Tag Archives: education

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%;” />

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Udom reaps Akpabio’s scum: Students inside the #unsafestructures at Ntiat and Mbak 1 Comprehensive Sec Sch, Itu

24 May

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May 23, 2018 By Cletus Ukpong Premium Times

Students inside the unsafe structure at Ntiat and Mbak 1 Comprehensive Sec Sch, Itu (Photo Credit: Cletus Ukpong)

SPECIAL REPORT: Nigeria’s oil-rich communities abandoned in shocking poverty despite huge wealth

It has just finished raining and it is cold this Tuesday morning in July 2017. This reporter is visiting the Annang Peoples Primary School, Ikot Iyire, Abak, in oil-rich Akwa Ibom State.Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

Three pupils between the ages of three and four lay fast asleep on a bare floor inside a classroom. The doors and windows are wide open and the sleeping kids are not even covered with blanket, despite the cold wind.

It is such a pathetic sight. The kids are visibly shivering, teeth chattering, and bodies shaking. They coil themselves up ostensibly to conserve whatever heat remained in their bodies.

A few other kids sit idly on two desks. They aren’t looking cheerful at all. At a corner, in front of the classroom, sits a lonely woman – their teacher.Image may contain: one or more people and text

A teacher tells PREMIUM TIMES the pupils are part of the Early Education programme of the school. She says there is nothing teachers and the school authorities can do to help since the school lack even mats to spread on the floor for the poor kids.

Aside from this, the school has been in dire need of help, infrastructure wise. The two main classroom blocks are without roofs. The other remaining blocks are at various stages of decay, making them unsuitable and unsafe for pupils and their teachers.

Most pupils sit on bare floor to learn because of lack of chairs and desks. Inside the Primary Two classroom, for instance, 42 pupils are made to share only three desks.

The Early Education classroom has only two desks. There are no toys or learning materials for the kids.

The school, built around 1947 by the community before it was later handed over to the state government, has no staff room, so the teachers sit under a mango tree to hold meetings and prepare for the day’s lessons. They scamper into leaky classrooms when it rains.No automatic alt text available.

Also, like most of the public primary schools in the state, it has no urinary, no toilet, and no source of drinking water.

“Whenever it rains, the pupils feel discouraged to come to school because the classrooms are flooded,” one of the teachers tells this reporter.

“We are suffering because we don’t have any godfather in government,” the Village Head of Ikot Iyire, James Akpan, says while showing this reporter round dilapidated buildings in the school.

“I have been a village head for more than 22 years now, we have not received any support for the school from any government official or any politician,” he says. “Sometimes I have to use my personal money to buy chalks for the school.”

Mr Akpan points at a minor concrete work in one of the classrooms, saying he used his personal funds to buy two bags of cement to execute the repairs.

“I have written several letters and forwarded several photos of the school to government, but there hasn’t been any response,” the village head says, adding that the school caters for the educational needs of more than seven villages around the area.

But as this PREMIUM TIMES reporter leaves the Ikot Uyire village head wondering why a government would allow its future leaders to learn in such a dehumanising situation, he soon happens on another school having what appeared a higher level of decay.

At Ediene II, about 20 minutes’ drive from Ikot Uyire, the only government primary school in the village is in ruins. One of the classroom blocks in the school is without roof, while tall weeds sprout from the broken parts of the cement floor inside the classroom.

At St. Ignatius Catholic Primary School, Ukana Iba, Essien Udim Local Government Area, it is a similar horrible sight – a pupil is seen sleeping on bare floor at the verandah of a classroom at 12:16 p.m. when he should be attending lessons. The main classroom block in the school is without roof, doors, and windows.
A pupil walked past a dilapidated school building at Annang Peoples Primary School, Ikot Iyire, Ukpom Abak

Our investigation, spanning more than one year and involving several schools in urban and rural communities, shows that only a handful of schools in this state can be considered reasonably conducive for learning. The rest are in terribly appalling situation. Some are not even good enough for raising animals, says Mbebe Albert, a lawyer based in the state.

At the Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Nto Osung, Ekpenyong Atai, Essien Udim, the teachers and principal do not worry much about their decaying infrastructure. They are more concerned about the regular invasion of the school premises by criminals.

The school is unfenced, allowing armed gangs to keep invading the school in broad daylight to rob teachers and students of their belongings.

For the school’s dilapidated structures, the school authorities say they had since forwarded videos and photos to the state’s ministry of education and Governor Udom Emmanuel’s aide on education monitoring. They are still awaiting response from government.

Several other schools visited in Essien Udim and in the neighbouring Obot Akara Local Government Area have similar challenges of decayed infrastructure, inadequate teachers and classrooms, and lack of functional laboratories and libraries.

One school in Essien Udim, Government Secondary School, Nto Nsek, was fortunate some years back to have an information technology laboratory built there, a rare facility in secondary schools in the state. But the laboratory has since become an eyesore. The small hall, with leaky roof and broken furniture, has now been neglected and abandoned for years. The school’s electrical laboratory has suffered a similar fate.

