Akwa-Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, was in Lagos recently where he fielded questions on various issues of national interest with some journalists. BOLA BADMUS, who was there, brings excerpts:
How would you assess your administration in the past three years that you have been in office?
So far, I can say that we have done well. I will give myself an ‘A’ if I’m to rate myself as we have done very well as an opposition political party leading a state that has no Federal Government’s presence; not even a kilometre of road. As the largest oil producing state, there is not even a depot owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Akwa Ibom State. The corporation doesn’t even have a kiosk as an office in the state and you can’t point to anything to show that the Federal Government has interest in Akwa Ibom, which is an oil producing state.
The belief is that governors in the South-South, including Akwa Ibom State have not done enough for their people despite the huge resources accruing to their states from the federation account?
I am hearing that for the first time because a lot of people do ask: Where do you guys get the money to do all your projects from? As at today, it is only governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who are commissioning projects. You should look at what we get in Naira value and the rate of inflation. When we had a similar oil price some years ago at the exchange rate prevalent at that point in time, how much were these states given and how much are we getting today at the current level of inflation and exchange rate? Today, the export processing market is between N360 and N365. Look at the Naira value; divide that by 365 and compare it to what we used to get and what we are getting now with the rate of inflation. At that time, how much was a bag of cement and how much is it today? These are facts, so cross-check them and compare it to what we have put on ground. That’s why I said I am hearing that for the first time as nobody has ever challenged what the South-South governors have done with the revenue they are getting.
There are series of coalition talks aimed at unseating the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government ahead the 2019 General Elections, what is your position on that and how feasible is that?
Most of the things going on now are human tactical approaches to what people think can give them result, but at the end of the day, what matters most is result. Everyone is hoping to carry the day in 2019. So any tactical approach, which you think will give you the result, is what you are going to employ. And let me say something; no two elections have ever been the same and will ever be. So, the 2019 election will be completely different from that of 2015. So, if somebody thinks that there is a formula to it, it might not necessarily be. Above all, no matter what anyone does, it is God who determines who gets power as all power on planet earth belongs to Him and He gives it to whoever He wishes. There are situations where people have ruled without anyone casting the ballot for them; what coalition would you call that? So, I believe that these things are just human approaches to actually see what result they can get.
You said that there is not even a kilometre of road constructed by the Federal Government in Akwa Ibom State. Could that be as a result of party differences or what?
It did not start today and it is not because of party differences. I cannot explain and I stand to be corrected if there is any. Even the so called federal roads that we have spent money on to reconstruct, we are still waiting for reimbursement of the funds that we spent. Even at that, the Federal Inland Revenue Service is telling us to pay tax on money that I am still being owed.
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How would react to the assertion by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that your government is stopping it from embarking on projects in Akwa Ibom State?
There are nine states that make up the NDDC, put Akwa Ibom aside, pick other states and let them show you how many roads they have constructed and commissioned. If I am commissioning roads, I call people to come and be witnesses; let them show Nigerians the roads they have initiated, constructed and commissioned. What can come as an advice is that if you occupy some public offices, you should not have political ambition because you cannot play politics with the development of the people. As much passionate as we are towards development, do you think it is practicable for us to tell somebody not to develop our state? It is all just blackmail and propaganda and we disassociate ourselves from such. Probably, they just want to score a cheap political point and that was why I said that some public offices should be meant for people who we know are out for development and not for those who will use such offices to actualize their political ambitions.
No state will allow any agency of the Federal Government to go and place a sign post on a road that it has awarded contract for its reconstruction. It is not only about the NDDC; even the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) does that. If I am doing rehabilitation of a federal road and FERMA goes and puts a sign post there, of course, I will remove it because I am using state funds for the job. If it is in their budget and I am doing it, they should go and account for it. They should not use what I have done to account for it. If you go to Akwa Ibom State now, I am resurfacing the road from Okot- Ibot to Oron, which is a federal road, but you would be surprised to go there and see a FERMA sign post on it.
Are you saying that people who have political ambition should not be appointed into the NDDC?
I didn’t say only the NDDC. I said certain offices of developmental agencies that cut across the regions of the country because there would be some element of bias and I don’t need to define those biases.
How would you respond to the Water Resources Bill, which seeks to establish a regulatory framework for the water resources sector in Nigeria?
I am completely against it because it is counter development. It also violates the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Take for example, my area, the whole life of our people is on water and the constitution does not separate the land from water. So, how can you now say water on the surface and water beneath? What happens to us because we live on water, we survive on water, we do everything on water? Does it mean that those that have land, live on land and do everything on land, their governors have control, while governors of riverine areas where the peoples’ entire life is on water should not control anything? Is that not a violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian?
So, it is a total rejection not just by me, but by the entire people of the South-South and South-East of this country and we just want to believe that at this time that our democracy is still fragile, we should put in things that will build the country stronger and not those that can call so many things to question. Let’s do things that can move us forward and not backward. Such a bill can take us several thousand miles backwards. Believe me, we reject it in its entirety because it is against the constitution and it is an indirect way of saying that we are not Nigerians because everything about our life in the Niger Delta is on water.
Is there anything that the governors of the South-South are doing to ensure that this Bill is not passed by the National Assembly?
We have a Chairman of the Governors of the South-South and to be fair to him, he has been speaking on the issue, so I don’t want to make any comment that would be contrary to the statement he has made.
What is your relationship with your predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who is alleged to have claimed that some key officials of your government loyal to him were sacked due to the perceived rift between you and him?
Let me ask the question: Which key official have you ever heard was sacked? If I run the government and there was no key official that has been sacked, then the alleged claim is a big surprise to me. No official has been sacked from government, I am not aware of any because the highest official through appointment is commissioner and no commissioner has been sacked. At times people misinterpret certain things. You know that it takes two to be in love and it also takes two to fight, so in this case, I will give you a straight answer; there is no rift because the second party is not available. You don’t play a football match when you don’t have an opponent.
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