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APC : THE PARABLE OF DEFECTION AND SURVIVAL

5 Jul

APC THE PARABLE OF DEFECTION AND SURVIVAL

Prophecy fulfiled : Attention Otuekong Franklyn Isong

By Osondu Ahirika

The Ibibios have an adage that says, ewa ase kene owo akpon idip, koro mi toro’ke toro, aya kok. Translated, it means, a dog following a man with bulging stomach is full of expectation, for he will either stool or vomit for the dog to lap up. That describes the paradox of defection from one party to another in Nigeria.

A few years back, the PDP enjoyed the boom of defections when the going was good. In the current trend, she suffers a reversal of that fate.
I read a piece, titled, ‘Before PDP Dies in Akwa Ibom’, written by my brother and friend, Franklyn Isong and I had a good laugh. I laughed, because, the adage above instructs me more on what is really going on.
I credit the spur to write this piece to Franklyn Isong. In no distant time, I want his thesis to be pitted against my antithesis, and let tomorrow judge who is right.

Before proceeding, let me share, as I am always wont to do, a short but true story.
In a certain hamlet where families lived in clusters with almost everyone knowing each other, there lived a couple who were of great service to all.

The couple ran a private clinic which was the only medical facility in the area, to which, every ailing resident went for treatment and cure.
The husband of the doctor, let’s call her Johny, was a classic irony to behold. She was skinny, sickly, without appetite and so gaunt looking.
Worst still, she was so lean that, her scrawny, skeletal frame gave her away, in the judgment of all, as a woman who will die, perhaps, the next second, a minute later or the coming hour.

On the flipside, her hubby was a juxtaposing contrast to her famished frame. He was full of life, vigorous in speech, burly and well endowed, even as his shapely figure resonated such machoist energy that disguised his age.
He was a dutiful and loving husband, and served with his wife as the auxiliary caregiver in the clinic.

Whenever his wife was off to the General Hospital in town, or out for any reason, he was responsible to hang a notice on the main entry door to the clinic, which read: DOCTOR, GONE OUT, BACK SOON. Any patient who approached the clinic and saw the sign understood the meaning, without further inquiry. They usually go back to return later when the notice is off.

That is however, not the issue. Soon, the Doctor who was saving lives got very sick. Her husband worked round the clock to support and assist her. He was her hands, legs and all. She was so weak, the whole city mourned and were only counting days she lived on as a bonus of grace. But, as sometimes happens, the husband who was full of vibes and blossom slumped and died.

On that eventful day, the clinic was not open and the ubiquitous signpost on the door wasn’t there either.
Some curious clients made it to the residence and met a dejected and broken Dr Jenny staring into space.
Without waiting to be asked what was amiss, she said to the stunned visitors with all the power she could exert, ”He is Gone, He wont be back Soon!”

Folks’, that story is my approximation of the fate of PDP and the rival APC.
The APC in this case is the husband and the PDP, Dr Johny. Like our elders once said, you may be expecting the dry leaf to fall only for the green leaf to do so.
I am of the conviction that, going forward, the All Progressives Congress may wither and wilt, while the seemingly dying Peoples Democratic Party, like the proverbial phoenix, may reinvent herself.

I am not persuaded by the one-way traffic of defections to the APC, to believe, or conclude, the party is healthy and thriving. Like speed, obesity kills. And believe me if you will, the APC is more than obese.

Let me attempt a forecast of tomorrow for I see the writing on the wall. Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the National Leader of the APC is still nursing deep seated wounds that have been remorselessly inflicted on him, by disparate and contending forces that were annexed into the APC at formation. He will reassert himself come 2019. Already, he has hinted that, he will run for the Presidency if the conditions are right.

As I can see, President Muhammadu Buhari who was the binding figure that stitched the party together is out of the picture. In a few months, the mother of all battles for the soul of the APC will blow open. When this happens, we will see who stays and what happens with the APC.
Don’t forget, nobody can rein in the ambition of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to become President of Nigeria. Others like former Kano governor Musa Kwakwanso, current Kaduna governor, Nasiru El’Rufai, Sokoto governor, Aminu Tambuwal, Senate President Bukola Saraki and the far Northern flank of the APC will spoil for a showdown if the Afenifere South West bloc of the party dare to put forward a candidate come 2019.
Even the South Eastern caucus of the APC have begun to find their voice to be given a chance in the party. The battle for the parties ticket will be messy and implosive. You can bank on that, believe me. The casualties will lead a major revolt of realignment of forces and APC will disperse from the centre.
Once this happens, new parties will break out of its womb.

