Local

Taking Rural Development To Dizzying Heights

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N.T.A. Efo

Akwa Ibom, blessed with crude oil, gas deposits, agricultural, other natural and human resources; a scenic, beautiful and climatically-favourable landscape; alluring, magical and magnetic destinations; fascinating and exciting people, with a rich variety of nutritionally-rich cuisines is one of the luckiest states in Nigeria.

 

Why? At this time in the history of Nigeria where the populace is groaning under the weight of high inflation and economic hardship, the state has as its Chief Executive, Pastor Umo Eno, a cerebral, clear-headed, tried and tested entrepreneur whose ability to turn poverty to prosperity is second to none. The kind of individual that would be described with the street lingo as ‘Man wey sabi”.

 

In Nigerian politics, there is a seeming lack of fidelity. People take the promises of politicians with a pinch of salt because very few of them have fulfilled their promises after elections.

 

But Pastor Eno who is built from a different mould is a Promise Keeper. He has weaved truth, honesty and simplicity with humility, integrity and hard work, to create a change in people’s perception of people in politics.

 

Since assuming office on May 29, 2023, Pastor Eno has been working like someone who has 25 hours a day. He literally has been everywhere in the state and has steadily been executing his economic blueprint captured in the ARISE agenda, an acronym for Agricultural Revolution, Rural Development, Infrastructural Maintenance and advancement, Security management and Educational advancement.

 

Though Governor Eno has delivered impactful projects in many sectors, we would be highlighting more of what he has done for rural areas and those who live in the rural communities, which we all know make up the bulk of our populace.

 

It has always been his desire to close the gap of development between the urban and rural areas of the state, especially today that connectivity has made the world a global village

 

It was this reason that he appointed 368 Personal Assistants (PAs), with which, according to him, he wants to have his ears and eyes in all parts of the state.

 

As expected, some did not understand the rationale for such appointments but guess what, after the establishment of the Bulk Purchase Agency and the launch of the Food Voucher Scheme, these PAs, who have all been trained and given tablets are the ones disbursing the vouchers using the updated social register and now gathering information real time from the people at the grassroots for other developmental projects.

 

The same PAs and the leaders at the various communities are the vehicles he is using to advocate his “Back To Farm” initiative. The governor believes that since the voucher scheme is a stop gap measure, agriculture is the more sustainable model to feed people, eliminate hunger and reduce poverty in the rural areas.

 

 

Then he announced the one project per local government area programme. What he did was to gather stakeholders from each local government area, and ask them to choose for themselves any project of their choice, ranging from a model school, a model primary health centre, a water scheme or a modern market.

 

The needs assessment for every project was done by the communities themselves, he was therefore attacking their most pressing need and to ensure accountability, he established a Project Monitoring domiciled in the Governor’s office to track progress of these projects. Right now, some of those projects have been commissioned while have reached different stages of construction.

 

At the commissioning of one of the completed primary healthcare centres in Ikot Nkwo, Ibesikpo-Asutan LGA, the Governor reiterated his administration’s vision in this direction..

 

“What we are witnessing here is a great move to bring primary health care closer to the people in line with our ARISE Agenda with emphasis on rural development,” he said.

 

While also commissioning two of the model primary schools in Uyo LGA , he said “we are replicating the model schools in all parts of the state.

 

Also in the health care sector, he has so far given approval for the employment of 200 additional healthcare workers to be deployed to the primary healthcare sector. He has promised fringe benefits for those who would work in the rural areas.

Knowing full well that government cannot do it alone, he has called on corporate bodies and individuals to deliver same quality of schools or health centres as part of their Corporate Social responsibility.

 

It is a known fact that Akwa Ibom state has one of the best network of roads in Nigeria. With the solid foundation built by his predecessors, Governor Eno is also involved in roads.

 

Yes, he has reconstruct roads ravaged by floods or erosion, rehabilitated a good number too but he has intentionally focused on continuing or flagging off roads that are cutting through rural communities or local government areas.

