COVID -19: Gov Emmanuel Means Well For Akwa Ibom State

… The Model Isolation Centre Will Serve Utility Medical Purposes In Future -Ephraim Inyang-eyen


* In This Emergency Situation, With Lockdown, Securing Palliatives For About 6.2 Million Is A Herculean Task

* A Critical Analysis Of Gov Emmanuel’s Administration Reveals He Is Also Building A’Ibom Beyond Today

The Akwa Ibom Governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel in his bold, decisive and commendable steps to combat the novel coronavirus coded-named Covid-19, is building a model 300-bed Isolation Centre project. The state of the art facility, expected to be ready for use in May, 2020 is situated at Methodist Hospital, Ituk Mbang in Uruan Local Government Area.

The workaholic Commissioner for Works, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-eyen is tasked with the delivery of the facility which will on completion, be the first of its kind in the State and beyond. Inyang-eyen in his usual element of taking any assignment given to him very seriously, has practically relocated to the site, working day and night to deliver the spectacular project which has an isolation hall, one-storey doctors’ quarters, laboratory, office of the chief medical director and canteen among others.

The project execution scheduled within four weeks has, like the speed of lightning, progressed remarkably with engineers, masons, technicians and other levels of personnel working diligently with high-tech equipment fully deployed to fast-tract construction.

Crystal Express visited the site to evaluate the ongoing construction and equally interfaced with the Commissioner for Works, Mr Inyang-eyen on the project.

The speed at which the Isolation Centre is being built is unprecedented. Why the hurry now?

Well to be sincere with you, the Governor wanted this project to be delivered in two weeks and exactly two weeks after, he came for inspection and saw the efforts made and gave additional two weeks which means by upper week Monday, we will deliver the project. If you look around, you will discover that the canteen, the medical director’s office and laboratory are almost ready. We have the best of the equipment and we have assembled enough materials to aid the speed. By next week, we will get enough capable carpenters to roof the isolation centre.

We are in a hurry to deliver the project. Government never anticipated a pandemic of this magnitude. Coronavirus was not in our budget but it came suddenly. And because it is a global problem confronting human race, the government of Mr. Udom Emmanuel is confronting it as an emergency situation. The speed of the developing this project is unusual as you said because the Governor has shown personal interest in the project and released the needed funds for its realization. Owing to the challenges of the lockdown, the Governor personally called his Cross River State jcounterpart to allow us access stones and granite needed for the project from Akamkpa in Cross River State. That is how serious government takes the project. This place is intended to be used as a major Isolation Centre in the state and probably the best in the country. The structures which are solidly constructed will accommodate about 300 patients with all necessary facilities inside. Everything needed to complete the project is on ground. The Governor should be back exactly in the second week from the day he visited last to receive the project and declare it open for public use.

So when exactly will the project be commissioned?

I intend to get the site ready in the next 10 days but the decision on when to commission the project is in the hands of the Governor. My own is to get the place ready while he chooses a convenient date to unveil the project. It is our decision here to work day and night to deliver as planned. We brief the Governor daily on the progress of the job. Most times pictures of different levels of work taken under floodlight at night are sent to him.

Could we say that the pandemic has forced government all over the world to see need to build and equip the health sectors now?

Something must always get human beings to move into action not just government. The pandemic has taken the entire world by storm and even the United States of America that everybody looks up to is frightened. After Covid-19, the medical facilities globally will never be the same again. No state or nation will treat the health sector with disdain anymore. It will be a different ballgame for Akwa Ibom State. This same isolation centre and other facilities will also be built in Eket probably at Immanuel Hospital and one in Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. The whole concept is that when the crisis is over, the place will be used as hospital ward and when there is crisis they will evacuate and use it for next purpose.


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What we are doing is unique. Remember that the Governor had earlier intervened and upgraded structures and facilities at the Methodist hospital, Ituk Mbang, Uruan Local Government Area and with the ongoing Isolation Centre Project, the Governor has also given the hospital another 20 doctors’ quarters. Before the current pandemic, there were no residential quarters for doctors and when there is crisis in the night, it’s always an uphill task to get them come over to the hospital.

I think the pandemic has pushed governments all over the world to see the need to ensure that the health sector is better equipped. Henceforth in every nation including ours, the health system will be treated fairly. We have lost many people including a major player in the nation’s seat of power because of this Covid-19. It will never be the same again for the health sector.

Do you still see government achieving all it planned to achieve, especially in road infrastructure and other capital projects after this pandemic?

Akparawa Inyang-eyen with villagers of Ituk mbang community at the project site

It will be difficult. Covid-19 has eaten into time. It started here in February and by March we were on lockdown. Governors of the States of the federation few days ago agreed on yet another two week lockdown which further extends to May. So in my opinion, the lockdown has taken the dry season. Then again, the world economy has virtually collapsed as oil prices went into deficit and the cost of production surpasses the cost of sales. Even if it is going to pick up, I don’t see the world economy getting to the reasonable level we can handle major projects until August or September.

On our project, mostly roads, even if we have the resources, the highest we will do is the concrete work for drainages and bridges. We cannot do earth work and it will not be tidy to handle earth work under the rain to avoid water bubbles in the compartment for you cannot put stone base on such compartment. It will be difficult for us to deliver even if we have the money. On the international level, oil prices have crashed so low and Nigeria is a mono economy as most of our revenues come from sale of the oil. Therefore, the major thing now is to thank God for life. But if the world economy recovers and we have the money, we will continue to deliver on our promises. It is a fact that the Governor still has three years plus to stay in the saddle and with the availability of resources, we are prepared to work day and night to meet the expectations of the Akwa Ibom people. Our prayer is for God to preserve our lives and for the pandemic to cease so that life will return to normalcy.

