Uyo Deserves Oil Producing Status

...Needs Special Funding As Host Of State Capital


* Gov Emmanuel Is Meticulous, His Decisions Stand Test Of Time

* My Leadership Has Improved Internally Generated Revenue From Below N60m To Over N100m Annually

Listening to him reveals a man who has depth and sound knowledge of the office he occupies; someone who knows what he has to do, and what is expected of him. The man, Elder Asuquo Imoh Okon, Executive Chairman of Uyo Local Government council, is readily an interviewer’s delight going by his grasp of his responsibilities.

His sound background has accelerated his sojourn in politics in Akwa Ibom State and beyond. He has served as the Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District, a position he held before his constituency, the Uyo Local Government Area, requested him to serve as the local government chairman in December 2017.

During the 2019 General Elections, he had the task of marketing the senatorial candidate of the district, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan as the Director General of the Akwa Ubok Abasi Campaign Orgainsation.

His tenure as the chairman of Uyo Local Government Council since December 2017 has brought a lot of success stories to the council in all areas.

When Crystal Express met him for an exclusive interview, Elder Okon lived up to the bidding, reeling out many tongue wagging achievements during his tenure. Excepts.

Let us meet, sir

I am Elder Imo Asuquo Okon, a professional medical scientist who is currently in leadership and not actively a politician. I am the last born in a family of seven. I am from Nung Ukim Ikono Uyo in Uyo Local Government Area. I have core values that have to do with transparency and integrity. My major objective in anything I do is to avoid double standard. I don’t believe that people must stand for everything but must stand for something. Once I stand for something, I rely on spiritual discernment and I am a believer in prayers who always seeks the face of God in all I indulge. Once I have a strong conviction, whether it is supported by the majority or minority, I stand by it. Today, by the grace of God, I am the chairman of Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. I must also acknowledge God’s favour in my uplift from grass to grace. Leadership comes from God and supported by the people. Those who are elected into leadership positions should understand that those who elected them have high expectations. Therefore, a leader must always be in tune with the people and work to ensure that he is delivering on his promises to the people.

Uyo is now a city. As the chairman, what are the challenges you face in administering it vis-a-vis the resources at your disposal?

That is where core values and managerial skills come into action. You know human wants remain insatiable and will remain so forever according to Adams Smith. Uyo has a dual status and is also counted among the 774 local government areas in Nigeria and 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom State. It also occupies this special status of a state capital. It is the state capital status that makes us peculiar and because of this, in my office I try to balance this privileged position. One of the peculiar situations the state capital status has brought has to do with the complementary role of the state through the state ministries and parastatals that are domiciled more in Uyo Local Government Area. We have functions overlapping, so we must bring maturity into management or else there will be conflict. Now look at it this way, if the state is rendering services with regards to health, sanitation or education in a particular area in Uyo, what was I elected to do? We can’t offer the same services at the state location, so I appreciate the state for that. What we do is to move from there to another point where the state’s impact is not yet felt and that is maturity. The only area that we have concerns with the state is doing what is not constitutionally right. I said earlier that I am a very objective person and will not keep mute in the face of any unconstitutional act because I will call the attention of the officer involved, be it a commissioner, chairman or members of boards and commissions. I will draw their attention to the constitution and seek solutions to any anomaly so that you don’t end up doing the right thing in a wrong way because doing it is against the law. Then the other one has to do with the pressure on the finances, especially the internally generated revenue (IGR) of Uyo. There is serious pressure here. Other local government chairmen will put demand notices and people will receive one or two demand notices but here in Uyo, before you take your demand notice to a particular shop, the State Ministry of Environment has theirs, Waste Management Agency has submitted theirs, Ministry of Commerce and Industry has put their own, Ministry of Transport has put their own. So upon arrival, the shop owner will see you as a local person who is very insensitive. If you go through these demand notices, some ought not to have been there at all. By the time you see the Ministry of Transport demanding money for haulage, then you will see why things are going wrong because the constitution empowers the local government to establish, manage and regulate motor parks. The word regulation is wide. To regulate an activity you have to set some rules and local government enacts some bye laws to regulate in line with the constitution. But you observe that the state government has already taken over the concerns and it becomes a problem. The other one has to do with tenement rate. There is no law in Nigeria that has given any other organ or tier of government power to take tenement rate. The federal and state should not take. It is the constitutional right of the local government to collect tenement on property. But you see the state going for property taxes. Tenement and property tax are the same, just mere semantics. Property tax is a creation of the State House of Assembly while the tenement rate is the creation of the constitution. We know that the constitution says that any law, be it extant or otherwise, that is not in accordance with the constitutional provisions is void as the constitution takes precedence. I should not be seen to have abandoned the core duty I am elected to do to improve the welfare of the people of Uyo to be chasing after infractions of state officials on the local government which is additional pressure on the local administration. Again, as the state capital city, everybody wants to live in Uyo to go to work at the state secretariat. In ministries outlets in the other local government areas, you hardly see people except very few that stroll in and out. All the relations of the politically exposed persons have redeployed their employment from other LGAs to stay in Ewet Housing Estate, Shelter Afrique Estate, Osongama Estate because of their changed status.

