No Other State Governor Has Cared For The Less-Privileged Like Gov. Udom Emmanuel

We Will Eradicate Poverty By Growing More Foods



. . . Green House Farming To Be Replicated In 10 Federal Constituencies

Competency defines Dr. Glory Emmanuel Edet, Commissioner for Agriculture, Women Affairs and Social Welfare in Akwa Ibom State. From an interesting background in academics as a lecturer, coupled with her work exposure with USAID, the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results, Dr. Glory Edet has offered impactful services in her stewardship for Akwa Ibom State government.

She was first appointed in 2013 and re-appointed to the same position in 2015 and in 2019 with inclusion of Agriculture Ministry by Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and serves as the Dean of Commissioners. A social crusader, Dr. Edet takes interest in offering succour to the less privileged in the society amongst others.

In this exclusive interview with Crystal Express on Friday, November 23, 2019, the amiable Commissioner spoke on Governor Udom Emmanuel’s love for Akwa Ibom State and her efforts to reinvent the dreams of the administration in Agriculture as she is already doing in Women Affairs and Social Development. Excerpts.

Perhaps due to the confidence reposed in you, the Governor has given you two big ministries to manage. How do you cope with the big task?

Well by God’s special grace, I have been coping very with the task of handling activities involving the two ministries and other activities outside the ministries very well. Firstly, I believe when God gives you any position, you are expected to give in your best. My present portfolio is from God through His Excellency, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.

Secondly, I believe in commitment. When God lifts you as a person, you must work hard to justify it and I believe that I am bound to add value to the two ministries to make sure positive things come in always. I am a team player and will ensure I carry along all my staff especially the permanent secretaries and directors of both ministries. I am a very meticulous person who gets first hand information on important issues not through a third party. For instance, some issues on Agriculture I personally go to the field to have firsthand knowledge so that when I want to brief my boss, I do so with precision. I also encourage my staff to work hard because whatever opportunity one has, is to service the society and humanity.

Let us start with the Women Affairs Ministry. In your last few years in the saddle, what are the positive changes you have brought there to justify the job given to you by the Governor?

All glory belongs to God. Being the longest serving commissioner for women affairs, I have added value to the Ministry through innovations and still adding value till date. It is in my tenure that we have the Children Parliament cutting across the entire 31 local government areas of the state. Before now it was only at the state level. The ministry is the one implementing the child rights law on behalf of the state government and has been organizing seminars and training for the Children Parliament. Sometimes we get reports from this Children Parliament if a child is defiled, raped or hurt in their local schools. They do send texts to us because they have our numbers and we keep confidential the person who sends in the message because the most important thing to us is to prosecute the offenders in the law court. Last month in appreciation of what we are doing, our governor was given an award as the best child rights implementing governor in the country because we have not only domesticated the law but implementing it with seriousness.

Before now in this ministry, there was nothing like gender based violence centre but today we have one in collaboration with the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) and we try always to sensitise our women and the public on the need to report abuses even against men too and we will make sure we handle the matter with the attention it deserves without sentiment. No matter your position in the society, if you abuse a woman or the child, you must face the law because the law is no respecter of man. We have had issues of gender violence and rape cases reported to us and for the NGOs and others working against such issues, this is the mother ministry. All NGOs are working with us and we report to the national and international bodies. We also collaborate with other NGOs in terms of the child rights law since it is domesticated here.


That is why when we said we jailed 15 people, we are not joking. We jailed them because it is a serious matter and once the case is reported to us, we take it to the court and even if it was reported to the police, they will collaborate with us to prosecute. I ensure we follow up the cases to the end, we ensure we work with the Ministry of Justice and Akwa Ibom State Judiciary and we are doing our best. We attach so much importance to sensitization and also encourage parents to always speak out when issues like that befall their children.

Again before now the women were not that organized on how best to synergies with government. But today other states are learning from our ingenuity. We have impacted on our women to be useful to themselves and their immediate communities. It is not just about money but collaborating and sharing useful information that will be of importance to one another. By God’s grace most of our women are impacting their communities. We have been able to inculcate very positive virtues in them. We are also doing retreat and seminars for women because as leaders, they are expected to add value. Through constant training, our women learn more on how to address the complex issues affecting our societies. In this administration, we believe in leading by example. Whatever we teach our women, we also practicalise them . Two years ago we partnered the Medical Association of Nigeria (their female doctors) to sensitize our women on breast cancer and about 30 female doctors carried out screening on our women and those with challenges were treated.

