Akpabio: The seal of victory (2)
Mr Imoh Etimudo , a commentator on national issues, wrote from Uyo.
He matches the monumental task of developing a hitherto backward state with hard work and dedication, implementing an outsize vision to the letter. A polyvalent transformer, his governance is in the name of the people. Whatever is not for the interest of the people is not for the Akwa Ibom he superintends.
Akpabio has promoted Akwa Ibom upstairs in a grand scale calibrated in a leadership of service to the people. By his vision, the state’s flag of rare transformation unfurls across the Atlantic Ocean.
This, he does with passion, and a propeller-annoyance driven by nobility of ideas. The development enthusiast knew which plan upon which a solid edifice could be built for the state, scraping all shaky foundations of the past. Akwa Ibom then became one big construction site for infrastructure and other key development sectors.
Then industrialisation took off with the speed of light. The state had joined the champions league of development. Achieving all these is not easy. Like they say, much water has passed under the bridge:
His sleepless nights, their blackmails and names calling, among other banal tactics. But the joy is that the people know the difference between corrosive and corrective fingers, and a jingle and a song: time and precedents. But Akapbio, the change colossus bears God’s seal. That is why he has been able to tackle frontally, the challenges of the state by all standards, valiantly fording the tempestuous seas of hunger, poverty, disease, illiteracy and insecurity.
The real McCoy, as he was once described by Ray Ekpu, the award winning veteran journalist of Akwa Ibom extraction, the growth of Akwa Ibom has no reverse. It soars higher and higher to the purified height of industrial revolution which now forms the thrust of the administration’s second term. As the Governor would always say, even if he were to contest elections ten times in the state, he would win ten times. Yes, because elections are not won on the pages newspapers or from ‘foreign’ lands. People vote for what they see, especially as it positively affects their lives.
This is the story of the uncommon transformation praxis in the state. Even ACN knows that this is not the Akwa Ibom of yesterday, development-wise. Honestly they do. And they say it. Except that they are ‘ignorant’ that to parade half-truth is to stand honesty on its head. Now that for the umpteenth time, the judicial hammer hit a head, it seems someone is realising that you do not enter the parlour of power through the window, irrespective of your desperation or incurable optimism, especially when the archives of infamous records were not set ablaze during the ‘burn to rule’ outing. The court, they say, is a temple for justice.
The chief priests of this temple have spoken repeatedly, that there is no going back on Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio’s landslide victory in the April governorship election in Akwa Ibom State. Or do we re-write the law? No! This means Akpabio bears the victory seal willingly given to him by God through contra-myopic men.
It is even expected of all to support the Governor in his transformation renaissance, just as we partake in celebrating the sealed victory, and in dancing to the sweet sound of infectious melodies that reign the air. Court!
Akpabio Floors Opponent In Appeal Court
FROM UZOMA NZEAGWU, AWKA.
THE Akwa Ibom State governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, has once again been confirmed duly elected governor of the state, as an Appeal Court, at the weekend in Calabar, struck out an appeal by the governorship candidate of the Progressive Action Congress (PAC), Mr. Sunday Ibanga Obot and his party against Akpabio and 15 others.
This brings to about seven the total number of victories Akpabio has secured in the tribunal and courts since he became governor in 2007.
The same court will on September 13 deliver judgement in an appeal the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate, Chief James Udoedeghe, instituted against Akpabio on the election.
Similarly, Senator Ita Enang’s senatorial election was on Thursday upheld in Uyo by the Election Petition Tribunal.
The tribunal had earlier on July 14, 2011 dismissed the petition of Obot against Akpabio, as it lacked merit and was abandoned. But Obot dragged the matter to the Appeal Court in Calabar on three grounds.
These were the issues counsel to PAC, led by Mr. Sylvanus Udofia and counsel to Obot raised in their appeal.
However, counsel to Akpabio, led by Mr. Duro Adeyemi and five others, raised objection saying, “The issues they (appellants) raised were new issues that were not canvassed at the tribunal.”
Akpabio woos diasporans to invest in Akwa Ibom
Akwa Ibom State indigenes in the Diaspora and other investors have been called upon to take advantage of the state government industrialization polices and invest in the state.
Akpabio gets certificate of recognition
Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio was last weekend awarded Certificate of Congressional Recognition by a member of the United States House of Representatives for exemplary leadership and uncommon transformation in Akwa Ibom state.
