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The Completion Agenda Will Transform Akwa Ibom – Sir Charles Udoh


An ambidextrous professional, Sir Charles Udoh, Commissioner for Information, Akwa Ibom State has over three decades of diversified experience in digital and offline brand management, communications, media relations and public relations. His depth in the field has taken him through several banks in Nigeria including the apex financial institution, the Central Bank of Nigeria as well as Diamond, Guaranty Trust Bank, First City Monument Bank, Wema Bank, etc.
Sir Udoh is a member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and has served as Vice President of the Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks in Nigeria as well as being a Member of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria.
An encounter with him takes an interviewer straight into the compendium of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel’s amazing performances in Akwa Ibom State. Sir lived up this billing when Crystal Express had an exclusive interview with the public relations guru in his office on Monday, October 28, 2019. Excepts.


Take us through the package as put together by the Governor on his Completion Agenda.

I will start by commending the publisher and management team of the Crystal Express for their refreshing and quality newspaper. In my opinion, this is the dawn of the quality newspaper and journalism practice in the state, from crisp, clean copy to the print quality, the tone of voice, choice of language all made it commendable. I pray God to give the publisher/management the grace to sustain this standard they have set. I trust that it will open up more opportunities for the newspaper which has come to stay.
On the Completion Agenda, if you recall in 2015 when this government came on board, they outlined a Five-Point Agenda which was the pillar of sustainable development in the state. The Agenda talked about job creation, wealth creation, poverty alleviation, economic and political inclusion and infrastructural consolidation and expansion. Now, fast-forward to 2019, when the government ended its first tenure, It read out a score-card of its milestones which prompted unanimous support from Akwa Ibom people who freely gave the Governor a second term. The Governor in appreciation of this tremendous support decided to do a comprehensive evaluation of his activities in the first term and came up with the need to strengthen the Five-Point Agenda, enlarge and bring it down to details to ensure that areas that didn’t get adequate attention in the first term are well covered. This gave rise to the Completion Agenda. We took time to get the feelings and opinions of the people of Akwa Ibom and the amalgamation of the survey gives us a clear insight of what we need to do. The summary of these efforts is what is known today as Completion Agenda which seems to consolidate on the Five -Point agenda while further drilling down to key sectors. The Completion Agenda of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration is anchored on eight pillars and I will briefly speak on each of them. First is the industrialization and the setup of 18 industries in every level and sector of the economy.
These industries have provided enormous job opportunities across both sides of the divide. From direct to indirect employments to impact on communities to improving the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the State. That gives a clear indication that there is need for this government to continue its industrialisation in which funds are not coming out from the government coffers but one in which government is creating enabling environment for investors to access the state and set up their industries . Today, we have 18 of them and many more are coming. The impact on the economy is very visible. Next to that is the aviation development. Akwa Ibom State is now the toast of the aviation sector in Nigeria and Ibom Air entered the aviation industry when Nigeria is desirous of an airline that could rejuvenate the sector. The aviation sector was witnessing turbulent period with flight delays and cancellations which increased passengers’ frustrations. There were several gaps to be bridged and government felt it was time to venture into the aviation industry. Today we have the toast-of-the town which is Ibom Air with the youngest fleet of aircraft in the Nigeria airspace. By this I mean that prior to the coming of Ibom Air the youngest aircraft flying in the Nigeria airspace was 21 years old which we had been managing to fly. But Ibom Air has arrived the arena and totally redefined the sector with very young, crispy aircraft. The fleet of Ibom Air is only six years old and there are three of them at the moment. If you understand the aviation sector as it is brand new aircraft comes with five year warranty and we are having aircraft that are just one year off warranty which means that they are brand new compared to 21-year old aircraft we have been flying. Ibom Air came with the consciousness of timing of departure and arrivals which is a complete detachment of the past. Today, it is reputed as one airline which helps business people plan their movements without disappointment. Cases abound in the past when you plan a journey by noon and ended up flying by midnight. Ibom Air has put a stop to all that with its arrival in the sector. This government is moving further to totally overhaul the aviation sector as the completion of the taxiway or second runway has reached an advance stage. The second runway can land an Airbus 380 aircraft. Our airport is a category-two airport which means it is one of the best in the country. The runway we have at Victor Attah International Airport remains the best in the country. The coming of Ibom Air will also enhance our tourism potentials and industrialization drive. The reality now is that the current terminal building won’t be able to cater for high volume of traffic and to check it from affecting smooth operations at the airport, government has gone ahead to award the contract of the new terminal building; construction work has actually started. All this according to government is for us to take advantage of our unique position in the aviation industry. Ibom Air would have provided the avenue for immense job creation for our people but for the fact that we have few expertise in that sector. So we have to hire the best hands irrespective of where they came from. The medium to long term planning of government is to see that overtime the bulk of the workers in the aviation industry is actually from Akwa Ibom State. Government has put machinery in motion, inviting qualified indigenes of Akwa Ibom for shortlisting and possible training.
