In 2015 when the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, His Excellency, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, was sworn in, he was busy making sure that there is ground breaking for road constructions. A lot of people misinterpreted the issue of ground breaking not forgetting that it’s a method of preparation and getting a contractor signed to the job.
In this interview, the Honourable Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, speaks on the achievements of Governor Udom Emmanuel in the state, his challenges in the Ministry of Works, his relationship with former former and Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Godswill Akpabio. Excerpts
It’s good to have you in the show sir…
Thank you for having me.
You’ve been given the responsibility of making sure that infrastructure in the creation of roads and every other important infrastructure that has to do with construction is taken care of. Since you took over the responsibility in July 2015 year, how far has that been?
Since July 2015 I took over the office of the Honourable Commissioner for Works, it’s been work and work all the way. We have done quite a lot. The Governor, His Excellency, is determined to lay a very solid foundation for the industrialisation of Akwa Ibom, and as a basis to that, he needs some basic infrastructures. Part of which is the road.
With Governor Emmanuel in the state, within the interconnectivity in terms of the major roads that would link the city centre which is the headquarters, Uyo with other senatorial districts and then the other roads to bring dividends of democracy to our people.
In terms of the major roads, Ikot Oku Ikono – Etinan Road awarded by this administration is ongoing; Etinan – Ndonoyo road also awarded by this administration is ongoing as well. Etinan – Eket road which was awarded by the last administration, but due to paucity of funds, was delayed but was reactivated is ongoing. Eket – Ibeno road, which is to take us to the heart of the Oil & Gas facility, is almost completed. If not for a little funding issue, that road was supposed to have taken one side of about 19km by December last year. I’m sure any moment from now, we will be able to have that part of the road.
We also awarded Uyo – Oron road which also opens up that axis. We have little issues with the contractor. His Excellency, in his wisdom, who is willing to waste time, had to council that contract, broke it into two and re-awarded one part to AkuTech which will start from Uyo Airport Road to Okopedi, and the second phase of it was given to CCECC which is to start from Okopedi.
As at yesterday (Tuesday, 28 September), I was in Okopedi/Okobo to discuss with the stakeholders. There, I saw the contractors and equipment on site and they did assure that the road will start and they will give all the support.
These are the major dualised roads. And then we had to go to the localities to see how we get the people to enjoy their dividends of democracy. In Uyo as a metropolis, we have been doing the no potholes project except for the July, August and September rains that have also damaged the roads once more. We are waiting for the rains to be over and we will be back to make sure that there is no potholes in Uyo metropolis.
We have also gone to Atan Ofot which is behind the Secretariat, and that road is almost completed except for the rains. Still in Uyo, we went to the Information Drive off IBB, which had been in the budget of the last 20 years, and cleaned it out; it is now in an excellent condition.
We discovered that there were local governments, in the last dispensation, could not really get more attention. We decided to visit them. His Excellency directed that these localities that were really not having it right, in terms of roads, should be looked at. We went to Ibiono and a 3.5km road with a bridge was constructed because the Governor, during his campaign, promised the paramount ruler that he becomes the governor of the state, he would open up that place. That road has been opened up and right now what we are trying to do again in Ibiono is to see how we can link that particular road to one of the major roads outside Ibiono so that there will be interconnectivity.
We equally went to Oron which had some issues that had to be called an intervention. There were jobs that were started – excavations were done; and the first day I went to Oron Local Government, we were made to understand that because of the excavation, an 11-year old boy died as he fell into one of the drains around the Technical College, Bassey Lane, Efiat Lane, Bassey Street, around the Post Office, Anwana Esin area where The Apostolic Church is situated. I was told that the church had not had a vehicle on that road for 40 years.
These six roads that were cleaned up during the first year; and during first year anniversary in May 2016, His Excellency commissioned the roads and a particular interest to all of us was the excitement of the members of The Apostolic Church. Right now, we have gone back to Oron to look at Murtala, Market Road, Ebu Street, and another six roads have been awarded in Oron to make sure that place is remodelled.
We went to Eket which was one of the dirtiest of the towns as a Senatorial Headquarters of Eket Senatorial District. His Excellency decided to remodel Eket. NigerPet is doing a good job there because it is a little bit low. If you get to Atabong Beach up to Urua Offiong Etok, you will see the massive work ongoing there; and I hope that people will continue to give support because some landlords will actually take their compensation and refuse to allow their properties to be taken down.
We have also gone to Ini Local Government during the 29th Anniversary of Akwa Ibom State where His Excellency commissioned two roads of 17.4km and 16.2km. About 32-33km of roads awarded to two contractors. We have gone to Ikono to do Nung Oku Ikim – Ikono road
We have gone to Ukanafun, Oruk Anam where the road of the last administrated terminated from Abak to Ikot Ekaide. We have continued that road from Ikot Ekaide through Ikot Okoro to Ikot Eboito of about 23.5km. Another contractor has been given from Ikot Eboito to Ekefe – Ikot Akpan/Afaha in Ukanafun LGA which is about 19.5km.
