px;”>But while the government shelled out such humongous amounts on white elephant projects, it left its schools decrepit.Hundreds of schools – primary and secondary – received little attention, a year-long investigation by PREMIUM TIMES revealed.In some terrible situations, pupils and students sit on bare floor to learn in roofless classrooms.Kids between the ages of three and four have been found sleeping on bare floor, in at least two schools in the state.The science colleges in the state are in ruin too. Same with the technical colleges. In one particular case, a top multi-billion naira technical college in the state have been closed down, strangely, and left for several years to rot away.Poorly-motivated teachers in the state, who sometimes go for several months without salary, are known to have resorted to corrupt practices, including collecting money to allow students cheat in examinations.Meanwhile, government officials and elites in the state send their kids to world-class private schools owned by one of them.The current administration of Governor Emmanuel, just like his predecessor, is yet to tell the Akwa Ibom people how much has been spent so far on the Tropicana project.The Commissioner for Housing and Special Duties, Akan Okon, whose ministry supervises the Tropicana, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to his phone line by this reporter.Mr Okon served for one year between May 2014 and May 2015, as commissioner for finance in the Akpabio administration. He continued briefly as finance commissioner under Governor Emmanuel before he was posted to the ministry of housing and special duties.The former governor, Mr Akpabio, who is the Senate Minority Leader, declined PREMIUM TIMES’ request for interview.Silverbird Showtime Ltd, a company owned by a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator from Bayelsa State, Ben Murray-Bruce, was awarded contract for the construction of the Tropicana. (This was before Mr Murray-Bruce was elected senator in 2015).Mr Murray-Bruce said during the flag-off of the construction in 2008 that the Tropicana would create up to 5,000 jobs in Akwa Ibom State when completed.For now, only about 45 persons, including casual workers, are employed at the Cineplex and the bar, which is far less than the 5,000 envisaged, a top-level administrative worker at the Cineplex told PREMIUM TIMES.Former Gov. Godswill Akpabi and the present Gov. Emmanuel Udom Having lunch with an associate ” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/THETHE1.jpg?fit=473%2C349&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/THETHE1.jpg?fit=604%2C445&ssl=1″ src=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/THETHE1.jpg?w=600&h=442&crop&ssl=1″ width=”600″ height=”442″ data-original-width=”600″ data-original-height=”442″ itemprop=”http://schema.org/image” title=”Former Gov. Godswill Akpabi and the present Gov. Emmanuel Udom Having lunch with an associate” alt=”Former Gov. Godswill Akpabi and the present Gov. Emmanuel Udom Having lunch with an associate” style=”margin: 2px !important; padding: 0px; border: none; font-weight: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, “times new roman”, times, serif; vertical-align: middle; height: 442px; background: 0px 0px; box-shadow: none; max-width: 100%; width: 600px;”>An average worker in the two sections earns about N25, 000 ($69) as monthly salary, this newspaper learnt.Both the cinema and the bar are also run by Mr Murray-Bruce’s Silverbird.The company has not made returns to the Akwa Ibom State government since the Cineplex was open for business in 2011, according to sources within the Akwa Ibom government.The top-level worker at the Tropicana said lack of formal agreement between the government and Silverbird is the reason the latter has not been making returns.“Silverbird isn’t paying anything to government yet until there is a formal contract,” says the worker who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorised to speak on the matter.The worker said Silverbird wants to “recoup millions of naira” they claimed they spent on fixing lightings in the Cineplex.He said Silverbird has been spending money to maintain the facility, as well as buy diesel to power it (the Tropicana was not connected to electrical grid, until May 2018).In addition, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the state government would not want Silverbird to run the cinema in a businesslike manner, so as not to hurt the locals who may not have the money to pay for the services.Akwa Ibom, rich in oil and gas deposits, is among Nigeria’s richest states. But poverty and unemployment levels in the state are amongst the highest in Nigeria, largely due to corruption and mismanagement of public funds.The state occupies the second position among the states with the highest unemployment rate in Nigeria, according to 2018 data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).It is a low-income economy, where most working class people earn moderate salary working as government employees.At Silverbird cinemas in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and in Lagos and Abuja, moviegoers pay about N2, 000 for a single movie on weekdays, and N2, 500 on weekends.But at the Tropicana, Uyo, ticket is sold at N1,500 for foreign movies and N1,000 for Nollywood movies.Front view of Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Uyo_ Photo credit_Skycrapercity.com ” data-medium-file=”https://i2.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Front-view-of-Ibom-Tropicana-Entertainment-Centre-Uyo_-Photo-credit_Skycrapercity.com_-1.jpg?fit=524%2C349&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i2.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Front-view-of-Ibom-Tropicana-Entertainment-Centre-Uyo_-Photo-credit_Skycrapercity.com_-1.jpg?fit=604%2C402&ssl=1″ src=”https://i2.