The next pillar on the Completion Agenda talks about rural and riverine area development. That area since the creation of the state has suffered neglect.
It is a fact that Akwa Ibom State has the longest shore line of 129 km in the country and our coastline has a natural dept of 17.5 meters, needing little or no dredging to carry heavy ships. Our rural areas have suffered from poor access roads which hamper the booming of economic activities. In the next four years according to government plans, more attention will be paid to rural areas to make them economically viable from road grading to provision of social amenities.
In the riverine areas, our brothers have been fishermen for ages but yet to reap the benefits of their efforts because of lack of modern storage or processing facilities and overtime have lost much money that would have helped them to improve their wellbeing.
Therefore, government is moving into rural development with facilities such as fish processing plants which will enable the fishermen process their fishes either through cold room or process into smoke fish to ensure that they can sell as at when they wish and at the right price. The fourth angle to the Completion Agenda is agriculture. When this government came on board, garri was sold at N200 a cup. Now, fast-forward to today; for N200 you can buy 15 cups of garri depending on what part of the state you are buying from. It is a significant leap considering that garri is the main staple food of our people. We have been providing agricultural incentives through the agriculture industry in which over 500 Akwa Ibomites have benefited, in which the beneficiaries got N300,000 each as loan. Government has given out free seedlings, free suckers, free seeds and improved cassava stem. The massive investment in agriculture by the government forced down the prices of food stuff in the market. The Governor in council has also mandated that each local government should provide at least 100 hectares of land to co-operative farmers for agricultural purposes. These are some of the initiatives of this government to propel the agricultural pillar of the Completion Agenda.
We have also the human capacity development to ensure that all the government is putting in place have capable people to handle them otherwise it will be an efforts made for outsiders to take advantage of. Today, government is making serious efforts in human capacity development.
Security is another important sector to this administration. The last 12 months have seen government provide 22 vehicles to the Nigeria Police Force among other things the government is putting in place to ensure adequate security of lives and property. Many issues surrounding government plans for security will not be discussed here in the public domain. In the last four years, Akwa Ibom has been listed severally as one of the safest states in Nigeria by different security agencies. That gives us joy and comfort encouraging investors to troop down to Akwa Ibom State for their investment.
The other two remaining in the Completion Agenda talk about infrastructure. Cumulatively we have over 17000 kilometre of roads completed and ongoing with over 40 bridges and that is to open up access to the state and network roads between urban and rural areas. The roads no doubt are equally connecting the economic nerve centre of the state. Government in its determination to bring back oil multinationals to operate from the state is putting up standard and intelligent structures like the 21-storey building presently at advanced stage of completion. Not too long ago, the managing director of Exxon Mobil was here with some investors for inspection visit to that facility. That is the most technologically advanced building you can find here in South-South part of Nigeria. Once completed all firms are expected to relocate here without complaints of sustainable accommodation. We believe that their coming will enhance our revenue via paying their taxes such as corporate tax, personal taxes and the general impact on the economy will be massive. Again, one of the plans of this government is to diversify the economy moving it from civil service oriented to one driven by the private sector and for that to happen, we need to get our people to become small and medium scale entrepreneurs. Recently the state government appointed a senior special assistant to help in driving that sector. This is what in a nutshell we are doing with the Completion Agenda to drive the economy of the state. We know that with the co-operation of everyone in the state, we will achieve the essence of the Completion Agenda. We are also eager to get our people key into the re-orientation agenda, to adjust their mind-set and thinking bearing in mind that leaders will change, banners will change but what will remain constant is our state Akwa Ibom. Some of our people cut their noses to spite their faces and deliberately go out to demarket the state because of their political and other sectional interests, forgetting that for every investor you stop from coming to Akwa Ibom will have negative impact on the future of their children. For every investor you encourage to come to the state, it impacts the economy positively. Therefore there is the need for all of us to work together as one to move Akwa Ibom State forward. To achieve the Completion Agenda, government needs all hands on deck. The need to work in unison informed the putting together of an education summit recently. The desire of government to ensure that everybody in the educational sector is given a sense of ownership prompted the summit. One reality today is that though teachers in public schools earn higher in salaries with pension and job security than their counterparts in private schools, it is observed that teachers in private schools are more committed than their counterparts in public schools to their duties. That is why we had to call the education summit for everyone to sit down, brainstorm and proffer solutions to the myriad of challenges facing the sector. The good thing is that whatever solutions we arrived at during the summit was a combined effort of all participants.