We also inherited a road from the East West Road through the village of the present Deputy House Leader, and it is ongoing. His Excellency has raised some funds for that company and they have assured us that in the next three to four months, they will be able to deliver on that road.
If you now come to Mkpat Enin which happened to have been one area that also did not enjoy much of the dividends of democracy, we have gone to do a road from Awa Iman through Asong – Ikot Edim – Ukam linking Ikot Ebiet Abak in Onna. We have also gone to Ikot Edeghe, Ikot Usop road which, if not for the bridge, would have been completed by now. It is a 5km road.
As they say, ‘charity begins at home’, His Excellency went to Onna to do a 5km road; Mkpok/Ukat road linking one of the best sand you can find in a beach in Akwa Ibom, which is the only sand, according to experts, that can be used for an airport. We also have a massive deposit of clay in the same local government in Ikot Ebidang. That road has also been awarded and is ongoing.
In Ibeno, presently, we are in the process of doing a super highway between Eket and Ibeno to open up the Ibom Deep Seaport and Ibom Industrial City. By the time the super highway is completed, it will be possible to have access to the seashore where the Seaport and the Industrial City will be standing.
We went to Uruan LG to open up the Beach Market that will lead through Mbak to Anua. Two local governments are going to benefit from that 19km road starting from the beach. The beach happens to be one of the best beaches where we have fish business going on and traders coming all the way from Cameron to do business there. The road is ongoing.
As at yesterday, I went to inspect Ikono Uyo, a part of Uyo that has been considered as neglected and discovered that it is about 20km covering four local governments. His Excellency has directed that we profile that road to open up that axis.
It is also important that while we are doing what we are doing, we have to still intervene in the already-existing roads because it’s about maintenance. Three weeks ago, the Ete – Abak Road which is what was left of the only federal road because Calabar/Itu has collapsed. That road needs to be reconstructed properly with side drains. The Umuahia road has also collapsed. The Ikot Ekpene – Aba had long short down. So the only federal access to Akwa Ibom was the East West Road through Ete to Abak which collapsed about three weeks ago. His Excellency had to visit that place and directed that a remedial work be done.
As soon as the contractors finished that remedial work, another portion of that road collapsed and pictures were sent to my phone. My understanding is that that road was constructed sometime 20 years ago and was designed for 20 years. So the Ete – Abak road through Ekparakwa has actually lived out its lifespan and the Federal Government should intervene to reconstruct that road. More remedial activities will not really serve the purpose. We call on the federal authority to come to the aide of Akwa Ibom to be able to restore that particular road which is about 22-23km. A letter has been dispatched to the Honourable Minister Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, to come to our rescue, and we hope they will. But in the interim, His Excellency, Governor Emmanuel has also directed that we continue with the remedial intervention to keep that road in a function state.
What is the position of the Federal Government on the intervention you had on Calabar/Itu Road?
I must say very clearly that all the interventions, even the one that got approval from the immediate past government of Godswill Akpabio, which was handed to the present administration, have appeared before the House of Representatives, Senate Works Committee. We have submitted all the documents in the Ministry of Works. Governor Emmanuel said no refunds have been made to the Akwa Ibom State Government, but because our people are affected, he has continued in the intervention. If he doesn’t do it, it is Akwa Ibom people that suffer.
His focus is ‘what can I do to ensure that my people do not suffer unduly’, and I tell you he has been doing that.
The state government is owed N140 billion, are you sure the federal government will pay this money?
The federal government should pay because Akwa Ibom State happens to be about one of the few states that met all the criteria before intervention on a federal road. All documentations and every requirement were met. When I appeared before the joint committee of Works, House of Reps and Senate, they told me that if they were to going their sitting, Akwa Ibom was overqualified to receive the money. So I believe that the federal government, by our law, should be able to do the needful. There are policies and His Excellency, Governor Emmanuel, is doing his best.
When you were given this appointment, you might have been told in the letter that is a political appointment. What is your current situation and relationship with the former governor? People say you are fighting the former governor and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio…
That is absolutely false. Those propagating those falsehoods should be able to come forward and be very specific in the story. Sen. Godswill Akpabio is our leader and I have absolutely no basis for this kind of confrontation. I speak with Senator Akpabio on a regular intervals and he tells us to go ahead with what we are doing. I don’t know where that story came but I think it might come from idle-minded people – those who don’t have work to do. For those of us who have what to do, I think we should go ahead with what are supposed to be doing.