The school, which caters for more than nine villages in Essien Udim and the neighbouring local government area of Obot Akara and has a student population of 2,414, no longer hold science experiments due to lack of laboratories, this newspaper was told.

The school is grappling with the challenge of inadequate classrooms, having shut its main classroom block – a storey building – a year ago when the 55-year-old building showed cracks on its walls and vibrated whenever students climbed its stairs.

The ensuing accommodation crisis compelled the school to abolish its long-established boarding system. The hostels were then converted to classrooms, officials say.

Out of the three blocks at the Methodist Primary School, Nto Obio Ikang, Obot Akara Local Government Area, one is dilapidated and abandoned, while another is without roof.

Friday Idot, the Chairman, Nto Obio Ikang Village Council, appeals to the state government to urgently renovate and equip the school. He says the school, built since 1940, is the only school in the village.

Still within Obot Akara, the Community Secondary Commercial School at Nto Edino, requires complete overhaul of its aging classroom blocks, some of which have had their roofs torn off and their walls broken down.

St. Raphael Catholic Primary School, Ndon Eyo II, in Etinan Local Government Area, built around 1930 by the Catholic Church, has just one school block which houses classrooms and administrative offices.

To make the best of a bad situation, the school authorities divided the classroom along imaginary lines, lumping Primary one and two pupils together at one end. Those in Primary three, four, five, and six were also combined and cramped at the other end, with four chalkboards at the different corners. It is a chaotic spectacle as the cacophony of sounds from the different corners remains a constant distraction for the pupils.

The roof of the ageing building is depressed in the middle, indicating that it might cave in anytime, therefore putting the lives of the 459 pupils and their seven teachers at risk.

A teacher tells PREMIUM TIMES a decaying rafter once fell from the top and hit a pupil on the head. Luckily, the little boy only suffered a minor injury, the teacher says.

St. Raphael does not have a toilet or urinary. It does not also have any source of drinking water. Teachers and students rush into nearby bushes anytime they need to relieve themselves.

Within Etinan, there are several other schools with dilapidated structures like St. Louis Catholic Primary Sch, Mbiokporo 1, Community Secondary Commercial School, Ikot Nte, and even the once prestigious Etinan Institute.
Students at Ntiat and Mbak 1 Comprehensive Sec Sch, Itu

When PREMIUM TIMES visited the community school in Ikot Nte, the students were writing examinations inside a dilapidated building with leaky roof.

“Whenever it rains, we packed the students into a corner in the hall,” one of the teachers says, adding that the student population has dropped to about 200 from 350 because of shortage of classrooms.

The situation forced the school to convert its staff quarters to makeshift classrooms.
More and more dilapidated schools

One classroom block at St. Theresa’s Catholic Primary School, Ikot Anam/Ikot Inyang, in Ekparakwa, Oruk Anam Local Government Area, is without roof, while another block is dilapidated.

All the three classroom blocks at Government Primary School, Mbon Mbere, still in Ekparakwa, appear new and in good condition, but pupils in the school sit on bare floor to learn because of lack of desks.

The roofs of two classroom blocks at Atakpo Community Secondary School, Mbiaya Uruan, Uruan Local Government Area, are decaying fast and showing signs they could collapse any moment soon.

One school in Uruan, Community Secondary Commercial School, Ifiayong Usuk, is currently bearing the brunt of corrupt practices by government officials; the concrete pillars and walls of its newest classroom block, built in 2010 through the state government inter-ministerial direct labour project, are already cracking due to substandard work by a contractor.

More than 200 students accommodated in the block have been moved to safety in other blocks, thereby leading to overcrowding in the classrooms, a teacher tells PREMIUM TIMES.

“A classroom that should have taken 50 students, now has like 150 inside it,” the teacher says, adding that the school has over 2,000 student population.

Also, the school, which serves about seven villages, can no longer organise science experiments for its students because of lack of laboratory equipment and chemicals, PREMIUM TIMES learns.

At Community Secondary Commercial School, Iffe Town, Ikot Ebak, in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, one classroom block has collapsed, while the others have broken roofs, funneling rainwater into the classrooms whenever it rains.

Other schools in Mkpat Enin that require urgent intervention are Community High School, Ikot Esen Akpan Ntuen, Ibiaku Community Secondary School, Ikot Ebak, Government Primary School, Ikot Obio Nso, and QIC Primary School, Nya Odiong, Mkpat Enin. They are all at various stages of decay.

The following schools in Esit Eket Local Government Area are in deplorable state: Government Primary School, Etebi, Government Primary School, Akpautong, and St. Theresa’s Primary School, Ntak Inyang.

At Government Primary School, Ikot Ntuen Oku, located within the heart of Uyo, the state capital, renovation work on the main classroom block awarded by the Governor Emmanuel administration has been abandoned for about eight months, by the time this reporter visited there on April 18, 2018.

One classroom block in the school is dilapidated and roofless.