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Front-view-of-Ibom-Tropicana-Entertainment-Centre-Uyo_-Photo-credit_Skycrapercity.com_-1.jpg?w=600&h=400&crop&ssl=1″ width=”600″ height=”400″ data-original-width=”600″ data-original-height=”400″ itemprop=”http://schema.org/image” title=”Front view of Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Uyo_ Photo credit_Skycrapercity.com” alt=”Front view of Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Uyo_ Photo credit_Skycrapercity.com” style=”margin: 2px !important; padding: 0px; border: none; font-weight: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, “times new roman”, times, serif; vertical-align: middle; height: 400px; background: 0px 0px; box-shadow: none; max-width: 100%; width: 600px;”>In the past, a movie ticket was sold for as low as N250 and N500 at the Tropicana.With billions of naira coming into the state coffers as oil derivation fund from the nation’s Federation Account every month, it seems, clearly, that Akwa Ibom’s development challenge, unlike most other Nigerian states, is not really about paucity of fund, but how to judiciously spend the much they have.In five years alone, between 2013 and 2017, the state received N1.029 trillion (about $2.8 billion) from the country’s Federation Account.This is beside the revenue it generates internally.Comparatively, a state like Osun, South-West of Nigeria, receives less than one-tenth of what Akwa Ibom gets from the Federation Account.While construction work was going on at the 258-room five-star hotel at the Tropicana, the state government was also building a 144-room four-star hotel at the nearby city of Ikot Ekpene which is about 20-minute drive from Uyo.Besides these two, Akwa Ibom already has its premier 163-room five-star hotel, Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, at Uruan which is about five-minute drive from Uyo.A Turkish company, Ronesans Holdings, handled the construction contract for the four-star hotel in Ikot Ekpene whose value government insiders put at about N50 billion.Photo showing the five-star hotel section of the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Uyo _ Photo credit_ Mapio.net ” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Photo-showing-the-five-star-hotel-section-of-the-Ibom-Tropicana-Entertainment-Centre-Uyo-_-Photo-credit_-Mapio.net_.jpg?fit=262%2C349&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Photo-showing-the-five-star-hotel-section-of-the-Ibom-Tropicana-Entertainment-Centre-Uyo-_-Photo-credit_-Mapio.net_.jpg?fit=604%2C805&ssl=1″ src=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Photo-showing-the-five-star-hotel-section-of-the-Ibom-Tropicana-Entertainment-Centre-Uyo-_-Photo-credit_-Mapio.net_.jpg?w=600&h=800&crop&ssl=1″ width=”600″ height=”800″ data-original-width=”600″ data-original-height=”800″ itemprop=”http://schema.org/image” title=”Photo showing the five-star hotel section of the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Uyo _ Photo credit_ Mapio.net” alt=”Photo showing the five-star hotel section of the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, Uyo _ Photo credit_ Mapio.net” style=”margin: 2px !important; padding: 0px; border: none; font-weight: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, “times new roman”, times, serif; vertical-align: middle; height: 800px; background: 0px 0px; box-shadow: none; max-width: 100%; width: 600px;”>The then governor, Mr Akpabio, said in January 2015 during an interview with AIT that he was “struggling to make sure” both hotels were finished and ready to host visitors expected in the state then for a friendly football match between Nigeria and Brazil.The friendly, which was to take place on March 29, 2015 at the 30,000-seat stadium built newly then by the Akpabio administration, was later called off by Brazil.“Akwa Ibom can’t afford to put additional money in Tropicana”Governor Emmanuel is frustrated with the “mega” projects initiated by his predecessor, Mr Akpabio.In a leaked audio clip of Mr Emmanuel’s meeting with some leaders in the state, the governor is heard explaining his frustration and what he intends to do with the Tropicana in Uyo and the Four Points by Sheraton hotel, in Ikot Ekpene.The meeting most likely took place at the Government House, Uyo, but the date is, however, unknown.“We are in recession, we can’t manage Tropicana,” the governor said, in the audio.“I am going to lease out that place, people will run it, they will give me money and I will use that money to do something. Whenever they run it and take their money, we take back our asset in the future.”Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State ” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-1.jpg?fit=465%2C349&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-1.jpg?fit=604%2C453&ssl=1″ src=”https://i1.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-1.jpg?w=399&h=299&crop&ssl=1″ width=”399″ height=”299″ data-original-width=”399″ data-original-height=”299″ itemprop=”http://schema.org/image” title=”Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State” alt=”Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State” style=”margin: 2px !important; padding: 0px; border: none; font-weight: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, “times new roman”, times, serif; vertical-align: middle; height: 299px; background: 0px 0px; box-shadow: none; max-width: 100%; width: 399px;”>Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State 3 _ Photo credit_ Mapio.net ” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-3-_-Photo-credit_-Mapio.net_-1.jpg?fit=465%2C349&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-3-_-Photo-credit_-Mapio.net_-1.jpg?fit=604%2C453&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-3-_-Photo-credit_-Mapio.net_-1.jpg?w=197&h=147&crop&ssl=1″ width=”197″ height=”147″ data-original-width=”197″ data-original-height=”147″ itemprop=”http://schema.org/image” title=”Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State 3 _ Photo credit_ Mapio.net” alt=”Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State 3 _ Photo credit_ Mapio.net” style=”margin: 2px !important; padding: 0px; border: none; font-weight: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, “times new roman”, times, serif; vertical-align: middle; height: 147px; background: 0px 0px; box-shadow: none; max-width: 100%; width: 197px;”>Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State 2 ” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-2-1.jpg?fit=465%2C349&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-2-1.jpg?fit=604%2C453&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Four-Points-by-Sheraton-Hotel-Ikot-Ekpene-Akwa-Ibom-State-2-1.jpg?w=197&h=148&crop&ssl=1″ width=”197″ height=”148″ data-original-width=”197″ data-original-height=”148″ itemprop=”http://schema.org/image” title=”Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State 2″ alt=”Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State 2″ style=”margin: 2px !important; padding: 0px; border: none; font-weight: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, “times new roman”, times, serif; vertical-align: middle; height: 148px; background: 0px 0px; box-shadow: none; max-width: 100%; width: 197px;”>The governor said an incredible amount of money is needed to complete the Tropicana. “I can’t afford it,” he says.He says of the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, “That building is not yet a hotel!”Continuing, he says: “I can’t help it; we must still put in more money. I have heard a lot of people make noise that the governor has refused to open the hotel. Sorry, building is different from hotel. I need $7.2 million to turn that building into a hotel. As at today, I have paid a deposit of $4 million. It is remaining $3.2 million.”Governor Emmanuel also talked about the premier five-star hotel in the state, Ibom Hotel & Golf Resort, which he said has not been making returns to the state government.