Looking at the closing down of 1140 illegal schools by government recently, don’t you think that will compound the problem of unemployment which the government is struggling to combat?

As a government you must be firm if you are serious about improving the quality and standard of education. If you are serious in giving our children the bright future they deserve, there are some hard decisions you must take. Some of those schools are practically unacceptable to government, like the ones that are under the trees and other shanties. What quality of education do you expect from them? The most dangerous thing is to produce half-baked students at any level; in this case, an illiterate is better off than one who knows a little. Do you know that some of their teachers are not graduates while most of them are not qualified to teach? The government in 2015 invited fresh 5,000 teachers but on a close analysis realised that most of them were not qualified to teach. In order to ensure transparency and fairness, government organised an SS1 English Language examination for them and 2000 of them failed woefully. The Governor has said times out of numbers that a teacher that does not qualify to teach his personal child is not qualified to teach Akwa Ibom children. So imagine if the 2000 that failed had been allowed to continue in the system, they would have been teaching our children the wrong things and the society will bear the burden. The issue of the over flow of our public schools is another hard decision taken by this government. Records shows that the over flow was as a result of the migration of low income earners from other states to ours to take advantage of the free and compulsory education for their children from primary to secondary schools. This prompted the sudden hike in the population in our schools despite the fact that we have provided 20,000 dual desk, we have also done over 1,400 class room block but it is still a far-cry. That is why we are planning to have modular class rooms. Now the option of making the compulsory and free education strictly for Akwa Ibom children was dropped because you will be breeding a potential dynamite in a situation they are trained and their neighbours remain illiterate since they will not be isolated from the rots of the larger society. So we took the bitter pills to allow everybody until it comes to the point of paying the WAEC fees which are strictly meant for indigenes. However, we have discovered too that we may be breeding perpetual WAEC takers, so we are saying that it is just one opportunity for every candidate, if you fail then the next sitting will be paid by your parents. But good luck to those who scale through at first sitting which shows that they have been given their first meal ticket through payment of WAEC fees.
The same is applicable to private schools. If such schools and teachers want to remain afloat, they must meet the basic requirements to remain in the academic environment.

What have you done to ensure that government directives in that regard are strictly followed?

