Udom’s early N1b loan, are we safe? – Joseph Atainyang
Barely 48 hours after Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State was declared reelected, the House of Assembly has approved a request of N1b loan for the state government.
Granting approval for the loan, Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Barr. Onofiok Luke, said the N1b is for the purchase of a City Surveillance Monitoring Communication Equipment in Uyo metropolis.
The State House of Assembly presided over by the Speaker gave the nod on Wednesday in a resolution passed during plenary.
Unfortunately, one would not be unreasonable to refuse inquiring what makes such a project so important as to the extent of attracting such urgency. One would also ask why such an important programme may not have been officially captured in the 2019 budget.
Of course, the 2019 elections had been viewed as a fortunate spectacle that will reveal the true personality of Governor Udom Emmanuel. The governor had been described as a financial expert whose diligence in financial management would put the financial status of the state in the right shape.
Recall that he was severally described as a prudent manager of financial resources. Many had posited that as a successor to Chief Godswill Akpabio, Udom, a financial expert, was set to bring discipline to the way and manner the state’s funds were being spent.
Although pundits had suggested that governor Emmanuel should declare the debt profile of the state, immediately after resuming office in 2015, the governor repeatedly told the state that Senator Akpabio left behind no deficit treasury. It was therefore surprising last Thursday, March 7, 2019 when Udom Emmanuel spoke on TV during an interview, saying, “Senator Akpabio left behind a huge debt burden on me”. This became a shocker of the moment as no one expected him to speak of debt, after four years of sitting as governor.
No doubt, concerned citizens of Akwa Ibom had raised an alarm that the governor had emptied the state coffers to spread fund for the elections. Barr Augustine Asukwo lamented the huge waste of fund by the governor for the purpose of securing a second term. Augustine had written in Ibibio when on his timeline on Facebook he said, “UDOM EMMANUEL AKWEÑE AFID OKUK KE AKWA IBOM TREASURY KE NTAK SECOND TERM ELECTION. IF YOU KNOW YOU KNOW”. What he meant was that Governor Udom had finished all state’s fund in the treasury because of the ‘greed’ to win a second term election.
Some concerned citizens shared in the sentiment. It was however learnt that so much money was being voted for vote buying. At least, credible sources had revealed how the governor was spending at least N800 thousand per unit. It was learnt that N300 thousand was for women while N500 thousand was for the male voters in each of the 2,980 polling units across the state. This amounted to a little below N3 billion. It was however learnt that the amount had been improved upon to brighten the chances of the PDP at the polls.
Speaking with this reporter on the election day, a serving permanent secretary in the Akwa Ibom State government regretted the excessive vote buying situation. He stated that the money being spent by the governor is almost ten times (10×) of what he should use to clear outstanding debts owed the civil servants and retirees in the state. The permanent secretary who doubted whether the last minute spending could actually buy victory for the Governor, reasoned that the Udom Emmanuel would have had a smooth sail to his second term if he had paid the debts owed workers at various levels. He pointed out that as an official of government, he knew that the governor was spending as a challenge for his second term.
Another official of government revealed that federal allocation for some months have since been sunk into financing the election. He doubted whether the state government would be able to pay civil servants and finance other expenditures for the month of March 2019, considering the level of financial deficit on ground.
Meanwhile, available records show that various entitlements of workers have not been paid by this present administration. Speaking further with this reporter, the permanent secretary lamented that promotion arrears of workers who were promoted since 2016 have not been paid. He explained that many who were promoted since 2016 and were again lifted in 2018 would rather have their promotion status effected from May 2019. He clearly stated that arrears of workers from 2016 till date will not be implemented by Governor Udom Emmanuel who is bent on giving them their entitlements with effect from May 2019. The fate of retired workers and next of kin of deceased workers are rather worsened as many of these people are just existing by God’s grace without their due being given.
It is no more news that massive vote-buying, inducement of electoral officers and security agents were reportedly masterminded by the governor and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the just concluded elections. These uncommon ‘looting’ of the state’s treasury may have influenced gullible members of the Akwa Ibom society who may have cheated their consciences by voting the PDP.
Consequently, it becomes an absolute astonishment to realised that Governor Emmanuel who was seen as a prudent manager is the one drying up the treasury in order to secure victory. Again, reliable sources have reported that another hefty loan approval for the governor is underway. This clearly propels the fair minded and curious members of the Akwa Ibom society to ask questions on what the fate of the people would be. If in just two days after so much money was wasted for election, the state government takes a loan of as little as N1 billion, it becomes apparent that the state is as empty as a hall. It is a clear indication that we are certainly not safe. This is why those who have sold their consciences for a spoon of beans are likely to lament the imminent hunger in the land.
* Joseph Atainyang is a journalist and public affairs commentator.