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Education in Akwa Ibom: The hardworking Prefect’s Touch

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By Victor Umanah

 

Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State, amongst other things, in the years past, was a prefect at Victory High School in Ikeja, Lagos, where amidst his daily tour of duty as a hawker and shop minder for his enterprising mother, honed skills in street credibility, leadership, management and the worth of education

Today, as Governor of Akwa Ibom State, his growing up experiences seem to be the driving force behind his resolve to revive public education in the state and give students a feel of what was enjoyed in days of yore.

The strength of his vision and dreams for the sector, as revealed in this ARISE agenda, his all-encompassing blueprint, is not just in words but actions. His vision is a new Akwa Ibom where pupils and students are equipped with the requisite knowledge and skills to compete and excel with their peers anywhere in the world.

He started these interventions from an unscheduled visit some months ago to Christ the King Primary School,(CKS) along Wellington Bassey Way in Uyo, a few metres away from the Government House, which led to his decision to not only renovate the school but birth the idea of building model public primary schools across the state.

That remodeled school has been completed, equipped with modern facilities like a welcome centre and reception hall, fully furnished six classrooms blocks, administrative block, Library, an ICT Centre, laboratories, staff quarters, and sick bay among others.

Some other models schools, including one completed at Ewet, in Uyo Local Government Area and ongoing in Ukanafun, are expressions of his commitment to this cause.

He also announced the distribution of free school uniforms and shoes (produced locally) and one million exercise books to primary school pupils.

In addition, the governor recently paid bursaries to students of the state origin in public tertiary institutions in the state. A total of over N127 million has been paid since the commencement of the exercise.

This is besides the N100 million educational trust fund for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) who are studying in the state. Additionally, Governor Eno approved the payment of N250,000 and N300,000 each to undergraduate and postgraduate students, as scholarship, respectively.

While also approving and releasing various sums to offset the fees of 13 medical students that were on the verge of dropping out of school.

Another N100 million scholarship was given to the winner of the 2023 Heirs Life National Essay Competition and N5 million law school grant to a physically challenged graduate of the University of Uyo.

Governor Eno has equally ended the lamentations of retired primary school teachers who have sacrificed 35 years to lay a solid foundation for elementary education in the state by the payment of gratuities. In addition, the free and compulsory education policy at primary and secondary school levels has been sustained.

He further released an initial N778.9 million for the payment of the 2023/2024 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees for 48,797 candidates participating in the sub regional examination in the state.

The payment will cover NIN registration fees, biometric registration, funds for administrative cost, as well as 50 per cent WASSCE fee. In fact, the increase in sundry charges for the examination has raised the yearly payment fee from N1 billion to N1.5 billion, an amount that has not discouraged the government’s commitment to the arrangement.

To ensure Akwa Ibom Children compete favourably with their counterparts all over the world, the governor initiated a United Kingdom Education Exchange Programme, to give foreign exposure to some bright but not-so-privileged Akwa Ibom children and encourage them to believe in hard work.

Over 271 students from public secondary schools across the state were selected for the programme after their participation in a paper-based examination. Justifying the funding of the programme despite the cost, Eno said human capital development and the benefits for Akwa Ibom children outweigh the cost of such investment.

As part of the exchange programme, a two-day capacity-building workshop on Education Skills Upscaling for principals of public secondary schools in Akwa Ibom state which was organised by the Ministry of Education had in attendance the Mayor of the London Borough of Southwark, Michael Situ, and David Bromfield, senior education advisor of Southwark Council.

The UK Education Exchange Programme has been described as the fulfilment of the governor’s promise of creating an exchange programme where participants will experience, learn and adopt global best practices aimed at improving the state’s education system and giving exposure to intelligent students from the rural areas.

School heads, including the Chairman, All-Nigeria Conference of Principals of Public Schools (ANCOPPS), Mr. Stephen Akpabio, affirmed that the value gained from the robust engagements and knowledge sharing sessions have propelled them to a new level of renewed commitment as direct implementers of government policies, noting that schools would perform better as a result of the engagement

Indeed, the training programme opened new vistas of development in the state’s education sector as more human resource programmes were introduced to equip principals and teachers to stay abreast with contemporary trends.