“Unfortunately, Le Meridien has not been audited in the past 10 years, and they don’t render account to the government. I have just discovered they don’t give even one naira to the government from all the money that is made in the hotel.“At the same time they didn’t even remit their technical management fees to their home office, so they want me to come and pay those technical fees for 10 years.“But in order to keep them, so they won’t leave, I just remitted $900,000 to them, so that they can stay for us to audit them,” Mr Emmanuel said.The governor said he eventually insisted that Marriot, the managers of the hotel, must leave.It’s not clear, however, if the state government claimed any money from Marriot.Interestingly, building of white elephant projects in Akwa Ibom has become a relay race where one leader hands over the baton to another; Mr Emmanuel, taking off from where his predecessor stopped, is currently building a second Akwa Ibom governor’s lodge in Lagos, and an international worship centre in Uyo, despite huge opposition from the people.The design of the International Worship Centre, Akwa Ibom State ” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/The-design-of-the-International-Worship-Centre-Akwa-Ibom-State.jpg?fit=526%2C296&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/The-design-of-the-International-Worship-Centre-Akwa-Ibom-State.jpg?fit=604%2C340&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/The-design-of-the-International-Worship-Centre-Akwa-Ibom-State.jpg?w=600&h=338&crop&ssl=1″ width=”600″ height=”338″ data-original-width=”600″ data-original-height=”338″ itemprop=”http://schema.org/image” title=”The design of the International Worship Centre, Akwa Ibom State” alt=”The design of the International Worship Centre, Akwa Ibom State” style=”margin: 2px !important; padding: 0px; border: none; font-weight: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-size: 14px; font-family: georgia, “times new roman”, times, serif; vertical-align: middle; height: 338px; background: 0px 0px; box-shadow: none; max-width: 100%; width: 600px;”>Mr Emmanuel’s administration is also constructing a 21-storey office building project in Uyo. The cost of the project has not been made public by the government.Some people in Uyo who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said the administration is “strategically” preparing office accommodation for Mobil Producing Nigeria, in order to put pressure on the oil company to relocate from Lagos to Akwa Ibom State where it is drilling oil.PREMIUM TIMES could not verify the information, as government officials in Uyo declined comment on the matter.Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos-based lawyer from Akwa Ibom, travelled to the state to lead a street protest in March 2017 against the building of the new Akwa Ibom governor’s lodge in Lagos.“Mr Governor, you took an oath of office as the governor of Akwa Ibom State. You did not take an oath of office as the governor of Lagos State,” Mr Effiong said to the crowd.“You took an oath of office to protect Akwa Ibom people, not Lagos State. Mr Governor, you do not need another lodge in Lagos!” he said.In the tension that ensued, several government officials were dissing out conflicting figures as the project cost. One senior government official said then that N10 billion was budgeted for the new lodge, while another said it was “less than N10 billion”.In responding to the criticism, Mr Emmanuel said the government was going to spend a “paltry” N1.6 billion for the new lodge which he said is meant to host people who would want to invest in Akwa Ibom. The old lodge in Lagos is dilapidated, he claimed.“Will Akwa Ibom people feel proud for me to host so many consular-generals, investors in those kinds of dilapidated buildings?” Mr Emmanuel said.Akwa Ibom State also has a governor’s lodge, said to be one of the most sophisticated, in the nation’s capital, Abuja.“Lagos State is a commercial capital of Nigeria, no doubt. But it is not the only entry point into Nigeria. It is also not a mandatory stop-over for potential investors, especially the ones who are interested in investing in Akwa Ibom State,” said Uyo-based lawyer, Imo Akpan, who was among those who protested against the building of the new lodge in Lagos.“The best place to receive an Akwa Ibom bound investor is Akwa Ibom. This is where to exhibit our rich cultural background; this is where to showcase our potentials; this is where to discuss and negotiate hands-on the deals that will move this state forward.“If you have investors who are attracted to the Lagos skyline, chances are that they will not invest in Akwa Ibom.“But if you have serious-minded entities that are committed to genuine business and must be hosted in Lagos, the best place will be to welcome them into the existing state government-owned Liaison offices in Lagos,” says Mr Akpan.How Funds Sunk Into Tropicana, Other Projects Would Have Helped EducationN120 billion Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, UyoIbom Tropicana Entertaiment Centre, Uyo _Photo credit_ Ubong Ephraim ” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Ibom-Tropicana-Entertaiment-Centre-Uyo-_Photo-credit_-Ubong-Ephraim.jpg?fit=526%2C296&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Ibom-Tropicana-Entertaiment-Centre-Uyo-_Photo-credit_-Ubong-Ephraim.jpg?fit=604%2C340&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2018/07/Ibom-Tropicana-Entertaiment-Centre-Uyo-_Photo-credit_-Ubong-Ephraim.jpg” style=”max-width:100%;” />