Presenting the certificate on behalf of the 18th Congressional District of Texas, Ms Sheila Jackson Lee said the gesture was in recognition of the leadership qualities of Chief Akpabio in turning around Akwa Ibom state from obscurity to tourism destination of the world.
In the same vein, his wife, Mrs. Ekaette Unoma Akpabio was accorded the same recognition by the Congresswoman for her "mission to empower women, alleviate poverty, encourage youths who are disillusioned and give the disable a sense of belonging."
The Certificate was presented at the Gala night and the launch of Uyai Iban International by the wife of the governor, Mrs. Akpabio, which chronicled all the activities organized by Akwa Ibom Diaspora Network (AIDN) at the prestigious Westin Houston Memorial City hotel and resort in Houston, Texas, United States Of America.
Governor Akpabio who was evidently surprised to be so honoured in a foreign land, described the recognition as one of the best things that has happened to him in the course of his mission of transforming Akwa Ibom state from a civil service state to urban economy through provision of free and compulsory education, infrastructural development, provision of basic amenities for the teeming population, and job creation.
Governor Akpabio who started his response with one of his favourite songs, "It shall be permanent what the Lord has done for me," thanked the US congress for the recognition and encomiums poured on him by its representative, saying the gesture would act as a stimulus for more uncommon transformation. "I am happy that a true story can come from Akwa Ibom state…….We represent the new future for Nigeria and indeed, Africa. Our desire is to make our state a role model for others to emulate. On behalf my wife, I receive this certificate with humility and this recognition would spur us to do more work to empower our people for greater Nigeria."
He commended the US congress for their good job and visionary leadership in the world, saying "you are doing a good job, not only in America, but in the world. Your mission to make the world a safer place for all is worthy of emulation."
Ms Lee, a member of the US House of Representatives, said Governor Akpabio’s re-election was moved by "an overwhelming people’s mandate and a vision, which subsequently developed into a nine-point agenda to re-brand and re-position Akwa Ibom State in the Nigerian configuration through programmes such as industrialization, poverty reduction, community entrepreneurship, food security, among others.
The Certificate reads: "In just a year, a web of modern road network was deplored across all the 31 Local Government areas of the State for greater accessibility, the state now holds world class events…," said Ms Lee, adding "The focus is industrialization and to do that His Excellency has placed the state’s resources in the right baskets, the baskets of air transport, seaport, tourism, skills acquisition, education, agriculture, among others."
She described Akwa Ibom state under the leadership of Chief Akpabio as " as a state with limitless opportunities," saying "with so many projects delivered, over 300 of them, and a lot still in the works, Akwa Ibom state now stands out as a foremost state in the Niger Delta, not embroiled in tribal wars, militancy or crime."
According to her, the progress so far witnessed in the state has motivated her to give recognition to whom it is due. "Now therefore, be it resolved that, on behalf of the constituents of the 18th Congressional District of Texas, I take great pride in welcoming His Excellency Gov. Akpabio and Mrs. Akpabio to Houston, Texas. Indeed, your successful work in Akwa Ibom state and your shining example of leadership are truly worthy of respect, admiration, and commendation of the United States Congress," she said.
What Mr President will not see in Akwa Ibom
By Anietie Ekong
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is billed for a two-day official visit to the Land of Promise, Akwa Ibom state from Thursday July 15. According to the official programme of the visit, while in Akwa ibom State, President Jonathan will commission several people-oriented projects embarked upon by the administration of Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio.
These projects include the ultra-modern and state-of-the- art Governor’s Lodge built in a record 14 months, the first phase of the Ibom International Airport, Banking District road network, fly-overs 11 and 111 located on Atiku Abubakar Avenue, the 21 kilometer Ekid Itam – Idoro – Ekom Iman dual carriage way, phase 1. Other projects billed for commissioning include: the 25 – kilometer Abak – Ikot Ekpene dual carriage way, the 56 – kilometer Afaha Obong – Etim Ekpo – Iwukem road, Etim Ekpo bridge, the 12 – kilometer Top Faith road, the Police Secondary School, the Mobile Police base, the Independent Power Project access road among many others. Indeed for President Jonathan there will be no dull moments while in Akwa Ibom State.
This will not be the first presidential visit to Akwa Ibom State. On August 7, 200 4, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo had embarked on a similar Presidential visit to the same state.
