Day journalists hosted Akpabio
Every activity hitherto performed by the governor on the premises was carried out by proxy through either his information commissioner, press secretary or any other aide.
But recently, Chief Godswill Akpabio not only stormed the NUJ Press Centre with his array of executive members, he also inaugurated two projects: a mini-water scheme undertaken for the council by the state government, and a Mobil Producing Nigeria-sponsored computer pool for free training of journalists.
The water project powered by solar energy is said to be the first of its kind in the state and Akpabio was quick to recommend it to all other people and groups seeking to embark on mini water scheme since it was the only way to beat the perennially erratic electricity supply in the country. He even took a sip of the water to certify it good for consumption; and equally advised the NUJ to properly train its members to perform their duties responsibly.
The elated chairman of NUJ, Mr. Ephraim Etti, who acknowledged Akpabio’s visit as the first of its kind to the press centre, thanked the governor for the water projects but made request for parameter fencing of the press centre to ward off encroachment by the adjoining communities.
Etti also asked for adequate funding of the union, provision of land for journalists village; renovation of the NUJ press centre, appointment of journalists into the yet-to-be-constituted boards and commission of the state, provision of a new generating set for the centre as well as internet services to complement the computer training.
He dissociated NUJ members from all unethical and unprofessional media attacks on government officials, explaining that such was the practice of "persons whose only interest is their belly."
Etti did not even have the time to read his three-page address. He only handed it over to the governor because the latter was rushing to inaugurate many other projects in the state to mark his first year in office.
Akpabio had earlier told the press that he would inaugurate more than 200 development projects by the end of May, 2008.
But while those to be inaugurated had been completed, there are many others which have gulped billions of naira so far but are at various stages of execution.
Such roads include Afaha-Obong Etim Ekpo road, with a contract sum of N10 billion which has reached 15 per cent completion; the 22km Etebi-Enwang Road at N6.2 billion with 10 per cent work so far done; the 10km Enen Nsit Road, which work has reached 20 per cent progress, among others.
Akpabio and the natives of areas witnessing these constructions are so passionate about their completion which would completely change their lives for good. For example, the village head of Ikot Etopo, from which the Enen Nsit Road starts, told Daily Sun in an emotion-laden voice:
"This is the time that God wants us to enjoy good roads. We’ve tried all we could to make this road motorable until this Godswill Akpabio’s administration came. Formerly, during rainy season, we lament because we would not even leave our houses. Now, there is a ray of hope that when the road is completed, our transportation problem would be solved once and for all. We are only pleading with the contractors to work according to specification", he said.
For the Paramount Ruler of Ikot Ekpene HRH. Okuku Augustus Assiak, "it is only the blind that would not see what the governor has done. Everyone knows what Ikot Ekpene looked like before now. All roads in Ikot Ekpene were impassable at the end of 2007. We thank God for power-shift because it has brought relief to the people. If Akpabio can do this in his first year in office, then what will happen in the following years?"
Even a seamstress doing business in Eket, Miss Anietie Ikpe Jonah, could not hide her happiness.
"Business has improved since our roads were rehabilitated. The roads were too bad before now and it stopped our customers from coming. Now more of them come round", she said.
The project manager of Emem and Sons Nigeria Ltd, one of the contractors handling urban roads in Eket, Mr. Cletus Ukpong, while thanking government for believing in indigenous companies to construct roads in the state, pledged that they would put in their best so as not to disappoint the governor.
Reports from the state Ministry of Works showed that contracts have so far been awarded for 25 major roads or cluster of roads gulping about N94.3 billion.
But where does the money come from? Akpabio says he is staying within the N135 billion budget for the year, and has not taken any loan so far; after all, all the contractors would not be paid at once.