The kids are targets because they can’t defend themselves—-Sam Ikpe-Itauma

2 May

By Ahaoma Kanu

Children at CRARN Centre Eket

He witnessed some kids being persecuted for a sin they were innocent of and that incident inspired him to start a movement that protects and takes care of the children perceived to be witches. In this interview, Sam Ikpe-Itauma, President of the Child’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN) explains why he took up the challenge to become the defender of the children condemned by the community as witches and wizards.

Sam Ikpe Itauma, Founder of CRARN

I am Sam Ikpe-Itauma, the president of Child Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN). It was established 2003 when three children were attacked in a market close to where I am living when I came back from school in Calabar to visit my late mother who was hospitalised then. I enquired and found out that their only reason for being persecuted was because they came to beg and the traders believed that they were witches that were holding down the progress of the market and prevented people from making good sales. I intervened and talked to the people. I went back to school and on returning back home two weeks later, I discovered another two children held there; it became a continuous exercise. Before you could know it, other children in the different part of Eket and Akwa Ibom State as a whole were being attacked equally. I tried to work towards making government intervene in the problem and called on some of my friend that had some kind of influence in government for help and assistance to stop the killing of people who were branded witches. So in 2004, we got a friend who went to the government and was told that the situation could not at the moment be handled without involving a civil society organisation or a Non-Governmental Organisation. That was how we started CRARN.