Stakeholders say the Governor’s show of compassion is very commendable. A pensioner, Imaobong Udofia said, ” If nothing, the payment of gratuities and pensions promptly by the Governor has motivated teachers to do more in training children for the future.” A parent, Elder Archibong Umoh, says parents are happy that the burden of paying examination fees for WAEC and the bursary to students has been lifted of their neck.

Commissioner for Education, Idongesit Etiebet, however, believes education, exposure, and experience have guided Governor Eno’s step in the sector.

“When you have a well-educated, exposed, and experienced man as Governor, there is no how the education sector will not thrive.”

That is not all, Governor Eno understands the nexus between education and entrepreneurship, which was why, in his first few months in office, he established the Ibom Leadership and Entrepreneurial Development Centre fondly called Ibom-LED.

This Centre, which was in fulfilment of a campaign promise, is equipped to provide essential business, leadership, and professional skills. Through its Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme (EAP), it has so far trained 800 participants. The participants have all benefited from a N400 million grant from Governor Umo Eno. His goal is to equip 5000 budding entrepreneurs in four years and send them off with a total grant of N2.5 billion.

That was not all, in spirit of continuity, he has now completed the state-of-the-art Dakkada Skill Acquisition Centre ( DASAC).

The Centre which has the University of Lagos as Consultants, is equipped to train people in agri-business, ICT, mechanical works, woodwork, plumbing, fashion design etc.

With its Governing Council, staff quarters, hostel and other facilities in place, the Centre which is adjudged as first-of-its kind in Nigeria, would certainly reduce the unemployment gap in the state.

For Governor Eno, fighting educational inequality is very critical, and he believes he has a unique opportunity of achieving two key SDGs: 1 and 4 by effectively funding and enabling access to quality education.

 

 

Umannah, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Uyo

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Opinion

Day Dele Momodu Injected Africa With Energy

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By Michael Effiong

It all begun with a phone call. It was one fine morning and I got a call from my former boss, Aare Dele Momodu whom we fondly called Bob Doo.

Before now, when his voice booms at the other end of the line, he would say Editor!!! But these days, since I joined Akwa Ibom State as the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Umo Eno, he has changed it to SSA!!

So when he called that morning, I answered and he told me he that his birthday was fast approaching and he was reflecting that he had just six years to make seventy and just 16 years to 80.

“Do you know, I have just 16 active life remaining in this world if I am lucky?”. I was wondering where he was headed because when my boss goes philosophical like this, get ready for a session of enlightenment about his life, trails and triumphs.

On this particular day, however, all he said was that he was thinking of his legacy and that since he had written many articles on Nigeria and proffered solutions endlessly  without much difference, he was thinking of holding a dialogue or a lecture series, something deep. He had no plans for any party or “feferity” like we used to say.

For me, that was a brilliant idea and I told him so. He then said he believed that with the  epileptic energy situation in Nigeria, South Africa and the return of the worse form of dum so dum so (light on and off) in Ghana, a discourse on the subject will be useful.

We agreed that it was a good plan. Having worked with him for 20 years, I know that when he has a brainwave like that, his adrenaline usually pumps on overdrive-and for some inexplicable reason, lines usually fall in pleasant places for him.

Five minutes later, in a very excited manner, he called back and  announced, “We are good to go! I have just contacted Prof. Barth Nnaji and that day is not only free on his calendar but he has agreed to come.” That was how the first Dele Momodu Leadership Lecture with its theme as “ The Politics Of Energy and The Way Forward” with the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) as venue began.

From that moment on, he began to work the phones, and he usually would not hide any new success story. In less that 20 minutes he has confirmed the Chairman of the occasion and so many of the special guests. He then asked that we set up a small committee of friends and begin to work on this project.

Pastor Lanre Obey (Lansrock), Kingsley James (IDCL), Seyi Orolugbagbe, whom we fondly call Man Seyi, Azuh Arinze, Prince Adeyemi Aseperi, Ian Okudzeto from Ghana, Dr Sani Saidu Baba, Osagie Alfred and Eric Elezuo, our Editor at Ovation International and Supervising Editor of The Boss Newspapers and the only lady in the house, Ms Bola Ojofeitinmi and yours truly were all added to platform as Planning Committee Members.

We all went to work, handling different aspects of the event. Lanre Obey in matter of days delivered the stage design and entire venue plan while IDCL also submitted ideas for the walkway, red carpet and venue branding etc. The show production guru, Edi Lawani was coopted to offer his expertise while Biodun Oshinibosi of Abellinis called to offer his services.Things were taking shape.

