Mr Ini Ememobong, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Akwa Ibom State, (middle) flanked by his counterparts from the Ministries of Agriculture, Dr Offiong Offor (left), Works and Fire Service, Prof Eno Ibanga, at an inter-ministerial briefing.

By: Israel Umoh

The two-day inter-ministerial briefing which featured public engagements and enlightenment on government programmes and activities may have come and gone but its widespread impact remains a subject of continuous discourse.

Tagged: Tracking the Promise, the event was held at the ambient Emerald Event Centre, along Four Lanes, Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital between Wednesday, March 15 and Thursday, March 16, 2023. Its strategic timing, close to the Governorship/House of Assembly elections in the country was not lost on State government watchers.

By the time the event got underway on the opening day, participants were left in no doubt that the organisers: the state Ministry of Information and Strategy had its right foot forward. Commissioners from three Ministries : Works and Fire Service; Agriculture, Labour and Manpower Planning featured while the Commissioners, Ministries of Health, and Economic Development were observers.

By 10 a.m. the guests had arrived at the venue. Some staffers of the ministry armed with registration materials registered invited guests comprising selected members of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Medical Association (NBA), Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and royal fathers.

Others were members of such socio-cultural groups as the Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, Ati Annang, Oro Development Union and the Afiwad Ekid, Ibiono Ibom Welfare Development Union (IWADU), National Youth Council, National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) and Civil Society Organisations, among others.

As the eight-year-old administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel winds up, there arose the need to bring to the table such calibre of personalities to build confidence and address gaps (where any)in the outgoing government.

The tone setting by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong gave the required direction for activities in the well-attended parley.

Cerebral Ememobong welcomed the guests and said the briefing was put up to create a common ground between the media, civil society and professional bodies.

The Commissioner urged the public to forge a partnership that would support greater pathways for good governance, and tasked stakeholders to share ideas and visions that would build on the legacies of the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration.

“We have come to share a common ground and interface. This platform offers us as a people to share and seek new ways that would enhance good governance in Akwa Ibom State,” the Commissioner said.

He stated that the event was a measure to clear and refute negative notions on some activities and projects of government.

The Commissioner said the Akwa Ibom State government has opened up flanks for public engagements and clarification on issues by kick-starting the Inter-Ministerial briefing.

Oratorical gifted Ememobong said it became necessary to sensitise the public on the true position of government’s projects, programmes and activities, in order to put paid to some nagging and negative stories being peddled against government by some cynics and unscrupulous members of the public.

The Information helmsman expressed with displeasure that, after seven and half years of governance with numerous achievements in all sectors, some sordid and disparaging news items still cropped up, which negate the true position of the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration.

“We have therefore brought every section of the Society together here to find out the reason the stories and reports sent out do not correspond with we have on ground in the State.

“Governor Udom Emmanuel has constructed numerous roads in the State, such as the Uyo-Etinan-Ndon Eyo Road, including the Ikot Oku Ikono flyover, but someone will write that there is no road in Akwa Ibom State,” he pointed out.

Echoes of Akwa Ibom inter-ministerial parley A cross section of traditional rulers at the event.

The Information boss who welcomed all to the briefing session hinted that, the inter-Ministerial briefing would be carried out in a series, assuring that the programme would be regular to further the assessment of government performance in key sectors in the State.

According to him, Season 1 had three Ministries namely Agriculture, Labour and Manpower Planning as well as Works and Fire Service would feature. Day 2 would also have three Ministries while others will come after the Governorship Poll on Saturday, March 18.

He, therefore, urged the participants drawn from Labour organizations, Professional bodies, Traditional institutions, Religious bodies, Women and Youth groups to openly ask questions for clarification on any sector during the two days confab.

In his well-rendered lecture, Peter Esuh, Dean, Communication and Media studies, University of Uyo, animated the guests with the topic: Governance, Transparency and Responsibility.

He bisected Governance into a nine- plank system: Ethics, Responsibility, Accountability and Equity. Others are: Responsiveness, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Rule of Law and Participation.

Esuh, a professor asserted that Accountability in governance is necessary as it entails the presentation of scorecard by leaders in government while Transparency is an element of good governance which focuses on the sharing of information that must be timely, vibrant, relevant, accurate and complete to the public by government.

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The university don noted that Responsibility is very critical in governance as it entails reliability and the practice of rendering service to the people as required including: oversight functions, Strategic planning, decision making, financial report and must always be accompanied with an element of accountability.