When they government said that the issue could not be handled, did they mean that attacking the children alone was not a crime?

Unfortunately, the children issue and child abandonment due to witchcraft was springing on at different spots but the killing of the kids was not widespread before people started believing that the elderly ones initiated these children. We went to the police and reported these cases and we decided to drum up support for our cause but many of them thought that people were somewhere created information that never existed. Many were in doubt of what we were talking about even many people never believed in our website after we started but the information we were getting were real; children were being killed, thrown into the river, buried alive, burnt and tortured to death. Some of them were poisoned with a local berry called Eseri, but people never believed.

Do you have an idea how old this myth about witchcraft maybe?

The witchcraft persecution started exactly 10 years ago when a homemade video was released, the name of the film is The End of the Wicked and it was a very popular film in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State. Before then, the issue of witchcraft has been there but it was attributed to the elderly and the wretched then; it has been there before I was born. It took a different turn when children became a target. You know, the elderly ones they call witches are not too strong; nobody will accuse an able-bodied man of being a witch. They cannot say that Sam is a wizard because they know I am big and strong but if you are aged and weak, you are a witch, that was then but the film when it was released in 1998 portrayed how the children are initiated into the witchcraft kingdom to attack people and cause all kinds of misfortune. In fact, any problem that any person experiences will be attributed to witchcraft; it got so bad that you could get drunk and blame a witch for drinking off your limit. We have carried out research and found that these witchcraft accusations does not exist, it is a non-issue because certain situations have made me believe it is a hoax. I also discovered that the Christian community in Akwa Ibom State is involved in the catalysis of this issue.

Ahaoma Kanu with chldren at CRARN Centre

Did the Christian community affect it positively or negatively?

On the negative side

Can you explain what you mean in clear words?

What I am trying to say is that the issue of witchcraft has been a traditional belief actually but the Christian community or pastors are now mixing the traditional belief with the Christian doctrine in such a way that the children are the victims. It gets to a point that one starts looking at Christianity as an institution of the problem that instigates catastrophes to so many families in the sense that they, through their divinity, bring confusion into these homes. When the churches started with their divinity and spiritually revelation of somebody being a witch, all the traditional doctors have closed their shrines and started up a church where they will equally reveal through their gods that someone is a witch; they have put up prayer houses and create fear in the minds of people by making them believe that someone is behind anything that’s wrong in that person’s life. I was once upon a time a believer that witches existed but now, I don’t think like that again. I remember that my father never took that issue seriously.

What were the initial challenges when you started the centre?

We suffered a lot by trying to convince the government; we tried to get them to listen to us and look at the documents we had been gathering so far. We tried to get the support of the wife of the then Chairman of Eket L.G.A and he was on our side and helped us a lot by talking to her husband. We involved the state government and I remember the Ministry of Women Affairs, then Prof. Ekaette Etuk was the commissioner and she helped us a lot at that time. Our major challenge was that the children were constantly being attacked by the community and we were attacked also, I mean our staff. We had to report all these assaults to the police and later to the State Security Service agents and I would say that they were very helpful to us. The DPO of Eket at that time, Udoka, was very helpful and had a listening ear to our cries then; he made sure that any of our properties damaged by the people were replaced. I remember a time we took the kids out on sporting activities around Eket and our action flared tempers from the community leaders; they sent people to warn us to stop bringing the children around them again but we continued with what we were doing. I later got to know that the people planted themselves on our way with guns to attack us so we reported the matter to the SSS and they foiled the plans and that made me know that government was really behind us.

You started this relief organization for these kids when you witnessed them been attacked, how were the initial early days and how rampant was the situation then?

Before the establishment of CRARN in 2003, I had been taking care of them since 2000. I discovered that children were being abandoned and stigmatized as witches and wizards, I also discovered that there was a pogrom was carried out on these kids and more than 200 were killed in Eket alone. It wasn’t an easy task. It was very rampant and it was because of the rampant nature of the situation that we knew we had to start off a movement to stop the killing in the community. It happened in our own community where some of the people accused were tied up and asked to confess to being witches, many denied and were killed while some more wise ones agreed to being witches but good witches that untie people’s lucks, those good witches were spared. We tried to talk to the people and enlighten them to stop killing people that they assume are witches and charged them to obey the Commandment of God which emphasizes that killing is a sin.

