By Emmanuel Sam
I mentioned in the first part of this write-up that Mr Udom Gabriel Emmanuel brought his wealth of experience in corporate governance to lead Akwa Ibom State. His emergence effectively midwives a new order in public service delivery as could be seen in key sectors including education, health, security and sports.
Governor Udom Emmanuel is sufficiently committed to develop and harness the State’s rich human resource in managing the industries and other key economic sectors. He has invested heavily in the literacy of Akwa Ibom people, availing everyone the opportunity of contributing towards state development.
Upon assumption of office on May 29, 2015, the governor made it clear that his administration will place a premium on educating Akwa Ibom youth to enable them to compete favourably with their counterparts anywhere in the world. He said that in addition to upgrading the formal education sector, he will ensure that out – of – school youths are accommodated in various skills acquisition programs fashioned to transform them into key assets in his administration’s industrialisation drive.
Soon afterwards, Akwa Ibom State Government set out to boost the state’s Oracle IT skills pool by training more than 1000 youths via the Oracle University Workforce Development Program (WDP). This was immediately followed in December 2015, by a micro-work training for the youth in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. It is common knowledge that for each industry established in the state, Governor Emmanuel ensures that indigenes are trained to manage them.
Often, the governor talks about the strategic importance of driving development through qualitative education. In achieving this, his administration has taken a holistic approach to improving the free and compulsory education policy. Now, highly motivated teachers impart knowledge in a very conducive learning environment and students are eager to attend classes because of improved infrastructure.
Aside from regular and prompt payment of salary to teachers, Governor Emmanuel has ensured the timely release of subvention to motivate teachers. In order to reduced the student-teacher ratio for a stress-free interaction, about 4800 teachers have been added to the personnel pool. There is a continuous process of targeted recruitment of qualified teachers to fill specific subject needs.
To ensure that no eligible Akwa Ibom child is deprived of the opportunity to obtain a basic educational certificate, the Emmanuel administration sustained critical financial assistance to parents and guardians by paying for examination fees. Approximately, N600 million is filed out annually as examination fee for students in the State who write the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) examination and others.
So far, the administration has renovated and furnish over 100 blocks of classrooms both in public primary and secondary schools while improving ancillary infrastructure such as internal roads, laboratories, lecture theatres, libraries in state-owned tertiary institutions including state-owned College of Education, Afaha Nsit; Akwa Ibom State University, Ikot Akpaden; Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua; College of Health Technology, Etinan; and the College of Arts and Science, Nung Ukim. This is in addition to the opening of two new command schools.
The recent successful hosting of the first Akwa Ibom State Education Summit, which was attended by over 3000 stakeholders, proves that Governor Emmanuel is keen on securing a good future for the education sector in the State. The event which provided a platform to brainstorm on several issues including bettering the quality of education in Akwa Ibom was rightly concluded with the governor constituting a technical committee in education to review the recommendations of the summit with the aim of restructuring the education system in the State.
Emmanuel’s intervention in the State’s health sector saved Akwa Ibom from being badly hit by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus ravaging the world.
The governor embarked on rehabilitation of secondary health facilities across the state with such energy and consistency that baffled even his critics. With a simple message: Health is Wealth, he set about transforming long-abandoned and dilapidated hospitals into functional health care centre equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, manned by motivated personnel.
Some of the medical equipment imported by the administration, which arrived the state in 50 containers include, electrocardiograph 3 Channels, colonoscopy (with halogen light), x-ray film processor, x-ray film viewer, gastroscope, operating theatre light (5-Spot light), operating table, Anastasia trolley with ventilator and monitor, syringe pump, electrosurgical units, monopolar-bipolar operating instruments, suction pump and host of other state-of-the-art equipment including CT Scanners, Surgical microscope for eyes.
The governor began his transformation of the state’s health sector with the iconic missionary hospital – St. Luke Hospital, Anua – Uyo, where he constructed and equipped a 300-bed gynaecology ward in honour of the reputable Irish Missionary, Dr. Ann Ward. From there, he undertook the rehabilitation and upgrading of several hospitals namely Etinan General Hospital, Ikot Okoro General Hospital, General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, General Hospital, Ibiaku Ntok Okpo, Emmanuel General Hospital, Eket and General Hospital, Iquita Oron.
In the same vein, Governor Emmanuel has built and equipped Comprehensive Health Centre, Awa – Onna. By so doing, he has transformed the health sector in Akwa Ibom state which was in a state of decay and improved to a great extend access to quality health care delivery, especially for rural dwellers. Before now, the sick and those seeking medical attention were mostly taken in from nooks and crannies of the state to University of UYO Teaching Hospital, UUTH whose primary objective was for referral and research.
As a result, there has been a noticeable decrease in child mortality and morbidity in pregnant mother’s, affordable health care and a healthy population. Most importantly, he has made the state a reference point in healthcare delivery and improved life expectancy of Akwa Ibom people as such many citizens of neighbouring states visited the state on medical tourism.
While appreciating the feat recorded by Governor Emmanuel, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who commissioned the rehabilitated Etinan General Hospital on September 23, 2017, said: “This is an extremely useful project, this is the type of project, I believe touches the lives of the people directly”.
In addition to upgrading secondary healthcare facilities across the state, Governor Emmanuel took a decisive step to reclaim and salvage the newly built quandary health facility – Ibom Specialist Hospital which was poorly managed by a private consortium. Since taking over, the government has transformed it into a multi-speciality health care facility with experts in various specialised health care fields working there. The facility has come in handy in the fight against COVID-19.
Governor Emmanuel complements his rehabilitation of health facilities with recruitment and training of health workers with incentives. There have been series of specialised training and certification of 100 health workers in Basic Lives Support and Advanced Cardiac Lives Support with Medical Energy Experts from the USA; Training of 20 Biomedical Engineers and agreed to regularly pay the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and CONHESS to medical and dental practitioners and nurses respectively.