We have also sent so many women to go on skill acquisition. We don’t just believe in giving people fishes but also teaching them how to fish. Giving fishes is good but teaching one how to fish is best and a life time gift. Therefore they are sent to learn different skills and at the end get empowered to start up their businesses. We also have widowhood empowerment skill in the Ministry where widows get assistance. When we talk of the widows here, we refer to the very poor ones because there are widows that are richer than the married women. There are also things we do and include all of them. But when we want to give financial assistance, we give to the poorest among them because we have opened a register for them to register for free. We want them to get registered to have their data base and important information such as the number of children they have and what they do. The implication is that when you want to empower them, you will fall back on the data base and just send for them to come forward for assistance.

In the case of persons with disability, which is also under our Ministry’s care, I want to thank God for what He has used the governor to do. In this state during the last transition committee, one of them was appointed as a supervisor. There is a slogan that there is ability in disability. Some of them are very intelligent and the government has assisted some of the people with mobility aid. Presently we have given over 300 wheel chairs to them and those of them in the institutions we give them braille machines that aid the blind. The blind cannot use ordinary computer so we give them Braille machines in computers with special applications to enable them understand what they are typing and most beneficiaries are those in the higher institutions. Those in secondary schools that use Braille papers which aid them in doing their work, we have also assisted. We have equally extended very useful assistance to those in the leprosy hospital.

The deaf and dumb have also been taken care of. I will tell you that persons with disabilities are enjoying this government. The State has shown tremendous concern for people that are down with disabilities. We are taking care of five government homes. Among them are the Special Children Centre at IBB Avenue; the Divine Children Home at Atan Offot; the Transit Camp at Shelter Afrique Estate and the Correctional Centre where children who go contrary to the Child Rights laws are kept for correction. We also have a home for physically challenged children; we take care of them also by ensuring that they go to school and those who could not are trained to learn different skills and trades and then empowered. These children are very happy. Some of the children were abandoned by their parents. Most of the children only know Governor Udom Emmanuel as their father and the Governor’s wife, Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel as their mother as they don’t know their biological parents. By God’s special grace, 25 of them are in higher institutions today and one graduated from the faculty of law and was called to the bar recently. Some of them are in University of Uyo, others are in Akwa Ibom State University and Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic at Ikot Osurua.

There are some in Abia State University and in various schools of nursing and midwifery. They are spread across institutions and we move round to monitor their academic performance. I don’t think there is any other state, a governor has done this much. We also encourage them to believe in God and walk in His ways; the ones in the higher institutions are very happy, knowing that their dreams of having fulfilled lives with their own families are much nearer. We also encourage the ones in secondary schools to be hopeful and believe strongly in their creator. However some of the children have parents who are very poor and after training them in the various schools and you want to reintegrate them with their parents, they resist and cry bitterly.

The truth is that they prefer staying back because if they were not well cared for, they would have jumped on the offer of returning to their parents. Few months ago. I was told that there were children staying somewhere around Itak Inyang bush (near Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation) and since we also take care of social welfare of the state and in particular children, I went there with security agents and we saw them. During interactions some blamed their abscondmeant from home on maltreatment from parents and step mothers. I had to remove them from the bush to the women development centre and invited pastors and counselors to counsel them. They promised not to go back to the bush and we changed their stories.

Those between 16-18 years of age, we sent to go and learn skills and once they are done we will give them starter packs to start their own and those ones that were sent away by step mothers, we personally take them back to their families and warned the step mothers. Even in the child rights law, child abandonment is a big crime. And we have set up communication with the children to inform us if the maltreatment persists. All the children roaming the streets belong to families but, we discover step mothers are becoming the bane. This is why I caution women to make enquires about a man’s status before marriage.

If he has children already and you insist on marriage, you must love the man and his children. Some step mothers will want their own biological children to take over the household and brand the man’s children witches but there is nothing like that in the law. We also take care of Nigerian legion and that is why we put together the Armed Forces Remembrance Day and emblem launch with the wreath laying ceremony which is the grand finale. We also from time to time empower them and take care of their widows. In the state alone we have almost one thousand of the legionnaire’s widows.

We share them into groups and get them registered with us for the purpose of assistance and empowerment. Again we also extend government benevolence to other children outside the ones we have in our homes. We also take care of adoption issues. Some people believe you can just pick a child and claim it’s your own. But it is not done that way and if you are caught doing it, you are definitely going to jail. Adoption issues are very sensitive one. Children are gifts from God and those who are childless are not inferior to those with children, God is the giver of children. We encourage those without children and needed adoption to follow due process and presently we have over 600 applications. We carry out due diligence on those who applied to ensure they have no negative intents. We ensure that only those genuinely in need of children are approved. We also visit unannounced, those who have been given children for adoption during the period we call temporary attachment to ascertain their capacity to take care of the child. At that time they are only given temporal adoption document.