Like the Prophet that confessed to killing 110 kids; he might have killed that much. So it was rampant at that time and we cannot actually put a number to those that died but many died as a result of this menace of being branded as witches and wizards.

What are the ages of the kids that are labeled witches or wizards?

They don’t have any particular age they start from.

Can a year old child be branded a witch?

Even a three months old baby can be said to be a witch; it has become a maddening situation now and getting worse. They believe the spell is transferable to babies also. They may threaten maybe a child to know if he or she had been initiated the baby, the child will accent to their threats and they will now be left with the option to do away with the baby that they cannot question to know if she has the spell or not. Everything tends towards people without a say in the matter; people that cannot defend themselves, they are the victims. They cannot accuse able-bodied strong men or rich men in the society as being witches because such person will match them; they look out for the vulnerable ones to target. But I will say that the belief that people are witches is a myth that has been overblown to the extent that if a witch concoction and poison is kept here and people are asked to choose from, they would prefer the poison to the witch spell. It is really a problem here in Akwa Ibom State.

How many kids do you have at the centre?

The children keep running into sometimes 150-155; it keeps increasing and reducing in units of one or two but at the most five without efforts to reconcile some of then with their parents. The situation has become that of children being brought to the centre on a weekly basis. What we do is this; when we see a child come in, we take it upon ourselves the battle of reconciling that child with the parents.

How successful are those reconciliationss?

The reconciliation is a very cardinal process to us but also the moist difficult task that we are facing. Over the years, we may have reconciled up to 250 children with their families.

Do you normally run a check on the children reconciled with their parents to make sure a relapse of them being treated as witches doesn’t occur?

Yes, we go back and check them and it is also a difficult task doing that because some of them live at the riverine areas and in far places and these checks also need money for transportation for us. We have got on records from our volunteers that some of the kids are rejected. In July, some UNICEF officials came around and we went on checking some of the children that were reconciled and we found so many of them happy to be with their families. The reconciliation processes is of two types; reconciling a child who has been in the centre for quite a long time say three or four years is one thing and another is reconciling a child who has just been sent out or thrown away or abandoned. For the child who has been in the centre for a long time, we have two ways of talking to the parents. Firstly we try to let the parent know the child is not a witch and, depending on the response of the parent, we let tell them that the child has been delivered by some missionaries from America and the United Kingdom; many of them know we work with some foreign missionaries and they see us with them and they believe that the Whiteman has extra powers to deliver witchcraft. For those brought to the centre, we accept the children and don’t argue with them on whether the kids are witches or not because if you argue with them then it means that you don’t want that child alive in that community. We accept the child and tell them that we will deliver the child. We keep the child for some time and counsel the child and make him know that truly that he or she has never been a witch. Often times when these children are brought here, we ask them to initiate us into their kingdom; we give them bread or other edible things to infect with witchcraft and some of them will agree. We eat these things in their presence and nothing happens to us. After some time we will ask the child, why did you did not come to take us to your coven, some of them reply that they couldn’t because we are too strong. With time, that child will realize that we are mocking him or her. We find out that these children later become happy to know that somebody believes they are not witches and then they open up and confess that everywhere you say you are not a witch, you are beaten so the best thing for them is to comply and confess to being witches so they will not be beaten but thrown out. In doing that we change their mindset from believing they are witches. Some of these ones are very intelligent while some, due to the torture, cannot assimilate quickly. In dealing with these kids we have found out that these kids are threatened and made to pass through an ordeal which forces them to accept to being witches. I am happy that today that all that we have been shouting that these children are not witches is now a subject of concern in the country and in the world.

Yes, this is largely due to the foreign journalists that came around and made the world see what has been happening for so many years. How did you meet them?

The name of the journalist is Max Gaven and she came with her partner, Joost; we call them Max and Joost. They came across a news report in the UK Guardian that said that children were targets of Nigerian witch hunt. They came at a time we were about to launch our Prevent Abandonment of Children Today (PACT) campaign, they came to cover the event. They came here and conducted their interviews and research and because they were at Esit Eket, they believed that everywhere in Akwa Ibom was Esit Eket. So when they went back they wrote that it was only happening at Esit Eket but it is a serious issue in Cross River State and there is no denying that fact; it is happening at Bogobri, Watt Market, Calabar Road and so on. We have these kids at Aba in Abia State and spreading.  The UK Guardian must have gone through our website and saw the situation there before they wrote to us requesting to come and do a documentary. We consented to their request and they came in February and went back. Later they came back in April with the Channel 4 group and did the documentary that was broadcast. The result of the documentary is overwhelming but I must say that what you saw in the documentary is just a flash in the pan compared to the real situation but we thank God that the government is paying attention.