Is that good news for the PDP? I don’t think so. The PDP on the other hand must reinvent her narrative and show a new identity. There will be an exodus from the APC and PDP as presently constituted, which will morph into a third force. Then, the three parties will go head-to-head. That is what I see tomorrow. Where that leads, I can’t tell.

Howbeit, the defections from party A to party B is healthy for our democracy.
I had a long discourse with former Commissioner Pastor Ita Udo on the issue and I could not agree more with his thesis.
Those who defect are doing so to seek greener pastures. In the process, some of them have bagged Federal appointments from the APC led federal Government, which was not the case before. If they didn’t defect, Akwa Ibom for instance wouldn’t have all those plum jobs come the way of their illustrious sons.
Ultimately, it is good for all birds to fly as the sky is wide enough for each to find its altitude.The one that says the other shouldn’t fly should have its wings broken an igbo adage says.

Folks, live and let live. That’s what I say to both APC and PDP. Let the defections continue, what goes up, must surely come down.
In his book Arrow of God, Professor Chinua Achebe(peace on his ashes) told us of the scheme of Ezeulu, the embattled Priest of Ulu to his son, Oduche, when faced with the threat of the whiteman’s religion. Hear Ezeulu,
“‘The world is changing,’ he had told him. ‘I do not like it. But I am like the bird eneke-nti-oba. When his friends asked him why he was always on the wing he replied: “Men of today have learnt to shoot without missing and so I have learnt to fly without perching.” I want one of my sons to join these people and be my eye there.

If there is nothing in it you will come back . But if there is something there you will bring home my share.
The world is like a Mask dancing. If you want to see it well you do not stand in one place. My spirit tells me that those who do not befriend the white man today will be saying had we known tomorrow.”
Folks, that is the philosophy of defection. Those going to APC today, do so because the APC is like the whiteman who must be befriended to avoid regret tomorrow. Just that, if in the end, nothing comes out of it as ‘My share’, they will find their way back to wherever their belly directs.
(this piece was first published in July 15, 2016)

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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%;” />

#PictureNews: Six Children Rescued From Human Traffickers’ Den, 7 Missing

24 May

No fewer than six children from different local government areas of Akwa Ibom State were yesterday rescued from what is believed to be the hideouts of human traffickers in Eket by volunteers of the Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN).6 Children Rescued From Human Traffickers' Den, 7 Missing

The Manager of the organization, Pastor Hezekiah Akpasi stated this while fielding questions from newsmen in his office at the CRARN Children Center, Eket.

Pastor Akpasi said the children who were all stigmatized in various churches and prayer houses were 13 in number and seven were nowhere to be found as they were believed to have been whisked away by the human trafficking syndicates who lured them into their enclave and took them away before the organization got the tip.

6 Children Rescued From Human Traffickers' Den, 7 Missing“We believe from what the children said that all of them were denounced as witches and wizards by some of these hungry and desperate pastors and prophets. As we got the information we went there immediately. The children even said seven of their colleagues were already missing after some men came and told them that they have a place to take for work and go to school ” said Akpasi.

He added that they got a hint from a child who was reunited with her parents six months ago but pushed out of the house again with the warning that she should not return back to CRARN, otherwise she’d be killed by the father. So she opted to go back to the streets where she was rescued during an anti-witch branding campaign rally organized by the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Women and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and related matters (NAPTIP).

One of the rescued children, Emmanuel Akpan Uno said he trekked from Oron to Eket (about 50 KM) after two of his friends on the streets were badly beaten and tortured by their brothers to a state of coma before dragged into the bush and he became afraid that he would be the next victim so ran away.

6 Children Rescued From Human Traffickers' Den, 7 MissingFor a five year old Wisdom Friday Ndohose from Enen Ekpene, Afaha-Eket, the story is different. Friday told newsmen that he lost touch with his mother after their pastor told him that he was responsible for the accident his mother had. His mother then took from Uyo to Eket and returned him to his father. Though his father welcomed him, such welcome was merely short-lived as his stepmother and father later turned him into punching bag and usually tied him to a pillar in the backyard, burnt a nylon bag and allowed it to be dropping on him.

