By UbongAbasi Ise
There has never been a time Akwa Ibom youths have themselves stuck in a quagmire situation as in this government dispensation run by Mr. Udom Emmanuel. They have never had this bad. Many youths today in the state have badly been frustrated and stressed in a way that one might think they have no ancestral links with this part of the world as they have a governor who doesn’t care a hoot about their plight, and about their future, except a stay in office beyond 2019. In the name of empowerment, employment, industrialization and whatever appellations deems fit, the government of the day would not relent in creating situations and be inviting the youths to the mélange of problems, then turn round to knock them about with brute rigors. Since the coming of Udom Emmanuel, the intercourse between the state government and the youths is colossally characterized by tension. The fragment of the youths’ population genuinely benefitting from the system today are those Udom and co are using in feathering their nests in preparedness for 2019 electioneering season.
To show how subterfuge the government of the day is configuring itself towards matters relating to human development, Udom’s administration through Rev. Dr. (Mrs.) Marjorie Abasiodiong, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Skill Development Centre Projects devised a programme, called Ibom Skill Development Initiative, drafted in about 620 professionals and 20 volunteers, then tasked them with the duty of training 5,785 youths in various skills. This was a welcome development anyway. But who thought the state government’s promise to fairly compensate the 620 trainers, and to provide the 5,785 trainees with allowance and starters pack after a successful wind up was just a farcical, empty promise merely intended to keep afloat the toga of job creation? Who could have suspected that the Udom’s government was pushing the poor trainers to use their hard-earned resources and manpower to train this vast number of youths across the state? Who imagined they would be told point blank that the state government has no contract with them, and therefore owes nobody any obligation?
Did it stop at that? No! Instead of providing these hapless 5,785 trainees with allowance, Udom’s government through the office of SSA to the Governor on Skill Development Centre Projects, went on to make money from the trainees as evidenced in the bank statement provided by the Zenith Bank PLC and captured in a letter titled, ‘Ibom Skill Development Initiative (ISDI): An Appeal For Compensation For Agrieved Trainers/Trainees’, dated 3rd June, 2017, and addressed to Governor Udom Emmanuel by the Forum of Trainers/Trainees of Ibom Skill Development Initiative. According to the letter, the trainees paid monies with different subject headings into a private Zenith Bank Account with the number, 1014063265 given to the participants by the SSA on Skill Development. It was noted in the letter that the lady reverend, Marjorie, collected registration fees in the sum of N1,150 per participant; printed branded T-shirts and sold to participants at Nl,500.00 each; collected SMEDAN Registration Fees in the sum of N500.00 per participant; sold Tag/Certificate of SMEDAN Training to participants at the rate of N1,000 each; printed Certificate of Skill Training for each participant at the rate of N2,000 per participant, and charged N7,500 per participant for Sony Training. It was also alleged that payments were paid to the SSA directly.
Come to think of it. Since Mr. Udom Emmanuel came from the background of Zenith Bank PLC into power, it is not improbable that the governor would revere the business interest of Zenith Bank PLC in Akwa Ibom more than any other thing that matters to the state. It might be that the so-called Ibom Skill Development Initiative was partly concocted to provide another business avenue for the Zenith Bank to go on making money from the hapless people. This bank controls bulk of transaction involving the state government courtesy of Mr. Udom Emmanuel. From the monthly allocation coming from the federation account to the payment of entitlements of the state’s public officials, about 1% of the amount transacted would go to the Zenith Bank PLC. Let’s say if this year’s September allocation from the federation account was N12.9 billion, then about N290 million had fall on Zenith Bank for doing nothing, not to mention other income generated through labyrinth of channels. But this is the bank that has not given back the state something tangible capable of shaping the future of Akwa Ibom youths. Instead, the bank is swimming in the pool of wealth amassed from the state without corporate social responsibility. If somebody cares to ask Zenith Bank PLC if they have a Community Liaison Officer in the state tasked with the responsibility of looking at youth’s related welfare issues, then one would be disappointed with the response. This is the bank where salaries of civil servants are deposited but they would use stringent conditionalities to deny civil servants access to credit facility because they are Akwa Ibomites.
It is a shame that the state governor, a financial expert with eye-catching credentials in the banking system, could not utilize his opportunity as the state’s chief executive officer, to build a strong indigenous banking sector whereby his dakkada philosophy could aptly be energizing the state to take a great economic leap forward. In a sense, the state cannot just dakkada without domestic financial strength. It can be extremely daunting to run a large-scale business in the prevailing economy jam-packed with undeniable vulnerabilities without having to fall back on bank loans. Take example from other parts of the country: the Yorubas have the controlling influence on First Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank, Sterling Bank and so on; the Hausa/Fulani have Islamic Bank, Unity Bank to name just a few; the Igbos have Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank and several others. Those banks are munificently giving strong financial backings to the economic growth of those regions, and business operators depending on their ethnic backgrounds. But where is our own? Where are the likes of Merchantile Bank and Cooperative Development Bank? How is Akwa Saving and Loans Limited faring today? If not the microfinance banks such as Prudential Cooperative Microfinance Bank (PCMFB) and few others put together by some industrious Akwa Ibom sons, where would micro and small-scale business owners in the state run to and have that indigenous sense of belonging? If Udom Emmanuel could be considerate enough to do to a homegrown bank half of what he has done to Zenith Bank, don’t we think the future of Akwa Ibom would be better off? Instead the indigenous banks are kept at arm’s length by the state government, and left to stagger in the face of all the economic oddities.
A chick that would grow into a cock can be spotted the very first day it is hatched. Likewise a government regime that would bequeath unparalleled legacy to the posterity could be discerned from the manner it begins it steps towards addressing the complexities of development. But for over two years now, it is unfortunate that Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s administration is dancing around industrialization in a very funny, confusing way. It dances in such a way that one can’t tell the style. It is confusion all the way.
Of course, every government administration craving popularity has its own buzzword that captures the popular imagination, and so seeing Udom’s government coming up with the word, industrialization, is not an exception but the rule. Because government needs to be popular, Udom and his handlers were clever enough to aptly craft industrialization agenda as a catchphrase for campaign because all that the state needed the most was getting the teeming youth population employed. Therefore Team Udom knew that the only strategy that would capture the core of youths was nothing more enticing and erotic than industrialization manifesto. With industrialization, employment and economic opportunities were manifold, and so electorates had to fall head over for Udom Emmanuel in 2015 elections, and today what they are reaping in place of votes they sowed are outright propaganda and untold frustration.
…To be Continued
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