One classroom of the two blocks at Government Primary School, Udi-Ika, in Ika Local Government Area is without windows and ceilings. The broken cement floor in the classroom requires some work. The school is also clearly in need of more desks and more teachers.

At Asutan Ekpe Comprehensive Secondary School, Okop Ndua Eron, Ibesikpo-Asutan Local Government Area, eight uncompleted buildings which would have served as dormitory have been left to rot away after being abandoned for several years by the state government. An uncompleted classroom block – a storey building – have also been abandoned for several years.

Ironically, there are not enough classrooms in the school for the over 1,300 student population.

Teachers say they used their personal funds to renovate their quarters before they moved in.

Coastline oil-communities worst off….

It is quite a bizarre sight at Ntiat/Mbak 1 Comprehensive Secondary School, Itu Urban, where some female students are seen chatting freely inside a partially collapsed structure meant to be a classroom. The rafters and the remnants of the ceilings dangle menacingly above them, making the place a deathtrap.

The school’s staff quarters are dilapidated and abandoned. Same with one of its major classroom blocks.

The assembly hall had collapsed, while the library and the laboratory are in a terrible state and could go the way of other collapsed structures if not urgently rebuilt.

“Yesterday, we had to spread out books, the school records and other materials in the field for them to get dry under the sun after being soaked by rainwater,” a teacher in the school says, as he points at the leaky roof in an empty library.

Moreso, the 37-year-old school, built through community effort, is threatened by gully erosion.

Bassey Ekanem, the Village Head of Ntiat Itam, says the community is working on relocating the school.

“Since 2007, we have been writing letters to the state government to come to our aid,” he sys. “We’ve not given up, we are still expecting that government will one day wake up to help us.”

Everywhere – from Uyo, the state capital, to the hinterlands of Etim Ekpo, Ikot Abasi, and Oron – the story is the same: roofless school buildings, collapsed classroom blocks, shortage of teachers, lack of basic learning materials, and the haunting sights of poor little children struggling to learn under the most dehumanising environment.

Coastline communities within the oil producing local government areas of Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, and Mbo seem worst off, as pupils have to cross rivers to get primary education elsewhere because of lack of schools in their own immediate communities.

Government Primary School, Isotoyo, in Eastern Obolo, for instance, with its wooden skeletal structure loosely covered with dried palm leaves, can easily pass for a shrine.
Government Primary School, Isotoyo, Eastern Obolo

When PREMIUM TIMES visited the school in November 2016, there were only two teachers teaching Mathematics, English, Social Studies and other subjects to its 40 pupils.

“I sometimes feel like crying,” one of the teachers, who simply gave his name as Fingesi, said about the state of the rundown school. “But you know I can’t do that before the pupils.”

Fingesi had vowed never to abandon the school, despite its neglect by the state government and the local authorities.
Government Primary School, Ediene II, Abak

“The community is my own,” he had told this reporter then. “If I abandon my job, it means that this school will be closed down.”

But he couldn’t hold on. Some few months after, Fingesi and the other teachers left the school, PREMIUM TIMES gathered, leaving the poor children stranded.

Meanwhile, the improvised school used to serve a group of villages – the Amazaba – with over 7,000 population.

The community, like most other communities in Eastern Obolo, is cut off by a river. Access is only by water, using canoes.

Eyo Abasi is an ill-fated water-locked community in Ibeno Local Government Area. Apart from being abandoned and severely underdeveloped like most other communities in the local government area, Eyo Abasi had its only school washed away by tidal waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

A model secondary school at Atabrikang, Ibeno, started by the state government during the administration of Governor Victor Attah, has been abandoned for years now. Mr. Attah left office in 2007.

The case of the Government Primary School, Okori-Itak, is shocking. While the six-classroom block, commissioned in 2011 by the immediate past administration of Godswill Akpabio, is furnished with school desks, no activity takes place in the school, as the classrooms and the and the administrative offices are locked.

Locals tell PREMIUM TIMES no single teacher has been posted to the school.

Ibaka, a commercial town in Mbo, where the state has plans to build a deep seaport, has no single public secondary school.

There are other riverine communities in the local government area without a primary or secondary school. The children have to cross rivers to attend schools elsewhere.

With only five public secondary schools, Mbo Local Government Area is clearly in need of new schools to cater for the educational needs of the growing population in the area.

Some say what is happening to education in Akwa Ibom is an unbelievable contradiction because the state, with abundance of oil and natural gas, is one of Nigeria’s richest.

“What we are seeing here negates the aspiration of the UN sustainable development goals which is targeting free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education for all girls and boys by 2030,” says one teacher who asked not to be named for fear he might be punished by government

The SDGs, launched by the UN in 2016, is a successor programme of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, which expired in 2015.

Several education monitors, supervisors, yet nothing to show

The state ministry of education has Area Education Officers (AEOs) spread across the state with the mandate to monitor education in local communities. There are also senior ministry officials whose job schedules include paying supervisory visits to schools and submitting reports on the condition of schools to higher authorities.