He said even after he ran out of the house, his father normally comes to the streets where he stays with friends and beats the hell out of him saying that until he releases his wife’s womb from the witch coven, he would never know peace.

6 Children Rescued From Human Traffickers' Den, 7 MissingThe CRARN Children Centre in Eket was established in 2003 by a Nigerian, Sam Itauma when he rescued four children who were being beaten by a dozen of adults in his community with the fanciful claim that they were holding down the sales and progress of the market in his community. Since then, the centre has continued to rescued pariah children and street urchins from the streets and woods.

-WWW.CRARN.NET

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.

Akwa Ibom: Essien Udim People Demand Prosecution Of Cult Group Sponsored By Godswill Akpabio

8 Apr

The people of Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State are in the grip of panic arising from the activities of a vicious cult gang, Akwa Marines, said to be sponsored by Mr. Godswill Akpabio, Senate Minority Leader and former governor of the state. The group, led by one Emmanuel Ben, SaharaReporters reliably gathered, has been spreading terror around the local council for over a decade. Godswill Akpabio killer, Emmanuel Ben 2Godswill Akpabio killer, Emmanuel Ben

People in the council area are therefore calling for the prosecution of Ben and his gang as well as the restoration of peace in the area. Already, gang members are said to have started attacking those they suspect of providing information on their activities to the Police.

Emmanuel BenLocal sources said the group enjoys the support of other powerful and influential politicians, the reason it has enjoyed a free reign in Essien Udim, Mr. Akpabio’s local council. Ben is also said to hail from there.

Akwa Marines specialize in killing, maiming and intimidating of political opponents, robbery as well as sundry crimes

In 2014, Ben was said to have imposed a levy, dressed up as “security votes”, on traders during the communal harvest known as Oto-Okom. The levy, which was paid, was only recently challenged by a few brave members of the village. In February 2016, SaharaReporters was told, the gang carried out a robbery in the village market known as Urua Nsong Eto.

The cult group was also said to have kidnapped one Celestine Mel Ikpa (then a staff of Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation). On release from captivity, Ikpa reported to the Police, which arrested and charged the abductors to court except the gang leader.

Also on 28 September 2016, the gang murdered two young men, Udo Friday Udom and Udo Ekpenyong Uwa, ostensibly for stealing a goat.

Sources, however, disclosed that they were murdered for their refusal of offer of initiation into Akwa Marines. Udom’s mother, Madam Nse John Udom, was said to have told the Police that she saw her Akwa Marines members inflicting machete cuts on her 16-year old son and begged Ben to spare his life. The Akwa Marines leader, the traumatized woman was said to have told the Police, also ordered the victims’ bodies burnt. She subsequently fled the community.

A few days later, Ben, said sources, convened a meeting in the village square, where he took responsibility for the murder, saying there was a need to rid of community of goat thieves.

He was also said to have bragged that reporting him to security agencies would have grave consequences, adding that he has them all in his pocket all the security agents have been settled.

Apart from Ben, those who participated in the twin murders were Lucky Effiong Akpan (aka Pope), Marcus Ikut (aka Mbata), the group’s executioner-in-chief, and Philip Udo Udo Ben. Other members stood cult group stood by to watch as though it was a spectator sport.Godswill Akpabio killer, Emmanuel Ben

Godswill Akpabio killer, Emmanuel Ben

The murdered Friday Udom was a cousin to one Victor Udom who, along with Samuel Ikpa, a staff of Exxon Mobil, narrowly escaped assassination during a visit to their community in Midim. The assassination plot was hatched by Ben, Uduak Etim Udom and one Chrisanthus George Udoh.

The near-victims were rescued by a team of policemen on special surveillance duties. The team, led by one Mr. Effiong, an inspector, was said to have been alerted by indigenes. The matter was reported at the Divisional Police Station in Afaha Ikot Ebak, Essien Udim Local Government Area. However, the Police officers were reprimanded, ordered disarmed and subsequently detained by the Divisional Police Officer on the say-so of Mr. Nse Ntuen, the then Chairman of Essien Udim Local Government Area and an Akpabio partisan.  Mr. Ntuen, disclosed sources, claimed to have relayed the instruction of Mr. Akpabio, with whom he was in constant communication. Mr. Akpabio is from Essien Udim.