I saw some of the children going to school and will like to know how you hope to integrate them into the society?

We will always work towards reconciliation. Some of those children you saw are growing out of primary school age so we decided to start giving them primary education here in the centre. Many of them are being rejected in many schools around; they are stigmatized and rejected out rightly, which the government assisted in building with the hope that children from the centre can benefit from, had the indigenes of the community rising against having the kids come there. We withdrew them so that they will not harm them. We have volunteers and teachers that teach them and we are working hard to put other facilities in place. We thank the efforts of the then State governor, Victor Attah, who donated to the Stones Model School but we have been rejected and this reminds me that part of the fund that was supposed to be used for the feeding of these children was used to put up some blocks here.

How many teachers do you have at the moment?

We have seven teachers and a head teacher; we have three Live-in carers and two management staff and lot of volunteers. We are still optimistic of employing an accountant, security and many other hands. Right now, we don’t have the funds to pay but we believe that people will partner with us in this regard. The present State governor has also promised to help us. For those we have to put into secondary schools, we take them to very far schools because those nearby have rejected them and we are faced with the challenge of paying for their transport of which we don’t have much funds. Some children in the centre are being trained in some trades, like automobile, sewing, and other kinds of trade.

I saw the school compound and there was no fence around it which poses a security threat; I also saw the windows that have no blinds and I also did not see any medical centre out there and I want to ask how you take care of their medical needs because I saw some one-year-old children out there that are really vulnerable to diseases?

First I will like to answer by thanking my colleagues in CRARN because they are so committed to their work. Yes we don’t have the facilities for them medically but what we do is that we take them to the hospital for treatment if a case is severe and at such time, we pay the bills; nothing is subsidized for us. There are cases that are just treated at the centre; we have volunteers that come here once in a while and again, most of the not-so-serious cases are handled by my wife, Elle, who trained as a nurse. We have plans of employing other nurses to be here permanently. We appeal to Nigerians and the government to come to our aid in this regard because on so many occasions we have emergencies that require immediate medical intervention.

I also saw some of the beds without mattresses and some of the kids were sleeping on the floor, is that despite what has been revealed, the government did not see these necessities?

When you talk about the government, I have a complaint; the information officer in the government house may not brief the governor very well on the situation on the ground. I believe that the governor is well aware of our needs here. I believe that the present governor, Mr. Goodswill Akpabio, is really concerned about helping us and has been sending some delegations here. The names of these kids have been taken and I want to believe that they are working out modalities on how to help us.

You told me last night that since the Child’s Right Act was passed, the issue has been taken more seriously than before and that you are part of the squad that is involved in the onslaught on erring pastors, how successful has the campaign been so far?

The government is concerned and since they watched that documentary, they became very aware of the situation. The State governor has ordered that these so called men of God should be apprehended. Last weekend, the pastor that claimed to have killed 110 kids was arrested; I did the reconnaissance for the police and he was apprehended. He is just one of the thousands of these Bishops that propagate this evil. I took the Channel 4 guys to him and he roped himself in thinking he was getting publicity. The government is actually arresting these pastors; we arrested more recently and it will be a continuous process. But the problem we are facing now with the police is that some of them that are indigenes of this part of the state are protecting their kinsmen and thwart our effort and get those to be investigated to run away; I have complained to the head about this attitude and they promised to look into it.

You said that you have been receiving threat calls and I will like to ask, are you not afraid because where the centre does not have much security?

We will soon erect a fence around the centre because it is very necessary that we do that but for myself and death threats, you know, I have put myself into this issue and I can’t withdraw it. I must see this fight to the end and whether I come out alive or not is inconsequential. This pogrom involves children and I will not abandon the fight. I am not saying I will be careless with my life and security, I know that these pastors being arrested have followers who may want to attack us in reprisal attacks, we know that but we can’t stop now because we have gone far. What we have done is likened, to us, planting a seed that is growing and spreading against the earlier belief of alleging children are witches. I will not step down and I know that God will be on our side.

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