Governor Udom Emmanuel has four special assistants on education monitoring alone, with three of them covering each of the three senatorial districts and reporting directly to a Senior Special Assistant, Idongesit Etiebet.
Udom Emmanuel

Mrs Etiebet says she is well aware of how bad things have been.

“I do drive around Akwa Ibom and I know what we saw in 2015 and how much we have intervened,” she says in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

She however says the governor is ‘doing a lot’ to salvage the situation.

“They have done renovation and new constructions in almost 400 schools,” she says. “With the lean resources accruing to the state, you cannot expect that everything will be done immediately.” But Mrs Etiebet failed to provide names and photographs of the “renovated” schools.

Infographics produced by the state government and posted recently on Facebook by the state Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh, claims the Governor Emmanuel administration has so far constructed and renovated 62 school blocks in the state, a number far less than that presented by the governor’s aide on education monitoring.

The infographics, titled ‘How Governor Udom Emmanuel spends your money’, did not, however, identify the schools where the “constructed and renovated” blocks of classrooms can be found.

Akwa Ibom’s trillion naira revenue

Akwa Ibom has multinationals like Mobil, an affiliate of the American oil giant, ExxonMobil, drilling oil in the state. And because of its contributions to Nigeria’s oil earnings, Akwa Ibom receives more money from the Federation Account every month than each of the other 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

This is beside the revenue the state generates internally.

In five years alone, between 2013 and 2017, the state received N1.029 trillion (about $2.8 billion) from the country’s Federation Account.

Comparatively, a state like Osun, South-West of Nigeria, receives less than one-tenth of what Akwa Ibom gets from the Federation Account.

In the first quarter of 2017, for instance, Akwa Ibom received N34.8 billion, while Osun received only N1.7 billion.

Ironically, Osun state, for the past five years, has remained among the three top Nigerian states with an unmistakable lead in university JAMB admissions into courses leading to the award of degrees in Engineering. The other two are Oyo and Ogun.

For Medicine, Imo, Anambra, Delta and Enugu have been in the lead for the past five years.

Akwa Ibom has also not been among the five best performing states in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

Billions of naira budgeted for education

When Godswill Akpabio was governor, the budget for education in the state in 2014 and 2015 was N10.9 billion and N16.7 billion respectively.

Five hundred million and N450 million was budgeted for the sector in 2014 and 2015 respectively for the renovation and refurbishing of buildings, including the provision of facilities, in 124 secondary and primary schools in the state.

The administration’s plan then, as documented in the budget, was to pick four secondary schools and four primary schools for renovation in each of the 31 local government areas in the state.

The Akpabio administration had specifically budgeted N100 million (in 2014) and N200 million (in 2015) for the renovation of boarding houses in secondary schools in the state.

That was beside the N100 million and N40 million budgeted in 2014 and 2015 respectively for the provision of 2,725 beds for 62 boarding schools and the N100 million and N55 million budgeted for in 2014 and 2015 respectively for the provision of 5,500 mattresses in secondary schools.

There was also provision for N300 million, both in 2014 and 2015 budget, as government subventions to 234 secondary schools heads.

Mr Emmanuel succeeded Mr Akpabio as governor in May 2015.

In 2016, N9.8 billion was budgeted for education by the state government, out of the N426 billion total budget sum.

In 2017, the education budget in the state was reduced to N8.620 billion, apparently following the decrease in the total budget sum – N365.251 billion – for that year because of the economic recession Nigeria experienced.

It is unclear what proportion of these budgeted funds were released during the Akpabio administration, and how they were utilised.

Tijah Bolton-Akpan, the Executive Director of Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization that focuses on fiscal governance in Akwa Ibom and other states in Nigeria, says “The education sector is suffering not just from poor prioritisation in the budget, but also from poor implementation of the little that has been budgeted.”

Samuel Efuo, a lawmaker and Chairman, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Education, says the problem is partly due to poor contract administration by the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Committee saddled with the responsibility of finding quick-fix solutions to the infrastructural deficits in the social sector in the state.

“In some schools, you have enough infrastructure, while you don’t have anything in other schools. Some people just sit down in their offices to award contracts without visiting the schools to see their needs,” Mr Efuo says.
“More than half of the public secondary schools are in ruins”

Akwa Ibom, with a landmass of 7,081 km², is said to have a population of five million, as at 2016.

The number of public secondary schools in the state was about 250 in 2016, and a good number of that number is in ruins.

The four science colleges – St. Mary’s Science College, Ediene Abak, Abak; Qua Iboe Church Senior Science College, Ndon Eyo, Onna; Lutheran Senior Science School, Ibakachi, Ikono; and Methodist Senior Science School, Oron – are in shambles.

So also are the technical colleges in the state – like the Community Technical College, Ikot Akata, Mkpat Enin and the Government Technical College, Abak, which have become eyesores because of their many dilapidated school blocks.

