UDOM EMMANUEL MUST COME CLEAN ON AKWA IBOM INDEBTEDNESS
Typically, Governor Udom Emmanuel appears to think that by making some off-the-cuff remarks at a recent government house prayer meeting, he has discharged his responsibility to clear the air as demanded by Akwa Ibom people on Godswill Akpabio-era projects that have gone into disrepair and disuse since his assumption of office (#UdomMustSpeakNowOnAbandonedProjects). He has done no such thing. If anything, the manner and content of his response to such a serious issue of governance has further exposed his lack of capacity and contempt for the people he is in office to lead and serve.
To begin with, it does no credit to Udom Emmanuel that it took an intense public campaign (#UdomMustSpeakNowOnAbandonedProjects) by genuine lovers of Akwa Ibom for him to deem it necessary to pronounce on the disposition, under his administration, of projects and programmes on which colossal sums of the people’s money had been spent. (By the way, we invite the people to compare the conduct of #UdomMustSpeakNowOnAbandonedProjects campaigners to that of the band of hirelings, going by the inappropriate moniker of Ibom Patriots, who have taken to cheering the governor on in his misguided determination to render useless; projects into which over a trillion naira had been sunk. Who are the real patriots in this situation? And by electing to respond as demanded, has Udom Emmanuel not repudiated their ersatz patriotism?)
A governor whose loyalty is to the people would not wait to be cajoled and hassled before so reluctantly addressing a governance issue as troubling as the abandonment, for whatever reason, of so many expensive projects – the Ibom Specialist Hospital, Tropicana Entertainment Complex, Second Runway at the State Airport, the permanent Airport Terminal Building (allegedly paid for in full), the Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, the celebrated E-Library (now said to be no better than an oversize cybercafé, etc, etc). So the question Udom Emmanuel has unwittingly thrown up, and which Akwa Ibom people would do well to ponder on, is:- Who is he fundamentally loyal to? Whose interest is he in the Hilltop Mansion to protect if, as is now clear, he is not there in the interest of the people?
Udom Emmanuel has no sense of occasion. It is not clear whether this is borne out of lack of understanding of his role as governor or his easily-discerned contempt for the people. Whatever is the case, Akwa Ibom State is the worse for it.
We have in Akwa Ibom, a state of some six (6) million people, many of which are dirt poor but whose collective wealth; many hundreds of billions, has been spent on projects that were said would transform their lives. Good enough, the man who executed the projects brought him as his successor in order to ensure continuity; which to most people’s thinking, would mean ensuring the on-going functioning and where necessary, completion of the projects in question. Some 29 months after he assumed office, not only are the projects in disuse, many appear abandoned altogether. Questions are then raised but all the response Udom Emmanuel has seen fit to make is some casual remarks at a prayer meeting. Where the people expected a robust, comprehensive, fact-filled, point-by-point, project-by-project response, all they get is the insult of throwaway remarks. Like the projects themselves, the people are in limbo. Have they lost it all in the dark hole of irredeemable project failure? Can nothing be salvaged from the pile of rubble these projects have become?
Of course, given the casual nature of his remarks, Governor Emmanuel did not touch on all the abandoned projects and programmes at issue. But of the few he spoke about, nothing he said gave cause for cheer.
On the Ibom Specialist Hospital, the governor appeared to put all the blame on the contract managers. His musings (which, absent a formal and articulated report or evaluation, is what his remarks amounted to) did not make clear if the managers had breached the terms of that contract and what he had done about it. Instead, he talked about the various sums he had paid to the managers who, even after receiving the monies, still shut down the hospital. How a man whose claim to fame is his professionalism as a banker and accountant can resort to such a pedestrian approach to a contractual relationship leaves people wondering. And the Chief Law Officer, the Attorney General, who must have vetted that contract is still in office and it has not been heard that he intervened or had headed to court to sort out any issues pertaining to the contract managers failure to perform. Perplexing indeed.
Still on the Ibom Specialist Hospital, the governor said the contract managers have not shown evidence of any profit they had made. Profit? Was that an index of performance under the contract? And if it was, in two years of operation?
Regarding the stoppage of work on Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, the deacon governor offered an explanation that confused more than it clarified anything. He brought up the name of Julius Berger. True, that construction giant had been given that road project to handle. The governor did not say how much of the road has been completed, how much the state is owing for the work done and how much would be required to complete the road. Rather, he went into a ramble about how the first thing he did as governor was to pay Julius Berger N6 billion (for what, he didn’t say). He also added the stopper that since then, he has ensured that every month, no matter what and even if he has to borrow, he must find at least N1 billion to pay Julius Berger. He took pains to mention that the same company is responsible for maintaining the Stadium and the Government House Complex. Akwa Ibom people should find this most revealing. Has the State been placed in perpetual hock, as the Americans say, to Julius Berger? What has the governor been paying for? Maintenance? Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road? Other, unnamed or unnameable obligations? Whatever is the extent of our indebtedness to that company and in general?
Repeated calls to Udom Emmanuel since he became governor to say how much the state owes, to whom and what for have studiously been ignored. A wiser man might have found it more honourable to reconcile, consolidate and declare the debts of the government he inherited. As a banker and accountant to boot, it is a great mystery (or perhaps not-so-great) that Governor Emmanuel has not adopted this sensible option. There is something not-so-straightforward; furtive even, about going to church to let it out that the state is indebted in perpetuity to Julius Berger.
Same goes for his revelation at that church service that the Four Point by Sheraton Hotel in Ikot Ekpene was commissioned as an empty pile of bricks and that it would still need $7.3 million in additional funding to equip and furnish in order to become a hotel. Not having previously given the people the information that what was commissioned (in his presence, no less) was not yet the hotel it should have been, he nevertheless had no compunction about verbally abusing the people as ignoramuses for daring him to speak on the abandoned hotel project.
Deacon Udom Emmanuel never intended to address the issue of abandoned projects. He equally never expected to reveal anything about the state’s indebtedness. #UdomMustSpeakNowOnAbandonedProjects has forced him to do the former, after a casual and insulting fashion. He has also unwittingly done a little, but only a little, of the later. His contempt and insults notwithstanding, the people must continue to press him on both counts; especially the later. Udom Emmanuel must come clean on the state’s indebtedness. #UdomMustComeCleanOnAKSDebts
Credit: Nation Newspaper, Monday 13th 2017 | Page 14