Besides the education board, we have a school monitoring team with the special assistant to the governor on education whose duty includes strictly monitoring of school activities. For those schools which tried re-opening, the monitoring team stopped and will prosecute them. Anybody that re-opens a school closed by government has committed an offence and will be persecuted. We are also putting up announcements through media sources to the fact that people should avoid such schools. We also announce their names and advise people not to patronise them.


Recently the NLC and other affiliated bodies sealed a deal on the minimum wage issues with the federal government. How ready is Akwa Ibom State to pay her workers the new minimum wages? 

Long before the federal government endorsed the minimum bill into law, the Governor in one of his interactions with the NLC made it empathically clear that the state is willing to pay the minimum wage. For the state it was never a problem. What remains is for labour and the management of civil service to work out the details and agreed on the take-off date.

There are states in the country that the arguments are not even about minimum wages but the number of months salaries are owned them by the government. Akwa Ibom workers receive their salaries on or before the last day of every month even before the receipt of the federal allocation. In the state, salary is the first line change and even payment of pension has never been a problem because we value our people. We know that the bulk of our people are in the public service and we owe them that obligation.
There is a recent survey of economic advantage of states and Akwa Ibom State was among the first four mentioned as being economical advantaged to survive without federal allocation.
That is direct fall out of the economic initiatives and drives of government. Today the state’s IGR stands at excess of N24 billion from the recent position of N10billion few years ago. The amount will only keep increasing bearing in mind that more tourists, investors and businesses are coming. The arrival of Ibom Air makes destination to Akwa Ibom State much easier. Secondly the industrial revolution we have brought is a potential source of funds to the IGR. In two years’ time when the oil firms will relocate their headquarters to Akwa Ibom State, our internally generated revenue will increase astronomically. If you look at our recurrent revenue today, you will discover that the large chuck off it is coming from our internally generated revenue. When they come close to what we have as statutory allocation, that gives us confidence that we can service. The incumbent government is also exploring on how the state can service the post crude oil era because someday the oil wells may dry up or there may not be need for oil again. How do we survive as a state if that happens has led government into exploring a lot of options which brought about the establishment of the coconut refinery. That refinery is clearly the next big thing in the world. A barrel of coconut oil is costlier than a barrel of crude oil in the international market. Still we are yet to fully exploit its potentials here. Coconut grows here effortlessly even without planting them and coconut has over 300 uses. That will give us a huge market to top in future, not forgetting that we have grown over 2 million coconut plants. So there is high optimism that government will not have issues meeting the demands of labour in Akwa Ibom State.


While government has done several roads across the state, flood has persistently been a source of worry to residents of the Uyo capital city. What are government plans to tackle the flood menace?

The issue of flood is not peculiar to Akwa Ibom Sate. The last few years, flood has become a recurring phenomenon in many parts of the world. Lagos State has its own challenges with flood so is Akwa Ibom State because of our topography and the way roads were constructed in the past without drainages. Government is aware that issues of flood and erosion etc are not limited to its management alone. We need federal government assistance to handle these challenges. The IBB Avenue for instance will gulp over N30 billion to take away the flood on the road. It requires taking the water through canals for some kilometres to where it will be discharged without causing havoc. The canals will be properly built to avoid posing dangers with federal government’s support and intervention. Akwa Ibom is the biggest oil producing state in Nigeria and by virtue of that fact, the biggest contributor to Nigeria’s purse. But if you look round Akwa Ibom, you won’t see any meaningful federal presence. Calabar-Itu highway which is a federal road is in total disrepair as a classic example of how the federal government has neglected Akwa Ibom State. There is need for members of the House of Representatives to come here to see for themselves the gory sight of that road. Yet somebody told Nigerians that the road is in order. As a state government we have been doing our best. If you recall the flood popularly known then as car wash at Nsikak Edouk two-Lane Way is no longer there. it was evacuated via an underground channel. Erosion and landslides taking a toll on the state have been taken to the notice of the federal government. The World Bank has shown tremendous cooperation and assisted in tackling the erosion sites at Etim Okon Umana. We are also appealing to them to help with the IBB Way challenge and, of course, they have seen the drawings and we are to partner them to address the problem. The federal government, we expect, should intervene like the World Bank considering our contributions to the coffers of the nation as the highest oil producer.