Then, in his usual ebullient manner,  Chief Momodu shared the good news that Mr Leke Alder, the one we call the Genuis, has agreed to help with logo and other designs!

After sending through different ideas, we adopted one and the creative force of Alder Consulting  went to work pronto delivering invitations, newspaper adverts and other promotional materials The Alder team came up with the tag name of the event “Intellectual Discourse”. This was efficiency at its best.

There were reservations about using the NIIA, some believed  it was not befitting for his status, but Chief Momodu would have none of it. He argued that NIIA is our equivalent of Chatham House and should therefore be given its pride of place.

“Taking the event out of a formal venue like NIIA, would make it look less serious and intellectual’. He stated firmly.  He then announced that as part of his 64th birthday celebrations he would relay the red carpet at the Main Auditorium and also donate two new air conditioning units.

As the day got closer, Chief Momodu rushed to Ibadan for a few days where he was putting finishing touches to his personal library that would soon be opened. He was on the phone at all times keeping tabs on the planning process.

We had two physical meetings but all the coordination was virtual, and the Executive Producer and celebrant, Momodu was on top of everything.

A day before the event, we were at the venue, and everything was coming to fore. The venue was witnessing a massive transformation.

Then,  news came that Prof. Nnaji arrived  Lagos and was warmly welcomed at the luxurious Delborough Hotel.  We we were all excited and when later that night former President John Mahama landed at the Execujet private jet terminal, we knew that all was set.

On day Day May 16, nature decided to test the clout and connection of Chief Momodu by releasing a heavy downpour. But God took control!

From Governor Ademola Adeleke to former Governor Donald Duke,  Ooni of Ife, HIM Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi to Mr Peter Obi, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso to Hajia Bola Shagaya, Dr. Bobby J. Moore, Consul-General of the Republic of South Africa and his wife to Oluwo of Iwo Land, HIM Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, Mr Olumide Akpata to Senator (Prince) Lanre Tejuoso, AIG Tunji Alapini (retd) to Senator Olubiyi Fadeyi, Erelu Olajumoke Adebola to Mr Kola Karim, Delborough Hotel owner, Dr. Stanley Uzochukwu to Prince Bisi Olatilo, Prince Damola Aderemi to Mr Segun Fatoye, Dr Larry Izamoje to Mr Mike Awoyinfa, Mr Dozy Mmbuosi to Mr Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, Mr Kunle Bakare to Bankole Omishore, Ayo Animashaun of HipTv  to Mr Segun Ogunsanya, MD/CEO, Airtel Africa and so many others all defied the rain and the terrible traffic that occurred that day to grace the occasion.

And to sweeten the day, celebrant’s wife, Yeye Aare Bolaji Momodu and three of his children: ‘Pekan, ‘Yole and Eniafe were there to give him the much needed moral support.

Steered by Dr. Rueben Abati assisted by Mr. Oladele Ogunlana, the Guest Speaker and other commentators not only x-rayed the problems of the energy sector but proffered solution. Guests were also served excellent canapes by Laredo and drinks cum cocktails by  Depotters Limited. It must be said that the intellectual the content of the event itself was top notch.

Interestingly, though the event was an altruistic effort to help governments across the continent ,which was why it was advertised as apolitical with invitations extended to all political affiliations,  members of the All Progressives Party (APC) except for Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi shunned the event!

Describing the event as a vehicle for international diplomacy, Chief Momodu stated in his welcome address that the lecture was his way of igniting a conversation that would  benefit African governments and their people.

Chairman of the occasion, former President John Mahama, who actually solved the energy crisis that engulfed Ghana while he was President said the severe energy deficit on the continent is surmountable.

Drawing from his river of knowledge and bank of experience, President advocated collaboration among countries as well as the willingness to deploy  an energy mix: gas, coal, natural gas and renewable energies such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass as solution.

As for Professor Barth Nnaji, Nigeria can solve its current problem if we make the national grid more robust.

According to Prof. Nnaji “Countries like Nigeria have the responsibility to remind developed nations that much as natural gas is a fossil fuel, it is a transition fuel because of its relative cleanliness. Even lithium-ion promoted as the silver bullet to the climate crisis has serious defects including the fact that it is mined like any other mineral, ipso facto, causes environmental pollution

“While the Nigerian government should be encouraged to explore foreign markets for its resources like natural gas, sight should not be lost on the fact that charity should begin at home. In fact, an emergency has to be declared in the domestic gas market to save the electricity sector.