The Government Technical College, Ikot Adaidem, Ibiono Local Government Area, built through the assistance of the World Bank, has been closed down and abandoned to rot for several years now.

A retired teacher in the state, Nicholas Luke, blames the situation on corruption among politicians.

“Most of those schools were listed for renovation under the Godswill Akpabio’s inter-ministerial direct labour projects, and because they were part of political patronage, those work were not done,” Mr. Luke says.

“The contracts were captured in the state budgets and the money released, but the politicians pocketed them. That’s why you still find most of those schools as dilapidated as they were before Godswill came to power.”

Several years back, an attempt was made to revive public education through the building of seven model secondary schools across the state. It was initiated by the then governor, Victor Attah. But the project was jettisoned by his successor, Mr Akpabio.

A retired permanent secretary at the state ministry of education says N3 billion was needed to complete the model schools when Mr Akpabio became governor.

He accuses the Akpabio administration of suspending subventions to schools during the 2014/2015 session, a development he says led to funding crisis with ripple effects that are yet to abate across the schools.

Principals and head teachers now rely on the collection of “illegal” levies from parents to run their schools, the official says. They also generate revenues by renting out spaces in their school premises for funerals and other events during school hours.

“You want to organise a send-off party for a principal of a school, the students are levied. Students are forced to pay money for brooms, cutlasses, brushes and all sorts of things. In fact, a school that doesn’t even have a toilet, still charges students for cleansing liquid,” the retired teacher, Mr Luke said.

“Now, if your child isn’t admitted into the secondary school through the normal placement examination, you have to pay as much as N10, 000 directly to the principal for admission. All these, no receipt. Then you pay PTA fees. In some schools, it is as high as N5, 000.

“If you add up all these, then you would realise that it is better for the people to be asked to pay a certain amount of money as school fees than to deceive the people that there is free education,” he said.

A school principal, who is also an official of the All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), in the state, admitted to PREMIUM TIMES that corruption indeed existed among principals, but she, however, put the blame on the officials of the ministry of education who she claimed were always demanding bribe from school authorities.

The ministry officials also expect gift items like tissue papers, mopping sticks, and soaps from the principals whenever they visit the schools, she says, adding that the abuse of office and stealing of public funds start from the top and trickle down to the lowest public servant.

“The situation is hopeless,” she says. “If you don’t give in to the demands of the ministry officials visiting your school, be ready to have your promotion and other entitlements delayed because of the negative report they will surely write after the visit.”

Almost everyone – teachers, parents, government officials, unionists and development experts – who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES acknowledged that the education sector in Akwa Ibom is at a critical juncture, pointing at the rate parents are now abandoning public schools for private ones and the poor performances of pupils and students in public examinations.

The situation has led to an increase in the number of private schools in the state.

For instance, the number of private secondary schools in the state was 120 in 2007, up by 106.90 per cent from the previous year, according to the World Data Atlas. The number increased to 422 in 2017, says an official of the state ministry of education.

“It is surely higher than that if we include those ones that are operating without license from the government,” the official says, adding that the number of private nursery/primary schools in the state is 699, as at 2017.

The retired teacher, Mr Luke, describes Governor Emmanuel as lacking the ability to revive education in the state.

“Udom Emmanuel administration is more confused, their priorities are not right,” he says. “Our governor is paying lip service to education.

“If you look at the budgets and also look at what they are doing physically, this government is not adding anything new to education in this state. So, they are more confused,” he says.

When PREMIUM TIMES met with the new Commissioner for Education, Victor Inoka, he declined comment, saying having just been appointed to office, he is still “studying the situation”.

But while Mr Inoka continues to study the situation, the Village Head of Ikot Iyire, James Akpan, is looking forward to urgent action from the state government that would save pupils across the state from learning in leaky, dilapidated or overcrowded classrooms, sitting on bare floors, and relieving themselves in bushes when nature calls.

“The situation is really bad,” Mr Akpan says as we walk past the kids sleeping on bare floor at the Annang Peoples Primary School. “I really pity these children because their future is in danger.”

This is the first in a six-part series on how corruption, poor budget planning and implementation, and outright neglect has led to the near collapse of public education in Akwa Ibom, one of Nigeria’s richest states.

This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and natureImage may contain: house, sky and outdoorNo automatic alt text available.Image may contain: outdoor

WHY YOU WILL NOT BE OUR GOVERNOR.

4 Aug

By Dr Sam Etuk

*WE are tired of ungubernatorial speeches

For weeks I have been contemplating writing this letter, but discarded the idea 12 times. But since Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka says that, ‘The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny’.-The Man Died (New York: Harper & Row, 1972- p. 13), I think I have seen enough tyrannies to force me to speak up because I don’t want to die. Yes it is not in my character to die as a coward, though all of us in Akwa Ibom State are being forced to take that option, we should see and speak not. When you speak friends desert you and declare you a no go area, some even blackmail you for pittance just to satisfy their bandwagon fear of the unknown, but I will opt out of the spineless crowd and differ from such idiosyncrasy, because I know cowardice is a devastating weakness, for the sake of myself, my Children and their future, I will speak up today, I don’t need any supporter. The truth must be told. I have not compromised my integrity, no not yet not within the labyrinth of lies and confusion, elevated by threats and stock piling of ammunition for their perceived craving for power.

