Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel

The Akwa Ibom state government has launched a blistering media campaign against a PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Cletus Ukpong, whose investigative reports exposed the rot in public schools in the oil-rich state.

The paper lied that the PREMIUM TIMES reporter duped the uncle of millions of naira from a road contract awarded to the family which it said led to the man’s ‘untimely’ death.

Elizabeth Ukpong, the widow of the late professor, has refuted the lies.

The late politician was 78 when he died in 2013.

“Your Excellency, it is so sad and it breaks my heart for your aide to fabricate and publish such lies that my late husband died because he was “fooled” and “scammed” by his nephews,” Mrs Ukpong said in a letter she sent to the governor on June 4.

She copied Mr Ndueso’s uncle, Nduese Essien, a former minister for Lands, Housing & Urban Development.

She also copied a foremost Ibibio traditional ruler, Essien Ekidem, the Ntisong Ibibio III, and Etim Abia, the paramount ruler of Eket.

In the letter, Mrs Ukpong said she understood the governor’s aide was trying to get at Cletus Ukpong because of his journalism work.

The family does not have influence in what the PREMIUM TIMES reporter does as a journalist, she said, adding that if it is Mr Ndueso’s job schedule to tackle Mr Ukpong, he could go ahead with that “dutifully” without bringing in other members of the family.

“Even in his dying moment, my late husband had a very peaceful, cordial, and lovely relationship with his nephews.

“If he were to be alive today, Prof. I.I. Ukpong would have condemned Mr Essien Ndueso for this blackmail and the attempt to cause disunity in the family,” Mrs Ukpong said in the letter.

“By using Global Pilot, a local tabloid which is owned, published, and promoted by him, to manufacture lies and weave them around late Chief (Prof.) I.I. Ukpong, his nephews – Mr Sylvanus Ukpong, and Mr. Cletus Ukpong – Mr Essien Ndueso has broken the age-long Ibibio tradition which forbid people from speaking ill against the dead.”

She went on to place a curse on the governor’s aide.

“If there is an iota of truth in what Mr Essien Ndueso has published in his Global Pilot newspaper, may it be well with him and his household. But if not, let shame and public ridicule be upon him, his household, and everyone who has a hand in that shameful publication.

The six-part investigative series, which have prompted debates on the state government priorities and spending, detailed the harrowing experience pupils, students, and teachers go through in the state’s broken education system – where some poor kids have to sit on bare floor in roofless classrooms to learn, and poorly paid teachers, who sometimes go for months without salary, go as far as collecting money from students to allow them cheat in examinations.

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The Akwa Ibom governor, Udom Emmanuel, linked the Akwa Ibom situation to inadequate resources and the “surge” in enrollments in public schools.

Mr Ukpong, an Assistant Editor, covers Nigeria’s South-South region for PREMIUM TIMES. He is from Akwa Ibom state.

Mr Ukpong suddenly became the subject of spurious reports making headlines in local newspapers in Akwa Ibom as soon as PREMIUM TIMES began running the series on the poor state of education in the state.

The media attack is coordinated by the personal assistant on media to Governor Emmanuel, Essien Ndueso, and is intended to discredit the reporter.

One newspaper publisher who was recruited for the campaign, but later opted out of it, told PREMIUM TIMES, N10 million-budget has been created for the media campaign in the Akwa Ibom Government House, Uyo.

Global Pilot, a local paper which is owned and edited by the governor’s media aide, Mr Ndueso, on July 3 hit the newsstand with a fabricated story that claimed that Mr Ukpong, alongside his brother, caused the death of their uncle, Ignatius Ukpong, a retired professor and a former Secretary to former Cross River State government.