When we are convinced that you needed the child and are taking good care of the child, we will now write to the family court recommending you to be interviewed and given the adoption order. You must have the adoption order so that even if you are travelling with that child outside the country and people raise alarm that you were never pregnant but now moving with children and you are confronted at the embassy. You will show the adoption order and that child becomes your child without any form of discrimination. If for any reason we discover any ill treatment at anytime, the child will be withdrawn from the person. It is noteworthy to say that if you adopt a child and after two years have your biological child, the adopted child remains your first child.

We have social welfare offices across the state where welfare issues are reported before coming to the state headquarters. We don’t want people to give excuses of distance so we have this offices in local government areas for easy accessibility but adoption issues are the ones handled at the state level and even when it involves court, we opt for family court. Sometimes people who have maybe eight children will approach us and say that the one they are carrying is by accident and will not want to keep it, but prefer giving it to those without children. In such cases, we take care of the women and when she puts to bed, she and her husband will pray and hand over the child to us and after examining those who need kids, we give to one of them. In adoption, the person giving to the ministry is not supposed to know the person we are giving the child to.

That is why we said in adoption issues, there are no third party involvements. In the same vein the person we are giving the child to is not supposed to know the person who gave the child to us. That is why adoption is a very sensitive thing.

In the department of women affairs, we have the HIV section that creates awareness and give sensitization of the malaise, the same way they do in the health ministry. These are what we are doing at the Women Affairs and Social Welfare. In the Women Affairs, we have Department of Women Affairs handling women issues.

We have the Department of Social Welfare that handles the issues of social welfare, Nigerian legion and the physically challenged people. there is administration department, department of planning and statistics and department of child development that takes care of all children issues because of the child rights law and also a legal unit with our lawyers. We go to court with our lawyers in collaboration with those from the Ministry of Justice. You know that we also take care of lunatics, evacuation of lunatics off the street which is under the Department of Social Welfare and take them to the physiatrist hospital where the governor takes care of their feeding and medication. They remain there till they are certified fit and healthy and that’s when you also discover that over 70 per cent of them are not from Akwa Ibom State. During the period of insanity, they speak incoherently and in strange languages but once their sanity is restored, they will start asking question like what they are doing here and whom they are and give you their addresses. We do take them back and hand over to the relevant ministry in their state who finally reintegrates them with their family.

We do hear of maternity homes being involved in trafficking and selling of babies. What is your Ministry doing about it?

We are appealing to the general public that anybody who knows those dealing in the sales of children or operating baby factory should draw our attention immediately. We have closed down many maternity homes and works in synergy with security agencies on this issue. Once we get information on any hospital or maternity home involvement, we send security agencies after them, close it down and arrest all those involved. There was one in Ikot Ekpene and the woman who was arrested is still in prison custody. We had one around Abak/Oruk Anam axis and we shut down the place. Once we storm there we evacuate all children found there. We are appealing to the public, if you know anybody operating baby factory please let us just know the address we guarantee your confidentiality.

Notwithstanding your efforts at implementing the Child Rights law, we still have children going through child labour, hawking at traffic lights around the state. Why?

The implementation of child rights law is a collective responsibility. Sometimes I go as a private person along with one staff in a private car to around Itam Market area and ask one of them to help me carry my goods and in the process engaged them in interactions. Then you hear pathetic stories. One of them told us that her step mother brought and dumped him at Itam Junction asking him to remain there because government will come and take care of him. He could not even trace his way home again. Some said the step mother labelled them witches and brought and abandoned them here when their fathers had gone to work. That is why we carry out sensitization because nobody knows tomorrow and who will turn out to be the Joseph of the family. They never know who will turn out to give them succour in old age irrespective of whether the person is educated or not. For some of the children, we trace their parents, give them forms to sign never to allow children return to the street or face persecution. Child labour is a serious crime against Child Rights and government frowns seriously at offenders.

The problem of children being labelled witches and victimized by relations was at an alarming rate few years back. Has that been successfully stopped by government?

It was an unfortunate incident. However today if you accuse your child or step child of being a witch, we will charge you to court. In some cases we invite the person involved warn and inform them of the consequences. Some will apologise and claim ignorance but you know that ignorance is no excuse before the law. Again I want to tell you that female circumcision is against the law and if you are caught involving in female genital mutilation, we will charge you straight to court. Our law discourages such acts and I have been encouraging people to feel free and pass this information to us with the assurances of confidentiality. Even in the way you discipline your children, if your inflict injuries or serious harm in the name of disciplining your children, we will charge the person to court. One person was brought here some time ago for using hot pressing iron on a child, he said he was disciplining him but that was child abuse. We encourage parents to discipline their kids properly but not with objects like rods and machetes which is total abuse and if you do it ,no matter who you are, we will come after you.