However, when these politicians finish serving and leave public offices, those who came with them courtesy of lobbying stay back in Uyo. The entire people that public officers brought since the military era, the administrations of Obong Victor Attah and Chief Godswill Akpabio to work and serve in ministries are still in Uyo. So that is the reason for our high wage bill which is not supposed to be. Don’t forget that federal allocation is given to state and local government with regards to certain indices, one of which is the geographical area. Therefore, the money sent to us from Abuja to Uyo, has the indigenes of Uyo as first line charge. The money sent to Ukanafun or Oruk Anam also belongs to the people of the area. However, if you have brought yourself to Uyo because of mobility of labour, then you are one of the people putting pressure on the allocation of Uyo but there is a window, we pay the highest bill not because the beneficiaries are indigenes, far from it. If we make a bye law that people should take their salaries from where they come from, the state will be thrown into confusion.

But the way forward is what happened in Abuja where the Federal Government has handed a special funding to the Federal Capital Territory authorities from the federal allocation. It is special funding because the status for Abuja is a land for all. Uyo too is a land for all Akwa Ibomites. Once you are here in Uyo, we are one as long as Uyo remains the state capital. Government should give special funding to the Uyo Local Government Council for the development of Uyo as the state capital. We take responsibility to bury all the unidentified corpses in Uyo, and there are still four of such in the mortuary.

None of my colleagues go through this. The reason is simple, my own is high because there are more lunatics here in Uyo. You have more crimes and a lot of things happen here in the state capital. The number of unidentified corpses is high not because it is Uyo Local Government but because it is the state capital. We have so many reasons why state’s special funding should come to Uyo Local Government. I pray time will come when our dear governor will look closely at our demand and accent to it. He is a very meticulous person who takes time to make the best of decisions and one that will stand the test of time. Again, look at the issue of security, I am a chairman with same security vote like other 30 local government chairmen. I have five divisional police officers (DPOs) to work with but all other 30 local government areas have just one. Uyo alone has A, B, C, D and E Divisions with area command headquarters and with same security vote.

You can see why we need special funding to help our special security too. The high population of the state capital is attractive to criminal elements but we must plan to be ahead of their own plans if we must live in peace. The way we are presently, other councils don’t have such pressures. However, some will say that the state has beautified Uyo Local Government for us, but the truth is that what the state is doing is not for us. The state is developing our state capital.

If a state fails to develop the state capital and brings visitors, where will they pass through if we don’t have good roads and other social amenities. The development by the state in Uyo is for the entire state because of the capital status of the local government. When we want to count projects here, I am among those who will tell you some of the projects are not for Uyo Local Government. Examples are the flyovers. We never demanded for them but if the government did not build the flyovers, the city will be congested and all will suffer, no matter the person’s status in the society. So the flyovers were built to enhance convenience of commercial transactions and the movement of the people. If you ask me what Uyo people want, I will take you to Ward 7 Ewet to Nsukara where erosion and landslide are eating up and threatening to sack them. I will ask for experts to be brought to stop the menace and save people’s homes. In Ikono Uyo where I come from, we have 26 villages with no single tarred road and there is one trunk road. The entire villages want tarred roads and I will beg the State government to give them to us. If you go to Etoi, they have massive land and the people want more housing estates to develop and open up their domain.