Before now, Akwa Ibom had ranked as one of the biggest exporters of kid domestic workers. Children of school age were found as domestic servants in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and other major cities toiling day and night for their employers who work in banks, oil companies, and the civil service or operating their own businesses, doing all sorts of menial and usually unstructured jobs for their employers. In fact the state had become very popular as a recruitment ground for domestic helps, kids who like Udoh, whose parents could not afford to pay their fees in public schools. This is what may have given rise to the archetypal portrayal of the Akwa Ibom child in Nigerian movies. In their reckoning, domestic servants must be Ekaette, Uduak, Okon, Edet, Akpan, etc. But all that has changed.
According to Governor Akpabio free education conquers all things. “We want to change the mentality of our people so that in 10 years, they can be able to take their destiny in their hands. We want to eradicate the Ekaette syndrome from our culture so that our people will begin to be like the Westerners who are at the forefront of the nation’s economy. Through the free education policy, we hope to give new meaning to our people. We want to fight kidnapping, armed robbery and child abandonment with free education,” he said then. To complement this policy is the child right act which makes it a punishable offence for parents whose wards roam the streets during school hours.
It is gratifying to know that during the latest Presidential visit to Akwa Ibom State, President Jonathan would not see any Udoh in Akwa Ibom State today to adopt to be given education in Aso Rock courtesy of the free, compulsory and qualitative education policy of the Governor Akpabio administration, a policy he that was not even part of his electioneering promises. According to him, “My vision for education in Akwa Ibom State is that of a State with functional, qualitative education which will serve as the catalyst for development, job creation, poverty alleviation and as a foundation for our envisaged science and technology and industrial revolution.”
In fairness to other state administrations, Akwa Ibom state is not the only state that has declared free education in Nigeria. People of the South-Western part of Nigeria would consider it a taboo to be asked to pay school fees in a public school. Even though it is a novel idea in Akwa Ibom State, this policy of the Akpabio administration is unique in its conceptualization and implementation backed by a strong political will of the Governor. To Akpabio, education is an inalienable right to be provided to the citizen from primary to secondary school with the government bearing all the costs. Drawing from his personal experience of not being able to proceed immediately to secondary school because of the inability of the mother to pay a fee of N10, had vowed that no Akwa Ibom child would suffer such deprivation as long as he remained the Governor of the state.
The free and compulsory education policy of the Akpabio administration is unprecedented and may indeed become a model in Nigeria due to its uniqueness. For instance, apart from providing free medical services to the pupils as well, the government pays N300 per child, per term to Principals of secondary schools and N100 to headmasters and headmistresses of primary schools as subvention, to enable them to procure basic items without transferring such financial burdens on the parents.
The decrepit nature of the infrastructure in public schools which saw pupils and students learning under very unconducive environment, sometimes under trees has been completely eliminated as there has been massive injection of funds into the sector. This has led to the commissioning of over 600 educational projects across the state. The government has also distributed science equipments, chemical and reagents, computers and textbooks for use by pupils and students in public schools. This is in addition to the massive recruitment and training of teachers to cope with the upsurge of pupils and students enrolment which, according to the Commissioner of Information and Social-Reorientatio n, Mr. Aniekan Umanah had almost doubled by the time the state celebrated the first anniversary of this laudable programme.
Unlike the physical structures that President Jonathan will commission during his visit to the state, the impact of the free and compulsory education policy may appear as intangible. But to most people this will go down as the greatest legacy that Governor Akpabio would leave in the impact, which impact would be felt long after he had quit the stage.
•Ekong is a Lagos-based journalist and public affairs commentator.
State Police is the Answer –Akpabio
By OLUWOLE FAROTIMI
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, who terminated his annual vacation, last week, to receive President Goodluck Jonathan to his state this week, has proposed community policing as a panacea to rising wave of crimes and criminality in the country.
The governor also advocated the return of state police to check crimes and insurgency, both twin-time bombs currently giving security agencies in the country nightmare.
Akpabio, who made this submission in Abuja, at an interaction session with media executives, said certain acts of criminality that almost marred the countdown to the last general elections, as well as security challenges thrown up by the ravages of groups like the Boko Haram, were desperate situations requiring urgent and effective solutions.
He recommended community policing, which, he said, was effectively employed by the regions in the First Republic to curb crimes, criminals and criminality at the local levels of governance, since, according to him, the responsibility of guaranteeing security at that level was the direct responsibility of the chief executive of each region.
“Indeed, not a few state chief executives have advocated for the return of state police and community policing given the increasing level of lawlessness, criminality and brigandage in most parts of the country,” he said.
