By Divine Sam:-
Rt. Hon Emmanuel Ekon served as a member of the Green Chambers of the National Assembly representing Abak, Etim Ekpo, Ika Federal Constituency between 2011 to 2019. After his reelection bid in 2015, he rose to become Chairman, House Committee on Local Content.
In this exclusive telephone interview with our correspondent, Mr Divine Sam, the former lawmaker who throughout his tenure was renowned for maintaining stiff silence to his critics finally reveals his reasons for shying away from the media, listing his unbeatable performance and unprecedented achievements as Chairman of the Local content committee, justifying recent calls by youths of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District for him to contest for Senate in 2023. Hon. Ekon further spoke on cultism and other sundry issues that posed threats to his reign as member of the green chambers…excerpts.
Question: Do you identify with any cult organization since you started your political career?
Ekon: Such a question is very alien to me and quite frankly, I am hearing it for the first time. I don’t think there is any security agency within and outside Nigeria that can link me with cultism, kidnapping and other social vices. My commitment to peace, due process and godly values are clear and verifiable before the public. As a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, anybody that knows me will tell you I am more of a public servant than a politician. I believe in who I am and what I represent, having had the opportunity in the last eight years to serve my people, I can boldly state that the name Emmanuel Ekon cannot be associated with crisis of any kind.
Question: There are crawling fisticuffs precisely in Etim Ekpo LGA where you come from, some youths are actually campaigning for you to vie for the Senate ambition in 2023 which some are equally spotted in the camp of Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem, the incumbent National legal adviser of the People’s Democratic Party. The groups are said to be currently engaging in war of words and throwing tantrums at each other. Has this been brought to your notice?
Ekon: I cannot say what is happening in Enoidem’s camp because as mentioned earlier, I am a member of APC and Enoidem is a member of PDP. It is only normal that PDP and APC supporters at some point could disagree in principle and even exchange words unconsciously while trying to sell their preferred party aspirant. So there might be some form of disagreement because of the differing standpoints but I have not been informed that my supporters are quarreling or fighting with aspirants from other parties. I encourage them to be peaceful and besides, I don’t really know if Enoidem or anybody from another party has an aspiration. I only know that youths of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District have beckoned on me to contest for Senate based on my track record but I am yet to respond to that clarion call.
Question: You served in the House of Representatives for two good terms in the green chambers? What do you now want to achieve in the Senate?
Ekon: I thought you would ask me what my achievements were in the House of Representatives and what I stand to offer if I accept calls to run for the senate? But in answering your question, let me first draw your attention that fact that I am a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is bounded by a constitution that “does not limit any Nigerian, including me to a specific number of terms and years in the National Assembly”. I believe the people that drafted the constitution were not “fools” because if you look at the same constitution, the Executive arm of government are limited to two terms, even the least offices like Local Government Chairmen are limited to two terms. All over the globe, the US, Britain and other democratic nations that have succeeded in the world, have constitutions that allow continuity in the parliament as long as their people vote them back. Continuity is the only path toward building a strong institution and vibrant legislature. I served in the lower chamber of the National Assembly and within the ambits of our constitution, I will at the appropriate time decide whether or not to accept the popular wishes of the good people Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District who have seen the need for us to consolidate on the visible impacts of representation we recorded in the green chamber.
Question: So what is your conviction that the people who judged your performance and scored you less in the lower chamber will give you the go ahead to the upper Chamber?