There is also a locality in Etoi with crude oil deposit and it behooves on the state to liaise with the appropriate federal agency to come and do the exploitation of the crude oil and not to tell us that Uyo is not an oil producing local government area which is not correct. In my clan of Ikono Uyo, there are three places with crude oil deposits. It is clearly evidenced in the quality of water people find from mere digging of boreholes. What we need is for the state Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources to liaise with the appropriate federal agency and get them to come for exploitation. Uyo people want enhanced security at the city centre with close circuit cameras to make sure that people sleep with their two eyes closed. More so it should be a situation where people could go through Ibom Plaza at daytime with their phones and without any mugging or molestation from anybody. Uyo people will want their primary schools to be well funded and infrastructure to be there with chairs, tables, desks and other necessary facilities. It is a fact that there are subtle competition between Uyo people and the non- indigenes and Uyo people expect the competition not to swallow them.

By the time residents take their kids to good private schools and because of economic deprivation owing to loss of property to overriding public interest to the government projects, what happens to the personal interest of Uyo? Moreso we expect that government should arrange special allowances, special scholarship for Uyo indigenes in respect of the property lost to overriding public interest. The land housing the Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat Complex has the remains of people’s great grandparents and farmlands, same with Hilltop Mansion Government House. In taking over these property, what have Uyo people got in return?

When you go to other places, people can show you family cemeteries but you don’t have such things anymore in Uyo because of urbanization and what have Uyo people got in return? What we see is luxury vehicles and opulence from the privileged. We are like those in the river yet with soap covering our eyes. So without sounding apologetic, the situation we find ourselves needs more state government’s supports, even from the federal government. I have seen all these and as the chairman, I decided to take a different part from my successors by building a strong and lasting foundation in which other administrations after me will consolidate.

In the areas of IGR, I have gone through what the constitution empowers us to take and I am driving it passionately with a reviewed bye-law with reviewed inflow. In terms of infrastructure, I have ensured that primary schools without library get one. So far, two have benefited through the office of the chairman.

Primary School, Ifa Atai has one and we are moving to Primary School, Ikot Ntuen Oku. Before the end of our tenure, we will set up four per clan. My successor will come and because education is the key, he will build on what we have on ground. The next foundation has to do with scholarship. I went through the files and saw old documents when Uyo used to give scholarship to old students and I brought them out and went through. Some of the people who benefited from it are the most popular names today. That means education is an investment we should not toy with. Thus I dug the foundation and offered scholarship and educational grants. I am passionate about this regards, I honour them. I don’t believe in wasteful spending or spraying money on scrupulous praise singers. Money spent on such ventures is wasted and forgotten but school fees we pay for our brilliant sons and daughters in various institutions will add value because they are the people who will set the agenda for the council tomorrow. We have set up a bye law to regulate the traditional institution and curtail the youth restiveness in our communities. There is a bye law which makes it clear that the youth president cannot hold the entire village to ransom and a situation where the village head bows to the youth cartel is absurd. So under my watch, we have put up the bye laws with penalties for offenders. We have also set another bye law for succession in the traditional institutions.

There should be no vacuum. There is no law that permits a deceased village head to be kept for a long time without burial. If there is a culture like that, it is obsolete. When a leader who is the village head is dead, there must be a time frame for the burial and for a new village head to emerge. But the youths usually take advantage of the earlier loophole to hijack the village council and sometimes the wife of the village head will tell the people that the husband is dead and the youths will threaten her with banishment because they want to perpetrate their atrocities because of the peanuts they get, especially in areas with local markets where they will hijack tarrifs.

A village head is the leader of the community and if he dies which can happen to anyone, there should be a stipulated time frame for burial and emergence of new village head. Even the seat of the chairman of this local government will be occupied 24 hours after the demise of any chairman because leadership abhors vacuum. Why should we have traditional leader’s office kept for years without replacement with cheap lies that he is in the hospital when it is obvious that he is dead? Today we have a bye law to checkmate all these anomalies. In terms of property, inventories and assets, we have profiled all in the entire 11 wards and as at today, which was not the case in the years past when our landed property were property for all.