 

Some of these roads include the dualisation of the 8km Ring Road 3 -Ikot Ekpene Road project which passes through Uyo, Ikono and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas in three federal constituencies. There is also the 8.6 km Ediene Abak – Ikot Ekan Road which passes through Abak and Etinan LGAs in two federal constituencies.

 

The 16 km Midim Aran -Ikot Inyang -Ikot Akpan Ekpenyong -Etok Uruk Eshiet -Ikot Imonte Road which cuts across Essien Udim and Etim Ekpo in two federal constituencies. The 12.5 km Nung Ukim Ikono -Afaha Obio Eno -Nung Udoe Itak Road which cuts across Uyo and Ikono LGAs in two federal constituencies.

While the dualisation of the 11.6km Ikot Imo -Ikot Ekpene Udo -Okon Eket will pass through Nsit Ubium and Eket LGAs in two federal constituencies, Abak, Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo LGAs will benefit from the 16km Ikot Ekang -Obio Obom-Ikot Ekpat -Abak Itenghe -Oruk Ata Nsidung -Midim -Ikot Edang Road with two bridges.

The 13.5 km Ikot Akpadem -Okoroete – Iko Road which starts from Mkpat Enin LGA ends at Eastern Obolo LGA. So is the 10.8km Mkpat Enin -Ikot Ekpo -Ikot Afang -Mbioto -Efa Road with a 30m bridge, with a spur to Enyenghe, which passes through Mkpat Enin and Etinan LGAs.

There is also the 14.28km Ikot Ubo -Odot Road, through Nsit Atai and Nsit Ubium LGAs, and the 13.5 Okopedi -Oron Road by East-West Road which passes through Okobo and Oron LGAs. There is also the 2.2km Tabernacle Road, with a 0.97m discharge drain which passes through Uyo and Itu LGAs are also in the works. Over 280.93 km have been covered in 365 days!

We all know that a good number of our retirees, return to their villages and that is probably one of the reasons that Pastor Umo Eno has kept his promise to the Labour unions to pay leave grants, pensions and gratuities. So far, over N18billion has been approved and released for this purpose.

His love for senior citizens also led to the establishment of the Elderly Support Scheme administered by first lady Pastor Patience Umo Eno’s Golden Initiative For All (GIFA) Foundation which has been offering counseling sessions, cash and over the counter drugs to elders. In addition, the governor is planning a one-of-its-kind, Centre for the elderly with recreational and medical facilities.

His rural development mantra also informed the decision to uplift the vulnerable in the society through the ARISE Shelter Initiative. This unprecedent scheme dubbed the ARISE compassionate homes will in the first phase see 100 families across the 31 LGAs enjoy the benefit of living in new homes.

Seeing the hardship passed through by traders to raise finances for business growth and expansion, the Governor approved a N1.5 billion (N500m per Senatorial District) interest-free loan warehoused at the Ibom Fadama Microfinance Bank for them. This is in addition to, having earlier, ‘cleaned up’ the state’s trading hub, Akpan Ndem Market, with road, street lights, borehole water project and toilet facilities.

An epitome of prudent management of resources, Governor Eno is one of very few Governors in Nigeria who is yet to obtain any loan. He is value for money driven and has not been known for ostentatious or frivolous expenses.

According to him, “Whatever we save is to be put back in the rural areas. Every N500million I save will give me a school, will give me a hospital. I prefer a good first term. It is only when you account for four years that you would be asked to go again.I’d rather put money on rural communities. My job is to make sure that 7.9million people are satisfied ”

A very hands-on leader, one minute, he’s in Uyo, the state capital, the next, he’s in Oron in the southern fringes of the state. Some other minute, he’s in Ikot Ekpene, close to the boundary with Abia State. Another time, he’s in Itu, close to the river that gave its name to neighbouring Cross River State. In all the 31 local government areas, his footprints, imprints and signature are etched everywhere in the form of projects and life-touching programmes.

Undoubtedly, Pastor Eno’s efforts has ensured that Akwa Ibom is rising steadily. In just one year, there have been a beehive of growth and development in many facets of the people’s lives. And he has added a touch of innovation and panache to it too in a bid that those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder also feel the impact of governance.

Efo writes from Uyo