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Why NASS should raise Niger Delta states’ 13% derivation earnings –A/Ibom SSG

One would expect that after retiring from the civil service, you will take a long rest. What motivated you into politics? Politics is all about…

One would expect that after retiring from the civil service, you will take a long rest. What motivated you into politics?

Politics is all about service. You can count many retired permanent secretaries who are in politics today and are doing very well. The current governors of Kano, Kaduna and Niger states are examples.

While you were the commissioner for finance in the last administration, you were reported to have said that the Offshore-Onshore oil dichotomy prevented that administration from achieving much. How is the situation with this administration?

Every administration has challenges when it comes to finance. It’s a question of matching available resources against the priorities of government and the present administration has done well in that regard. The previous administration faced challenges of Offshore-Onshore struggle, especially in its 1st term, but in the 2nd term when the National Assembly did that Act which abolished the dichotomy, we were able to have the benefit of 13% derivation, especially from our offshore resources. This administration has done well because from day one, the governor had a clear vision of things.

How do you regard the 13% derivation package for the oil producing states?

The constitution says a minimum of 13%. This means the National Assembly can come up with a revenue formula higher than 13%. We hope that when the National Assembly reviews the revenue allocation formula, they will do something about the derivation percentage. Nigerians now appreciate the problems of the Niger Delta. They accept that the region which produces the bulk of the resources of the federation had a raw deal in the past, for which reason they deserve something better now.

How do you rate the level of implementation of the policy thrust of the Akwa Ibom State Government?

I am encouraged by the testimonies of outsiders who come to Akwa Ibom and openly commend the governor for what he has been doing. Just three years after Governor Akpabio took office, things have changed dramatically, starting from the mega projects he inherited from the previous administration. We must commend the governor for the maturity to complete inherited projects: the Ibom International Airport being a great example. The Le Meridian Hotel and Golf Resort are other examples. He spent close to N7billion to get the hotel fully ready. The same story applies to the Ibom Power Project (IPP) which today is 100% complete except that we have issues about transmission and distribution of the power generated from the plant which is to generate 185 mega watts.

On his own, we have invested massively on road construction to the tune of almost N200 billion both on state and federal roads. Of course, it is evident to all who come to Akwa Ibom that today, we have the best road network in the country outside Abuja. Some of the long forgotten roads which have great historical significance have been done

Why the emphasis on roads?

The entry point to development is the development of road infrastructure. You cannot talk about setting up industries or providing healthcare facilities or schools where there are no roads. When you open up the rural areas and there is easy movement of goods and people, you have already laid the foundation for development. That is why it will follow naturally that as Governor Akpabio ends his first term in office and starts his second term, the major plank of his development programme will be industrialization. By the second term he is planning to launch an industrial fund of over N50billion for the setting up of cottage industries all over the state.

Then the massive rural electrification programme. By the last count, over 800 communities have had the benefit of having electricity provided by the administration. When he took over, he directed that a study should be undertaken to determine how many communities had been connected to the national grid. That study showed that of the 2700 communities and villages in Akwa Ibom State, only 1600 have been connected to the national grid.  As I speak to you, contracts have been awarded for over 800 communities.

The governor’s plan is to ensure that by the end of his first term in office, all the communities in Akwa Ibom will have the benefit of electricity. The strategy we adopt is different. When we intervene in any local government, it is 100% coverage. This is to ensure that by May 2011, all communities will have the benefit of electricity.

In terms of human development, one defining policy has been the free and compulsory education. We have had an upsurge in the number of students who have registered. I am personally amazed; I couldn’t believe that so many of our children could not have the benefit of primary education because of fees.

If you move around the state, you would find that we have upgraded facilities in health centres: five general hospitals have been renovated, we’ve upgraded hospitals in Eket, Ikot Ekpene and other locations apart from the four new general hospitals which government is building in Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, Ukanafun and Essien Udim.

The other day, the government directed members of the cabinet to denounce cultism. What did that directive imply?

There was the allegation that the government was one of cultists. We said no. The governor came up with a hypothetical situation, saying that if we had cultists, they should renounce it if they wanted to remain in the administration. That was not an admission of cultism.

What are your challenges as the SSG?

The governor has said it often that he is in a hurry to turn things around. If you are a member of his team, you have to match his pace. We ensure that contractors are kept on their toes so that all development projects are diligently executed. I also have the responsibility to co-ordinate the activities of the various agencies. The job may be challenging but because we are getting results, it is also a very rewarding experience.

You talked about the administration’s commitment to completing inherited projects, but the Ibom Science Park is suffering.

We have issues with the contractor. The value of job done on site was not commensurate with the amount released to the contractor by the previous administration and you know the House of Assembly had set up a committee to investigate what transpired. When the report is submitted to the governor the government will take appropriate decision.

We hear of an American dream. Is there anything like Akwa Ibom dream?

As an Akwa Ibom person, I’ll like to see Akwa Ibom become a model state in Nigeria, a state that is highly industrialized, is IT-driven, where everybody will be yearning to visit, one that will lead Nigeria.

What is your message to PDP members in view of the forthcoming party primaries and general elections?

We should not be distracted by those who think they can get there by playing the ethnic card or propagating falsehood. The governor’s performance will speak for him.

Shall we talk about you, Sir? What is your philosophy?

We should do our best to add value to society through whatever we do. In our relationships, we should show integrity and have the fear of God.

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