The dreaded novel coronavirus pandemic met Akwa Ibom state health care system already primed and ready to take on any eventually. Already the state has attracted commendation for Nigeran Center for Disease Control, NCDC, for its remarkable efforts at containing the spread of the virus. This could only be possible through the visionary and proactive leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Prior to Emmanuel’s emergence as Governor in 2015, Akwa Ibom State was fraught with cases of insecurity . The killing spree was so visible that the state was considered a no-go-area, not only for other Nigerians but foreigners.
In 2009, according to Police report, Akwa Ibom State recorded 177 murders most of which were classified as politically motivated. In that same year, there were 62 attempted murders, one manslaughter, eight suicides, 21 attempted suicides, 320 assaults,18 child stealing, 93 rape cases and indecent assaults, 29 kidnappings among others.
There was a time in Akwa Ibom when cultism was the order of the day. Akwa Ibom youths were willing tools to fight opposing voices in the state. They were forced to accept allegiance to unknown gods for the sake of being ‘carried along’ in the power play. Politicians who longed for more political prospects were not spared from being forced to accept unholy union with some ungodly powers then.
A new Akwa Ibom State began when Governor Udom Emmanuel was ushered into the seat of Hill Top Mansion as the 4th civilian Governor of the state on May 29, 2015. His coming was greeted with joy following his antecedent as a man who loves God.
What has kept the coming of Governor Emmanuel unique in the annals of the state is the sustained peace upon the State which has transcended into every sector.
That Akwa Ibom State today is referred to as Nigeria’s peace model State with an ambience that has given the people new hope can be attributed to the peaceful disposition of Governor Emmanuel. This rightly endorses the popular adage, “where there is a man of peace there must be peace.”
It was in view of this peaceful aura that the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Jamil Sarham described Akwa Ibom as most peaceful State among the 36 states with the lowest crime rate. The Army General did not hesitate to commend the Governor and the people of the state for the peaceful co-existence.
On 16 March, 2020, Governor Emmanuel’s leadership put a death knell to secret cult, societies and groups promoting violent behaviours in Akwa Ibom State as Governor Udom Emmanuel signed into law the Cultism and Other Violent Behaviour (Prohibition) Order, 2020 for the state. By this new law, 65 cult groups were proscribed.
Reiterating his administration’s commitment to maintaining the state’s record in safety, security and investor -friendliness, as well as ensuring a future for the Akwa Ibom youth, the Governor said the new law was expanded to cover components not covered in the previous law.
According to the Governor, “Cultism and Other Violent Behavior(Prohibition) Order, 2020, in the exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 70 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap. 38, Vol. 2, Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000 and all other powers enabling me in that behalf, I, Mr Udom Emmanuel, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria do hereby make the following – order 1. (1): the cults, societies and groups listed herein are hereby declared unlawful and forthwith proscribed in Akwa Ibom State”.
The Governor has invested in state security architecture. More than once, he has donated patrol vehicles to the Akwa Ibom State Police Command to enable their personnel carry out effective monitoring of the state. Still, on surveillance, the administration of Udom Emmanuel has erected Hi-Tech CCTVs at strategic locations along with entry points to the state. This enables the administration and relevant security agencies to have 24/7 surveillance on who enters the state. These digital surveillance comes in handy in the current fight against COVID-19, where state government monitors people and vehicles trying to come into the state.
Governor Emmanuel has made remarkable success in sports. Through sports, the Governor has been able to halt crime and open doors of employment opportunities to the youths.
The administration is building sporting centres in the 10 federal constituencies of the state. Already, two of such centres have been completed and put to use in Uyo and Onna Local Government Areas of the state.
It was against this backdrop that the first Akwa Ibom youth sports festival 2017 organised by the state government involving students and pupils from the 31 local government areas of the state was held.
The governor has said repeatedly that sporting business is a goldmine that is yet to be fully developed.
“So, beyond the story of (our sports) festival, our youths should be launched to the glory of the money-spinning venture of sports. We know that the secret of the Lionel Messis, the Christiano Ronaldos, the Serena Willaims, the Usain Bolts and other world stars, is hidden, first and foremost, in early exposure to world-class facilities, particularly at an early age. So, this catch-them-young initiative is well situated.”
“Yes, that is not impossible. It is a fruit we will not just pluck or pick by mere wishful thinking, we are planting the seeds on fertile grounds today, we will water the tree tomorrow, and with God, we will reap the fruits in the future. Your attitude will either hasten the ripening process of that cherished fruit or render the harvest incomplete”, Emmanuel said.
This initiative by the state government attracted the attention of the Federal Government as the former Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung was present at the opening of the youth sports festival where he pledged that the Federal Government would support the Akwa Ibom State in its renewed efforts to develop sports and discover talents saying that there is the need to bring back grassroots sports.
It was based on the numerous investment in sports that the federal government through the Federal Ministry of Sports selected Akwa Ibom State as the recipient of three awards in its honours’ list; sports infrastructural development, sports development and best-supporting state for the Super Eagles. The awards were in recognition of the role the state played in providing sports infrastructure, grassroots sports development and providing the platform for the qualification of the Super Eagles for this year’s FIFA World Cup.
It can be recalled that the Super Eagles qualified for the World Cup with a game to spare because of the logistics support by the state government.
Part of Emmanuel’s effort is that two teams from the state qualified for the finals of the FA Cup 2017. Akwa United eventually won the male version, while the female team lost on penalties to their Rivers counterpart. This shows the level of inputs the current administration has made in sports development.
For the first time in the history of the state that Akwa United represented the country in CAF Confederations Cup, and that was courtesy of the level of funding of that club by the governor .”