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A recap of Governor Emmanuel’s pursuit of peace and prosperity

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By Edidiong Udobia

As Governor Udom Emmanuel rounds off what has been generally des

 

cribed as a very successful first term in office, it is important to highlight some of the highs of the administration. Through his purpose-driven and people-oriented leadership, Mr. Emmanuel has raised the excitement of the people of the state to a crescendo. Across the length and breadth of the state, people are chanting peace and prosperity, even in areas that were hitherto plagued by extreme violence.

Clearly, this fever pitch is a testimonial of the new Akwa Ibom under Governor Emmanuel. But, for the benefit of those who are oblivious of the laudable efforts and giant strides of the Udom Emmanuel administration, particularly in restoring peace and opening the state to unprecedented economic breakthrough, this piece may be timely.

In his article, “Akwa Ibom: Economic Evolution through Industralisation” in THISDAY, Lekan Babalola wrote: “Before Emmanuel Udom came into office on May 29, 2015, Akwa Ibom was rated as one of the states with the highest income inequality peaking at over 0.54 for the self-employed (predominantly farmers), and 0.44 for the employed-salary paid/wage earners, (UNDP, 2012).

“Akwa Ibom was also mentioned as the third state with the highest poverty rate of 27.1% within the south-south zone after Cross River State (31.2%) and Bayelsa State (32.5%). The National Bureau of Statistics reported in 2010 that Akwa Ibom State had the second highest unemployment rate of over 25.8% after Delta State in the south-south zone, but leads other states in the zone in terms of income generating opportunities. Adebayo (2002) and Batchelder (2010) showed that, income volatility exists in some rural and urban areas.”

As bad as the economic indices of the state were before the coming of Governor Emmanuel, the biggest and most important task before the governor was unarguably security. This is because it is globally accepted that security is a key factor to the economic development of any society. Apparently, the plethora of security challenges that faced the state back then were major contributors to the state’s poor economic status. Assassinations, kidnappings, cultism, com- munal clashes, armed robbery, human right abuses, etc., were among the prevailing crimes in the state at the time.

In his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, Governor Emmanuel, among other things, pledged to “ensure the security of lives and property of the people at all times, while adhering to the principal of the rule of law, thereby ensuring equity, justice and fair play.”

Apparently, Mr. Emmanuel’s commitment towards restoring peace in the state was seen even before he became the governor. It can be recalled that he took a major step in this regard with the disbandment of the notorious Crowd Control Unit (CCU), which had become a complete menace and tool for political thuggery. The decision was unpopular considering the fact that the group enjoyed the patronage of the political class under the guise of providing security at state government events.

While the disbandment was severely criticized by those who were affected, it was a welcome development for the common people, who were the regular victims of harassment and intimidation by members of the group. Moreover, there were very strong allegations that most members of the group were involved in criminal activities like armed robbery and cultism while the group served as cover and avenue to reach and initiate other young people.

A part of a report on the Ink Newspaper of Tuesday, January 20, 2015, read, “However, it could be recalled that during the last year town hall meeting which was organized by Governor Godswill Akpabio in all the 10 federal constituencies, the CCU members had caused problems including fighting with people at every venue of the briefing. Some of the problems they caused led to loss of lives and damage of properties, a situation that caused terrible anger amongst those in government and even security operatives.

“Meanwhile, political observers in the state have commended Udom Emmanuel for his determination to make money for the state and also to promote Akwa Ibom economy by putting to a stop the unnecessary expenditure. They noted that although some people may not be comfortable with the determination of the PDP man to scrap or ban the activities of the CCU, that it was a right step in the right direction as according to them, money meant for frivolities will be saved.”

Another major effort of the governor was the proscription of over 30 cult groups in the state. This unprecedented move came on the heels of incessant cult clashes in some urban cities like Uyo, the state capital, Eket, Ikot Ekpene, Oron and other local governments like Etim Ekpo, Ukanafun, Ika, etc. Until the proscription, cultism was a single cause of the highest cases of violent deaths in the affected areas as the streets were often littered with dead bodies following clashes by rival cult groups.

