On Thursday, December 1, 2016, the Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Udom Emmanuel sworn in a 20-member state executive council. He had dissolved his former cabinet whose members were mostly carried over from the last administration of former Governor Godswill Akpabio.
In this analysis, our political editor, Aniedi UKONENG, x-rays the challenges, expectations and prospects facing some of the newly appointed cabinet members. Excerpts:
It is worth mentioning that the Governor’s appointment portrays a departure from the usual culture of appointing government officials based on political patronage as the present cabinet is rich with thoroughbred professionals and experienced bureaucrats, though, few have been recycled probably for strategic political reasons known to the governor.
The governor had during the swearing in ceremony at the Banquet Hall, Uyo, alluded to the fact that, this set of cabinet members are his personal choice, without any interferences from external forces.
Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare: Dr. Glory Edet
Gloria Edet, Ph.D., has been re-appointed to the very vital Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare. This may probably means that in the assessment of the governor, she did well. Whatever yardstick was used as basis for assessing her, our checks would contradict that. As far as the Ministry of Women Affairs is concerned, without mincing words, Dr Glory Edet was only able to reduce it to the Ministry of women mobilization; e.i., uyai iban Akwa Ibom Ministry.
Radar newspapers conclusion is drawn from the Mission Statement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the development of women and girl child which Nigeria is a party to. From our assessment, there in the past four to five years of Mrs Edet’s tenure in the ministry, this mission only existed on paper. The gap between what she was doing and the aspirations of the United Nations was very wide to imagine.
In the years under review, it is on record that a mere sound of a whistle, thousands of able bodied women who should be gainfully engaged in one empowerment programme of government or the other, would just filled the stadium or any public event(s) with uniforms of all kinds, cast a serious doubt as to if the Women Affairs Commissioner and her ministry officials actually understand the Dakkada philosophy of Governor Udom Emmanuel. We believe that the over emphasised call on women to strive for restoration of dignity of the womanhood should have been the commissioner’s core-duty.
As Edet assumes duty in the ministry again, we expect her refocus attention from ‘women mobilisation’ and ‘wrapper sharing’ to creating blueprints for a consistent and sustained programmes aimed at the emancipation of women from all forms of discrimination; achieving gender equality; ending violence against women; and advancing women’s participation in politics; while giving them sustainable empowerment as a strategy to fight poverty amongst women as stated in the SDGs No. 5.
Most women who go out to dance in stadium do return home to a violent husband who abuse them physically, having crumbled them economically, and these women have nowhere to run to because, the level of awareness is too low and programmes scarcely come up to address these issues. They are therefore dying in silence.
We want to start hearing of scholarship forms for girls in secondary schools and bursary or packages for girls in their final year in the Universities and it should be devoid of political party sentiment.
So many Akwa Ibom girls have resigned to their fates thus, joining the ignoble profession of ‘prostitution’ just to pay their school fees. Government’s programmes and policies on the development of the girl child are not known to the public that is, if they exist.
However, the commissioner deserves commendation for recent eradication of mentally challenged persons from the streets, although, they have gradually returned to the traffic lights to beg for alms. Even, our little children have taken over traffic lights in the metropolis cleaning windscreens of vehicles and begging for alms thereby constituting nuisance while the ministry officials looked the other way.
Cases of child abuse especially branding children as witches which comes with abandonment by parents and communities are still rampant, especially, in the Oron nation local governments. There is need for government through the Social Affair Ministry under Mrs Edet to give backing to responsible non-profit making organisations (NGOs) that are on rescue mission as instead trying to silencing them.
Ministry of Transportation and Petroleum Resources: Dr. Orman Esin
It is absolutely unfair, and Radar newspaper refuses to join a section of the public that believes that the former Commissioner of Transport, Mr. Godwin Ntukude did not perform well. Although, months before the dissolution of the exco, the Ministry seems to have soft pedaled on its core mandate.
However, our conclusion is that, Ntukude was a square peg in a square hole; a warrior who fought so many battles in the Transport ministry and won almost all. This paper could not forget so easily the many failed past attempts made by Ntukude’s predecessors in office, beginning from the administration of Obong Victor Attah, to relocate all motor parks from Uyo metropolis to designated government motor parks but, such attempts failed, until Ntukude arrived, Attah even built and commissioned well-furnished motor-parks across the outskirt of the metropolis yet his government did not succeed to relocate the parks. But with his thunderous voice and bulldozer steps, Ntukude moved all of the parks to where motor parks are allocated by government. He also initiated the electronic capturing of all the tricycles in the capital city, and he fought the battle of illegal loading to the last day he left office.
His administration was however marred by scandals of extortion and making life unbearable for tricycle operators through multiple taxation and revenue collection. Touts flooded the town and engaged in various nefarious acts in the name of task force, and a lot of allegations of financial impropriety hung on his neck even till the last day.
Radar therefore urges Orman Esin who is now in-charge of the Ministry of Transportation and Petroleum Resources, as it is now called, to urgently review the revenue and taxes that were imposed on tricycle operators and other commuters in the state. Mr Esin should also begin a fight against the gradual return of motor cycles in Uyo metropolis.