For weeks I have been contemplating writing this letter, but discarded the idea 12 times. But since Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka says that, ‘The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny’.-The Man Died (New York: Harper & Row, 1972- p. 13), I think I have seen enough tyrannies to force me to speak up because I don’t want to die. Yes it is not in my character to die as a coward, though all of us in Akwa Ibom State are being forced to take that option, we should see and speak not. When you speak friends desert you and declare you a no go area, some even blackmail you for pittance just to satisfy their bandwagon fear of the unknown, but I will opt out of the spineless crowd and differ from such idiosyncrasy, because I know cowardice is a devastating weakness, for the sake of myself, my Children and their future, I will speak up today, I don’t need any supporter. The truth must be told. I have not compromised my integrity, no not yet not within the labyrinth of lies and confusion, elevated by threats and stock piling of ammunition for their perceived craving for power.

In the past months, I have had to defend some gubernatorial aspirants from Akwa Ibom State, who are angling for the 2015 ticket before my very cerebral children. They believe venturing into politics in our clime is a waste of time, they are not interested in the dubious financial gains, because  they believe their parents’ antecedent is worth dying for or protecting forever. They are always proud and keep reminding me of their great grand Uncle cum father, Sampson Udo Etuk, the Ibibio Union icon, who denied himself overseas scholarship, whereas he was in charge of the funds and administration of the educational award, to allow others, who did not have the wherewithal like him to proceed abroad under the scholarship scheme to further their education, why he sponsored himself and later his children.

Today’s politicians would rather pilfer the money to build mansions for themselves and their siblings, and rape the society of such a great opportunity. The likes of Sampson Udo Etuk have long gone; even his colleagues at that time were very   much undecided about issues that favoured others. One is proud to be chiseled out from such honoured and celebrated stock. These kids   yearn to keep the legacy.

 

I read Assam Assam’s letter to Udom Emmanuel with stoic calmness that was why I chose to read it around midnightor about 30 minutes past midnight. I needed that kind of a serene environment to enable me digest the letter and perfectly decipher what he was trying to convey, knowing that “The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism”-Wole Soyinka.

I know he wrote it and did not need to pay a letter writer to do it for him. He may be a cantankerous person as his critics claim including Udom Emmanuel, but  he  intelligently marshaled out his points, forget his so called antecedence, but his language were civil, although he flew off the handle in few places, it was logical. He did not dissipate his energy trying to lie to tell the truth or malign personalities, he focused on issues of import.

 

Days after, my loquacious human right activist colleague, Clifford Thomas woke me up from my sleep and dropped a printed version of the Udom Emmanuel’s reply on my lap. I was not disappointed because as most replies (advertorials) from the Akwa Ibom State present government connote, so many innuendoes were used to convey his message.

Udom Emmanuel

Although Udom made his points, such submissions were beclouded by the personal attacks on Assam, which made the letter amateurish. The art of discrediting your adversary before correcting any perceived cuff could work in a court room, but Udom can bear me witness that as a boardroom player that he is like me, it is usually counterproductive rather bare facts and truth work. Udom disappointed me and others of that class. He might have made his point but it was not very convincing for a man who hopes to rule us. Politics is a different ball game, one slip can affect the mindset of your supporters, forget about the executive rascality which is a Nigeria power fort, but when the time comes, the true supporters will be revealed based on your words.

While contemplating writing this letter I stumbled on my friend, Fani Kayode’s article and this quote attracted me: ‘”why should we speak out? Why should we bother? What difference will it make? Why should we risk our lives? Why should we swim against the tide? Why should we bother fighting against the government or the authorities because we can never win?” These are deep and difficult questions but thankfully Dante Alighieri provided the answer to some of them when he wrote that ”the hottest place in hell is reserved for those that remain neutral in times of great moral crisis”. This is not only true but it is also deeply profound.’

It emboldens me and I just let off a wry laughter because most of us have been hounded into the pit, and our mind is seared, without feelings. Those who perpetrated the 2010 hideous crimes are still around- The threesome. Therefore when those mean men arrogantly want to break every bone to triumph in a democratic set up, don’t forget we had been watching your back for years.