“The super grid should be given priority to boost national transmission capacity. The Federal Government has to resume signing power purchase agreements (PPAs) with appropriate guarantee instrument to attract private sector investment  so that Nigeria can experience proper economic trajectory like other emerging nations such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa”

He then concluded “ We can achieve these if we have the will power and right frame of mind to change the energy equation. It is now up to us a s a nation”

There were very thought-provoking remarks from Mr. Kola Karim, Ooni of Ife, Alhaji Kwakwanso and Mr Donald Duke.

In all, it would be said that the Dele Momodu Leadership lecture was an energetic shot in the arm that should arouse our sense of purpose, wake African governments from their reverie and ignite them to find solutions to the energy crisis.

 

 

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Opinion

Umo Eno: 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

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Opinion

ENHANCING FOOD SECURITY: GOVERNOR UMO ENO’S WORTHY INTERVENTIONS

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By Michael Effiong

Today, the biggest threat to the survival of mankind is food security. Indeed, the phenomenon has taken a global dimension and is not confined to the borders of any nation.

 

Growing hunger has been fueled by a toxic mix of climate change, insecurity and a global economic crisis that has exacerbated poverty and inequality, affecting the ability of many families and communities to cope.

 

In Nigeria, at least in the last few months, there is no topic that has been more discussed than that of the rising cost of food stuff and the hunger in the land.

 

As US President John F. Kennedy once said, “The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation.” This is a war that must be fought with vigor and won.

 

On his visit to Niger State on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu called on states to support the federal government’s effort in the area of agriculture and food security.

Interestingly, long before this call by Mr. President, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno has already taken action.

 

How? Well, you can call him the modern day Nostradamus and will not be wrong. It was not that he was clairvoyant but we can adduce it to his power of vision because agriculture was one of his focus areas even before his overwhelming victory at the polls on March 18, 2023.

 

The then candidate Umo Eno had developed an economic blueprint for his campaign dubbed the ARISE Agenda. A of the A-R-I-S-E stands for Agricultural Revolution.

 

Having had this as part of his economic blueprint, it is no wonder that the Umo Eno administration had already hit the ground running and has been laying out plans, programmes and projects that are worthy of emulation in a bid to stem the tide of the current national crisis.

Perhaps what can be described as the most impactful and innovative intervention in the area of food sufficiency and sustainability in the country at the moment was signed into law on Thursday, March 14, 2023 as the Akwa Ibom State Bulk Purchase Agency which aims at ensuring that staple foods are available, accessible and affordable to the most vulnerable in the state.

 

Everyone knows that implementing this kind of programme can be herculean, but the government set up a committee with a well-laid out plan to ensure this works efficiently.

 

This programme, like others the Governor has initiated, would be devoid of any political coloration. Already, government has met with traders and market associations. Foodstuff agents will be selected and trained.  They would all sign an agreement with government and would be the ones to operate branded shops and redemption centres that will be located in selected markets and points across the 31 LGAs.

 

The Agency would use a voucher system akin to the Food Stamps now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the United States.

 

The Akwa Ibom equivalent when deployed, will operate in a similar fashion because it would be strictly for vulnerable indigenes who will exchange the monthly vouchers for staple food items.

 

The beneficiaries would get direct subsidies as they would pay well-discounted prices to the agents for the value of the food item on each voucher. The accredited agents would later present these vouchers to government for reconciliation and reimbursement.

 

Furthermore, the Governor’s 368 Personal Assistants in the wards are to help implement the programme at the grassroots while names of all agents and beneficiaries ( drawn from the state social register which had recently been updated) would be published.

 

It is expected that from this arrangement and involvement of many stakeholders, the Agency’s mandate would be delivered within a short period of time.

 

Knowing full well that the Agency’s work is a short term measure, Governor Eno is also thinking long term and has started preaching the “Back-To-Farm” message. His goal is to inspire Akwa Ibomites from all walks of life to see the benefits of farming.

 

In his words: “Please everybody, no matter how small your land is even if it is just behind or beside your house, sow something. We must return to the farm”

 

Let us cast our minds back to what used to be the norm back in the day. Our parents and grandparents used to have little farms around the house where green vegetables, tomatoes, pepper, okra, maize, yams, cassava e.t.c. were grown. Some even reared chickens and goats too.