He should also meet the leaders of tricycle union and put in place a favourable and more decent revenue collection formula and a better trained, responsible and uniformed task force team to ensure sanity in the transport sector.
While the ban on tricycle operation could not be considered for now due to economic reasons, the ministry must check the unnecessary competition between tricycle operators and other road users. Keke owners must be enlightened on their routes and they must be rebranded for better services.
The new commissioner should also check the wrong parking by tanker drivers who now park indiscriminately especially, opposite NNPC station at Itam, to avoid disasters at night.
Radar newspaper expects Orman Esin to ensure evacuation of all spoiled vehicles abandoned on our streets, and roads which have constituted nuisance and in most cases accidents to other road users. However, his ultimate goal should be to give the state capital a more befitting and structured means of transportation like intra-city luxury buses, taxis as against the current tricycle.
More concentration should be given to the development of alternative means of transportation especially, along our coastal communities.
Overall, Esin appears to be the best man for this task at this time.
Commissioner for Works: Mr. Ephraim Inyang
Mr. Ephraim Inyang’s returned to the Works ministry did not surprise Radar newspaper. He had put in his best since coming on board. He took over from Mr Don Etim and ensured that the dreams and aspirations of the new administration were well interpreted.
Of course, he stepped on several toes to ensure that his job was done in line with his bosses, the governor’s specification. For Mr Inyang, a former custom officer to successfully deliver in the Works Ministry, which expectedly ought to have been occupied by an engineer, means he knows his onions.
If there is anything like ‘kitchen cabinet’ in the Udom Emmanuel’s administration, Ephraim Inyang should be serving as both the firewood and the lighter at once.
He will be faced with challenges of completing the uncompleted projects scattered across the state. This government has already spent over year without major and concrete achievement in terms of projects. Radar newspaper expects the Works Ministry to immediately develop a blueprint that will assist government complete ongoing projects in order to place government on good footing.
Projects like Ibom Science Park, Ibom Tropicana, Ibom Airport etc should be revisited and given premium in this second phase of Inyang’s return.
Ministry of Information: Dr. Charles Udo
Dr. Charles Udo’s profile reveals that he is a thoroughbred professional in corporate communications.
As a state whose capital is rated the second in the country with the highest number of local newspapers, his first challenge would be to restore the confidence of the public on the effectiveness of government information management system. He also needs to break the jinx of sour relationship between the very vibrant media sector in the state and the Ministry of Information and Strategy, as it is now called.
This ministry had under the leadership of Mr. Aniekan Umana reduced the art of information management to information hoarding. Under the past regime every government records were treated with top secrecy, leaving room for the media to always present the government in bad light by misrepresenting facts due to scarcity of information and unwillingness of the ministry to make them available. As we speak, the 2016 budget presented to the House of Assembly is yet to be perused by the press. Charles Udo must end the unhealthy rivalry between government and the local media which happens to be very strong and vibrant in the state.
Freedom of Information Acts (FoI) should be enthroned in the state, in addition to freedom of speech and freedom after speech should be ensured. Let the molestation of journalists, and vendors be done away with the past commissioner as a repeat will not promote healthy relationship between government and the Press.
Radar Newspaper expects the new commissioner to relocate the Administrative Office of the Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC) at a domiciled and dilapidated structure along Udo Udoma avenue, Uyo, to a permanent government structure at Ntak Inyang, to give a good image to the government media house.
Ministry of Justice: Barr. Uwemedimo Nwoko
Barr Uwemedimo Nwoko is fine lawyer. He made his name when he defended a former staff of the former Air vice Marshal Nsikak Eduok. Then, Nwoko was an activist lawyer. Before joining government in the dying days of the former administration, he had been fighting legal battles for the state. He was in the legal team that secured judgment in favour of former governor Godswil Akpabio’s second term in 2011. His appointment is simply to put the best man for the job.
Radar Newspaper expects Nwoko to make public and available all statute books of the state government. He should advise the state government against the obnoxious “withholding charge” which is anti-democratic.
Radar looks forward to seeing a more democratic Justice Ministry than it were in the past. The commissioner should offer more sincere advises to government. It is unacceptable for a state government to seek judicial protection for persons under investigations by federal government agencies such as EFCC, ICPC and etc. The state funds that are being used for these unnecessary legal battles should be rechanneled to people-oriented projects in the state. Let any individual facing any investigation go to court and spend his/her personal money for it and not the state.
Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs: Udo Ekpenyong
The Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs has been a big disappointment to the public in recent times. This is so, because, the Local Government system seems dead. Chairmen are mere lazy bones whose work is to share stipends given to them by the state government, with no sense of responsibility as their offices are perpetually locked. The council premises are overgrown with grass.
This ministry is a clearing house for federal allocation as a result of the State and Local Government Joint Account. Radar expects Udo Ekpenyong to refocus the objectives of this ministry to make it effect and grassroots-oriented.
Of course the expectations of the public is that in the first quarter of next year, a local government election should be conducted, but before then, the new commissioner should order for immediate deforestation of all the Local Government councils across the state, which have been taken over by weeds and some grown up trees due to years of neglect.
The transition committees must be made to make their budget available to the ministry and be empowered to carry out interventionist projects in their locality, apart from mere payment of workers’ salaries.