Last month, the gang broke into homes in the community, taking belongings from owners and destroying properties, an event that provoked a flurry of petitions to the Essien Udim Divisional Police Command, Area Command and the state Police Headquarters. But the Police have not been of much help. Two weeks ago, a victim said a policeman attached to the Essien Udim Police Command warned him against making distress calls whenever the gang decides to attack. The policeman was said to called key members of the gang on his phone in the presence of the victims.

Ben, the gang leader, was recently arrested by officers from the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Squad, a development that was said to have brought out political heavyweights and traditional rulers in the state to demand his unconditional release. He was, however, moved to Abuja. There are indications that plans are being finalized to have him moved back to Uyo, the state capital, where the Attorney-General of the state will arrange for him to be freed.

Ben’s connection to powerful people, said local sources told SaharaReporters, was proved on 8 March at the High Court of Akwa Ibom State, where he was sprung from could also be gleaned from charges of cultism, murder, armed robbery and kidnapping among other atrocities. Delivering judgment on the matter (Suit No. HT/FHR/10/2017) Justice NFN Ntong of the Ikot Ekpene Division of the state High Court ordered Ben’s release. Last year, Justice Ntong made the controversial ruling restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and Police from investigating any past or present Akwa Ibom State government official.

“You Are A Failure, You Lack Zeal For Service,” Eket People Tell David Lawrence

24 Nov

 

 

Youths across the three geo-political zones of Eket State Constituency has risen against the Member representing the area in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon David Lawrence in what they termed as his ‘’ lackluster, insensitive and brainless representation’’.david-lawrence
The group, under the aegis of Eket National Youth Forum for Good Governance in a release signed by Iwaad Akpadiaha Udonsek, James Udotai, Mbre Monday, Udo Ekanem, and Glory Okposin among 15 others lambasted the lawmaker for not showing any interest to the plight of those who voted him into office.
They described him as a ‘’Lagos been to’’ and an opportunist who lacks the zeal for service’’, adding that he does not even pick calls put across to him by his constituents having derailed from his campaign promises.
‘’we are disappointed in Hon David Lawrence and we even regret voting out his predecessor Hon Ayang Akanimo Ayang who we have now realized performed better both in lawmaking and oversight functions’’, the stated.
The group said they have concluded plans to begin a recall process to remove him as their representative.
They revealed further that the people of Eket local government area wanted the lawmaker to sponsor a bill in the House for the compulsory establishment of government farms across the 31 local government areas of the State to address the issue of food insecurity but that the ‘’clueless Lawmaker’’ has over the past one year ‘’played hide and seek’’ including not picking calls.
‘’He even deceived market women including the entire people of Eket that he will build an ultramodern daily market for them within six months but unfortunately up till date, no sign of any development’’, they stated.
The group demanded to know the number of persons he has empowered in any form or scholarship he has granted any indigent student of the area.
You Are A Failure, You Lack Zeal For Service, Eket People Tells David Lawrence‘’ instead of representing us effectively, he is busy building mansions in Uyo for himself and family. We are really disappointed in him and we wish to let him know that he has no political future as long as the people of Eket are concerned’’, they said.
The group commended Governor Udom Emmanuel for the ongoing road rehabilitation in Eket.
They maintained that Eket State Constituency seat in the State Assembly was vacant due to the inability of David Lawrence to represent the area effectively in keeping with his campaign promises.

By Assam Abia

Why we cannot run away from genuine federalism —Obong Attah.

23 Mar

The CONFAB resumed its daily routine of predictable motions and meaningless expressions of gratitude to the Head of State. That was how General Sani Abacha wanted it, until Obong Victor Attah, who later became the governor of Akwa Ibom State for eight years, dropped a bombshell on Wednesday, July 20, I994.