They have encroached but we will soon present the assets audit of Uyo Local Government both -physical and personnel- so you don’t need to tell me any stories on the content of any primary school in Uyo. With the pressing of buttons on my system all the information I need will appear before me based on the information we painstakingly gathered. We don’t accept an amorphous information to siphon revenue or council resources. Office accommodation has been grossly inadequate but we have started a new 22-room block outside to serve as the main administrative block. We have renovated other offices to relocate some officers too. Uyo Local Government Secretariat never had any public power supply. It was under my watch that a transformer was installed to supply public power to the council. In terms of staff morale, we take it very serious under my watch. I appropriate money monthly for staff welfare and to effectively handle that, I have set up a staff welfare committee.

All staff of Uyo Local Government who have outstanding welfare to be paid meet the committee which makes recommendations to me and I approve and minute to the accounts. I pay welfare monthly including to those in service training. In terms of scholarship, we have set aside N9million for scholarship to be enjoyed by 16 Uyo indigenes (two outside the country, one a first class graduate of UNN now studying in France who got stocked but we are supporting him. Another one a medical student in USA who got stocked and we are supporting, 3 in Law School). We have others with pathetic situation who could not continue due to one issue or the other but I intervened and that is why I am here. I am like a father to such people, not only to my biological children. One particular student from Madonna who lost her admission due to non-payment of fees who pledged to make Uyo proud is under our sponsorship presently.

The funds we spend on helping our youths get quality education is heartwarming. If I am one of those seeking vain glory, a little sum of that money spent on praise singers in Ibom Plaza or Maitama would have had them carry me shoulder high around the city but it is all vain glory. I am not given to unnecessary flamboyance and I don’t encourage those who should have invested their time wisely to use it in running after politicians for peanuts. I advise my supporters to go into business and those who did so are grateful today. Those with minor challenges, we give more support to succeed. My supporters are involved in different businesses; I will not be a party to any modern slavery.


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Anybody you see hanging around me has his responsibility to do either on security, protocol, documentation and other general services. I have lived my life as normal as I can because I know too well that the office I occupy is for three years, after which I will move on to other things. When I finish my tenure as the council chairman, I will have a document which I made an oath on to authenticate that the information there is true and correct and will be ready to be sued. If anybody finds it contrary to my oath of affidavit in court and the document will remain my everlasting memories of my 3 years administration. I am not going for a second term; my tenure is 3 years and whatever I need to do now, I do it. Others are busy doing campaign but I have said that what one cannot do in three years he will be struggling to do so in five years.

What I will not be able to complete in 3 years will be completed by subsequent administrations. The most important thing is to lay a solid foundation to the development and progress of the council area. Recently, through our interaction with the Rotary International we got a 40 ft container of medical equipment which were distributed to the health centres across the local government area. Those equipment that were not for primary health centres, we gave to the state health centres because they have specialized machines there. For those who questioned why we spent such funds, as one with a medical background, I know the level of dearth of equipment in our primary and secondary health centres.

I don’t want to see pregnant women deliver on the floor. We leave all our facts for the people to judge and appreciate us perhaps at the end of our tenure. I will continue to work till the last day. I work daily except I am out of Uyo. I have this principle of not working from home and also not allowing unnecessary piling of files on my table and I treat and release them once sent to me. I work late into the night here sometimes and can only treat emergency and critical situation at home.

I try to be kind, honest and sincere with all manner of people that troop to my office only. I do for them things that are possible and within my reach and also truly tell them that I can’t do ones beyond my capacity because I would not want to pile up unnecessary pressure for myself. So my yes is yes and my no is no. I also have problem with those who go round extorting money in the name of collecting revenue for us. Members of the council ought to go on revenue drive but there are touts going round deceiving people and when they are arrested and sent to prison, then there will be hues and cries here and there that I am not doing like a politician. But a politician is not a fraudulent person. I don’t take politics by the definition of what we call politics here. I take politics as leadership. Leadership ought to have direction and look out for mission and vision. That is how I look at leadership. If I get revenue into our revenue accounts and use it to pay revenue for Uyo indigenes across I will be more satisfied. I will start the payment of bursary next month to Uyo students. I don’t know when last the Uyo council paid bursary to students but I am going to do it and that means I have built a foundation for others to consolidate.

