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Akwa Ibom fishing business under threat as pirates take over waterways

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Fishing communities in Akwa Ibom State are facing hard times as pirates lay siege, abduct fishermen and plunder their sources of livelihood. PATRICK ODEY examines the trend and plights of the fishermen.

Akwa Ibom State is blessed with abundant water resources which serve as a source of livelihood to many people, especially those living in the coastal regions of the state.

In such areas, indigenes and non-indigenes over the years have engaged in various types of water-related businesses such as trading in seafoods, boat making, water transportation and fishing, without let or hindrance.

Sadly, however, these business owners and their business fortunes have recently been threatened due to the nefarious activities of sea pirates who terrorise them at sea, seize their outboard engines and sometimes kidnap them for ransom.

They (sea pirates) harass them oftentimes at gunpoint at sea and forcefully collect their cash.

Our correspondent, reports that the activities of the Sea pirates have crippled the fishing business and other water-related businesses at Ibaka in the Mbo Local Government Area; Ukpenekang, in the Ibeno Local Government Area ,as well as other coastal areas of the state.

A boat owner in Ibaka, Mr Effiong Etim, who said he had lost several of his outboard engines to the activities of the sea pirates, lamented that the attacks had become a recurring phenomenon, as all efforts by security agencies to curb their excesses had yielded little or no results.
He said. “Fishing is our main occupation and the only means of our livelihood, regrettably, we are no longer safe at Sea. I have lost two outboard engines to the activities of Sea pirates and each of these engines cost over N3m. We have tried ourselves and our youths have also tried, but the more we try, the more the pirates attack us. This is our predicament. I am using this medium to appeal once again to the security agencies to sustain their operation at Sea in order to curb these attacks.”

Overwhelmed by these attacks, the fishermen under the auspices of “The watch Out Fishermen Cooperative Society, in Ibaka, early last year, staged a peaceful protest to register their grievances to the state and the federal governments.

The protesters chanted solidarity songs along the length and breadth of Ibaka, in Mbo Local government Area, displayed placards with various inscriptions and called on the President, Major General Mohammadu Buhari (retd), to come to their aid.

Some of the inscriptions read “We are tired of paying ransom’’ “Buhari do the needful” We need security in our waterways”

But despite, the protest, sea pirates’ attacks continued unabated and they have even become more daring in their desperation by resorting to calling on the fishermen for settlement before they can venture into the Sea to carry out their fishing business.

The new chairman of the association in Ibaka, Mr Yusuf Okaijah, a Ghanaian, told our correspondent on the phone that last month, the sea pirates attacked and seized seven outboard engines from his members, adding that they had adopted a method of calling the fishermen for settlement before going to the Sea

He said, “Attacks by the pirates at sea happen almost on a daily basis. Last month, they collected seven outboard engines (40 horsepower), we have not seen them this month. They only come occasionally. For eight years now, we have had this ugly experience at sea and we have been doing our best.

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Crime

Akwa Ibom NMA Chairman and Vice Chairman Impeached Amid Allegations of Misconduct

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In a dramatic turn of events, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Akwa Ibom State chapter has impeached its Chairman, Prof. Emem Abraham, and Vice Chairman, Dr. Aniekan Utuk, following allegations of gross misconduct, high-handedness, and misappropriation of funds.

The impeachment took place during an Ordinary General Congress held on Wednesday at the NMA Secretariat, Kilometer 8, Nwaniba Road, Uyo.

The impeachment motion, supported by 71 members present at the Congress, marks the end of Prof. Abraham’s administration, which began on July 16, 2022, and was due to conclude on July 17, 2024. Following the impeachment, Dr. Usenobong Morgan Akpan, the Association’s Secretary, was elected as the Acting Chairman, with a vote of 61 in favor and 13 against.

During a press briefing at the Doctor’s Mess, Udo Udoma Avenue, Dr. Akpan outlined the reasons for the impeachment, citing financial mismanagement and procedural breaches. “The embattled Chairman and her vice were impeached for running the NMA Akwa Ibom State for five months without a budget while expending millions of naira, and presenting to the State Executive Council a financial statement for a free medical outreach accounting for only N6 million out of N34 million questioned,” Akpan explained.

Additional grounds for impeachment included breaches of the NMA National Constitution and Akwa Ibom State Bye-laws, unauthorized ejection of members from the association’s WhatsApp group, and high-handedness. Dr. Akpan called for the immediate withdrawal of privileges and recognitions previously accorded to the impeached officials.

“As the Secretary of the NMA, I was made the Acting Chairman by virtue of hierarchy; with the Chairman and Vice Chairman being impeached, I am next in line. We request that all forms of recognition and privileges accrued to the suspended persons be withdrawn,” Akpan stated.

In a counter-statement, Prof. Emem Abraham declared the impeachment null and void, insisting she remains the Chairman of the NMA Akwa Ibom State chapter. She accused Dr. Akpan of acting unilaterally and stated that the association’s ordinary general meeting (OGM) on June 2, 2024, was disrupted and recessed for security reasons, with no impeachment process initiated.

Prof. Abraham emphasized, “There was no impeachment process against me or any officer of the Association. The NMA AKS is intact, and I remain in charge as the Chairman.”

The Public Relations Officer of NMA, Dr. Unyime Ndoh, echoed this sentiment, urging members to disregard the impeachment claims and stating that the OGM would reconvene soon.