Ekon: Well when I started this conversation with you, I mentioned that I love your kind of Journalism because investigative Journalism is what every reasonable public servant should be desirous of. I don’t know where you got that misinformation from but I can now avail you with the truth. From 2011 to 2015, it is on record that in the history of representation in the federal constituency, nobody has ever come close to what we did during our first four years in office. Without sounding immodest, I brought a cabinet minister, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN) to come and commission constituency projects. If I can remember vividly that day, we put up 17 projects in the federal constituency for the Honourable minister who represented President Goodluck Jonathan following a letter I wrote to him as the leader of the party at the federal level at that time. At the end of the day, he was only able to commission 9 out of the 17 projects due to one thing or the other before we could traverse through the three Local Government Areas from 7am in the morning till 7pm in the evening. It is also on record that my brother, Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem commissioned some of those projects that day, I think one of those projects was also commissioned by the late political leader of Etim Ekpo then Obong Archibong Akpan(APEX) of blessed memory. So these are projects that are not invisible, till today anybody can go and look at those records. In that same, 2011-2015 we assisted a lot of Akwa Ibom people to gain employment in federal ministries. I remember the case of 13 road traffic controllers when I came to Abuja from the US in 2011 in company of late Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga who was the Chairman of Ibom Airport (what is now named after Obong Victor Attah). He came to me one day and told me about 13 traffic controllers that were trained by the Akwa Ibom State Government and that since after training, an agency of government had refused to certify them so they can work as traffic controllers. It was through my efforts because I was a member of the aviation committee, with the help of some people within the establishment, we were able to get those children recruited and send them the same day on refreshments courses and today as I speak to you all of them are traffic controllers spread all over this country and that is one big success story of my representation for Akwa Ibom State. It was also through my effort that about seven of them or more were recruited into parastatals, making it a total of 21 Akwa Ibom indigenes who secured employment in the aviation sector. We started the ICT revolution with the construction of the following ICT centres: Northern Annang People’s School, Abak Council Secretariat, Etim Ekpo Council Secretariat, St. Augustine Secondary School, Ika, Government Technical College, Abak, Commercial Comprehensive High School, Ikot Ese, Church of Jesus Christ Comprehensive Secondary School, Atai Otoro, Abak LGA and another at Government School, Ikot Okusung, Ukanafun and Government School, Utu Ikot Ekenyong, Ikot Ekpene LGA. I donated 110 laptops each to Akwa Ibom Polytechnic, Ikot Osura and Federal Polytechnic, Ukana. So far, the ICT centre in Etim Ekpo and Abak has trained over 3,000 and 4,000 school children on basic computer appreciation such as writing electronic examination respectively. Other projects include: Rural Electrification Project and Installation of 2 500KVA transformers in Iwukem; Installation of 500KVA transformers each in Eka Uruk Eshiet & Utu Ikot Eboro, Etim Ekpo LGA and Ikot Etukudo, Abak LGA; Community Water Works with 1km reticulation each in Nto Mbadom and Ikot Akpan Anwa, Ika LGA; Donation of 13 vehicles to supporters; Construction of Primary Healthcare Centre, Edem Akai; Installation of Solar Street Lights in Iwukem and Utu Ikot Eboro; 2 Classroom Blocks with VIP Toilet facilities in Ikot Udobong and Construction/Furnishing of Community Hall, Utu Ikot Eboro. In that same first term, there is a road construction project that was awarded even before I joined politics in 2011 linking Rivers State, Abia State through Iwukem (my community) all the way to Ukanafun and Ekparakwa in Oruk Anam Local Government. I secured N2Billion from the SURE-P programme and today if you go there, there is a dual carriageway constructed courtesy of my representation. It was on account of these unbeatable performance that my people graciously gave me a return ticket to return for a second term and continue rendering life touching services.