The state government even stepped up the fight against cultrelated violence and killings in the state by imposing curfew on some of the local governments that were severely hit. “Apart from the recent proscription of 32 cult groups in the state, the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, recently imposed curfew on Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun local government areas because of cult-related killings in the areas.

Perhaps, the most challenging insecurity issue for the governor was the full-fledged militancy in Etim Ekpo, Ukanafun, Ika and some parts of Ikot Ekpene, Essien Udim and Oruk Anam. Within the few months ugly situation thrived, many communities in the affected local governments were under serious siege by armed bandits. Lives and properties worth millions of naira were lost as many people were sacked from their homes.

Many communities were almost deserted as indigenes were forced to relocate to faraway towns for safety. However, through personal intervention like holding a town hall meeting in the area with indigenes, providing relief materials to victims, granting amnesty to the perpetrators and strong collaboration with various security agencies, Governor Emmanuel successfully restored peace and calm to the area.

The governor has even extended his developmental strides to the area by awarding the contract for the construction of the 15km Ikot Akpan Afaha – Ikot Oku Usung Road in Ukanafun, to Wizchino Engineering Limited. During the campaigns, the governor also commissioned life-touching projects in the area, such as the digital and modern hospital with 2019 model facilities equipped in the Ikot Okoro General Hospital, Oruk Anam, and Palm Kernel Oil Plant at Ufaini Ibom Processing Limited in Ikot Akpankuk, Ukanafun.

Another material evidence of Mr. Emmanuel’s commitment to peace in the state was the just concluded general elections where the state witnessed the most peaceful, transparent, free and fair election in years. Citizens attributed the peaceful elections to the governor’s calm, mature and peaceful disposition towards the opposition’s warmongering before, during and after the elections. A report by then commissioner of police, Akwa Ibom police command, Ibrahim S. Kaoje, described elections in Akwa Ibom as being “peaceful, free, fair and credible.”

According to the 2018 Nigerian Peace Index Report, insecurity in Akwa Ibom had significantly reduced in recent years that the state ranked among the most peaceful states in Nigeria. A research conducted by Foundation for Peace Professionals indicated that Akwa Ibom is the most peaceful state in the South South region. With peace restored, it was much easier for prosperity to sweep across the state. Part of the indices was the ranking of Akwa Ibom as the second best state with ease of doing business by Direct Foreign Investment, last year.

In less than four years, the Governor Emmanuel led administration has built very economically viable industries and facilitated some first-of-kind manufacturing companies through the Public-Private Partnership. A few of them are, Toothpick and Pencil Factory; Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company; Metering Solutions Company; Fertilizer Blending Factory, etc., that further accelerate the economic development of the state that led to an agricultural revolution with the cultivation of cash crops like rice and cocoa and other strategic investment in the sector.

Today, the state can boast of a rice processing factory. Besides the direct jobs that all these ventures have created for the teeming youths of the state, they also have multiplier effects on businesses. For instance, the Akwa Prime Hatchery in Uruan is partnering and supporting many poultry farmers, producers of poultry feed, etc., in order to help the hatchery meet its daily target.

Businesses are not only booming in Akwa Ibom, but also expanding. Through the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES), the government has discovered and provided necessary supports to young entrepreneurs in the state. The AKEES Industrial Park has become a fast-growing entrepreneurship hub. Even traders have benefited from several interest-free loans of the state government.

With the significant reduction of crime and violence across the state, people are now giving more than a 100% to their businesses because they are assured of their security and safety. Governor Udom Emmanuel on his part is not relenting in his effort to ensure that Akwa Ibom continues to prosper in peace. It is the expectations of Akwa Ibom people that the tempo will even be higher in the governor’s second term, which could explain their overwhelming support towards Mr. Emmanuel’s reelection.

Udobia writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State

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