Akpabio, who is in the vanguard of that campaign, stressed that the situation whereby police commissioners were answerable to the police high command in Abuja had not allowed state governors effective control of the security situation in their domains.
Restating his confidence in the efficacy of the models he was recommending, the governor stated that communal system in Nigeria would not only enhance the operation of state police, it would also promote effective intelligence gathering, which are necessary conditions that would make the police more pro-active in crime prevention and control.
He said in every community in Nigeria, the people usually found it easy to spot strange individuals and occurrences, since almost everyone could easily trace and track suspicious movements and then report their findings to community heads.
“As far as security is concerned,” he said, “the main initiative rests with the Federal Government. What we, as governors, are pleading is that we decentralise control of security. We must have state police and make security as a front burner of campaign.
“When I mount the podium for campaign, I should be able to tell the electorate that I am capable of guaranteeing their security. I should tell them that if I am directly in charge of security, I will minimise armed robbery and address the problem of kidnapping. I have to have the apparatus of control of security to be able to do that,” Akpabio said.
“But in the present system that we operate, a Nigerian governor who is the chief security officer of a state, is like a general without troops.
Can that general be effective? When the cases of kidnapping were raging, who controls the apparatus of checking kidnapping? Is it not the Federal Government? The commissioner of police they posted to states cannot be controlled by the governors. In some cases, they bring the most inefficient ones to you and then you are helpless.
“In the First Republic, we had an effective constitution. We had regionalism in practice and you have a parliamentary system which allows you to contest elections as long as you remain the best option.
But we are now in a presidential system, which allows you only two terms. Whether a governor likes it or not he must leave at the end of his second tenure.
“Then, the constituting has taken away the power from a governor to work. Community policing, to me, is the answer because through that, you can easily gather intelligence. And intelligence gathering is key in making police to be very pro-active, so that you nip a crisis in the bud before they break out.
“When you go to a community, everybody knows the next man in and out. So, they can easily report strange things they observe to the police.
But if you bring someone who does not speak a language and understand
a terrain to serve as a Police Commissioner, where will he start from?”
Governorship Poll: Akpabio Okays Forensic Expert from Ireland
By OKON BASSEY
The legal team representing Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State and the Peoples Democratic Party at the governorship election tribunal has brought forensic experts from Dublin, Ireland, to help in the verification of electoral materials used during the gubernatorial election in the state.
The tribunal sitting in Uyo, the state capital, had granted counsels to both PDP and Action Congress of Nigeria their prayers to carry out forensic test of the election materials in the custody of Independent National Electoral Commission.
But Akpabio and PDP’s lawyers say the forensic test and inspection of materials wouldn’t change much in their clients’ case.
Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko told newsmen at the INEC headquarters in Uyo that although counsels to the appellants and defendants had agreed on the forensic exercise, the inspection may be irrelevant. He said the tests amounted to undue delay, as the facts are there for people to see.
Secretary of Akpabio’s campaign organisation, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, had also criticised the opposition ACN for allegedly introducing unnecessary delay in the prosecution of the election petition.
“By Wednesday last week our party and the ACN were in INEC preparatory to the commencement of the forensic examination. The ACN in their characteristic manner of engaging in blatant falsehood had informed INEC that they were ready with 15 scanning machines and experts and every other thing they would need to enable them carry out the exercise.
“From what we have seen here, it is obvious that the ACN people are not ready and at their instance the exercise has been adjourned,” he said.
What we have seen from them is not anywhere near what they had claimed,” Enoidem said.
“What we have seen are two rickety photocopy machines as against the modern OCR scanning machines that we brought. In a nutshell, the PDP team is ready but the petitioners, the ACN, are not ready. We brought in forensic experts from Dublin, Ireland, to come and be part of the exercise but the ACN did not bring anybody in the form of an expert apart from the two lawyers who showed up from their ranks. That is a clear indication that they are not ready.
Counsel to ACN, Mr. Mutiu Alaye, said his team would soon be ready for the forensic test.
BY GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR
IF you are to run into Godswill after working hours, you will certainly miss him out in the crowd; well, except you are lucky to hear him laugh or throw banter at his men as good pals would normally do.
He is a socialite, a mixer and a good family man, who could be caught sharing cinema seats with one or all of his children.
Godswill Obot Akpabio was born a gift to humanity. There is something uncommon in him that turns everything he touches to gold. From humility, he rose to nobility. In fact, no generation has his type more than one.
From his early age, he had proclaimed that the time for change had come. Even without a father, he knew he was destined to change the fate of many.