When I went back the second time, I was appointed by His Excellency, the Rt. Honourable Speaker Yakubu Dogara to lead the House Committee on Local Content, that committee was graded C because committees in the House are graded based on performance. By the time I left local content in 2019, it was upgraded to A not just A but A-Plus courtesy of my administration. The effect of my representation between 2015 to 2019 is too glaring for everyone to see and I can say without doubt that my legacies are unmatched. All through my eight years in the House of Representatives, I purchased over 1,000 jamb forms yearly in a bid to advance the educational aspirations of our youths. Throughout the four years I chaired the Local Content Committee, there was not a single year that The Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PATAN) did not give me an award as the best Chairman. Again I encourage you to do an independent investigation to Government Technical College Abak and see the infrastructure which I facilitated to secure the future of Akwa Ibom state. The infrastructure in technical college ranging from the wood work factory which is ready for commissioning to the building technology department and a lab that is currently under construction. Then go to Onna and see the industrial park I singled handedly by the special grace of God attracted to Akwa Ibom state currently under construction. Go to the E- Library, you will see the Halliburton Training School I brought to Akwa Ibom state. Go to the Ministry of Science and Technology, you will see the welding department which has trained more than 150 Akwa Ibomites in that facility and all trainees when I was Chairman recieved #120,000 per month for 6months from the trainers. We trained nothing less than 500 people across the entire country, with more than 300 trainees drawn from Akwa Ibom State. If you are talking about other infrastructures, the ICT revolution we began in our first term continued during the second term. These infrastructures are there and somebody can take you round if you’re willing to see them. It is predicated on these achievements that some youths have asked me to run for the Senate. I am however not desperate, I pray God to keep us alive first to witness 2023 because it is only Him who gives power to whoever He chooses.
Question: So what is the state of the Halliburton Oil and Gas Research Centre?
Ekon: Halliburton was supposed to collaborate with Akwa Ibom state. Essientially, my job was to facilitate and bring the local content board to properly commission the training school. We also brought multinational MDs and put in place the necessary requirements to ensure the proper running of the school. I am no longer in government, so I think that question should be thrown to Akwa Ibom state Government and Halliburton. My vision was to see how we could through Halliburton establish the first research & development center in the whole of Sub-Sahara Africa that can metamorphose into University of Oil & Gas.
Question: You said welding trainees were paid during training?
Ekon: Yes, for example, Hyundai Heavy Industries as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility established a welding department at the Ministry of Science and Technology which trained about 150 Akwa Ibomites and all of them received #120,000 monthly before handing over to the state.
Question: As Chairman Local Content, how many people from your federal constituency benefited from that Committee??
Ekon: well, we can start from the ICT centre in your own village Atai Otoro sited at the Community Secondary School and we did eight of such centres fully equipped with State-of-the-art facilities, solar power and standby generators cutting across Akwa Ibom state. In the various oil and gas training schemes, over 300 hundred beneficiaries were people from the federal constituency and Abak got the largest percentage. We began by training young Engineers, the whole idea was because I discovered that as Chairman local content, even the MD of multinationals cannot give an employment in the oil and gas industry. Because of the oil and gas industry is a controlled environment with strict adherence to due process, we started the training with young Engineers who just come out from the University with a bachelors degree or HND in Engineering. Through that program, beneficiaries were trained on special skills in pipeline welding, scaffolding and underground welding. The idea was how to get them inside the oil and gas industry through the back door since it is difficult from the front. So after training, the oil servicing companies that have contract with multinationals will then send their employees to go onshore or offshore and from there you get exposed within the oil and gas environment and if you are smart enough you can equally get a job for yourself.
Question: What else do you want to achieve should you run for Senate?
Ekon: I’m yet to accept recent calls urging me to go back to the National Assembly but I’m the event that I decide to join the contest, I’ll love to reactivate the agenda that was central to my 2019 candidacy by the grace of God. As Chairman of Local Content Committee, I reached the required length and breath in almost all the oil facilities in this country. We made a whole lot of impact especially as it concerns indigenous contractors within the oil and gas industry. Prior to the local content law, Nigerian contractors were unable to do jobs within the oil and gas industry but today because of the implementation of that law, indigenous contractors are smiling home. Before the advent of the local content law, things like catering, cooking, supply of drinking water in the offshore were outsourced to international companies. The vessels used by multinationals in the oil and gas were owned by international players, but as we speak 90% of the vessels within our territorial water are owned by Nigerians and we must give kudos to the initiators of the Local Content Act and President Goodluck Jonathan for his foresight in assenting that bill. So as a public servant that implemented that kind of law for four years and saw how it helped indigenous contractors, I believe we can spread this law to other sectors of the economy like power, ICT, solid mineral, health, aviation and construction to create jobs for our teeming youths and lift them off the street. Again as a chairman local content committee, I also did a lot of empowerment and I believe that if I eventually heed to calls to return to the national Assembly, we can further build on what we started because I understand the environment, the institution and the system. I am going in as a ranking member, not a fresher and that will be a plus for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. Like I said, if you look at my record which is unprecedented, I can build on what we did and further better the lives of our people.