During the last administration, security agents raided a popular spot known as “Maitama” in Ewet Housing Estate on the orders of Government and arrested women found hanging around the streets. They were charged to Magistrate Court. But today, they are still out there doing their business?

Yes. I led that raid against those ladies at “Maitama”, during the past administration. We use to go there and preach to them to quit the illicit business, using churches. Even at a time I visited there with the wife of the former governor to counsel them in a very polite language to reawaken their conscience of guilt on what they are doing. We used to go with buses and carry them to the Banquet Hall of the Government House for counselling and on a particular night, we spent whole night doing that. We interviewed them on the reason for their actions and we discovered that some were from rich background. Some blamed their parents and some cited the maltreatment from their boyfriends for their actions. But I told them that such drastic decisions will be more detrimental to them than the man.

I told them that while they vowed never to have a permanent man, the man in question is happily married with kids and they were there wasting away. And we gave funds to them to go start businesses for themselves. I am glad some still call me to inform me of the progress they are making but we don’t expose them or remind them of their past by making their identity public. But there are some of them who returned to the spot after one week they got empowered. They had no excuses again and we were serious about ending the social malaise, therefore we arrested and took them to police and magistrate court. Some of these things were encouraged by our men because if they are not patronizing them, they won’t be coming out anymore. If we are to storm there again for such ladies, we will not spare the men either, we will arrest them too. I do tell the women if men ask you to dress and expose your body, do they also expose theirs?. I want to encourage our ladies still in this act to henceforth stop no matter the frustrations or problems that led them into it and earn a decent living through hard work.

You have a special group of ladies called Daughters of Udom Emmanuel. How did they evolve?

I have worked and carried women along at the state level and across the 31 local government areas. I also specifically do so in my local government area of Ini. What motivated me into grooming Daughters of Udom Emmanuel was that there was a day I invited women for a meeting at the local government secretariat and the girls came but the women asked them to go because they are youths and not women and they left disappointed. The women were right because there are issues you discuss with women not meant for youths. Again I invited all the youths in the local government to a meeting and the men said every time commissioner invites women to event that it is strictly for male youths and I gave the girls transport to go back home again. But deep in my hearts I know the young maidens believe in me and I must have to get them into one umbrella since they don’t belong to women group or male youths. I called them and counselled them and discovered that some of them do not even have hope in life. Some do not believe in themselves anymore and I was moved.

Thus I decided to take care of them. We open the group to every female youth that needs direction in life not withstanding their present circumstances. I encouraged them to know that education is good but people who don’t have opportunity to go will still be successful in life if they are focused. I have been meeting with them, those in higher institution, I support with school fees. Those without skills we send them to learn their choice vocation. Some who have learnt and have no equipment to start are empowered to start up. For those learning, I visit their places of work to ascertain their commitment to duty, progress reports and informed their mistresses to tell me once they are done with training them because I want to be sure that they are well trained before providing them with the starter pack. Those who learned sewing got both sewing and weaving machines to help them do better. The same for those who learned hair dressing whom I gave equipments for hair dressing and generators to enable them have 24 hour-power. Making people smile and being happy is what gives me satisfaction. Even as a lecturer in the university I used to pay school fees for some students who could not afford their fees and they are known only to me and my God. I believe God places us in positions to use in bringing happiness to others. I remember that my grandfather lived for many years with Mary Slessor and there is no history of the missionary here without my grandfather. We grew up to know that and when Mary Slessor died, my grandfather who lived with her benefited from her generosity. My grandfather was a humble man who believed in giving and he has imbibed the spirit of giving in us. He taught us how to give to the needy even if it is our last penny. And to give our parents little gifts from the much we get from them. I urge people to give from their heart and shun comparison because talents are different but the spirit one.

You have been a blessing to women in the state and recently you successfully mobilized them for the Governor in the last election. As Agriculture commissioner what do you have in stock for them?

