Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, speaks with TONY ANICHEBE on Governor Udom Emmanuel’s efforts at making life more meaningful for citizens, among other challenges. Excerpts…
What is the government doing to impact the people’s welfare?
The government has departed from the era of money sharing to equipping people for a decent living. People are now trained and empowered to earn a decent living. For instance, when I go to my village, I made it clear that I have no free money to share but for those who are genuinely interested in doing one trade or the other we give support.
Those who want to manage small businesses to help themselves and their families, we support them and most of them are now comfortable as breadwinners.
I want to encourage our people to know that money given out is to be invested in profitable ventures to earn a decent living. This does not stop us from assisting people when the need arises but somebody must be doing a job or trade which puts three square meal on his table.
But to sit and wait for free money under the present economic challenges is not a good way to live.
You recently came hard on sand dredgers in the state, why?
Sand dredging is a major problem confronting us as a people and our people do it out of ignorance not knowing that they are destroying their environment and the economy of the state.
When I and the Commissioner for Environment moved to stop the disaster, people said a lot of things and when we pulled back, we received more than 167 letters form communities seeking for help from sand dredgers. What facilities do I have to intervene in 167 communities?
The old Uyo Road done by the previous administration is suffering from the activities of sand dredgers. Dominic Utuk Street where government had spent billions of naira to restore was damaged by sand dredging.
There are many villages streams that used to be clean but now mud water as clay has taken the place of sharp sands and water now appears dark. Go to Etinan River and see the problem yourself.
After dredging in each area, development becomes more difficult. You cannot build bridges and put the colons on clay as it will shift with time and collapse. It has to stand on sand.
It happened in some communities already. I want to again advise village and clan heads who have ceded their streams and lands to the sand dredgers from our neighbouring communities to tell them to leave.
The question I always ask is that if sand dreading is good why are they not doing it in their various states of Abia, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo etc. We must not keep quiet for them to dredge sand here and destroy our rivers and environment.
Money that could have been used for industrialisation, health and education of our youths is now beign channelled to restore damaged environment. Again, I will issue a circular to construction firms working here that anybody who opens a pit for road construction and fails to restore it after work will have the Ministry of Works to contend with.
We cannot tolerate any erosion menace coming out from the pit. It must be recovered for grass to regrow. Our people must work with us to ensure that policies succeed.
What measures have you put in place to stop further sand dredging in the state?
We have done enough sensitisation on the matter from both ministries of works and environment, youths are advised to meet with their leaders in the villages to inform them too of our decision, even if it means them returning whatever they have taken from the dredgers and ask them to leave their environment. The earlier they stop the better, to see if the environment can even restore itself. People can’t be facing such danger and they are still waiting for the commissioner to visit and sensitise them on the dangers.
What is the fate of Ring Road 2 and 3 which had been on the drawing board since the creation of the state?
Ring Road 2, being handled by Qumecs is almost ready with tremendous progress of work so far done. Ring Road 2 is about 3.5km and will be ready by May 29th this year. A new contractor had been given the job of Ring Road 3, which is 9.5km from Aka-Nungudo Road up to Nwaniba Road axis. The two ring roads were before now only earmarked for construction until the present government took it on.
The Ring Road 3, which starts from Aka Road end of Jonathan Boulevard will terminate in Nwaniba Road and will be done in 12 months within the lifespan of this administration’s first term.
I want to appeal to our people, if your local government has not been touched, and you have seen the tremendous efforts of the governor so far, then rest assured that it will get to your domain.
All you need to do is, get your PVC and give him a fresh term of four years and when he returns, definitely, he will redouble his present efforts. He will be returning as an expert not coming to learn the ropes.
Any part of the state that is yet to benefit will soon benefit like the present interventions in Uyo. There are places I got to and was told that they never believed road construction will get there prompting them to build septic tanks on the road. This government is ready to build a solid foundation for a new face of Akwa Ibom State.
We are working without segregation or discrimination, you don’t need to visit me or know anybody in government to benefit. We go round and when we see need for intervention in any area, I take the matter to the governor who most times approve. The intervention on our roads cannot be done in one day so it is a continuous process. Urueffong Oruko, Ukanafun, Ikot Abasi will all benefit too.
What is happening to Nung Udoe/ Afaha Offong Road criss-crossing Ibesikpo and Nsit Ibom areas
Let me put it this way, we want to take one road in Nsit Ibom first, which is 12:15km Enen Nsit Road. The governor, few days ago asked me to flag off, that road on his behalf.
The road criss-cross about eight communities and as I speak, job is ongoing on that road. So, Afaha Offong road will equally be done but with the resources available now concentration will be on the Enen Nsit before others will be considered.
Streetlighting issues appear unabated, what is the government doing to solve the problem?
Our roads supposed to migrate from a conventional street lightning using generators to solar powered streetlight. The present government inherited solar powered streetlight along the axis of the New Stadium and between Ikot Oku Ikono and Abak among other areas, but people in connivance with some traders from neighbouring environment have stolen all of them.
We fixed them up with the N30 million approved by the governor, fixing all within the metropolis up to the old township stadium for the then 2016 Christmas Carol evet, but one week after that ceremony they were stolen again.
We got the police empowered with vehicles to track-down the hoodlums and some people were arrested. Most of the poles were brought down and the batteries stolen.
The areas of the city in darkness today ought not be if our people do not collaborate to vandalise the public light because strangers cannot just come in, steal and go scot free.
Our people are not protecting government’s property, forgetting that we are all government. Today, I am the commissioner and may leave any time for someone else because it is not a permanent seat.
The money belongs to Akwa Ibom people and only managed today by Emmanuel as the governor. Look at the Airport Road lights, they were all vandalised prompting the governor to call in people to return the solar panel lights to conventional ones which we are supposed to be migrating from. Now even the conventional lights have their own problem with people siphoning the diesel in the generators.
So, you see a generator that ought to work from 6pm to 6am stopping by 1am because of diesel theft. Now when we discovered that they were draining the diesel and tried finding a permanent solution to the challenges they went to one of our generators at Edet Akpan Avenue and burnt it down.
You can still see that notwithstanding all these challenges that government has done a lot to improve on streetlightning but it could have been better. People don’t understand that the extra-money which is being spent to fix these would have been beneficial to them in other areas.
However, we have some residents who have sincerely protected these facilities like the people living along Abak Road to Essien Udim Council area where one of my staff who went to work on a faulty generator was arrested by the youth until he was properly identified.
If others in the state do protect government’s property the way those ones did, all our generators would have been intact. Government is spending so much on streetlightning and I am appealing to the people that the generators on the road belong to them not to me or the governor.
We are here for a time and season to manage the things on their behalf. So, they should protect them, arrest and handover to the police anybody found vandalising the equipment.
The big generator damaged at Edet Akpan Avenue will still be replaced because of the strategic nature of the area. There will be massive improvement on streetlightning soonest.
What are you doing to curb the menace?
We will not disclose our strategy publicly but if anybody is caught, the person would be prosecuted. Not even his paramount ruler can save him from the long arms of the law.
If anybody is caught with Ministry of Works property, you must go to court. No amount of pressure from any quarter will stop government from prosecuting the culprit.
Nobody can hold the entire state to ransom. Stealing is condemnable and even the Bible abhors it. For everybody, there is always a little job here and there to do rather than stealing. There are even menial jobs to earn income rather than stealing.
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