Thereafter, things were never the same at the CONFAB; mostly because, like most gatherings of Nigerians, this CONFAB was also supposed to be dominated by the three large ethnic groups – Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo.

obong_victor_attahThe minority tribes would literally have to beg for any concessions to be granted to them by the big three. Instead, Attah, an Ibibio, one of the minority tribes, jolted them and challenged them with unprecedented audacity. The submission was a masterpiece in tone and courage. The Attah speech:

“I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving me this opportunity to join others in thanking the Head of State for convening this conference, for a very comprehensive inauguration speech, and for the opportunity to continue the debate on that speech; from which I intend to quote quite liberally.

I have a lot to say, in only ten minutes; so, I will right away deal with two quick issues before concentrating on my main area of concern.
The first is the question of leadership and good governance which have been proffered as the panacea for stopping coups.

The military has been condemned; the political class has been castigated. I have to ask in which market are we going to find a good leader and a good government to buy?
The truth of the matter is that you elect people and the government on trust, in the hope that they will govern well. At the end of their tenure in office, the people ought to have the unfettered right to assess the government and its leaders, and either endorse them to carry on or replace them.

I believe that if this had been allowed to happen in the past, barring the total indiscipline of the military itself, we might not have had any coups. The reason I say this is that, hardly ever a coup succeeded, in this country that was not considered a popular coup.

In other words, whether at the prompting of civilians or not, the military always took the opportunity of such frustration of the people’s will, at the polls, to fulfill only half of the people’s will. I say only half, because, while they would have helped to remove the bad government that the people wanted to see removed, they would then proceed to install themselves rather than give the people an immediate second chance to elect a replacement.
This is what the Head of State has to say about this in paragraph 34 of his speech and I quote:

”A common denominator of all forms of democracy is the belief that power, which is legitimate, is that which derives from the authority and consent of the people. It must provide for a credible and inviolable procedure for orderly succession”.

Answer to bad leadership
The answer to coups, to bad leadership and bad governance, can all be found in the provision that the people will have the right to decide; and their decision will not be frustrated by rigging, by the blatant declaration of false results or by annulment.

The second point that I would like to deal with, quickly, is the issue of the transition programme, and I thank the delegate whose amendment made it possible for the matter to be dealt with at committee level. I could not agree more with the delegate who suggested that the worst thing we could do is to send the military packing in disarray.

If NADECO and others, in that group, can go this far with a military government, there is no gain saying the need for us to plan our transition very carefully. But having said that, I have to admit that, today, Nigeria is treated like a leper in the community of nations.

Already we are familiar with the sanctions that have been clamped against us.
Last week the Times of London carried an editorial asking for the expulsion of Nigeria from the Commonwealth.

All forms of aid have been withdrawn; at a time that our own earnings are dwindling; trade missions have been cancelled; our appeals for debt relief have been rebuffed and capital inflow has totally dried up. In other words, we have been isolated to the point that, socio-economically, we are dead.

This is what the Head of State has to say about it:
“As you all know, we in the present government in Nigeria are committed to ensuring that there is a speedy and unimpeded transition to a civil democratic rule in which we shall not be participants”.
You will find that in paragraph 5. And in paragraph 41 he adds:
“No set of Nigerians look forward to early democratic rule more than patriotic Nigerians who are serving in this administration”.

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, sir, fellow delegates, none of us should feel hesitant to suggest that the military has already become a most unfortunate and regrettable anachronism and should be dispensed with very quickly so that Nigeria can begin to live again.

Now to my major mission which is to try and tackle the related issues of:

  • The Structure of the Nigerian State
  • Power Sharing
  • Revenue Generation and
  • Revenue Allocation Formula.

In bringing us here, the Head of State, in paragraph 8 of his speech said:
“History invites you today to bear the burden of our nation’s regeneration”.
Though representing various conference districts of various states, we are national delegates on a national assignment.
It was disturbing therefore to listen to several delegates speaking as though we have come here to see what we can take home to our various parochial enclaves.

NigeriaForm of federalism
A few, though, have spoken with varying degrees of concern for Nigeria, and those are the ones that I wish to join; in an attempt to find a possible solution to the problems that now plague Nigeria.
In doing so, I will affirm that, though from Akwa Ibom, whatever I am going to say, I would say if I had come from any other part of this country because I am going to dwell on principles.

Nigeria, in my assessment, has one essential problem; and, that is that we profess federalism and practice something else entirely. All the other problems seem to derive from this.
Dr. Ekeng Anamdu gave us a brilliant presentation of the basis and framework for the establishment of true federalism. I want to go one step further and say that true federalism, balanced federalism, genuine federalism, however we may wish to qualify it, has certain incontrovertible characteristics and all of them, to varying degrees, must be present in any form of federalism.