What will you say of the economy after the lockdow occasioned by the pandemic as there are now cries of hunger everywhere?

The ongoing structure of the 300-bed capacity isolation centre in Ituk Mbang.

Well, let’s call a spade a spade. There will be challenges because most of our people depend and live on daily income. That is why when they are asked to stay at home and stay safe, they refused because they earn their living from daily struggles and activities. The problem now is that several projects are also shut down. So if government is shut down as well as other major players in the economy including the banks; if you are a regular business man, who do you transact business with again? Secondly, I think Nigeria should take advantage of this time to return to farm and grow food to avoid the crisis of hunger. Our problem is that people abandoned farming for other jobs. Most young men and women avoid farming which will only compound the problem. As a younger person in my community then, we planted all manner of food crops which we harvested from time to time, eat to survive because we are not born with silver spoons. Therefore, the answer to the situation we have now found ourselves is to go back and start basic farming to avert food crisis. We must take advantage of the present predicament to massively return to farming.

There is still outcry over the quantity of palliatives made available to the people by government? Isn’t it?

What has the Federal Government done for the people? We heard they are crediting people’s account. But how many people in the south here have benefited or are there no poor people in the South? Of the account numbers they took, who has gotten alert in the south? Governor Emmanuel in sincerity brought out palliatives to help cushion the effects of the pandemic. My own local government got 166 bags of 50kg rice, beans, flour and other items under emergency that was not budgeted or programmed for. These things were not stored up somewhere waiting for the pandemic to come. The problem is that no matter what you do, there will always be critics but the best option is for one to do the very best and render account to God who sees the heart.

Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, Akparawa Ephraim Inyang during inspection of the project.

There is no way under the emergency Covid-19 lockdown that the Governor would have gotten enough rice to give about 6.2 million families in the state a bag each. It is also impossible to bring out and line up the entire people in the state to share money to them. I think under the present circumstances; the Governor has done very well so far. Even his efforts so far to contain the pandemic is commendable. Before the commencement of the ongoing 300-bedroom Isolation Centre with doctors’ quarters and other facilities, he had done something at Ikot Ekpene and also provided a facility at Ibom Specialist Hospital for the purpose. However, when he realized that the state needs to be extremely ready for any eventuality, he called me on April 5, 2020 and directed me to commence the planning and building of the structures and I was here to get it done from April 6, 2020 till today with utmost dedication.

The Governor also has shown extraordinary commitment to the funding of the project. Nobody had earlier budgeted or expected that there will be Covid-19 and when it came, here we are. I think what we need now is understanding, support and encouragement and not unnecessary criticism. The governor deserves a pass mark and accolades on his approach to the pandemic so far. There may be few lapses in information dissemination but that does not take away the reality of commitment that the Governor has shown. It was the decision of the Governor to ensure that the right thing is always done which informed the appointment of the Secretary to State Government (SSG) , Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, as the chairman of the committee coordinating government activities for Covid-19.

The Governor on his own has done his best. He can’t be everywhere and that is why he has aides to carry out his directives. For instance, the Governor sent me here to ensure the delivery of these project with trust. If I mess it up, people will blame the governor but he called me and gave me marching orders and I am here to ensure the realization of his dreams for the State. My take is that people should first thank our Governor for his efforts so far and then make suggestions or give advice on what could be added to make things better and not criticising for criticising sake. A Governor who does not have the interest of his people at heart cannot just, without a second thought, provide such magnificent facility to ensure their well-being. In most States of the country, the situation is that of make shift arrangements. Not even the Federal Government has taken this bold step to provide this quality of isolation centre. I think our Governor has been sincere and if there are any gaps, they could be traced to errors or inaction of those saddled with the responsibility to deliver on their assignments.

Why didn’t government opt for a make-shift arrangement to save cost at these dire times?

Ongoing 300-bed capacity isolation centre in Ituk Mbang.

We are not just building for the moment but for the future. When the pandemic is over and gone, this hospital will make effective use of those facilities in the future. What the government has done is something that should elicit joy in the heart of the people. The project will greatly add value to the hospital and in the future, if we have such pandemic of this magnitude, government of the time will no longer be under pressure. Governor Udom Emmanuel is futuristic in his planning and nothing stops him from replicating such facilities in Eket and Ikot Ekpene senatorial districts.

Some critics won’t understand the concept of what we are doing now but once it is ready and put into use, you will see massive applause and commendation for the Governor for his honest efforts. If we have gone to have a tent or two to set up here, people will temporarily call and when the owner of the tent walks away with millions of naira and his tents, and somebody runs into the amount spent on hiring, records on emergency situation, they will conclude that people shared the money and embezzled, not remembering the tent owner any longer. But with what is going on ground even people will appreciate the effort of Governor Udom Emmanuel. Look around now, even without completion; has this project not changed the face of the hospital? What we are doing now appears to have been better than what was done in phase one when the hospital was totally overhauled and upgraded; Governor Emmanuel has done very well.

One good thing about Governor Udom Emmanuel is that he is a listening administrator and accepts superior arguments. The truth is that he abhors mediocrity. I also advise critics to be more constructive and not just embark on unnecessary criticism for the sake of criticizing government efforts.

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