Political Supremacy: Ex-Minister Squares Against A’Ibom Commissioner

Chief Nduese Essien
Chief Nduese Essien

War of words. Accusations and counter-accusations. Barbs and canticles of allegation rent the air. Some elders stoke political fire in Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District of the state. In what appears like a dog-fight among the major contenders, the bout is seemingly for political supremacy of the oil-endowed district.

Like in a boxing ring, Ephraim Inyang-eyen, the state Commissioner for Works, is in the red corner while Chief Nduese Essien, a former Member of the National Assembly and ex-Federal Minister of Lands and Housing, is squaring up in the blue corner.

As the bout begins, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, secretary to the state government is picked as the umpire. Assam Assam, ex-Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and a familiar war lord, serves as the match commissioner to douse the raging fire.  Some writers are spectators howling for the attacker and the challenger.

Enter Inyang-eyen into the ring- Thisday newspaper. As in a major bout that was not announced, Inyang-eyen is self-appointed as attacker while a group of journalists sit as referee.

The journalists ring a bell.

The attacker begins “The under development of Eket local government area, one of the oldest and  core oil producing areas in Akwa Ibom State, has been blamed on the hostile attitude of the indigenes and not government’s lack of concern or interest toward the expansion of the area. “

The journalists listen with rapt attention as the commissioner narrates “Since the initial development of the area during the reign of the late Brigadier U. J. Esuene who hailed from there and was the Military Governor of then South-Eastern State, the development of Eket had remained static.

“Let me say this and I will be very blunt about it. If that project (Eket Urban Renewal) was sited far away from where I come from probably I would have lost interest in it because of the behaviour of the community.”

His first bomb “And I want to be quoted, the most difficult community to work and construct road in Akwa Ibom is Eket and I am from there.

“They speak from both sides of their mouths including their elders. It is the only community that will receive compensation and denied it and refuse their structures to be taken down.”

The commissioner maintains that “If the Eket remodel project is delayed we have not had help from the Eket people supporting the cause of government.

“Let me say this emphatically, they don’t welcome development. And I understand why that local government which is my senatorial headquarters had remained that way. There is no dualised road, it is still in the stage that late Brigadier U.J. Esuene left it that we came to meet.”

He debunks “The story of non-payment of compensation is a blatant lie.

“Once there are any of these careless petitions we have enough documentary evidences to back it up.

“Even if you are a Commissioner in the cabinet of Governor Udom Emmanuel and you go and build an illegal structure to block the right of way we will take it away without paying you compensation.

“The whole thing there is that this administration has refused to cooperate with negotiated compensation.” the Commissioner stated.

“Any contractor that has collected money from the state government from 2015 till date without execution of the contract is going to be prosecuted.”

Enter Nduese Essien as a challenger for Eket nation. Since it was a re-scheduled fight, he shifts the battlefield to Planet FM, Uyo on Wednesday, May 7.

Essien throws the first punch “The statement credited to the Works Commissioner, Ephraim Inyang-eyen is nothing but cheap blackmail lacking in substance. I want him to desist from peddling falsehood against elders and the people of Eket.

His warning throws the attacker to the canvass “The Eket people are very unhappy with that interview, particularly coming after some well meaning Eket people intervened when the social media was recently awash with story about him on the same matter.

“No Ekid son would out to castigate Eket sons and elders the way Ephraim Inyang has done. Ephraim Inyang will go down in history as the most arrogant, most insolent and most exploitative Commissioner that has served in the state cabinet,” serves as the second punch.

“He (Inyang-eyen) says that Eket people are the most difficult people to deal with. That is not true. Eket people are not difficult to deal with, and that they don’t want development.”

“I wonder how people who have witnessed considerable level of development since 1979 up to 1999 would be said to be anti-development. The problem we’ve had on the dualization of Atabong road hinges on the Commissioner’s attitude to work. He behaves as if government is run from the head of one person, which is not the case.”

Essien hits the commissioner’s abdomen thus “The functions of government are a joint responsibility. It is shared between ministries, agencies and departments of government. No single individual is authorized to perform all those functions, and again there are laws and regulations that binds the running of public office; Ephraim does not respect rules and regulations binding the operation of government business. “

Not giving up, he punches face “He is overbearing on everybody including his colleagues in the exco. Before you demolish someone’s house, the law says you should give the person 90 days notice, but in his own case he demolishes and tells you to come to his office for payment. Since 2015 up till today not up to 80 percent of work has been completed”.

With un-replied punches, the former Minister faults the modalities employed by the Works Commissioner in the payment of compensation to property owners whose property situates on the right of way of the ongoing re-modelling of the oil city, explaining that the refusal by Eket people (owners of property) to move out of their houses when they had not received compensation for their property was the reason they have been tagged by the Commissioner as a difficult people who are against development.”

Taunting, he yells “The Commissioner for Works is the one who counts the properties, he determines the value of the properties, he does the payment to the exclusion of the Ministry of Lands that is responsible foe those functions. You may have heard that a number of his colleagues complain bitterly about the way he is running an overbearing administration,” he elbows Inyang-eyen.

“The problem that has arisen from Eket dualization of Atabong road is because the Commissioner for Works determines single-handedly with his estate valuer the value for each property without getting the property owners involved.”

“Property owners are supposed to have their own valuer along with the government valuer, then they would come into agreement on what should be the acceptable amount of money that should be paid to a property owner before demolition commences. I am speaking as someone who was a Minister in the Federal Ministry of Lands, and apart from being a Minister this has been the practice from colonial days. This is not the first time that roads are being constructed in Nigeria,” Essien sneers.

Enter Ekuwem into the rowdy ring.

“As part of efforts to streamline and ensure a coordinated approach to information management and dissemination, the Akwa Ibom State Government has directed that all government functionaries, including Commissioners, Special Advisers, Members of Boards and Commissions, Special Assistants and other Personal Aides of the Governor, should henceforth desist from granting press interviews without the permission of His Excellency the Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel,” Ekuwem writes in a press release.

“The Honorable Commissioner for Information and Strategy as well as the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor are exempted from this directive. They will continue to carry out their functions accordingly as the spokespersons to the State Government and His Excellency the Governor respectively,” he directs.

Chief Assam, Inyang-eyen
Chief Assam, Inyang-eyen

The statement dated May 7 takes immediate effect.

However, Assam, an indigene of Eket nation, joins the fray to defend the Commissioner for Works for his actions and in deeds.

No date is yet fixed for announcement of overall winner of the epic battle.