Redefining Akwa Ibom Information Strategy

By Franklyn ISONG

The Akwa Ibom State Government declared yesterday, Saturday, May 25, 2019 as a statewide environmental sanitation exercise. Though, I have issues with any act of a state that seeks to restrict the fundamental rights of freedom of movement of citizens, it was however, worrisome to note that there was no clear information about the exercise from the government. The conflicting information about the exercise did not help matters.

Firstly, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Charles Udoh, on Friday, issued a release about the exercise, titled; “MONTHLY SANITATION EXERCISE HOLDS TOMORROW”. The release read in part: “The May edition of the monthly sanitation exercise will hold tomorrow, Saturday, May 25, 2019, with RESTRICTION (emphasis mine) of human and vehicular movements across the State.”

Moment later, the chairman, Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection and Waste Management Board, Prince Ikim, responsible for the Sanitation exercise countered the Commissioner with its own press release titled: “MONTHLY SANITATION HOLDS ON SATURDAY”. The release read in part: “As approved by the State Governor, there will be NO RESTRICTION (emphasis mine) of movements in the State throughout the exercise because of the Tee off of the Governor Udom Emmanuel’s victory golf tournament, projects commissioning and the Common Entrance Examination for military schools taking place on the same day.”

And then, same day, the Commissioner returned to the media space with a different press release titled: “NO RESTRICTION OF MOVEMENTS AS GOV UDOM EMMANUEL COMMISSIONS 17 ROADS, MAY 25”. This time around, strange as it were, Mr. Udoh only came to justify the release of the Agency with respect to NO RESTRICTION of movements.

“The non restriction of movement during the exercise is also in respect of the Tee -off of the Governor Udom Emmanuel’s victory invitational golf tournament, as well as the Common Entrance Examination for military schools taking place on the same day,” the Commissioner justified.

I think something is not just right here. Is it that the Commissioner did not consult widely especially with the governor and the Agency to be abreast with government programmes for the day, before coming out with the first press statement, restricting movements or someone somewhere wants to embarrass the honourable Commissioner? I am just thinking aloud here! Anyways. But, obviously, with this type of commotion in the dissemination of government information, one is concerned that the society and the Government are the ones that pay dearly for it. There is need for cohesion. There is need for consultation. There is need for partnership. No one Ministry/Commissioner or Agency should exist in isolation of the others, if the aim is to deliver people’s oriented services.

On the ban: I agree partly, that sanity has returned to the media unit of government. I can attest to the social media space being sanitised by the governor’s directive that only the Commissioner for Information and the Chief Press Secretary should be responsible for government information. Before the ban, it got to the height of blackmails, abuses and venoms dashed out daily from government appointees, unofficial appointees and every Tom, Dick and Harry claiming to either be speaking for the governor or the government, which were, detrimental to the image of government and the State. But, my disagreement with the policy, is, in my view, it would hinder free flow of information on government activities on a daily basis.

• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator and conscience of the society

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