The office of a governor is respectable and should be treated as such. No amount of provocation should make a respected governor lower his esteemed position because he wants to trade words with a mad man on the street or show the public that he also has guts. Such brash bravery is not expected from anyone who aspires to such an office, this is why like many respected Akwa Ibom people, I am disappointed. The diatribe is a reflection of what we should expect if any of such ilks becomes our governor. I also wonder what we mean by backdoor even the one expressed by our governor, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio was vaguely presented and if one reads meaning to it now, stones will start flying from all cylinders including the unintelligent passersby. This is one area we have not defined as we try to reinvent the story of Absalom. This is why we should succinctly present it before I write my own definition, which I have the journalistic license to do because for two good years I studied interpretative reporting, before they start accusing me of quoting Absalom, sorry backdoor out of context. Also I have THE POETIC LICENSE to be vague too. The Bible has been so battered by our claims to Christianity and respect for God, yet our actions do not portray the character of godly people. Perhaps, it is the religious titles that get our head swollen. According to the forerunner of Christianity, Jesus, the Christ, FORGIVENESS is a virtue in Christian living. It is highly desirable –even the Lord’s Prayer that we invoke on ourselves daily teaches us the right thing to do- “Forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me.” Therefore it means if I don’t forgive others I will not be forgiven. God did not place this conditionality on us, we did it by ourselves by invoking it anytime we pray and should be responsible for it.

Mark my words our impetuous braveness will not make us governor of Akwa Ibom State nor claims which are underlined by lies. The Ibibio Elders Forum, once said to be a campaign team of a guber aspirant and not recognized by government as a reputable organization (advertorial signed by government appointees on behalf of the government stated this clearly) despite its founding father being late Dr Clement Nnyong Isong, our quintessential former CBN governor and civilian governor of then Cross River State, is now being used by aspirants to pep up their political profiling and their media touts resorting to blackmailing the group of those distinguished and accomplished elders, whose ages range from 55 to 90 years. A stone that was rejected….. Why claim an endorsement that has not happen,  the same Elders Council also hosted other aspirants and none turn around to claim, we’ve been endorsed by Ibibio Elders Forum.

Don’t let me say more. Once again accept my compliment and sincere gratitude for expressing your interest in contesting to serve us, but desist from insulting our sensibility, as more letters are coming from my stable in the near future.

Sincerely

Sam Inyang  Etuk

I will establish industrial renaissance in Akwa Ibom – Amb Assam.

21 Mar

 

Amb Assam Assam at a town hall meeting in Houston

 

The Nigerian Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Russia and Belarus, His Excellency, Ambassador Assam Ekanem Assam  (SAN) has lauded the Akwa Ibom State governor, Chief Godswill  Akpabio for  changing the infrastructural landscaping of the State and making the state accessible to industrial revolution. Ambassador Assam made the commendation early this week   in a Town Hall Meeting with business community, intelligentsia and socio-cultural groups in Houston, Texas, the United States of America.

He maintained nobody was capable of faulting the governor when it comes to his infrastructural transformation agenda. He argued that when Akpabio talked about making changes with anger, it did not translate to mean he was an angry man; rather he came and saw the road decay, got angry over it and in the same vein, transformed it.

Ambassador Assam Assam in chit-chat after Town Hall Meeting in Houston

Ambassador Assam Assam in chit-chat after Town Hall Meeting in Houston

Ambassador Assam said when elected into office, he will transform the state to an industrial renaissance in a few years in office. He said there was no denying the fact that people of the state have complained bitterly about hunger and poverty as one of the indices critically bedeviling the state, a case which he said his administration will pay serious attention to, especially in areas of agriculture, technology, industry and trade.

“There’s no doubt that this administration has adorned the state with infrastructural facilities; and you will agree with me that this is the dot that connects industrialization. Akpabio must be applauded for this; and even his critics will be silent on this salient fact. I will no longer donate too much time on this direction but to ensure that our people get opportunity for massive employment. You cannot go to school and study when you’re hungry; you cannot even take medication with empty stomach. That’s why I’ll make Akwa Ibom an Industrial hub for massive employment to set in. It is a goal I want all of you all both at home and in Diaspora to support me with.” Assam said.

Ambassador Assam Assam chatting with top academic during Town Hall Meeting in Houston Texas

Ambassador Assam Assam chatting with top academic during Town Hall Meeting in Houston Texas

On whether he was intimidated that Governor Akpabio was fronting a particular candidate for the governorship position, he said he was not aware of anybody being anointed by Akpabio to succeed him, and the governor being a true democrat, he will not venture to impose a candidate on the people, as the people will resist such imposition. He maintained that any qualified candidate of the state will not hide behind the governor or the president to seek an elective office; only the misfit could do that.

“My people, I don’t think governor Akpabio has anointed anybody to succeed him. Let’s assume that this is coming from the rumor mill. The governor, whom I know, is a true democrat; and true democrats do not impose leaders on the people. The people are allowed by democrats to elect their leaders. If anybody intends to impose a leader on the people, the people will rise against such imposition. You’re the people, will you allow anybody to impose any leader on you? Assam asked rhetorically?

On whether the zoning system affects him adversely or favorably, Chief Assam maintained he was not contesting the governorship position based on the zoning arrangement. He stated that the rotation and zoning principle was entirely the People Democratic Party’s (PDP) affair. He explained that since zoning principle was enshrined in the PDP constitution, it was the party decision to make arrangement based on its constitution; and if it decided on the zoning, it would be more favorable to him given that he’s from Eket Senatorial District (ESD) which governor Akpabio and majority of the people of the state have zoned the position to; but if it were going to be a free for all contests, he sees himself as the most qualified candidate given his vast administrative, political, social and professional experience.