Further investigations revealed that the crisis in the NMA Akwa Ibom chapter intensified after the kidnapping of Dr. John Robbin Esu in Oron local government area on April 30, 2024. Following a 15-day ordeal, Prof. Abraham called for a strike to expedite Dr. Esu’s release, which led to internal conflict and the eventual impeachment.

The unfolding situation highlights deep divisions within the NMA Akwa Ibom chapter and raises questions about leadership and governance within the association.

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Workers Protest at Federal Polytechnic Ukana Over Salary, Welfare Issues

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Workers at the Federal Polytechnic Ukana have launched a protest following a brief congress meeting at the institution’s TETFund auditorium.

The protesters voiced their dissatisfaction with the management’s handling of their demands, which include the non-payment of the 38% balance of salary shortfall, non-payment of promotion arrears, and the forceful conversion of staff.

Emerging from the congress, the protesters marched to the Rector’s office, holding placards and chanting solidarity songs while demanding the full implementation of their demands. Placards bore inscriptions such as, “SSANIP says no to unnecessary transfer of members,” “No to forceful conversion of staffs,” “Pay us our 38% balance salary shortfall (2016–2018),” and “Pay us our correct salary placement arrears (2015-2018).”

Mr. Tamunosiki Daka, chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics (SSANIP) at the Federal Polytechnic Ukana, addressed the protesters, emphasizing that their actions were not confrontational but a plea for their welfare.

“We are not here to fight anyone; we are here to demand our rightful dues,” Daka stated. He expressed disappointment over the management’s indifference to their issues, including salary shortfalls dating back to 2015, despite numerous reminders.

Daka elaborated, “Over the years, from 2015 to date, we have been crying for salary shortfalls. When the visitation panel came, they promised to address it, but nothing has happened. We have met the management, but they did not provide any substantial reason for us not to go on strike. We wrote to the acting Rector, but she did not attend to us. The current Rector, Dr. Uduak Ndaeyo, attended to us, but still, no concrete answer was given.”

Highlighting the union’s procedural adherence, Daka noted, “We issued the necessary ultimatums—21 days, 14 days, and 7 days—before embarking on industrial action. Despite our pleas for the past six months, no action has been taken.”

Daka also criticized the appointment of a teaching staff member to the position of ICT, questioning its appropriateness. He announced that the workers would shut down all offices, including the Rector’s, if their demands were not met by Monday.

In a broader appeal, Daka called on President Bola Tinubu to investigate the personnel salaries of the institution from 2015 to the present, questioning the claims of full payment under the IPPIS platform.

“We urge the President to investigate all personnel salaries from 2015 to date. They claim they paid all shortfalls, but we have seen nothing,” Daka added.

The protest highlights ongoing frustrations and calls for accountability and prompt action to address the workers’ grievances.

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Ibom Air Celebrates 5th Anniversary, Announces Ambitious Future Plans

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Ibom Air, the Akwa Ibom State-owned airline, marked its 5th anniversary on May 7, 2024, celebrating a significant milestone in its mission to provide reliable and exceptional air travel services across Africa.

Since commencing commercial operations on June 7, 2019, Ibom Air has demonstrated a strong commitment to world-class operational standards, gaining the confidence and loyalty of passengers throughout the region. The airline’s remarkable growth includes expanding its fleet, increasing its route network, and enhancing the overall customer experience. Notably, Ibom Air has maintained industry-leading on-time performance, a hallmark of its operations.

Reflecting on the airline’s achievements, Chief Executive Officer Mfon Udom expressed pride in their journey. “We are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished over the past five years. Our success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our entire team and the unwavering patronage of our passengers,” Udom stated. He also extended congratulations to the shareholders, the government, and the people of Akwa Ibom State for their committed ownership and strong support from the start, which have been instrumental in the airline’s focus on excellence in connecting people and places.

In celebration of its anniversary, Ibom Air unveiled ambitious plans for the future, including positioning itself as an ESG-responsible company with a clear sustainability vision. The airline plans rapid fleet and route expansion to tackle connectivity issues within the African region, alongside a focus on leveraging advanced technology.

Chief Operating Officer George Uriesi highlighted recent technological advancements aimed at improving customer experience. “We have recently unveiled cutting-edge technology and infrastructure to improve our booking, check-in, and in-flight services while enhancing our self-service portal on the website to make it more user-friendly. Similar attention will be paid to one of our most critical touchpoints: our call centre. We plan to make it a 24-hour service very shortly,” Uriesi commented.

In the area of sustainability, Ibom Air is committed to reducing its environmental impact through sustainable practices. The airline introduced the fuel-efficient Airbus A220-300 aircraft, with an expected fleet of 11 aircraft to ensure its carbon footprint aligns with global best practices. Additionally, the airline’s corporate social responsibility program will focus on giving back to the less privileged and vulnerable, positively impacting its communities.

To further commemorate this milestone, Ibom Air will recognize staff who have been with the airline since its inception, celebrating their dedication and contribution to the airline’s success.

“At Ibom Air, today and every day, we appreciate our customers who have stayed with us and have been unwavering in their commitment to building this brand. As a result, we pledge to continue to uphold the highest standards of safety, comfort, and convenience for our passengers,” affirmed Uriesi.

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