He explained that Transparency is the sharing of information, adding that such information must be timely, vibrant, relevant, accurate and complete. “The masses need to know what the government is doing,’’ Esuh intoned.

On Responsibility, the Dean saw it as an element of Government and exemplifies reliability and the practices of rendition of all that we do as a state. Which include oversight function, strategic planning, decision making and financial report which should follow the elements of Accountability.’’

To Esuh, accountability is the process of disseminating accurate information while responsiveness is the risk management situation which forms the governance structure.

“A good government will not allow its citizens to perish. We could recalled the COVID 19 pandemic, Flooding and erosion IBB and it environ our state Governor Mr Udom Emmanuel responded well,’’ he added.

Day One of the Inter-Ministerial Briefing fitting captured by online writers as Season One featured three commissioners: the Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Offiong Offor; Commissioner for Labour and Man Power Planning, Elder Aniefiok Nkom and Commissioner for Works and Fire Service, Prof. Eno Ibanga.

Briefing the guests, Ibanga said the government is not relenting especially on the completion of ongoing projects. “Nsit Atai–Oron Road will definitely be completed. We are running on speed and today whatever that had happened on that road, the narrative has changed,” Prof Ibanga assured.

“This government is firm on delivering good roads so it has terminated and re-awarded contracts because of non-performance. We have terminated up to five major contracts because this government wants to meet deadlines. At the speed we are running, these roads will be completed.”

“Besides connecting the rural areas to the urban cities through major roads, the administration has also constructed internal roads in almost all the local government areas and the hinterlands are booming with trade and other economic activities.

Though the Commissioner could not convince the audience on the reason government does not announce figures on projects contracts, he assured that “the state government is committed to completing all ongoing projects before the end of the administration in May.”

Shortly after, he Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Offiong Offor, entered the ring to give the service account of her ministry.

“Governor Udom Emmanuel, within the last seven years plus, has explored many ways in pursuing the twin agenda of job creation and poverty alleviation and one of such ways has through agriculture. The administration consciously provided strategic support to farmers in the state to boost the agricultural sector and under the current administration. The state has made major breakthroughs in the production of cash crops like rice, cocoa.’’

According to her, “the government has supported farmers in the state through donation of seedlings, funding and access to farmlands. With the greenhouse located within the Victor Attah International Airport, the administration lifts up to 50-60 tonnes of vegetables like cucumber, pepper, tomatoes and onions daily and retail them at subsidised prices.

“The establishment of agricultural-based factories for production of agricultural products like rice mill, coconut oil refinery, fertiliser blending plant, etc have added significantly to the employment statistics of the state.

In response to a question, Offor said, “The producers of Family Rice are still producing rice. They buy from rice farmers in Ini but they also source outside Ini because farmers there cannot meet up with production demand.

“Another thing is that farmers have a mindset of sticking to a particular variety of crop they are used to and we are trying to introduce them to other varieties because rice is one area we have comparative advantage in. His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel has also been supporting farmers in every planting season with input, access to land, and funding.’’

However, the Agriculture Commissioner said ‘‘The Greenwell Fertiliser Plant in Abak was built to have an annual production capacity of 400,000 metric tons and the capability to blend assorted and multi-purpose types of fertiliser. Findings reveal that the Plant has staff strength of 30 who are all indigenes of Akwa Ibom. Reacting to a question on the present condition of the plant, Dr Offor, during the inter-ministerial briefing, confirmed that the plant was still blending fertiliser but only on demand due to high cost of raw materials and production.

“The GreenWell Fertilizer Plant in Abak is still very much working and production is based on demand. People make their demands and it is produced”, she said. “The reason for this is due to the heavy costs in production and to avoid waste as a result of over production. There is even a Public Private Partnership in ensuring that the place moves on well.”

During the turn of Labour and Manpower Planning Ministry, its Commissioner Elder Aniefiok Nkom, explained that the driving vision of the state government has been to ensure cordial relations between workers and employers in the public and private sectors of the state, as well as ensure that the state has efficient manpower resources.

“In achieving the former, the Udom Emmanuel administration has been resolute in providing good working conditions for workers in the state while prioritising their welfare and well-being. For the latter, the government has not compromised its stance on merit in all her recruitment exercises.

“These were all attested to by, while responding to questions during the inter-ministerial briefing. He disclosed that the state government has so far trained about 200 youths in ICT and supported them with startup packs.’’

Elder Nkom added that the government in partnership with the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) has trained about 500 youths in ICT development with start-up packs aid.

