17 January 2013

Nigeria: 'Development Is About Vision, Not Money'

Uyo — Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State here talks about what he has been able to do in the state compared with the huge amount he has been receiving as governor of an oil rich state, saying his efforts has little to do with the money he receives.

How did you start as governor?

Before I came into government, the cost of cement was about N350, but today cement is above N2,000. So if the past administration collected about N5-N6 billion a month and cement was selling at N350 as at that time and I am collecting N10 billion or N12 billion, almost double, and cement is above N2,000, is there any gain? But my point is; you can perform only if you have the vision and sincerity. If you have the passion and commitment, you could also have impacted on the lives of your people. So I am building the state from the scratch as if Akwa Ibom was born today.

I started with a lot of anger. I served as commissioner for five years and I knew that where I met the state is not where it ought to have been. I used my money to repair this Calabar-Usi road when I was commissioner when Obansajo was to pay a visit to the state. I went and brought a heap of sand to try to fill potholes along the road.

So I went to the governor and said 'Sir, let's do something about the road,' and he asked me to get out, 'is it my father's road?' he asked. He said let Obasanjo come and see how he's been neglecting Akwa Ibom. But I said 'Sir, the visitors that are coming would think this government is not performing.' He said is it my business to fix Federal roads? Will you get out of this place? So I was a man who over-advised. So at times you have to be very careful how you advise government. My governor picked quarrels with me is because I over advised, If you over advised government, you become an opposition even with your best intention.

An international award was given to me in Kenya and a television correspondent came to interview me and asked: What was your motivating factor? I said 'anger' because what motivated me was anger.

Somebody must be angry. It is that determination and anger that spurs you to greater height. But like I said almost five and a half years later, the anger is waning. In fact, when I listen to the way people indentify with what we do here, my anger keeps going down.

But that should not be surp-rising since you have all the money coming from oil revenue...

When we had the onshore and offshore problem in 2000 for about 9 months, President Olusegun Obasanjo offered a remedial measure for a South-South political solution and he was giving an additional N600 million monthly to Akwa-Ibom. That lasted for about seven to nine months and the situation was corrected and Akwa-Ibon went back into receiving revenue from Derivation.

In 2000, my state also collected N3.7 billion. At that time, the state that collected the highest derivation was Delta. I think Delta collected N5 billion or more, Rivers came second, then Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom . Later, Rivers used to come first, Delta second, Akwa-Ibom third and Bayelsa fourth. But later on Akwa Ibom came first but it used to change according to oil production and also according to the activities of militants.

When the activities of militants were reduced and shell is able to tap a lot of oil, then the production in Niger Delta will pick. And so what they have done now is that they are now calculating derivation on monthly basis because sometimes, Mobil can have oil spill and then you cannot but suspend production. And so for that month, our own resources will have to dwindle and then you may go down because you have a major spill and that of course will eventually affect the final derivation and in that wise, for that month we might come to number four or number three.

But generally speaking, we have at least four major states that collect their derivation levies, we have Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom. Then Edo and Ondo also joined.

But as we have seen, it is not so much money that translates into development; it is the vision; dedication, sincerity, commitment and the totality of your being.

Some say at the rate you are spending not much would be left in the coffers when it's time for you to leave....

I was at a State Executive mee-ting in 2011 when an executive governor attended our meeting and he was telling us about the economy of Borno State and he announced that his governor left behind N64 billion. But if you look at Borno and how much it gets in a month, for Borno to have saved up to N64 billion, the press should have asked questions. He left behind Boko Haram and N64 billion in the bank. That is why sometimes they say if you don't give to God, you give to devil, am I right?

So if you don't give the money for the benefit of your people, then what will happen is that you have to use the money to cure the problems that you caused. In an attempt to say you are not corrupt, you keep billions in the bank in order to attract interests. And your business is booming while the society is dying and you are now saying if EFFC comes you can account for the money, is that governance? That is a very clear example of the fact that you don't know how to manage and then the money does not speak, the money does not benefit the people, the money does not impact on the life of the people and the money is just kept in the bank, it does not have value.

What measures are you putting in place to ensure maintenance of infrastructure even by successive administrations?

As part of efforts at ensuring sustainability, I signed a bill into law which is on establishment of Infra-structure Maintenance Agency last week and I want them to employ 450 youths, 150 per senatorial district and open three offices in three senatorial districts. They will take over aspects of roads maintenance, filling potholes and maintaining the street lights and the rest of them.

Well, the issue of road mainte-nance does not lie with the workers, it lies with the leadership. If you have somebody who has the same vision with you and he becomes the governor, he will do that. If you don't have somebody who shares the same vision with you and he becomes the governor and notwithstanding the maintenance agency you have set up, everything will go backwards. My prayer is that God will bring a successor that will think like me.

Are you doing something about developing human capital also?

If Jesus Christ had done every-thing, what will the Reverend Fathers do?

I would leave that in my handover note that the next government should focus on that. But for every single contract we give out, employments are been given. Foreign contractors doing the project are not working with foreigners, they are working with Akwa Ibom people. For every single job that we give out, hundreds and thousands of Ikwa Ibom people are being employed at any point in time and at the same time conversely we are also trying to bring in industries because that is the focus now. I am happy to announce to you that in partnership with a company called Specta, we are sending the first batch of people to be trained out already.

In 2008, when I realized that the aluminium company may collapse because they didn't have enough gas, I have to sign an agreement with an energy company that I will buy gas from them at 2 dollars per cubic ft and then distribute it straight to independent power plants and aluminium smelter company. So they are in with an investment of over $350m, so we have just finished plans to process gas now in those stations.

We have also sent a lot of our children abroad for training. When I came on board, in the whole state, we were having one consultant and that was already in the ministry as a director. I have to employ additional 30 medical consultants to come and be attending to children and others in the hospital.

Today, I have sent a lot of doctors abroad to go and study in different places so that they can come back and offer services to the people.

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