Though destiny gave him to his mother with one hand, it took away his father with the other.
And it came before sunrise.
The mother doubled as a father, rising to the highest rung of the ladder of hardship and difficulties to raise a future champion — an exemplary leader. Well, as the expression goes, ‘the situation at home was bad, but the boy was good’.
His mother, seeing him as her only hope in life, painstakingly brought him up, inculcating in him, the value of hard work, discipline and honesty. These trees had since bear fruits.
His record as governor has raised the bar of leadership, making him a deserving leading light and rallying point. A bastion of development, he is a metaphor for hope. Destiny made him a man for the people, not for self.
He has governed Akwa Ibom State with policies that have human face because he believes God sent him for the purpose of affecting the lives of people through doing God’s will. To him, development is people-centred.
Hence, whatever is not for the benefit of the people is not acceptable. There could not have been a better name for him than Godswill; a man God is using to bless a people he named after himself. Governor Akpabio is an exhilarating developing story. He is out of the ordinary.
He says with a toothy smile, as he took the oath of office for a second time, “we dare not forget that we are the heirs of great revolutionaries who breathed hope into the political fabric of our country.”
He continues, “many years from now, posterity will look back at this time and take a holistic view of all that transpired in that election. And they will surely be proud that we all stood on the right side of history and sent a signal to our brothers, sisters, friends and foes that nothing shall separate us.”
His happiness is that his people are now “living in a state where every child, no matter the circumstance of his birth, has equal opportunity to acquire formal education. This is possible with the free and compulsory education programme. We now have a state where every child, pregnant woman and the aged have access to free medical treatment. We now have a state where the educational and health infrastructures have been completely transformed.”
Amidst a cheerful grin, the governor retorts, “we now fly in and out of the Ibom International Airport. We are poised to enjoy uninterrupted power supply from Ibom Power Plant as soon the Federal Government grants us the license not only to generate but to also distribute electricity. The Cineplex at Tropicana Entertainment Complex, which we inaugurated last month, has become the star leisure spot in our state. This is just a tip of the iceberg as the emerging radiance of the Tropicana Entertainment Complex beckons.”
Like Martin Luther King Jr., he is happy that he is happy that Akwa Ibom are living in the midst of ‘our dreams’. “We live in a time when our state has become one of the preferred conference spots in our country. When our road network, with our concentric flyovers in Uyo, has become the talk of the country. When no one comes to our state anymore to look for house helps and drivers. And Akwa Ibom people walk tall in Nigeria. We live in a time when key projects like the Ibom Gas Plant and the underground drainage system in Uyo have been completed. We live in a time when we look forward to the immediate commencement and completion of impactful projects like the Ibaka Deep Seaport, the Ibom Industrial City and many more projects in order to establish our state as one of the pivots of the Nigerian economy.”
Akpabio says the results of his achievements are everywhere for people to see “In over 1,350 communities which now have electricity, more than 205 urban roads have been rehabilitated or constructed anew; five brand new hospitals are now operational, many federal roads have been dualised and constructed and reconstructed; thousands have been employed in various completed projects like the Le’ Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort, the Ibom International Airport, which we met at ten percent completion level, the Ibom Independent Power Plant, the civil service, gas processing plants, the first class construction companies that opened offices in 2007 on my assumption of office etc. I am happy to report that in the last four years over 3000 life-impacting projects have been initiated and completed across the entire state.”
The 2007 oath-taking resulted in three brand new flyovers, dualized Ekid Itam Road, daulised Ikot Ekpene – Abak Road, new and dualised Uyo to International Airport Road, the liberation of the people of Etim Ekpo/Ika axis, the Nung Udoe Oko Ita, Use Ikot Amama (Ibiono) indigenes, the Enen Nsit Road construction, the Etebi Enwang road construction, the Abak – Ukpom Hospital Road etc. We should also note that our health institutions have been fully revamped and fully equipped and five new general hospitals added. Today we are a proud state with no single incidence of polio. Our pride as a people has also further been heightened with the completion of the state-of-the-art Government Banquet Hall and ten new Guest Houses. These have further upgraded our efforts in the deliberate attempt to turn Uyo into a metropolitan city.
Trajectory of a career
AKPABIO is certainly not a Nigerian politician. If anything, he is a statesman. He is only in politics. And his brand of politics is not for himself. To him, it is service first, self last. This is alien to Nigeria. “A good Nigerian politician serves self, a statesman scoops home the joy on the faces of his people. And he is always the author of this joy. Akpabio belongs to this people-centred politics,” says Aniekan Umanah, Commissioner, Ministry of Information & Social Re-Orientation Akwa Ibom State.