If I had issues with Senator Akpabio, I’m sure the individuals should be to come out to the media and be very specific in what the issues are.
I thought you were going to ask me how I step on toes by pulling down houses in the cause of road construction and then I will give you an explanation why I stepped on those toes; and that by virtue of my assignment, I don’t have a choice than stepping on those toes.
Sen. Godswil Obot Akpabio was the former governor. I’m yet to be a governor, so I don’t see what would bring me into confrontation with the former governor. My job is to support His Excellency, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, to discharge, preserve dividends of democracy to Akwa Ibom people, not to go about confronting people.
I want to announce to Akwa Ibom people that His Excellency has had no issue with Sen. Godswil Akpabio, and those of us he appointed to assist him carry out this assignment of providing dividends of democracy to Akwa Ibom people, our job is to follow that schedule strictly. If you would tell me that I have insisted in altering some dynamics in the way things are done in the Ministry of Works, I would say ‘yes’. Because I will be answerable to God, the Governor and Akwa Ibom people. If I insist on a slight difference on how things should be done, I don’t see how that has got anything to with my former governor, my leader – someone that I have a lot respect for.
So I think it is a story of idle-minded people, and as long as we are working, they will keep on talking. Our job is to keep on working and let them keep on doing the talking. But whenever they think they have instructions on what to say, let them come out and be very specific that ‘this is what Akparawa Ephraim Inyang-Eyen said or did against the former governor’, and we will take it from there. But for today, I want to tell you that my job and assignment is to make sure His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel, has got some things to show Akwa Ibom people.
We elected him Governor. The policy, he made. My job is to follow up and interpret his dreams in terms of infrastructure that he promised Akwa Ibom people, not to go about and play a careless politics. It will be wrong from those of us coming behind the leaders to go about insulting them and making uncomplimentary remarks against them.
My understanding of it is that Chief Idongesit Nkanga, will be wrong for any Akwa Ibom son to see him in whatever circumstance, and begin to make uncomplimentary remarks against him. My elder brother works with Obong Victor Attah, no matter the circumstance, we could discuss but not to go about insulting people who are ahead of you.
We have discovered some improprieties in the Ministry of Works that you are going against Akpabio’s boys…
I don’t know what they mean by Akpabio’s boys, because if you look at it carefully, the Senate Minority Leader appointed Mr. Udom Emmanuel as his Secretary to the State Government and worked for him till he emerged as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. That cannot be taken away. When people are talking, I don’t the use of their language, but by the little English language that I understand, someone who has assisted you in the process of you becoming what you become, you are supposed to be his boy. So I don’t know who is saying the Akpabio’s boys. I think it is the idleness of those guys who have got not much work to do, and have decided to create issues where there are none.
Even if I was to see anything in the Ministry of Works, I am supervised by the Governor of this state. I’m not working under EFCC or ICPC. So my job is that if I see something, I report to my boss. I don’t have the final say. Let me be frank with you, I’ve not found anything that should be for EFCC or ICPC. What we do is, in the continuous process of working, we could have complaints and issues and we quickly sort them out.
I granted an interview to the Inspirational FM about two months ago where I said Udo Udoma, a wonderful road played; IBB, beautiful road played, but there were omissions in those designs – there were no side drains. We are having gory flood in Uyo and people are complaining. I said to them that these errors in these designs had to be corrected first.
People thought we would go to IBB not minding the cost of doing underground drainage and tell Akwa Ibom people that their problems were solved. Governor Emmanuel insisted that we do a holistic review of what the problems are and what I found was what I said. Every road constructed in this rain forest including Akwa Ibom, all must have side drainage for the purpose of water collection and channelization before we consider discharge. Governance is not based on lies. If you are a leader and the people have entrusted leadership in your hand, and you think that you have to lie to them; that can be for a short season. You will fail because the lies will fall apart.
What we have chosen to do in this government, the Governor exhibits that people think the way they are. He has gotten to World Bank who wants to partner with us on the flood situation in Uyo, and I’m saying that even if they come with all their resources to support the state government, it will still take a while because we have to go back to Udo Udoma and do side drains to IBB.
It was taken out of context by the idle people, and they went back to the former governor and said I said that he constructed substandard roads. How could I, a public servant, by the little I know, say that the roads constructed by the last administration were substandard? Are Udo Udoma and IBB substandard roads? Incidentally, it was the government before the immediate past that constructed Udo Udoma.
It is widely stipulated that you are very stubborn and not ready to compromise. What angle of compromise have you been approached on?
Well, I don’t know what they mean by refusing to compromise, but let me state here that I was brought here by His Excellency to safe the Akwa Ibom people. Anything anyone wants me to do that is in the interest of Akwa Ibom people, be rest assured that in the day, in the night, I will do it. But if it is outside the interest of Akwa Ibom people, I will not be able to do. The danger is this, when the ships are down and you are confronted publicly with these issues, probably the same people that asked you to do it are the same people that will deny you. The question of compromise is out of the way. I will not do what I cannot defend before God and Akwa Ibom people.