 

Many may see this as a call to subsistence farming in today’s technologically-advanced world, but in truth, if we are able to grow a few of what we eat, it will not only reduce the hunger in the land in a matter of months, but it will free up funds for people to use for other things.

 

This initiative by the Governor for rural and urban dwellers to go back to the farm is already being practiced by other countries to boost their food supply. It is called urban farming.

 

Countries such as Argentina, Australia, Canada and China are way ahead and have incorporated this into their urban planning and city regeneration projects.

 

A good example of the success of this initiative is the city of Rosario in Argentina. Rosario’s Urban Agriculture Programme (Programa de Agricultura Urbana, or PAU) started small, but now grows nearly 2,500 tons of food each year. What started as a means of feeding the population in the wake of an economy in tatters is now a cornerstone of the city’s food sustainability initiative. This shows that the Governor’s call is a much needed step in the right direction.

Also, the government has commenced Phase II of the AK Cares Programme. Beneficiaries across the 31 LGAs would get farm implements, seedlings, poultry birds or fish juveniles and adequate training.

The Ministry of Agriculture is also being galvanized to distribute improved seedlings and support agriculture cooperatives to help increase their productivity. And the Ibom FADAMA Microfinance Bank has been restructured in line with the present realities.

That is not all, the Governor who takes the welfare of the citizens seriously also signed the Akwa Ibom State Agricultural Loans Law (Amendment) Bill, a private member bill sponsored by Hon. Mfon Idung. The law has increased the amount to be granted as loans to individual farmers, corporate entities and cooperative societies  and would enable them expand their operations, embrace modern farming techniques, boost productivity and ultimately, drive economic transformation.

 

It is worth mentioning also that Governor Eno’s people-centred intervention strategy also includes a rejuvenation of the rural communities through construction of rural roads and provision of key amenities. This idea is well captured in R (Rural Development) of the ARISE Agenda. The nexus between rural development and agriculture are as inseparable as a set of conjoined twins!

This school of thought concerning the importance of rural development as a way of boosting agriculture is also held by former Agriculture & Rural Development Minister and current President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina.

He expressed these sentiments most succinctly while delivering his acceptance speech on his conferment with the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership in Lagos recently.

According to him “Nigeria must completely transform its rural economies to ensure food security for all. A better Africa must start with the transformation of rural economies. That is because some 70% of the population live there. Rural poverty is extremely high. At the heart of transforming rural economies is agriculture, the main source of livelihoods.

“As a young student who attended high school in the village, I witnessed the high correlation of agricultural performance with education. “It was common then to hear the phrase “Agbe lo ba” . (farmers are kings), uttered with great pride

“The transformation of rural economies must therefore be structural, systemic, strategic and comprehensive. Doing so, means agriculture must be turned into a wealth creating sector. Sound public policies transform the lives of people”.

No one can dispute the need for sound policies as enunciated by Dr. Adeshina and this is reason as an ardent advocate of agribusiness and with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 in mind, the Governor’s earliest move in the agricultural sector on assumption of office was to sign an MOU with Songhai Farms for the development of Ibom Model Farms.

 

This long-term partnership is aimed at driving a technologically-driven agricultural revolution that will boost food production, tourism, youth development, knowledge transfer and job creation.

 

While construction has already begun at the first farm located in Nsit Ubium LGA (others will spring up when LGAs make land available), the Governor has shown his seriousness for this project by sponsoring some youths on training programmes in preparation for the Farm’s take off.

With all hands already on deck and machinery put in motion to operationalize the multi-layered approach initiated by the Gov. Umo Eno-led administration, the indigenes of Akwa Ibom State are soon going to heave a sigh of relief. Not only would the issue of high cost of foodstuff be history but food sufficiency would become the new normal in the state.

 

 

.Effiong, a journalist, is Senior Special Assistant (Lagos) to Governor Umo Eno

 

 

 

 

 

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Perhaps what can be described as the most impactful and innovative intervention in the area of food sufficiency and sustainability in the country at the moment was signed into law on Thursday, March 14, 2023 as the Akwa Ibom State Bulk Purchase Agency which aims at ensuring that staple foods are available, accessible and affordable to the most vulnerable in the state.

 

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