With all these achievements, why are you limiting yourself to just three years of one term as chairman?

Achievements as a local government chairman do not guarantee second term. Uyo has a zoning principle for the rotation of council chairmanship, House of Assembly seat and chapter chairmanship among the four clans of Uyo and the zoning formula is for one term. Uyo people do what is necessary of them as a people. I am talking about Uyo across party lines. Uyo people said the need to do the zoning, they are the ones to come together to unbundle the zoning and single term to allow people more terms. I am not a man that probates and reprobates, I am a strong advocate of that zoning, so I stand by the zoning. I will not, because I will be a beneficiary, start lobbying people to destroy the zoning. In any case, performance cannot be carried out only in the office of the chairman, there are other offices too. That is why leadership is a process and not an event and that is why, if you are doing well as a councilor and you are given another office, you should do better. That is my philosophy

You are doing more office blocks within the premises but there was a gigantic foundation done years back opposite your office for a bigger secretariat. What is the fate of that one?

That particular project has spanned over four administrations before mine. it was started by Dr. Christopher Nyong’s regime. Ekerete Ekpenyong, Fidelis Eddieh, Barr. Mfon Ben, Dr. Mrs. Grace Ekpo have all served Uyo without going to that side. When I reviewed the project, I realized that the present resources accruing to the council cannot deliver the project. if I had met the project at the roofing stage, I would have done that and finished up but the point the project was left was just DPC level. So if other administrations decided to avoid it, then they were wise. If Ekerete Ekpenyong had abandoned the building of the current chairman’s office to go into that project, we may not have a befitting chairman’s office now. You must balance the resources available to you to see how to complete the work. In future when the resources are available and mindset changed, and there are pressure on this side, then something will take place over there.

Is it not expected that the State Government will give a special fund for council building considering that the old council office was taken from Uyo by the state government?

It is never done. Since it was not done, that is why I was earlier advocating about special funding of Uyo, special funding in terms of completion of that secretariat. Special funding in terms of education, health and empowerment. We met them but where it is not coming, we cannot do otherwise

You came in and brought innovations to improve your IGR. Where is the local government now in terms of IGR?

When I came in 2012, I saw that between 2015 and 2017 in the accounts of the local government, Uyo IGR stood below N60million in 2017. I changed the modules and dynamics and in 2018 I raised N83million. In 2019, I raised about N100million. In 2020 by God’s grace, I may raise up to N120million. If I can double what I met on ground, it means my formula is working. Whoever will come in, the choice before the person is either to move forward or backward. Why I am doing well in terms of IGR is because I consolidated the revenue committee into one, payments are done into local government revenue account and loopholes are being blocked and eliminated. Before now, every person had receipt to collect money on the road, which I frowned at and which pitched me against the perpetrators. They are people who never wanted the status quo to be changed but I have no regrets on my actions because the money we are generating are used to improve the general wellbeing of the people of Uyo and also put up infrastructure across the council area. We have spread empowerment too through the revenue collected, even though there are still people yet to be touched individually.

How has your administration touched the lives of women through the office of your wife?

My wife’s office is very functional. She organizes every third Friday, Uyo prayer session for women. She runs a yearly programme on cancer for women. She has also taken over the provision of library in public primary schools in Uyo. She has paid WAEC and JAMB fees for several indigenes of Uyo. She has taken upon herself to offer career counseling and through this, she has helped guide many youths on the path to toe for a successful career in life depending on your passion, capacity and ability. Lots of youths are professionals in making. Presently my wife has brought Uyo women together into leadership platform that she doesn’t call herself chairman’s wife and take unaltered decisions. Rather she involves all the women whose husbands are in public offices and runs a college leadership in which every decision concerning the women is taken to the college which I considered a beautiful scenario. That has never been the case before now. In any case, when your content is right, you produce what is right out of it. I am proud to have married a very seasoned banker and very intelligent woman who made second class upper in mathematics; a woman who knows how to combine family life and still does her job perfectly as the wife of the chairman and performs her duties as a banker.