The governor has not made any mistake to promote agriculture through women. By God’s grace as the first female Agriculture Commissioner in the state, I have started meeting with women on how best to take advantages provided in the Agriculture Ministry by the governor. Over 70per cent of those who cultivate farms for harvests are women. We have reoriented our women’s thinking not to see agriculture as a vocation for the poor. I discovered that there is a group of farmers that has been ignored. They are the vegetable farmers and I invited their leaders to a meeting and will soon give them soft loan during the dry season so that they plant, harvest and sell. They are happy because many women involved in this vegetable farming have no resources. So they will get interest free loan. Many have already been issued forms and some have duly filled and submitted them. If not for climate change, we ought to be in dry season by now and the funds will be made available to them. We must also encourage coconut planting among them because of Government interest in the product and the new coconut refinery in the state. Government provided improved seedlings of every needed plant for them free to cultivate. We have got them to register as a group so that in the next framing season we will help them with land clearing. One of issues that discourage new farmers is that of land clearing because of the resources involved. We will do that for them.

We have equally appealed to the local government chairmen to give them land for cultivation. Every local government area in the state has enough land. The green house programme we are doing is designed to be replicated across the federal constituencies and each constituency or the local government area should cultivate vegetables they have comparative advantage in, depending on their soil.

Commodity like garri became out of reach at a time in the state before Governor Emmanuel’s intervention. What is government doing to further make it available for everybody?

Thank God you acknowledged the Governor’s candid efforts in this regard. When you grow enough food, the incidence of poverty will be reduced, the depth of poverty will be reduced and severity of poverty will be eradicated. One of the ways we hope to eradicate poverty is by growing more food with the second planting season flag-off recently performed by the Governor. We provided cassava stems free of charge to farmers who have prepared their beds ready for planting.

The improved varieties of the cassava stem can’t be kept without planting for more than two weeks. We also encouraged the leaders of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) by giving them the improved cassava stems as a group, individuals and cooperatives to makes sure it entered all the council areas of the state. Secondly we also provided agro chemicals. The extension officers from AKADEP, the extension officers from AKADEP will be deplayed to assist farmers with knowledge of how to apply fertilizers and other useful chemicals for farming. It is their responsibility to provide these services because it is one thing to plant and another thing to ensure bumper harvest. By God’s grace with the improved variety of cassava stems, the yields will keep improving. In Ini Local Government Area, a particular group of women has cultivated over 30,000 hectares of land for the second planting season and other groups are also doing theirs in other council areas and when it is time for harvest we will surely have more than we had last year.

What are you doing to ensure that the bumper harvests are not wasted owing to the challenges of preservation, processing and marketing?

We have many processing mills and some of the mill operators go to the various farms to pick the produce especially those who cannot bring out their produce easily owing to transportation challenges. We want the farmers to have confidence that what they are producing will patronized and that production cannot be complete until it gets to the final consumers. We won’t have any issue with marketing the produce by God’s grace.

Where the Akwa Ibom Transport Company ( AKTC) operated for years is said to have been built to serve as abattoir. What are your plans for it now that the transport agency has moved out?

Thanks for the question. The place was originally built as central abattoir during the administration of Governor Victor Attah. With the exit of Nsik Motors, operators of AKTC, we hope to now use the facility as designed to ensure effective control of livestock butchering to ensure they are healthy for human consumption. We don’t want a situation where dead animals are sold to the public anymore. So with the functioning of the central Abattoir, we will station our veterinary doctors and other health inspectors there to see the quality of live stocks been slaughtered daily for public consumption. I personally visited the abattoir last week and can tell you that it is one of the best in the country because it has fantastic cold rooms. We will soon announce the date of commencement and the names of the new management of the central abattoir. Few days ago, I invited all dealers in livestock especially the butchers and informed them of the ministry’s decision to bring every operator in that business to the central abattoir, and presently there is a committee to manage the place while renovations are on-going right now. The committee is made up of representatives of all groups because when the people are involved in managing what they are doing, they will manage well and give us report. Apart from generating revenue for government, we will be able to control what comes into the State as live stocks, goats and cattle as veterinary doctors will be on ground to inspect the animals before anything is done. Persons caught butchering animals outside the abattoir will be arrested.

Again I wish to inform you that the green houses at the Airport Road is doing very well and we are harvesting our tomatoes daily. Two weeks ago, our Governor visited the place as a man who believes in the practical agriculture and remains our number one farmer in the state. For two weeks we are harvesting daily and want to ensure it continues that way because they were planted in sequence. We are harvesting and planting same time, we also have cucumbers and pepper there in commercial quantity and we are planning to introduce onions because government is determined to ensure food sufficiency.

There is high consumption of chicken in the state. How is the hatchery in Uruan Local Government Area performing?

I was there two weeks ago and we will go back again to ensure that the purpose of establishing the hatchery is not defeated. The person in charge of the place is presently out of the country and I wanted him back for discussions. Agriculture is a practical thing and when it is not doing well everybody knows. The place is okay but we will need to meet and move it to the next level.

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