The governor made a perfect blend of two noble professions. He also had a brief stint as a teacher, and was an associate partner with Paul Usoro and Co., a leading law firm in the country.
His teaching background, though brief, exposed him to the educational crises in our society while his legal practice gave him insight into the needs of justice administration in Nigeria.
He had also called the shots in 2002, when he became the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of EMIS Telecoms Limited, a leading privately-owned fixed wireless company in Lagos.
To his credit, while in that position, he helped in developing majority of the current crop of management in the telecom industry.
His genius was recognised even before he became the MD of EMIS and he was elected the National Publicity Secretary of the Association of Telecom Companies in Nigeria, (ATCOM), while he was still the Company Secretary of EMIS Telecoms.
In 2002 His Excellency was appointed the Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources. He left his stamp of efficiency in this ministry as an astute administrator, and was subsequently re-assigned commissionership duties in key ministries like the Ministry of Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs and the Ministry of Lands and Housing.
As a Commissioner in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, he was responsible for the supervision of the 31 Local Councils and traditional institutions.
His immense conflict management skills came to the fore and he commanded the respect of local government administrators and traditional rulers for always standing on the side of truth.
As a commissioner, His Excellency Chief Akpabio related with people based on their character and not where they come from.
Completely detribalised, he is imbued with a passion for excellence and driven by a sense of mission and purpose.
He is a recipient of over 30 chieftaincy titles from all over Nigeria. They include the Uko Akwa Ibom (awarded to him by the Akwa Ibom State Council of Chiefs), Utuenikang Ibibio, Iberedem Ibibio, Nta Nta Offiong Annang, Atta of Eket and the Nta Nta Oro, to mention a few.
He also holds the highest national honour of the Republic of Niger, Gold Humanitarian Services Award, which was conferred on him by Niger Republic’s Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency, Alhaji Moussa Ibrahim.
The honours he receives from educational institutions tell clearly that that is his constituency.
He has been awarded the Doctor of Law (Honoris Causa) of the University of Nigeria Nsukka; the Doctor of Public Administration (Honoris Causa) of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; the Doctor of Law (Honoris Causa) of the University of Uyo; the Doctor of Law (Honoris Causa) of the University of Calabar; Fellowship by several tertiary institutions of learning (including polytechnics and colleges of education) and professional bodies; Man of the Year 2009 by Daily Independent Newspapers; Emerging Tiger by ThisDay Newspapers; Man of the Year 2009 by the National Daily Newspapers.
He has also been honoured by the National Daily with the award of 2008 Most Outstanding Governor in Nigeria (South South).
The newspaper said the award was in appreciation of his developmental strides and described the free education program as unprecedented in the region.
GODSWILL likes cooking, but because of state function, this aspect of him seldom occurs, but he is a good cook.
Expect to see him in on suit and possibly, red tie, for any formal occasion and traditional, if the occasion demands. But in the evening you’ll surely catch him on jeans and long or shot sleeve. He likes flat slippers or canvass.
His Excellency is happily married to Mrs Ekaette Unoma Akpabio, and the marriage is blessed with four beautiful daughters and a son. He and his wife share a great passion for the underprivileged and for service to the community.
Umanah says, “His Excellency is a God-fearing man and devoted Christian of the Catholic Faith. Inspite of his high political office, he humbles himself and seeks the face of God for exemplary leadership.”
According to Umanah, “every year, there is always a solemn assembly to dedicate the state to God. Apart from the yearly service, monthly prayer sessions are often held on behalf of the state for God’s intervention in the affairs of His men.”
In fact, he has also bagged the ‘Nehemiah Award’ of the African Church. In its citation, the Church described the massive infrastructural development of Akwa Ibom State as “unequalled in the country.”
The National Youth Council of Nigeria earlier honoured him as the “Youth Ambassador of Nigeria.
Other recent awards include: Governor of the Year, 2010 by Tribune; Best Infrastructural Development Governor, Ben Television, UK Governor of the Year South South, City People Magazine; Best Governor Infrastructure 2009, Encomium Magazine; Best Governor South South, Encomium Magazine; Excellency Recognition Award As Best Governor South South by Global Excellence Magazine.
Prior to his emergence as Governor, the Africa Independent Television/Raypower FM in the South South Region honoured him with the “Excellence in Governance Award” in 2005.