Question: You contested and won elections for two terms into the house of representative under the PDP platform but when you defected to APC and secured your 3rd term ticket, you couldn’t make it again to the House of Representatives, so what is giving you the conviction that the same party you failed (interrupts)
Ekon: No I didn’t fail the election. If you’re a from Abak or a politician you will know that I won massively in Abak, I won in Etim Ekpo and Ika respectively but you see this is Nigerian politics. It happens that if the system does not want you, they will go against you and do everything possible to belittle you in one way or the other, but I don’t want to delve into that as a seasoned public servant whose interest is not personal. I have long moved on but I know convincingly that the people of Abak, Etim Ekpo, Ika that I represented as at that time threw their unflinching support to me and I won, I can say that anywhere. Even when I came into APC and I contested election in less than six months, the support was massive, we organized the best, peaceful and stylish campaign that was accepted by everybody and we won our election. When you started with me, I told you I don’t really believed in partisan politics. I believe in who I am, I believe in what I can do, I believe who I follow and his or her antecedents, and I know that if I support this person he will give us the kind of representation that we want, someone who will think about the masses and run an open, transparent office and will be accessible. These are the things that I consider before I follow anybody: individual ideology, credentials and integrity.
Question: how reliable and passionate is your Senate aspiration?
Ekon: I have not declared any intention to run for the senate. I am only aware that the youths of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District are calling on me to run and I am yet to decide on that. I believe such calls are driven by a factual judgement of my eight years in office and what I stand to offer our people.
Question: But according to some persons in your federal constituency, it is alleged that most of your projects were audio projects and only exist on Facebook can you clear this impression?
Ekon: Did you say on Facebook? That is why you should come down to Akwa Ibom state and see things for yourself. As an investigative Journalist, it is your core responsibility to investigate and know the truth because if I tell you now it will look like I’m politicising. The ICT center in your village, does it exist only on Facebook? And like I told you initially, we have eight of such in Akwa Ibom: Independent High School in Ukana, Essien Udim LGA, Science College Ndon Eyo, Onna LGA, Independence High School, Ukana, Essien Udim LGA, Iwukem High School, Etim Ekpo LGA. Then go to Government Technical College Abak LGA and see the World-Class Wood Processing Factory. I am using this opportunity to call on His Excellency Deacon Udom Emmanuel to provide a perimeter fence so as to secure that investment. When you go to Onna LGA, there’s an industrial park, occupying about 30 acres of lands undergoing construction. These are certainly not audio projects.
Question: What prompted you to take such a mega project to Onna LGA when you were representing Abak Etim Ekpo Ika Federal Constituency?
Ekon: I believe in team playing and dialoguing to achieve my intention. The most important thing for me was to ensure that Akwa Ibom benefited without recourse to location or any biased consideration. Fortunately, the selection of Onna was in adherence to certain technical requirements like closeness to gas corridor, water and access to power plant. That amicable working relationship with the board also ensured the timely completion of the Headquarter complex compared to the NDDC headquarter project which lingered for over two decades. I must at this point thank the Executive Secretary, Engr. Simbi Wabote and other members of the board for the cordial relationship and most importantly, for demonstrating patriotism in ensuring that all projects I facilitated were not abandoned after I Ieft government. I believe governance is a serious business that should not be left in the hands of mediocre persons whose sole aim is to enrich themselves and their families and make series of noise without anything to show. I was a successful businessman in the US and I did very well by the special grace of God, I came back here for a reason – to create positive impact and make a difference. Many people that talk about me have never met me before. I know what I go through for people and that is why they want me back for Senate in 2023.
Thank you very much Sir for your time, hope to have you again.
Ekon: You are always welcome. I enjoyed talking with you, Divine.
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