Nkom went ahead to dismiss allegations of racketeering in the state government’s recruitment exercises and assured that the Udom Emmanuel’s administration will never compromise its stand on merit.

He noted that government has made strategic and dedicated investments in developing the state’s manpower, because the people are the most valuable development resource.

“With the number of people we have trained and supported to have an economic enterprise, we are conscious of the fact that these enterprise owners stand on their own; they could contribute to growing the economy of our state.

“Our motivation in investing in Labour and Manpower Development is that government investments in this sector can have enormous powers to unlock economic benefits for the people and subsequently for the government.”

The impressive outing by both Ministries during the inter-ministerial briefing was a further proof of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s commitment to the growth and development of the state and his determination to leave the state better than he met it.

The Paramount Ruler of Ibesikpo Asutan, Edidem Clement Francis Ekpenyong III, held the audience with his brilliant elocution when he said among other comments that, ‘This is Akwa Ibom State and we have seen many roads but so many people will be asking what about the rural areas? We believe that when they are done at the town areas, they will come to our side.

“I thank the Government for the basic infrastructure and the peace being enjoyed in the state. One can sleep in their homes without much thinking about their safety. We hope that this should continue,’’ the Paramount Ruler concluded.

Edidem Sylvanus Okon, the Paramount Ruler of Uyo, was not left out in the discussion. “This briefing has clearly enlightened the public on what some people may not have known. I thank Governor Udom Emmanuel for the things he has done to better the lot of the people of the State. However, this kind of programme should be carried out regularly so that the people can follow the activities and projects of the government as they happen till they reach completion,” he said.

Barrister Sembenghe Ekanem, the representative of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Akwa Ibom State Branch commended the Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong for acquitting his role creditably with the successful hosting of the Inter-Ministerial briefing, describing him as a faithful servant while the President of the Akwa Ibom Youth Council, Barr. Theodore Williams lauded the pace-setting characteristics of the state Information helmsman and said he was a role model for the Youths.

From the media community, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council, Comrade Amos Etuk and the Chairman, State Correspondents Chapel, Comrade Idongesit Ashameri, the duo who moderated the event, lauded the state government’s scorecard on the different sectors through the commissioners of relevant ministries and thanked the planning committee for a well-organised inter-ministerial briefing,

Among royal fathers in attendance were Akuku (Engr) Amos Daniel Akpan, Ukanafun Paramount Ruler; Obong Okon Udo Ukut, and Paramount Ruler of Ikot Ekpene.

The curtain of Season One fell at 3 p.m. for the echoes to continue on Thursday, March 16 for another set of guests from different professional bodies and traditional institution

The event kept track of the development strides of the Completion Agenda of Governor Udom Emmanuel in eight years further gas lighted the shortcomings of the administration in failing to meet targets and achieve results.

While setting the tone for the event, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong stated that since assumption of office in 2015, Governor Udom Emmanuel administration has vigorously pursued multi-sectoral development and intervention programmes on all fronts which is why there is a need for citizens to be updated and also feel their pulse on government’s efforts.

“This Inter-Ministerial briefing is to enable us get feedbacks from you on behalf of the public.”

Ememobong maintained that the present administration is driven by the knowledge that one of the hallmarks of good governance is constantly providing valuable information on policies, actions and interventions of government to the citizenry.

This, he said, has been one of the commitments of Governor Udom Emmanuel.

The Coordinating Commissioner reiterated that the parley which gears at keeping the governed in pace with the government on activities and programmes would run in seasons with the next edition scheduled to hold after the governorship election.

Day Two featured the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Augustine Vincent Umoh; Commissioner for Special Duties and Ibom Deep Seaport, Engr Bassey Okon, PhD; Commissioner for Economic Development, Mr Emem Bob and the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Mr Camillus Umoh also attended the briefing session.

To underscore the importance of the event, Dr Happiness Uduk, Chairperson of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Uyo Chapter, gave a thought-provoking piece on Leadership, Service, and Accountability.

Dr. Uduk described leadership, service, and accountability as essential ingredients for effective leadership, preferring the servant leader approach, which places others higher than self.

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She lamented that when she sees citizens suffering, she wonders if these are the leaders that Nigerians put in place to serve them, expressing her dismay about the continuous naira scarcity in the country which caused her to question whether the policymakers consider the impact of their policies on the citizens.

The ASUU Chairperson said that she weeps in her heart whenever she buys money in Nigeria, referring to the scarcity of naira notes that forces people to buy them at a higher rate from vendors.