BORN on December 9, 1962, in the cold and frosty Ukana Ikot Ntuen, Essien Udim Local Council of Akwa Ibom State, to the family of Chief and Madam Obot Akpabio, he had his first formal education at Methodist Primary School, Ukana.
That was to be followed by a secondary education at the Federal Government College, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he obtained his West African Senior Certificate Examination/General Certificate of Education at Ordinary and Advanced Levels.
Thereafter, he proceeded to the University of Calabar, where he bagged a Degree in Law. And on completing his studies at the Nigerian Law School, he was called to the Nigerian bar.
At Federal Government College, Port Harcourt, he was appointed the General Senior Prefect. And later in the University of Calabar, his charismatic mien endeared him to the students and he was elected the Speaker of the Students’ Parliament.
A/Ibom Refutes Rape Claim in Abandoned Children’s Home
Mrs. Mary Ayaewa, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare in Akwa Ibom has refuted claims that female children in the state government run Divine Orphanage Home were raped.
She denied the claims in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Uyo.
The permanent secretary said that it was an attempt by some disgruntled managers of private orphanage homes in whose care the children used to be, until they were requisitioned by the state government.
"Most of these private homes used the children to make much money from international donors without actually taking care of the children properly. It was for that reason that the state government decided to remove the children from their custody. We are not surprised at this development as we already know that there is no truth in the allegations they are making," she said.
According to Ayaewa, the children are in good hands with adequate security being provided by mobile policemen.
She disclosed that some of the children had been admitted to nearby day and boarding schools, while some others had commenced vocational studies.
On the allegations that the children were kept out of school by the ministry, she said, "the children needed to settle down since they were now in a new environment.That was even during the holiday period."
Ayaewa maintained that the state government was committed to the welfare of the orphans.
"The wife of the governor, Mrs. Ekaette Akpabio visited the home recently and ordered that additional cloths should be provided for them.
According to the permanent secretary, the state government has initiated free and compulsory education to enable the children to discover their potential.
AN reports that 471 abandoned children, accused of witchcraft, were evacuated by the women affairs and social welfare ministry from private children’s homes to a government owned orphange at the Uyo Security Village.
From JOE EFFIONG, Uyo
The year 2008 will remain evergreen in the minds of religious and political leaders of Akwa Ibom State. It was the year one self-styled pastor, Bishop Sunday William, declared the entire state a coven of witches, saying there were roughly 2.3 million witches and wizards in the state, most of them children.
William, in fact, added a serious dimension to the allegation: he told the international media that he had killed 110 of such child witches. He even claimed he charged some fee, sometime as much as N400, 000, to help willing parents kill their child witches.
Over two million witches in a state of less than four million people? Everyone started looking at one another. Nobody trusted anybody again.
Soon after, Evangelist Helen Ukpabio declared that over 900 witches had come out to confess in her Liberty Gospel Church in Uyo, the state capital.
Some clergymen, including Apostle John Okoriko of the Solid Rock Kingdom Church, Uyo, and others countered the propaganda. They noted that if there were witches in the state, it would be one per town as it was in the Biblical era.
The suspicion, it seemed, even crept into government circles. The executive and legislative arms were finally jolted to dust the virtually forgotten Child Rights Act, and hurriedly passed it into law on December 5, 2008.
But before the bill was passed into law, the state governor, Godswill Akpabio had vehemently refuted Bishop William’s 2.3 million witches claim for the state. He said some of the children had confessed to being witches and wizards after they had been tortured by their parents and church leaders.
Said the governor: “If you put a nail on my head and ask me to agree that I am a wizard, I would do that to save myself from torture. That is how these children are tortured to accept that they are witches and their parents would gladly throw them out of the house.
“We will not only destroy such churches, we will also get their pastors prosecuted and jailed to set example for others because some churches are deceiving people.”
The governor said he had instructed the state’s attorney general to legally deal with such false prophets and their churches.
One of such means was the Child Rights Act, which was supposed to bury the stigmatization of children as witches forever in the state. It was even made retroactive to snare people like Bishop William who had committed the alleged offence before the bill was passed into law. That is why he is still standing trial till date “for killing 110 witches.” Though he later altered his claims, saying he only killed the spirit of witchcraft in the kids in order to free the victims, the state was no longer interested in the modified version.
At the presentation of the new law to the public, the governor had noted that every person under the age of 16 years is classified as a child and shall be entitled to inalienable rights, including their parents’ responsibility to ensure that they benefit from free education up to secondary school level. Otherwise, such parents shall on conviction be liable to N5000 fine or a two-month imprisonment or both.
