We Are Rebuilding Etim Ekpo, Reconciling Youths, Elders, Village Heads

….Former Agitators Working For Unity Now



Rt. Hon Udeme Eduo is the Executive Chairman of Etim Ekpo local government area. Eduo a long standing politician had earlier served at different times as Vice Chairman, and Transition chairman of the Council and has contributed immensely to the development of the area. He speaks on efforts to rebuild and reintegrate the people of the area recently ravaged by insurgency in this interview with Crystal Express.

Etim Ekpo youths recently issued a press statement where they expressed deep appreciation for your efforts so far as council chairman. How do you feel about their gesture?

They also wrote to me to show appreciation on my leadership style in the last two years. The youth were led by youths from Ward 8 of the council. The same youths I could remember led a peaceful protest to the elders and stakeholders to demand the giving of the chairmanship slot to my ward which was yet to produce a council chairman since the creation of the local government in 1991. They explained then that virtually all the 10 wards in the council have at one time or the other produced a council chairman with some producing more than once till I became chairman in 2017. When it came to our clan, my ward was favoured and elders in their wisdom thanked the youth for their insight and the mandate fell on me, having earlier served as vice chairman of the council under Barrister Emmanuel Enoidem as chairman. He also, in conjunction with other elders and stakeholders, supported my ascension to the leadership of the council.


RELATED: Gov Emmanuel’s Amnesty Has Brought Peace, Development to Etim Ekpo

From then till now, it has been one success story or the other. Last year, Etim Ekpo youths approached me and said they wanted to organize a youth football tournament and that they have made arrangements to start the tournament in September and end it in December. I commended their ideas, having seen that the once troublesome youths are the ones now exploring avenues for unity. I asked if the entire wards were participating including those ravaged by insurgency and they concurred that it was for everybody. Then I put all my support including funding the tournament. I also liaised with other stakeholders to ensure that each ward is fully and adequately represented. At the end of the competition, my ward won the tournament. It is on record that this is the first time a competition of this magnitude will end peacefully and successfully in Etim Ekpo. So while thanking God, I felt humbled when the youth decided to come forward to show deep appreciation for my genuine efforts throughout my two years in office as Chairman.

After many months of granting amnesty to ex-militants from your council area, what is the situation now? Have the people who fled the area at the heat of the crisis returned home?

I think there are indices we have to look at to check the success of the peace deal. One is the return of life to market, schools and homes. People of Etim Ekpo are now moving around freely. The element of fear has fizzled out. The crisis that engulfed Etim Ekpo lasted more than the years taken by the Nigerian Civil War. What we are doing now is reconciling the youths, the village heads and family heads. We have fixed the council grader and ensured the grading of some impassable roads in wards 7, 8 and 9 for ease of movement by the people. Right now, massive road grading is still going on in different areas of the council, taking advantage of the dry season. During the insurgency, markets were burnt and we are rebuilding them while people, mostly women, are already taking their goods to the market for sale. We have assisted village heads with funds to help fix some of the burnt markets in their domains. We are also soliciting assistance from the World Bank and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to help rebuild some of the damaged markets across the local government area. Presently, the council under my leadership is building Urua Annang, a market owned by 18 villages that are wrapped up in 3 wards. Once the market is completed, I will build an abattoir because these are what the people wanted to get their economic activities on tract.

Feelers from your council area is that people are still afraid of returning home after the amnesty and peace deal between ex-militants and government. How successful is the amnesty programme?

Success is measured in different ways. As the chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area I am saying that my communities are all safe and that people are back to their domains. But you know that there are people who left and paid rents in cities they fled to and many have paid for two years with their children in public schools in places like Abak, Ikot Ekpene and even Port Harcourt. I mean the elite who have the resources and they are still enjoying their rents in those areas. Once rents expire, they will also return to their homes since there is peace and calm. Most of the people in this category paid their rents and few months after, the crisis got resolved and there is no way they could get their rent back and their children are also enjoying their new public schools in the city.

To judge the extent of compliance of people returning home, check the markets, schools and churches and you will be amazed that people are fully back home to rebuild their homes. I want you to recall that in November last year, I was able to pull the entire state to my village for the centenary ceremony of my church. Before then, I pulled the entire state to my father’s funeral which was held earlier in 2018. These are indices that peace has returned and people are going about their businesses.

Before now, who are you to organize any ceremony in the area without going to look for the leaders of the clandestine groups to get permit? But now they are being stigmatized. The real owners of the village are now back. One may also describe it as relative peace because there is nowhere in the world that we have absolute peace. People in pursuit of economic activities fight, traders fight for space in the market, some traders also fight to get prices up while some fight to get prices down. Therefore, compared with events before, we have relative peace and wish to express gratitude to Governor Udom Emmanuel for his immense efforts. The deputy governor also came last week to give relief materials to villages and villagers who have issues. The process of healing, reconstruction and rehabilitation is a gradual process.

What about the ex-militants who laid down their arms? What is their fate now?

I said earlier that because of the crisis, they are now being stigmatized by the people and they are now coming back to learn trade or skills to support themselves. Some of them are now drivers and wish to be airport taxi drivers. Others want to sell in the market and various amount of money has been given to those in this category. The good thing now is that the mask is off and they now bear their real names and no longer funny names like Sgt. Red blood and other funny nomenclatures. Government at both local and state levels are assisting them now to earn a decent living.

Notwithstanding the security challenges you have encountered, we discovered that the council is still executing some projects. Could you throw more light on that?