These characteristics include the empowerment of the federating units towards political and socio-economic self actualisation. In other words, much of the powers that the Federal Government now exercises are in contravention of the norms of federalism and must be taken back to the states.

Self propulsion of the federating parts implies the availability of the wherewithal. That is why derivation has become a cardinal principle of revenue allocation in any successful federation.
And that is why the 1963 Constitution represents the epitome of Federal Constitution making in Nigeria. It was this twin principle of empowerment and derivation that made it possible for the country to develop as it did in the past.

The West, in particular, was able, as we have already been told, to build Cocoa House in Ibadan, Western House in Lagos, several cocoa roads, and through prudent management of its resources, rather than through allocations from federal funds, was able to offer free education to its people.

My father did not go to the Federal Government to complain that he had to pay fees for me, my brothers, sisters and numerous others. He accepted that federalism did not mean uniformity nor did unity imply equality of means. Equality of opportunities, yes, but not of means.

The West did what it could for its people as did the North and the East and none was jealous or envious of the other. That was the golden age of federalism.
Then the coup of 1966 started a series of events that culminated in the civil war. As patriotic citizens, we offered this country the proceeds from all the oil within our continental shelf, so that this country could prosecute the civil war without having to borrow one red cent or one penny from any source.

And what did we get in return! A slap in the face — for being so naive and so trusting.
A law was passed, an obnoxious, vicious law, passed by decree called offshore —/onshore dichotomy. Decree No II3 of I970, so the oil whose ownership was never in dispute; the ownership of which was enshrined in the 1963 Constitution, became “our oil” – common property to be shared equally by all.

“That was the most unkindest cut of all for when the mighty Ceaser saw him stab, ingratitude more strong than traitors arms, quite vanquised him, then burst his mighty heart”. Quote from Shakerspears’s Julius Caeser.
Mr. Chairman sir, fellow delegates, that was indeed the most unkindest cut of all. A most devisive thing, that any people, using the strength of numbers, could perpetrate on their follow countrymen.

Mr. Chairman sir, I wish to say, with all the solemnity that I can command, that law could never have been passed against any of the three major tribes in this country.

From federal to unitary system
With the onset of military rule, we had started the very unfortunate process of transforming a beautiful federal system into a unitary system.
Of course at that time, we had so much money from oil that was seized by force from its rightful owners that we did not know what to do with it.

So we relaxed. We allowed indolence to massage us into a stupor. So much so that when we were confronted with another constitution making exercise in 1979, we refused to confront the real issues. Instead we came up with an apology to the military in power who evidently preferred an approximation to a unitary rather than a true federal type of governance.

That Constitution remained silent on the cardinal issue of derivation and that is why today, the question of how much rightfully belongs to those from whose land and continental shelf the oil is being extracted has become a matter for capricious jerry meandering.

Derivation is not a matter of how much you give me, it is not manna from heaven, it is rather a question of how much I give you out of what is extracted from my soil, my waters and my toils and enterprise.

Mr. Chairman sir, fellow delegates, I want to assure you that I would be repeating these same principles if, rather than the oil in my backyard, we were discussing the gold in Sokoto, the precious stones in Niger, the salt in Abia, the marble in Ikpeti, the tar in Ondo, the granite and other rocks that we quarry, the clay, the limestone or any other sub soil minerals which I understand have been found in such large quantities that this government was considering setting up a separate ministry for solid minerals.

Monstrous system
So, please, there is no selfishness about the position that we are taking. What we want, in fact, is that Nigeria will enjoy total development rather than develpment of the oil sector only. After all, one day, the oil will finish.
When I hear people say that we should come and put all our complaints about marginalization and domination on the table to determine who has been the victim, I feel quite distressed.

Why do we want to indulge in such futile exercise of tribal witch- hunting? It is sufficient to know that, by our own foibles, we have transmogrified a federal system into a monstrous unitary system that appears to have terrorized all of us.
All we need to do is to confront this monster and kill it and, in its place, install a true federal system.