The law prohibits child labour which includes buying, selling, hiring, begging for alms, prostitution, domestic or sexual labour, slavery or practices similar to slavery such as trafficking and compulsory labour, et cetera.
“The law prohibits sexual intercourse with children and classifies same as rape and also prohibits harmful publication of materials like books, magazines, film, pictures, video and audio tape which contains harmful information and to which children could have access.
“The law makes it punishable with an imprisonment of 10 years to 15 years without any option of fine for a child to be accused of witchcraft.
“For the purpose of speedy trial, the bill establishes a family court for the purpose of hearing and determining matters relating to children,” Akpabio explained. He appealed for the cooperation of all to make the law an effective protection for children “and a shelter for our posterity.”
All this happened in 2008. But checks by Daily Sun reveal that no one has so far been convicted by the law. On the contrary, it seems the number of children stigmatized and sent out of their homes by parents in collaboration with religious leaders are on the increase.
The situation is so bad that the state government recently set up a Witchcraft Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Joseph Abraham to advise it on the child witch syndrome and other incidents of child abuse.More than 60 people, including Christian clerics, have appeared before the panel. One of those summoned was Rev. Moses Ekereobong, a Presbyter of the Methodist Church, who appeared on the allegation of his involvement in the stigmatization of a child.
But in his defence, Ekereobong said he was innocent. “I was invited by the police but I knew nothing about the said stigmatisation or about the brutalisation of a child by one of my members. When I got to the station, I saw the child and observed that the wounds inflicted on her were still fresh. I asked the father to tell me the person that inflicted the wounds as well as the person that called her a witch because, in the Methodist Church of Nigeria, such is not our practice. But the man has not given me a reasonable answer up till now. We all frowned at the matter because it’s against our policy,” the pastor said.
But the stigmatization continues even with the law in place and the commission of inquiry in session. Early last month, 21 children of between seven and 20 were found taking refuge in the moribund Qua River Hotel, Eket and in an abandoned truck by Eket Sports Stadium.
A statement issued through the office of the commissioner for information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah said government would take adequate care of the children. The statement warned those who delighted in abusing children to desist from such acts.
The statement partly reads: “An inventory of all the children has been taken by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare. A temporary facility has been put in place by the government for the accommodation of the children while a permanent facility is underway. Only one of the children, aged 17, was discovered to be an expectant mother and was immediately taken away by the government for prompt medical care.
“Government wishes to reiterate that the safety and well-being of all Akwa Ibom children is sacrosanct. We again strongly warn parents, guardians and whoever engages in the habit of sharp practices against children, especially labelling the children as witches, to desist forthwith or risk incurring the full wrath of the law.
“Government is not leaving any stone unturned in ensuring that all those culpable in the neglect and abuse of the children are brought to book in line with the provision of the Child Rights and Protection Law. The Akwa Ibom State government hereby reiterates its determination to do everything in its power to ensure the protection of children, and indeed the safety and wellbeing of all residents in the state.”
The commissioner for women affairs and social welfare, Mrs. Eunice Thomas, who personally supervised the evacuation of the children, said the state government had concluded plans to rehabilitate them. She said information about the condition of the children did not get to the government early. She promised to work expediently to integrate them into the society. The children are currently camped at the Women Development Centre pending when government will make a permanent provision for them.
As part of the rehabilitation, Thomas said the children would be given immediate medical attention even as plans to enrol them in schools were being made.
17-year-old Jane Bassey, who confessed that she was four-month pregnant, said she was ostracized because of the pregnancy.
Some of the children said they were chased out by their parents and relatives who alleged that they were witches, while some of them said they were forced out on allegations of pilfering and truancy.
Stepmothers were fingered as the masterminds of most of the ugly situations. Godswill Felix Okon said he was about taking his Common Entrance Examination when her aunt took her to a church where the pastor alleged that he was a witch, culminating in his being sent out of the house by his aunt.
Another girl, Blessing Effiong, also said she recently gave birth to a baby that was immediately taken from her by some members of the public.
For now, the stigmatization appears to be concentrating more in Eket, Oron and other riverine areas of the state, though not limited to those areas. Thomas once said her ministry spent over two million naira feeding abandoned children housed in different locations in the state. With the addition of 21 more kids, she would need more. And there is no guarantee that another set would not be discovered tomorrow.