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Gov Emmanuel’s Amnesty Has Brought Peace, Development To Etim Ekpo


Backed with years of stewardship in the political sphere, ascending
to the leadership position of chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Govern
ment Council, it became a walk on a familiar terrain for Rt. Hon. Udeme Eduo. Today, through Rt. Hon. Udeme Eduo, Etim Ekpo Local Government Council is not only recovering fast from the ruins of militancy, but is counting successes in terms of peace, development and delivery of dividends of democracy to the people.
The council boss in this exclusive interview with Crystal Express Editors, recalls the insecurity challenges earlier faced by his council and the peace deal struck by Governor Udom Emmanuel and his corresponding efforts to offer meaningful development.
He also expressed immense gratitude to the State’s First Lady, Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel on her empowerment programmes for the women in the area, among other salient issues.

Let us meet

I am Udeme Eduo, Executive Chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area. I come from Udianga Enem Village in Etim Ekpo. The name of my village, Udianga Enem derived from some interesting circumstances. One, Enem, meaning sweet yam is commonly grown in my place. It is said that due to its sweetness and market demand, some persons could not allow it to mature and would hurriedly harvest it to the market to sell. We were placed on disadvantage with others from neighbouring villages who usually flocked the market with fully mature and bigger sweet yams. So, our elders decided to place injunction against early harvesting. This is how Udianga (Don’t eat) until maturity came about. A festival was then put up to mark the end of injunction after full maturity. This practice enabled us to have bigger species of sweet yam and better sales. That’s how we got the name (Udianga Enem) and the festival behind it.
I was trained in various primary schools owing to constant transfers of my late father. I schooled at Etinan Institute, University of Cross River State (now University of Uyo) and University of Port Harcourt. Upon graduation I taught in schools in Rivers and Bayelsa states before meeting my friend and cousin Hon. Akanimo Edet who brought the lease of life to Etim Ekpo politics. That was when the likes of Emmanuel Enoidem, Ini Okpoedi and myself were brought to usher in an era of more vibrant young people in the administration of the council. Akanimo Edet who was once a staff of Shell Petroleum Development Company led the vanguard of change in Etim Ekpo and became the chairman. He took me along and I quit teaching and became his personal assistant after which I became the vice chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area under Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem. After the politics of Sani Abacha’s era Enoidem went to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) upon the emergence of democracy in 1999 while Etim Ekpo took to the All People Party (APP) with Chris Okorie as Chairman.
The House of Assembly for Etim Ekpo was also captured by APP among other council areas in the state then. However by the next rounds of elections, PDP took over Etim Ekpo and the genealogy of young vibrant men administrating Etim Ekpo continued till date. That is my brief transition from teaching profession to politics. I was initially appointed the transition chairman and working found me worthy through my performance, I was encourage to contest and became the executive chairman of the council.

You are the chairman in an era Etim Ekpo witnessed unparalleled insurgence and insecurity from the activities of militants. Want is the situation presently?

Etim Ekpo is now in the hands of God. Every first Monday of the month, staff of the council and the political class normally worship in a Solemn Assembly for the restoration of peace and security in our local government area. For the past ten months we have been doing this with pastors from the Christian Association of Nigeria. Through the solemn assembly we rededicate Etim Ekpo back to God. The era of new breed politicians started in 1996 when young men started aspiring for political offices in Etim Ekpo. My late father, for instance, became a councilor after his retirement as a school principal in 1991. The community pleaded with him to serve and he won the councillorship in both Abak and modern day Etim Ekpo. Then young men were not interested in politics because of the opportunities provided by metropolitan cities around us like Port Harcourt, Aba, Owerri and Umuahia and those doing business in those cities were doing very well. At that time there were industries and factories in those cities but today the table has turned and politics has become the big thing for our young people. The dearth of industries and the high cost of living with the distress in many companies forced some young men to make foray into politics. The mass return of these young men turned the once quiet community into a hub of violence with criminality such as robbery and kidnapping holding sway. My family was attacked and my father killed and kept in the bush for 12 days somewhere in Abia State. So I know the story of insurgency and really appreciate the efforts made by Governor Udom Emmanuel to restore peace and normalcy to Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun council areas. We also did our best as local government council. The crisis was actually fuelled by many youths who returned from big cities. But we are happy that they have now accepted the amnesty and peace offer from our governor and surrended their weapons. We are now in partnership with the National Directorate of Employment having about 50 of them while the council under my leadership is also training another set of 100 youths in electrical installations and generator repairs which is some of the most sort after jobs since the hoodlums during the insurgency vandalized and destroyed some electrical installations across the affected villages. We also train people in barbing, welding etc while the NDE is mainly taking them on hair dressing and catering. Therefore, what we are doing presently is to keep them busy, teach those necessary skills to enable them earn a decent living and today Etim Ekpo is peaceful and calm.

Have the several families that deserted their homes during the crisis returned?