If we do that, we will never again have cause to go to the Federal Government with a plethora of complaints which are borne out of a series of political and socio-economic dislocations and misconceptions.
As has been said here before, waiting on oil money will not help us to truly develop. And, unless we develop our resources, there is no state, including the new ones that we are being urged to create, that cannot live in some measure of abundance.

Late Sani Abacha

Late Sani Abacha

I will give you a few examples. Start from the East. We have allowed Malaysia which, only a few years ago, came to borrow palm nuts from us, to outstrip us. They are now trying to refine palm oil for use in lieu of petroleum oil. But the oil producing areas have some excuse because, quite apart from the fact that their land has been confiscated, other oil related activities such as flaring will destroy your crops and damage your buildings for several kilometers around the oil flares which are all over the place.

A lot has been said about the disappearance of the ground nut pyramids in Kano and I want to add that, recently, UAC of Nigeria had to close some of its textiles mills because it could no longer get cotton. And this has happened since oil money was used to build several dams for irrigation. The people have taken instead to selling currency in the streets of Lagos and other state capitals.

If you go to Adamawa, you find that the Savannah sugar plantation land is more than three times the size of the Island State of Barbados. Yet that Island is exporting sugar from five plantations to large areas of the world. But Savannah, even along with Bacita and Sunti, cannot give Nigeria sugar, because we have oil money with which to import. What will we do when the oil dries up? As, indeed, it will.

I designed the tea factory on the Mambilla Plateau in Taraba State, and I know that the Highland tea from there was sought after in the London Tea Exchange because it was of such high quality that it was used to blend and improve the poorer quality tea from certain other parts of the world.Today we have all been reduced to Yellow label tea lovers. And that same Mambilla Plateau could flood this country with milk cheese and butter but instead we have to pay N20:00 for a tin of Peak Milk.

Drought and the threat of the desert are no excuse either because a lot of dams and irrigation systems have been built. Far more money too has been spent on afforestation and desert control than has ever been spent on erosion control. And what is interesting is that, though Niger Republic is far more into the desert, it is able to produce so much more cattle and sheep that, every Sallah, we go there to import rams into Nigeria.

Justice and derivation
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying any of this to pillory or castigate anybody. I am merely appealing to us to accept that this oil has already done a lot to develop this country but most of it outside the oil areas themselves. The fly overs, the dams, the dual carriage ways, electrification projects — none of which you will find in the oil producing areas. Even, this new Federal Capital territory where we are.

We are not querreling with any of this. We are proud to have been the cause of it all.
But we are certainly saying that we should now also be able to share in it.
It is time for us to return to justice, equity and fairplay by reinstating the derivation principle.
This appeal would not be difficult for anybody to understand and accept except for the fact that we have come to confuse revenue generation with allocation.

The Head of State in paragraph 23 of his speech had this to say:
“Any useful and long lasting revenue allocation formula has to conform with the political structure of the country One of the valid observations which has been made is that revenue allocation should complement rather than substitute revenue generation”.

Anti-federalism
We have for too long now been substituting generation with allocation, and this is anti-federalism.
In this regard, I will say that I was very disturbed, by something that was claimed to have said by Prof. Bala Usman, in an interview.

He was quoted as saying that Ogoni claim was baseless. That they had lost all claims to whatever they might have had when they were conquered by the British and this conquest – listen to this very carefully, dear fellow delegates – this conquest has since been transferred to Nigeria.

Several questions come to mind, and it must be recognised in this context that Ogoni is only representational of all the oil producing areas.
Does Ogoni not belong in Nigeria that inherited the conquest from the British; can Ogoni people therefore be wrong in claiming that they are now suffering from internal colonization from Nigeria; are they therefore not justified in asking for their independence?

cartoon-derivationSimilarly, I want to counsel that we discountenance and dismiss such specious arguments as, “they did not put the oil in the ground so they are no more entitled to it than we are”.
Such arguments can only lead us to serious confrontation. We heard the man from Bonny say that if a father ill treats a child for too long, the child has the right to renounce the father.

We heard the Ijaw man say that if Nigeria rejects them, they cannot reject themselves.
These are weighty statements but the Akwa Ibom man is not saying anything yet than to hope that we will come up with a Constitution that will give everybody a sense of belonging and guarantee justice, equity and fair play”.

-culled from vanguardngr

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