“When I walk around and see citizens suffering, I wonder if these are the leaders we put in place to serve us. In the last two months, we all had to buy money. I don’t know if you have bought money too. Have you? Did you have a reason to buy money? I buy it sometimes and every other day.”

Drawing from the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, Dr. Uduk stressed the need for unity and oneness, stating that with unity, there is nothing that people cannot achieve.

She stressed that leadership is not just about one person but about everybody. She referenced the South African adage, Ubuntu, which translates to “because you are, I am,” and urged Nigerians to embrace the “Ubuntu spirit” where everyone works together for the common good, just like the South African children who held hands and moved towards the tree to share a packet of sweets.

Dr. Uduk shared a story about a blind friend who turned on the light for his sighted visitor even though he didn’t need the light as a blind person. She urged leaders to leave the “light” on for others who need it. She called on Nigerian leaders to be accountable and provide the kind of leadership that puts the strongest at the back, pushing the feeble up.

The ASUU Chairperson reminded the audience that two things are crucial for leadership: integrity and strategy. And if one should sacrifice any, it should not be integrity. She also added that leadership is followership, and followership is leadership, and urged the people and the leaders to embrace the Ubuntu spirit and work together towards achieving a better Nigeria.

The Health Commissioner, Prof. Augustine Umoh, said through the state government’s massive investment in the health sector, healthcare services in the state is very affordable.

“The cost of healthcare is very high around the world, but through the state government’s intervention in the sector, the state has tried so much to make healthcare affordable and very accessible to everyone,” Prof Umoh said. “We keep the cost of services as low as possible in Akwa Ibom State and we will even do more this with your help.”

Answering questions concerning key areas in his sector, he stated that one of the first things Governor Emmanuel did in the health sector was to renovate St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua to service Uyo Local Government Area in addition to the teaching hospital adding that state government has employed 315 junior staff to fill in the vacancies available in the health sector and has provided funds for Primary Health Care centres across the state.

“At least, one secondary health Facility has been renovated and equipped in each of the senatorial districts to provide more health care services for the people,” the Commissioner said.

In his remarks, the Commissioner for Special Duties and Ibom Deep Seaport, Engr. Bassey Okon stated that the Maintenance Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Victor Attah International Airport, VAIA is at 95% completion and will be commissioned before the end of this administration.

Speaking on the 21-storey building, Engr. Okon stated that Savannah Energy, an oil and Gas company is moving in by next month adding that within the 21 storey tower, there is work going on with the immigration service who have requested for a security stand post where expatriates within the state will do their passport.

The Commissioner for Economic Development, Mr. Emem Bob expressed delight at the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration which, he said, has opened the economy for both local and international investors which has been made possible by the infrastructure on ground including peace, security, aviation, health-care, among others.

He scored Governor Udom Emmanuel administration high in Human Capacity Development which is in line with the Completion Agenda of Governor Udom Emmanuel in almost eight years.

The interactive sessions had goodwill messages from the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), National Youth Council, socio-cultural organizations like Afigh Iwad Ekid, IWADU, Oron Union, Mboho Mkparawa Ibibio, Civil Society Organizations, online practitioners, political parties, the Church and the traditional institution.

Apparently, some key stakeholders on Day 2 of the Inter-Ministerial Briefing unanimously declared that the last seven plus years of the Udom Emmanuel administration have yielded tremendous achievements in key sectors of the State’s economy. These have boosted livelihoods and upped living standards of the people.

They commended the Commissioner of Information and Strategy for his ingenuity in putting together an impressive multi-sectoral briefing adding that the briefing should be consistent since it is an avenue for updating the masses on the programmes and policies of government.

Such royal fathers as Edidem Ita Okokon, Paramount Ruler of Okobo; Ofong Odiong E. Akan, Paramount Ruler of Oron; Akuku Saviour Sylvester Udofia, Paramount Ruler of Abak; Edidem Udoette Edon, Paramount Ruler of Ini and Obong Etim Nna Itang, Paramount Ruler of Ikono Local Government Area graced the occasion.

Weeks after rounding off of the event, many attendees have continued to shower praises on Akwa Ibom State Government through the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Ini Ememobong for mounting the parley which served as an eye opener to the relationship between the government and the governed.

The historic event is winning strategy of the present administration and has helped to erase suspicions and doubts about the government’s direction and policies. When will another be held? This is the question on the lips of many as the briefing keeps resonating in the minds of the people.