Politics is about governance, it is about doing what is right in the interest of the majority. If I know that a road will be created where people will benefit from it, my job is to fight for that not to tender, because a few individuals are interested in diverting the road, I should divert it now. I discovered in the public office, if you are not able to have clean hands, you will not be able to get the job done. If you give contractors job and begin to take back what you’ve given to them from doing that job, how will you be able to get them to do the specification?
When we came, there were fears in some quarters about indigenous contractors. I have said it before and I’m saying it again that indigenous contractors use the same equipment and manpower as the foreign contractors. If you give them the same resources, they could deliver if only you give them the liberty to have the funds they were given. Almost all the jobs that were delivered – Mkpok/Okat, Ikot Udom, Information Drive and other roads were done by indigenous contractors.
The interest of Akwa Ibom is the priority here. If you are working against the interest of the greater majority, which is the interest of the state, then count me out because I am determined. I was called to service for Akwa Ibom people and that I want to do with the best of my ability.
Both you and the Honourable Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akan Okon, have been described as the very strong disciples of Mr Udom Emmanuel who advise the Governor not to give out money to people. These are allegations even though we don’t believe it but we have to bring them to your notice. Is it true?
Where is the money in the first instance? The state is not even having the resources sufficient to pay salaries. So when people are talking about giving out money, the question would be ‘oh you are telling that Governor Udom gives out money to people, give it to me’. Is it then right that he is not giving to people? If there were any such advice, it could have been ‘ok give it to us’. That story is actually one of the empty stories.
Let me say this, sometimes people make me believe that they don’t even understand the Governor they have. Governor Udom Emmanuel is one person I’ve related with over the years. He has capacity, mentally. There is nothing you will tell him that he will not turn in his mind and feel satisfied as a person. He is not somebody who you will just tell stories and he buys into. He is one man you cannot blackmail. If you tell him a story about somebody, he will do his findings and tells you that you were wrong.
Governor Emmanuel is one of the governors in Nigeria who picks his calls directly. The elders and youths of this state do call him. There are several text messages by people that he would forward to you. The only advice you can give to him is progressive advice, not things of scattering. If you go to him and bring a good idea that will actually add value to his administration, he will listen to you, but the moment you go him about people, from the beginning of your story, you’ve lost out. He will pick up his phone and start working away, meaning that he has discharged you.
People say one of the things that attract huge criticisms in your ministry is that you personally blocked those ‘holes’ that used to get people what is called ‘egun je’…
The truth of the matter is that I’ve come with a passion to ensure that things are done right. There are three ways I will answer that question. Firstly, the resources are not there, and even the little that we have, we if start it that way, we stand to lose, and Akwa Ibom people will take on the Governor for meeting up the policies he gave them at the campaigns.
Secondly, it could be sad when you sell out your right like Esau did to Jacob because of porridge of yam. The truth of the matter remains that if you are a supervisor of people, you cannot supervise them when you have compromised. What I’m simply telling the ministry is that we are supervisors to all the contractors appointed by government and we must keep our integrity intact so that when we give instructions, they will obey. I was brought to serve, not to collect ‘egun je’.
Lastly and very important, the greater interest of our people becomes paramount in what you seem to do and you are doing. If a few people will hinder the progress of work in the Ministry, and hinder the effort of the Governor, and I was sent there to supervise that place and I am silent, it won’t be good enough. Let me tell you this story, we brought in some investors, I think apart from Lagos State, there is no road where you have investors, but it is live and direct in Akwa Ibom. I took two of those investors to the Governor and I was very impressed when he interacted with them. And one of them stood and said he had just one comment to make. He said that since he came and processed his documents to the day he signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), nobody has held his documents on the table asking for anything in any form, which is impossible in any ministry in other places.
That was sufficient for me to go home with. That was more than money. So to me, it is to open up our state where investors can come do business at a global standard. Nigeria has been downgraded in global business environment – 127 out 177 nations of the world – a very poor rating. It means that out of 177 nations doing business, less than 55 of them would want to do business in Nigeria while 127 would go to other nations ahead of us. To me, we have to make conscious efforts to allow the business environment become decent.
Have you ever been tempted in a situation where someone would say sign this let’s get some money and I’m going to give you part of it?
I don’t think anybody will have the courage to walk up to me sign this and take this. I didn’t come to the state hungry. I came to the state from a well-paid job – a job that I was exposed. Believe me, if you come to my office negotiate a compromise with me, even if the Governor gives you the contract, I will beg him that you are not worthy of doing that contract.