Etim Ekpo has about 77 villages and made up of 10 wards. The councillors in the different wards through my government assistance have taken development to the villages and wards. These, they do through various forms of assistance and empowerment to the youth and women. We have graded various rural village roads. We discovered that the council secretariat needs a facelift, so we started with perimeter fencing of the council which is over 80 per cent completed. There is also a gatehouse and we have also improved the aesthetics of the entire council and these have added beauty to the council. The entire council area is clean, green and habitable. We have ensured through conscious efforts that we maintain hygienic environment for the benefit of the people. Most of the offices in the old secretariat have been given to the Area Command of the Nigeria Police, the DSS, the Local Education Authority, and others. If you leave the structures without people, they will deteriorate quickly. The place is now livelier with these government agencies occupying them and the entire area looks livelier. The secretariat has been reconnected to the National Grid and we are working towards ensuring that the areas are linked with electricity as quickly as possible, especially the areas which had security challenges earlier. We have done a massive borehole to feed both the old and the new secretariat in Etim Ekpo. The new secretariat has been furnished with all the executive members having their personal offices and working in very conducive environment. We have also given official vehicles to principal officers of the council. We have also started building a new stadium in Etim Ekpo and the next few months will see to the completion of a 500-seater stadium with the perimeter fence. We are on course notwithstanding the scarce resources. At the 50 housing units in Etim Ekpo, we have provided drinking water through the borehole system.

The council has limited resources and works according to available funds. We don’t lack funds to the extent of not maintaining the little infrastructure we have as we are not mandated to build sky scrapers. We are there in the council to also maintain peace and the facilities on ground and ensure that our people earn a decent living in an organized environment. Other mega projects are being handled by the State and Federal Governments. We also liaise and synergize with relevant government agencies in Etim Ekpo to ensure the smooth running of government. Recently, I applied and got seven transformers for Etim Ekpo people through inter-ministerial direct labour committee. I saw a window and applied and got it. Now we are collaborating with Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) to ensure electricity for the people.

What is the place of women in all you are doing with your administration in Etim Ekpo?

As we are talking now, my wife has organized 50 women, five per ward and they are presently undergoing skills acquisition in various trades and this is their third week of getting intense training in the council secretariat and it will last for six weeks. Those ones will go and another set will come and by the time you know it, we would have trained not less than 100 women per ward. She started that project before it got to my knowledge and I sincerely appreciated her efforts. She is partnering FEYReP in that regard. The wife of the governor in her magnanimity has built a palm oil producing mill at Etim Ekpo and my wife is assisting the women purchase palm fruits which they take to the oil mill, extract the oil and sell it back to the government and we now help them to sell the oil to the larger market. My wife is doing that for women to help appreciate the facility brought for women by the wife of the governor to our council for women to use and enhance their income and growth. We will be happy when our people are happy.

Gov Emmanuel’s major campaign promise is industrialization. Four years after, are you impressed by his strides in that area?

Yes. The state is witnessing what happened in the eighties in old Cross River State under late Dr. Clement Isong as governor. Isong was a banker who also became the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria at a time. In his time, he brought so many industries to the state including Sunshine Batteries, Biscuit Factory, Qua Steel, Quality Ceramics, Dr. Pepper and many others. They were public private partnership businesses geared towards creating jobs and alleviating poverty among the people. Governor Emmanuel on his own upon assumption of duty moved to enhance the power sector because you cannot have industries without adequate plan for power. Major companies that came to Nigeria in the 80s and 90s are all gone because of power problem. Therefore Governor Emmanuel has ensured adequate power supply in Uyo, Eket and Mkpat Enin with each major power substation taking care of 6 council areas.

RELATED: Restoration of Peace and Security Remains our Topmost Achievements- Etim Ekpo Chairman

Recently, he has announced that Etim Ekpo will be the beneficiary of the next power sub-station which will take care of Etim Ekpo, Ukanafun and Ika. With power adequately installed in Akwa Ibom under Gov Emmanuel, there is need to have more investors from all over the country and the Diaspora to Akwa Ibom State for investments. The Governor is well mentored; he has been a big player in the well organized private sector and a banker of high repute. Other past leaders came, promised industries and left without any sign of it. Udom Emmanuel promised and 18 major industries are here and still counting. And to sustain them; he has brought power and adequate security to ensure its sustainability.

Insecurity pervades the country but Akwa Ibom is relatively peaceful and that was Governor Emmanuel’s major campaign strategy in 2019. What is your take on this?

You can see it yourself that the state is very peaceful. At least you as a journalist have seen with me that the state is not in the front burner of major newspapers for the wrong reasons like criminal activities or security breaches. In the absence of such stories, I agree that the state is peaceful. The recent funeral ceremony of the governor’s father which attracted the international community and who’s who in Nigeria is an indication of the level of peace we are enjoying in the state. Some of the high profile guests spent as much as 3 days in the state to enjoy the serene, peaceful atmosphere and the hospitality of our people. In that particular ceremony we had a sitting Vice President who represented the President, 18 serving governors, numerous ex- this and that to show the state is peaceful. The peaceful nature of the state has seen it overtake Cross River State even in carnival and Christmas packages. Now Akwa Ibom opens Christmas village from 1st December, through to 1st January with influx of people and no hitches. Several Akwa Ibom people in the Diaspora do visit and enjoy themselves in these places without any issues. Our governor is one favoured by God.

Related Articles

Back to top button