A former Deputy Governor of the state has expressed worry over the delay in realising the Ibom Deep Seaport saying that the number of years gone is outrageous.

There is nothing to be worried about. First there are documentation stages required for you to begin the construction of the final stage. As at the last check, there are 22 steps you must go through and we are at the last stage. The deep sea port is not what the government does on its own but needed partners from the Nigeria Ports Authority and the Federal Ministry of Transport. You must go through the documentation and approvals to meet the minimum standard. There is no point building a port that will remain dormant. By geographical location the Ibom Deep Seaport is very viable. Another advantage with Ibom Deep Seaport is that it is a dual channel port which can process two ship at the same time. The communities where ports are cited are always overwhelmed with congestion once it becomes operational, Apapa Port for instance. So Akwa Ibom government is already creating a network of dual carriages to ensure that there are enough roads to take care of the coming port. In a situation we have congestion because of the number of ships, we have the Ikot Abasi jetty, a few kilometres from the deep seaport where other ships can anchor and offload. Today as we speak we have a preferred bidder unlike any other seaport. Out of the 22 required steps we are at step 22. We want to build a financial sea port. We have a Chinese investor and another one from Europe, our preferred bidder passed through due process of diligence before they are chosen and they are about the best you can find in the world with experience and resources to build and manage a seaport. So there should be no cause to worry at all.

Talking about the payment of pensions and gratuities, the issues surrounding the entitlements of late primary school teachers’ remains unsolved, what is your take?

Issues surrounding pensions and gratuities have been sorted. When the government came on board in 2015, they paid 10 years arrears of gratuities owed staffs of unified local government and we commenced the payment of gratuities in 2017 to retired workers. That clearly underscores commitment and desire to make sure that the welfare of civil servants is well taken care of. Payment of pensions is done moment after retirement through seamless graduation from payroll to pension roll while awaiting your gratuities. Before you migrate from salary payroll to pension there are basic documentation processes which must be fulfilled. A lot of processes are still making it difficult for newly employed civil servants to get wages the same month they enter the service. This is why the government has concluded plans before the end of their term in 2023 to ensure that the civil servant is fully automated. The bulk of complaints you get stems from the normal slow documentations which sometimes are caused by beneficiaries themselves. I have said that anybody who has fulfilled all requirements and still not paid should come up and we will find out reasons for the delay. The Governor has said so severally at different fora and we don’t have people coming up. The government didn’t discriminate by saying that they will pay from the time they came in before going back to the inherited backlog. but as a responsible government we ensure that those who retired earlier get theirs before those who retired recently for rationality and humanity sake.

Industrialization cannot be successful without ensuring adequate power in the state. What milestone has the governor made in the power sector?

Power is a problem in Nigeria. Akwa Ibom State government in the last four years has strived to improve the sector. Don’t forget that the previous administrations set up the Ibom Power Plant but the challenges of power may never really be solved until we have the power of distribution which is still solely in the hands of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). In case of Ibom Power Plant, the TCN has only been able to evacuate only 40 per cent of the electricity generated with 60per cent laying fallow. So we still have a long way to go. If they evacuate 100 per cent everybody will have light in the state. During the visit of the vice president, the Governor told him of the plans by the state to apply and get a distribution company. If politics will allow us get the licences then there will be 24 hour light. There have been improved electricity since the governor installed the injector substation in Uyo on July 2017, the one at Ekim Mkpat Enin is serving the state. The one around the airport will soon be connected to the natural grid. Regrettably the airport has been functioning on generator until now. All these are what government is doing to achieve the dream of making sufficient power for all. If we are incharge of distribution of power, we will assure Akwa Ibom people of at least 20 hours of electricity every day; that is if we get the licence. This is what has given us confidence to say that by 2021 there will be power in every household in Akwa Ibom. We believe it is achievable for every household to have electricity by 2021 in Akwa Ibom once the federal government allows us to have our own distribution company (Disco).