How has ALGON which you are part of been relating with the state government?

Very cordial. We are the subset of the state. He is a good boss and the leader of the state. We are his boys and junior colleagues in leadership. It is the 31 of us doing the jobs given to us by the law in the 31 council areas. We are chief security officers of our local government areas. In Uyo, I am the chief security officer boundary to boundary of 105 villages without gap. The responsibility lies on my shoulders that is why I call a spade a spade because I want adequate security for the people in my domain. We do our complementary responsibilities as directed by the law which goes a long way to make the governor achieve his goals for the people. Our governor is a man of integrity; a man who has content, well exposed, experienced and he has brought all these attributes to the leadership of the state. That is why we have peace in the state. Anybody antagonizing him is doing that for nothing because he is doing his best.

How true is the impression that the governor muscles Local Government Chairman for their funds?

No such thing. I am not aware of any such thing since I am part of ALGON. It is how people spread rumours. The constitution in Section 1, subsection 62 has empowered the state to control the appropriation of the local government funds by setting up the state joint allocation and appropriation committee. Section 1 sub- section 62 said all revenue accruing to local government in the state shall be paid into account and shall be administered by the committee in line with the law enacted by the State House of Assembly.

Nothing is done since I became chairman that is at variance with that law. If the constitution empowers revenue accruing to Uyo Local Government to come straight to our account and the state obstructs it, then I will go to court. But I have seen any part that in the constitution we are following, the only way it would be stopped is to amend the constitution and give full autonomy to the local government councils. Local government is an appendage of the state by the way the Constitution of Nigeria is operated. The National Assembly makes laws for the state and the laws made by the legislature of the council have very minor effect because of the State Assembly laws. Even the Local Government administrative laws that guide our operations are done by the state House of Assembly. It is not an absurdity. Local government is just a qausi administrative and not even a full fledged ministry in the state.

The oil-bearing status of Uyo has not been canvassed. Are you ready to let the world know that now?

Yes. We are canvassing it for the people to know that Uyo has crude oil deposits. Before now, nobody believed that the northern states have oil but today it is found to be true. We have all over Uyo. We have done the audit and we will harness it. We will do our seismic and preliminary studies to really come to terms with the true state. This is science which is universal. They have streams and we have also. If you go to some axis of Anua to Etoi, Ikono, Ikot Ayaha, Ikot Odung and the forest at Ikot Obio Mkpong, when you visit these areas and see even the palm trees there, all the signs show that there is oil underneath. They are very glaring, we will do a little bit of geological studies and document it, and now push it to the state level to take over from there. He who goes to equity must go with clean hands. The state is pursuing Ibom Deep Seaport and looking for the Federal Government approval. We expect them to also quickly handle ours dispassionately as soon as possible, once we push it to them to confirm our status as oil producing community.

Finally, what is your take on Governor Emmanuel’s Completion Agenda?

The completion agenda is on course and we support it in totality. As the chairman of the capital city, I will say we have enjoyed so much in the process of the last four years and as the governor is rounding off the second phase, we deserve to have more. As the state capital and landlords, we appeal for more. We will also give him the enabling environment to operate. This is one peaceful state and it is possible because Uyo people are very peaceful people. If we are restive other local government areas will emulate but we are good landlords. We show very human disposition, we want the system to be smooth. We give utmost support to the governor but we strongly appeal that in this Completion Agenda, we should continue to count our blessings one by one.

We wish the governor well and pray for God’s wisdom to continue to guide him in administering the state. We thank the governor’s wife for her support to the women and children and urge her to still extend it to men. We extend our appeal to members of the state executive to perfectly interpret the plans of their boss. The completion agenda is delicate and one has to follow the map of the boss. For a striker to score a goal, don’t waste time drilling, send the ball and get the goal because at the duration of 90 minutes, nobody will be interested how much you dribbled but the goal you scored.

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