“I have served in various positions of the government. I graduated as lawyer since 1979 and was called to Bar in 1980. I have played active politics since then, and have represented my people both in the local, State and federal levels most diligently; this you all know. I have represented a lot of you sitting here, my brothers and sisters, in various cases in court and won. I have been an Attorney General of the state; today I am representing the Federal government of Nigeria as an Ambassador of Russia and Belarus. I don’t need to sing my praises; I just want to remind my people of the quality person that you will have to support as a governor of your state. It is my credentials that intimidate other aspirants. That is why some of them want to hide behind somebody to contest election.”

Assam called on the Diaspora to participate actively in the politics at home to change the thinking and orientation of the people and fight the culture of ethnic politics which is currently raging like wild fire in the state.

Amb Assam Conferring with Business Community during the Houston Town Hall Meeting

Amb Assam Conferring with Business Community during the Houston Town Hall Meeting

Education In Akwa Ibom State In Shambles, As Student Write Exams Under Leaked Roofs and Rains

13 Dec

Students of Edu Secondary School in Ikot Edeghe Mkpat Enin local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have decried the suffering they are passing through over what they called “cursed educational system in the state”.  The students who came out of the terminal exams absolutely wet and drained complained bitterly of the neglect of the school, perforated roofs and poor management for more than ten six years.

One of the SS2 students currently writing terminal exams who gave her  name as Ima said this had been their fate since she started this school five years ago. She said most of the students failed the West African School Certificate (WAEC) exams woefully as a result of perennial leakage of the school roofs during exams, neglect; as they battle with the rains during classes and exams.

“This is how the past students sat and wrote their WAEC examinations as most of them got F9 and mere pass grade and very few of them manage to have credit in few subjects. I and a few friends of mine have vowed not to take our final exams in this school if there’s not hope for any change.  We have already told our parents this; and they’re making arrangement for us to move to another school. I know it is going to be expensive, but we are not going to bother about since our parents have accepted it.’’ Ima cried.

Our correspondent met with one of the ex-students, Master Imo Udo, who came to collect his WAEC and NECO results. He initially refused to speak to us but later granted us audience.   Master Udoh said he had already predicted the poor outcome of the results because the science laboratory has been abandoned due to lack of facilities and leaked roofs. He called on the government to do something urgently about the school. He expressed surprise that, no change has been made to the school since last year, even with the
Deputy Governor, Lady Valerie Ebe who is from that very village.

“I pray  that government of Akwa Ibom State would come and  renovate this school. Why are we shouting ‘free and compulsory education’ every day when schools are in deplorable condition in our state? What baffles me the more is that, the new deputy governor, Mrs. Valerie Ebe is from this very village. I wonder if she is not aware of the rot in this school!

Effort to speak to the Principal, Mr. Joseph Ukpe did not yield any dividends as he was said to have travelled to Uyo for the All Nigerian Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS) meeting.

A little dram, however, surfaced when the reporters  decided to take pictures of the schools and students who were writing a exams in the waterlogged classes and were sternly warned not to do so by an unnamed staff, else they  would have their  camera confiscated. But an ex-students decided to  do justice by using his camera phone  to take  some pictures.

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US Teacher Shot Dead Un Lybia

5 Dec

 

Students stand outside the Benghazi International School

The international school in Benghazi follows an American curriculum

An American teacher has been shot dead in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, local officials say.

Ronnie Smith, who is reported to be from Texas, taught chemistry at the international school in the city.

The 33-year-old was gunned down earlier on Thursday as he was jogging in the Fweihat district, a popular residential area in the city.

There was no immediate statement from the US embassy in Libya. No group has said it carried out the attack.

The BBC’s Rana Jawad in Tripoli says Mr Smith was one of the few foreign citizens living in Benghazi.

For more than a year, many foreign governments have advised against all travel to Benghazi by their nationals, our correspondent says.

The warnings followed an attack on the US consulate in September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Hardline Islamist groups have since been blamed for that attack but no one has been convicted.

‘So sweet’

The international school in Benghazi is a Libyan-owned institute that follows an American curriculum.

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“He was doing his morning exercise when gunmen just shot him. I don’t know why. He was so sweet with everyone,” Adel al Mansouri, director at the school, told Reuters.

Benghazi has seen the rise of several extremist militia groups operating in the city since the civil war in 2011 that toppled the longstanding leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Residents blame these groups for the almost daily assassinations and frequent bombings targeting the army and police, our correspondent says.

Earlier on Thursday, three Libyan soldiers were assassinated in the city.

Last week, nine people died in clashes between the Libyan army and an Islamist militia, Ansar al-Sharia.

Militias took part in the uprising that led to the fall of Col Gaddafi but have been told by the interim government to disband or join the army by the end of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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