The Governor is a lover of sport. What has his administration done to take sport to the next level in the State?

The government is very passionate about sports and football in particular. You could recall that a year after the Governor came on board, Nigeria went to the Olympics and returned with only a bronze medal in football. The governor being the sports lover, said if smaller countries like Kenya and Jamaica go to Olympic and return with multiple gold medals in individual sports, then a big country like ours can do better if there should be a state to spearhead it. Akwa Ibom should be at the forefront and that is why to invest in sporting facilities while encouraging early preparations for any competition. The stadium in Uyo is the best maintained in the country as the ones in Abuja and Lagos appear abandoned. The Governor, desirous of making the state a talent factory for the country, started with the construction of sporting facilities across the 10 federal constituencies, even though the economic realities have affected the project, but the desire remains intact. Uyo Federal Constituency is done already, Eket Stadium is ongoing and government is determined to ensure it goes round. Again the idea of sports competition among youths is also in government agenda through yearly organization of youth sports festivals for local government areas of the state.
Akwa United Football Club had perennially struggled at the relegation level year-in year-out until the government came and turned around the team and they have won the FA Cup twice and today they are perpetually a championship contender. It was not by accident but through careful planning and execution.
The Akwa Ibom Youth Festival has gone two editions and we are gearing up for the third edition. We have achieved the result because today there is no Nigerian contingent to any infrastructural competition that you will not find an Akwa Ibomite. In our various levels of national football teams, we have Akwa Ibom youths doing well. Before now you have our son or daughter once in a long while. The government has given our people the platform and all necessary encouragement to excel in sports. We hosted the Super Eagles here enroute to the World Cup finals and FIFA will consider the Uyo Stadium in the coming global football event to be hosted in the country. Our female teams do make it now to the FA finals which before now was a tall dream for them. We are one of the few states in Nigeria that have two teams in the premiership league – Akwa United and Akwa Starlets now renamed Dakkada Football Club. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said we must not have two clubs with similar names of the same league, thereby prompting the sudden change of name of Akwa Starlets
The story of sport development in Akwa Ibom is that of excitement because it takes a lot of people off the streets and creates job for them. In 2015 Akwa United Football Club was dominated by foreign players but three years later over 75 per cent of our players are indigenes and most of them have been invited to the national teams. Our challenges is that since the unattractive nature of our league, the players are always eager to travel abroad for greener pasture once opportunity comes. The economy of the country is not helping matters. However as a state, we have done well with the provision of basic sporting facilities to young athletes.

Finally, what is your impression of your principal and the governor on his style of leadership?

I will say without mincing words that Akwa Ibom State is blessed to have a Governor like Udom Emmanuel at this time, especially at the time the economy is in dire stress. We know the challenges other State governors are battling with. But here we are lucky we have a Governor who is well versed in financial management.
A Governor who is keenly transparent, desirous of ensuring he maintains integrity and transparency in handling government business. That has helped him to successfully navigate the ship of the state. He has bought his vast experience from the private sector with his network of connections to drive the State. The industrialization revolution of this government was an offshoot of the marketing acumen of the government. Money, like the Governor said, is a coward. Nobody invests his money in an unsafe environment. The investors of the syringe factory and flour mills are Turkish ad they are the largest flour mills in Europe which means they have a choice to establish elsewhere but they flew over the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert by-passing Abuja and Lagos to Akwa Ibom which speaks volume about the personality and integrity of the leadership of the state. It means they have found in the Governor a trustworthy fellow and one they can work with. Akwa Ibom people in their own way during the election expressed their love and confidence in the person of Udom Emmanuel because of what he has done for his people. Today the Akwa Ibom man is proud of where he came from because of the one who is piloting the affairs of the state.

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