Yes. for fear of being kidnapped or killed many young people ran away but the older people moved to the neighboring peaceful communities. Etim Ekpo has four hot spots while Ukanafun has three including council headquarter. That of Etim Ekpo is mainly in the suburb. However, the people are gradually returning and the once deserted places are becoming lively again. My administration is striving hard to restore social amenities to enable people to go about their activities. I have already assigned the supervisor for works to go to the damaged markets and prepare estimates to restore them, the same applies to other things within the reach of my administration. It is noteworthy to state that the government has undertaken to restore light to the areas which witnessed unnecessary theft and damage of electrical facilities. In some areas, transformer oil, armored cables so we are having a tripartite partnership of state/local / Ibom Power to see to the success of the project. In the same vein the health centres are being fixed to cater for the health need. Etim Ekpo is also housing the area command of the Nigeria Police, police stations and Directorate of State Security to ensure adequate security. I thank God for using men of God to counsel the youths of the area to become better citizens and remove the fear of co-existence among our people. It was a sad experience but the kudos goes to our governor for weathering the storm.

Did the insurgence affect the realization of your manifestos for the people of the area?

A week ago, a committee of the State House of Assembly visited us and commended the efforts we have made to bring life and development back to the area after the crisis. Yes, it is true we have a manifesto as a party but I told the House committee that our biggest achievement was the restoration of peace to the once crisis ridden area. We also told them of our efforts in ensuring security that people can now travel freely through the affected communities to Abia State without any form of molestation, fear or challenges at anytime of the day. Goods are now being transported with ease from Aba and Port Harcourt to Calabar and Uyo using same road since the Ikot Ekpene-Aba Road is impossible to use for now. So there is no more banditry and crime along that road and it is enough for us as a council to give kudos to themselves. For the council areas we are looking inwards to give it a facelift. We are connecting water and electricity to the new council secretariat built by my predecessor. We are also encouraging our youths to engage in sport both as a career and leisure to achieve peace and unity; and more so, love and brotherhood through building of sports centres. Soon tournaments and competitions will be organised clan by clan to enable people return, participate and reintegrate to help build the society together. Fortunately our House of Representatives member, Mr. Aniekan Umana, has offered to assist in helping us take up the issue of the sporting arena to see to its remodeling and he will also assist in other areas.

Talking about rehabilitation, we gathered sometime ago that the state government planned rehabilitation camps for the ex-militants. Is it the same templates you are working on?

The Governor has informed us that the technical school at Ikot Ada Idem and Technical School, Ikot Akata will be used perhaps after rehabilitation and we have records of the militants in a dossier with security agencies and government. I and my colleague will hope to get the governor to also create a centre in Abak too for the exercise. So government is on the right pedestal and ever determined.
Again, we are not going to force them to trade, there are ones who said they need money to trade and if we find out that they will use the money judiciously, we may set up shop and give them funds.

What is your relationship with the councilors?

We have very cordial relationship and perfect working understanding and ethics. We complement each other and work in harmony for the development of Etim Ekpo. The House Majority Leader, for instance, in solidarity with what we are doing has started a training programme in his ward. I started the initial training programme for the three wards hit by crisis but extending it to his wards shows synergy and co-operation among us. When he told me that his programme was for one month, I advised him to extend it to three months because I equally extended the one I organized from 3 to 6 months and the council assisted him. Before then, this same councilor had shared over 2000 books to students in his ward. In the same vein, we have been able to touch the lives of Etim Ekpo students in all major institutions in the country. We have councilors who are replicating the good works we are doing for the people of Etim Ekpo.
We have a councilor who was running a micro finance house before joining politics. He has been very useful to us and will readily stand in the gap whenever his assistance is needed. We work as a team in the council. The council has also empowered the wife of the chairman to touch the lives of the less privileged. Lots of women have received wrappers, cash and other items. widows and orphans are also being cared for through the office of the chairman’s wife.

What will you like to be remembered for after your tenure as chairman in form of legacy project?

One thing is clear, we receive allocation from the federation account but what it is channeled to remains the priority of the receipt. I have been a transition chairman and got further exposed to the rudiments of leadership. I want to give a remarkable facelift to the entire council secretariat. I equally desire to have a reputable sports centre for youths. That we have boreholes in the council and light is a thing of pride in the same vein. We have extended portable water to the corper’s lodge in the area. Two markets will be reconstructed and you know you can’t access revenue from the market until you put facilities which will encourage traders to pay the necessary toll. The renovation of the market is already in the pipeline as I told my supervisor for work two days ago to go and assess the financial implication. It is noteworthy to state here that the wife of the Governor recently donated oil palm processing mill to the women of Etim Ekpo, a gesture which we so much appreciated because of its economic importance to the communities. We will have to bring in two truckloads of palm fruit every month and equitably share it among the various villages to produce oil. Within three months, every community will benefit from the empowerment. This no doubt will put smiles on the faces of our women and we remain eternally grateful to the wife of the Governor (Dr.) Martha Udom Emmanuel for this love and magnanimity.

What has been the relationship between the state governor and the council chairmen in the state?
The governor is here to serve the state and his disposition towards council chairmen is cordial and he is interested in our individual and collective success. You can hardly hear any dissenting tone among us because the governor is leading and guiding the state well. One interesting thing about this governor is that he keeps tabs on everything going on in all the councils and can communicate any information to any council chairman by mere body language. But I also think this crop of chairmen has been the best. The due times notwithstanding, the chairmen are living up to their pledges to impact lives positively across their domains. A good chairman is not known by material things he amassed for himself but his commitment, dedication and selfless service to his people and in the process shun self aggrandizement. A good chairman will take the health and hygiene of his people very important, ensuring that from the council premises to the communities is clean, green and tidy. I know that the governor is happy with the crop of chairmen he has today because they are dedicated duty.

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