Ac­count­abil­ity Watch­word of Udom’s Ad­min­is­tra­tion

THISDAY - - TRIBUTE - Ike Nwankwo Nwankwo writes from Port Har­court

One of the many things that have en­deared Udom Em­manuel to the peo­ple of Akwa Ibom State since 2015 is his pro­fes­sional pedi­gree. It is the be­lief that com­ing from an in­dus­try where ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency are key in­gre­di­ents of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, he would be in the best po­si­tion to man­age the state’s enor­mous ma­te­rial and hu­man re­sources and move it away from the profli­gacy and waste­ful­ness that had char­ac­ter­ized the ad­min­is­tra­tion be­fore his own. What seemed to give vent to the be­lief is his deep re­li­gious dis­po­si­tion and the fact that he was a rel­a­tively new face on the po­lit­i­cal scene and had there­fore not been tainted by the nu­mer­ous ills of the coun­try’s pol­i­tics.

With about six months to the end of his first term, the gover­nor has proved that the peo­ple’s faith in his in­tegrity was not mis­placed. If there is any­thing that can be said about Udom’s fail­ings, it is not his in­abil­ity to man­age the state’s fi­nan­cial re­sources in a man­ner that is ben­e­fi­cial to the state. Nor can it be said that his ad­min­is­tra­tion is lack­ing in trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity – two words that were gen­er­ally ac­knowl­edged to be miss­ing in the lex­i­con of his im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor.

In­deed, if there is any wrong­do­ing the Akwa Ibom gover­nor has been ac­cused of by a hand­ful of peo­ple, it is the fact that un­der him, there hasn’t been the free money that moved around a small cir­cle be­fore the ad­vent of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. The ac­cu­sa­tion of stingi­ness lev­eled against him by some of his tra­duc­ers has noth­ing to do with un­will­ing­ness to spend money on de­vel­op­men­tal pro­grammes and projects for the peo­ple of the state, but the fact that he has re­mained res­o­lute in his de­ter­mi­na­tion to en­sure the re­sources of the state do not re­main in the pock­ets of a few in­di­vid­u­als, as was the case be­fore his as­sump­tion of of­fice. It is one of the rea­sons he fell out of favour with his pre­de­ces­sor and erst­while po­lit­i­cal ally, Godswill Ak­pabio, which led to the lat­ter’s de­fec­tion from the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party to the All Pro­gres­sives Congress.

Udom, a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor with Zenith Bank, has brought cor­po­rate gov­er­nance into pub­lic of­fice in a man­ner that was never thought pos­si­ble. He has stuck to the cul­ture of open­ness and ac­count­abil­ity he en­trenched from his first day in of­fice, and has been able to prove that pub­lic of­fice could be run trans­par­ently. The per­cep­tion of him as be­ing tight fisted has to do with the fact that he pays at­ten­tion to minute de­tails that would other­wise be over­looked by many in his po­si­tion.

The gover­nor goes to any length to en­sure ev­ery kobo spent by his ad­min­is­tra­tion is ac­counted for, even if it means adopt­ing the most in­ge­nious meth­ods to guar­an­tee ac­count­abil­ity in the man­age­ment of pub­lic funds. He is known to have a cal­cu­la­tor per­ma­nently placed on his ta­ble, and would not ap­prove any ex­pen­di­ture if the fig­ure on the doc­u­ment pre­sented for his sig­na­ture does not tally with his own cal­cu­la­tions. That is why it would be dif­fi­cult to link him with any case of fi­nan­cial im­pro­pri­ety.

Udom’s brief ten­ure as sec­re­tary to the state gov­ern­ment be­fore his elec­tion as gover­nor ex­posed him to the in­tri­ca­cies of po­lit­i­cal gov­er­nance, which in­clude the in­trigues, con­spir­a­cies, be­tray­als and back­stab­bing that con­sti­tute the ubiq­ui­tous banana peels that line the path of pub­lic of­fice hold­ers, es­pe­cially at the high­est lev­els. As gover­nor, he was once re­ported as say­ing that the only two peo­ple he trusts are his wife and him­self.

The un­due at­ten­tion shown by the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) to Udom ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fi­nances, in­clud­ing a brief freez­ing of the state’s ac­counts re­cently, is gen­er­ally be­lieved to be po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated – seek­ing to hang a dog by first of all giv­ing it a bad name. The EFCC has found all its ef­forts frus­trated by the gover­nor’s in­tegrity and ad­her­ence to ac­count­abil­ity, which is the rea­son it has not been able to find any­thing link­ing him with im­pro­pri­ety and abuse of of­fice.

The loss of those that were used to free money has proven to be the gain of the peo­ple of Akwa Ibom, as the gover­nor has been able to uti­lize the state’s lean re­sources to achieve what would gen­er­ally be con­sid­ered the im­pos­si­ble in just three years in of­fice. These achieve­ments are ev­i­dent in all the ar­eas that di­rectly touch the lives of the peo­ple of the state.

In the area of in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, the Udom ad­min­is­tra­tion has es­tab­lished nine in­dus­tries that in­clude an elec­tric­ity me­ter­ing com­pany ad­judged to be the first of its kind in Nige­ria; a world-class syringe man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany, a four mill and a tooth­pick and pen­cil man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany. The gover­nor has opened up the hin­ter­land by con­struct­ing and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing over 1, 7000 kilo­me­ters of roads and build­ing 35 bridges, to drive home the fact that Akwa Ibom does not be­gin and end in Uyo, the cap­i­tal. His ad­min­is­tra­tion has built a sec­ond run­way for the Ibom In­ter­na­tional Air­port – the only air­port, apart from La­gos, with two run­ways, while the state is the only one in the coun­try that owns and main­tain and air­port with­out the sup­port of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

The gov­ern­ment has made ed­u­ca­tion not only free but com­pul­sory in pub­lic schools, while it has taken over seven com­mu­nity schools and con­structed or ren­o­vated 62 school blocks. It has so far spent over N600 mil­lion on West African Ex­am­i­na­tion Coun­cil fees for fi­nal year stu­dents in sec­ondary schools. The gov­ern­ment has been able to clear a back­log of out­stand­ing pen­sions and gra­tu­ities for re­tired civil ser­vants in the state, and makes prompt pay­ment of salaries a top pri­or­ity.

In the area of agri­cul­ture, the gov­ern­ment has cul­ti­vated 1, 6000 hec­tres of cas­sava farm­land and 11, 000 hec­tres of co­conut plan­ta­tion for its co­conut re­fin­ery. It has reg­is­tered 4, 920 rice farm­ers and trained 450 youths in co­coa main­te­nance.

Udom has been able to achieve so much with so lit­tle be­cause of his pedi­gree as an as­tute man­ager of re­sources. Akwa Ibom re­ceives the high­est al­lo­ca­tion from the Fed­er­a­tion Ac­count. But what is not gen­er­ally known is the fact that not all that is pub­lished as be­ing al­lo­cated to the state ac­tu­ally gets into its cof­fers. A larger chunk of the amount goes into pay­ing back the huge debts Udom’s pre­de­ces­sor in­curred, which in­cluded bank loans he took to pay, up­front, for un­com­pleted projects that the present gover­nor has been spend­ing fresh monies to com­plete. These loans are de­ducted from source, while the gov­ern­ment has to make do with what­ever is left.

It takes a man­ager steeped in fi­nan­cial pru­dence, ac­count­abil­ity and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance to do what Udom has been able to do these past three years in Akwa Ibom.

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