By Paulinus Nnah
Against the backdrop of speculations and controversies surrounding the recent Akpan Andem Market billboard brouhaha, the legitimacy status of Uyo road transport monitoring task force and the current state of Ibom Plaza, the Executive Chairman of Uyo Local Government Council, Elder Imoh Okon, has last Monday, October 22, 2018 cleared the air on issues bordering on policy thrusts of his administration and the state of Uyo Metropolis.
Speaking in radio programme, Akwa Ibom Rising, on Inspiration FM monitored in Uyo, Elder Okon began by hinting that his administration is currently in robust empowerment programme in terms of mentorship and skills acquisition, saying “210 trainees are undergoing intensive training in various skills at No. 3, Ibiono Str., Off Ikot Abasi Str here in Uyo. The participants are taken two each from the 105 villages in Uyo LGA.
“The set that will start their training first week of November, 2018 are those of auto electrical and mechanics. And over the last weekend, through the office of my wife, it was the breast cancer awareness for the women in the Uyo Capital city and the entire Akwa Ibom State.”
While declaring that the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Uyo LGA has improved tremendously in this regime, the Uyo LG helmsman maintained that in line with relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which he had sworn to defend and not to allow his personal interests to override his decisions, the revenue of the LGA is to be used for governmental activities, including social activities and amenities for the communities.
Elder Imoh Okon further stressed that Uyo LG is not operating any task force on the so-called wrong or illegal parking, saying “We don’t have a single task force from Uyo Local Government on illegal parking or whatever, because we are using more of advocacy. And it’s working for us. We cannot militarise the society.
“So, whoever is doing that in the name of Uyo Local Govt Area is operating an illegal business.
“On the issue of wrong parking, people always call me and plead: ‘your task force has picked my wife with my children!’ We don’t have any task force belonging to Uyo LGA on illegal parking or whatever.
“But we have one concept; and what is that concept? Until we establish right parking, we cannot be able to molest people for wrong parking. So let us establish the designated right parking lots. Where do you want people to park officially? Where are the bus stops? Designate them first before you begin to molest the people.”
The council boss disclosed that his administration is, however, synergizing with the state Ministry of Transport and other government agencies with the view to doing the right thing in ensuring that things are done in a civil manner, so as not to compromise with those he termed as “touts”.
He named insecurity as a major bane within the Plaza precincts in the Metropolis, which, according to him, is within the purview of Uyo LGC, restating that he remains the chief security officer of the local government area, and that as far as the plaza is in Uyo LGA, he cannot afford to close his eyes to issues concerning the facility.
On the matter that culminated in the protest by the Akpan Andem Market women and his subsequent invitation to the state police headquarters at Ikot Akpan Abia, Elder Okon explained that a company, Blake and Harper, on the 1st of June wrote a letter to the Chairman, Uyo LGC seeking approval to site a billboard stand at Akpan Andem Market.
According to him, the letter which was signed by one Utibe Ukim as the Managing Director, stated the company’s desired location for the billboard stand to be Phase 2 by Access Road, which runs from Ndiya Str. to Johnson Str. axes of the market.
Acting on the said request, the council chief said that the council in turn wrote to its consultants, King Ben Ent. Ltd., that handle billboard matters for Uyo LGC for 2018 to liaise with the council’s Supervisor for Works, and to move with the applicants to where it wants the billboard stand located for inspection and their assessment and for proper regularization.
“The consultants then invited them, and they went to site and showed them where they had interest. The consultants reviewing with the Supervisor for Works came back to council reporting that the applicants had been shown the site, and that they had accepted same. Then, our consultants gave them conditions,” Imoh Okon stated.
The conditions, he related further, were that the applicants had to pay their expression of consent into the council’s account; on acceptance the applicants were to pay N400,000 for the site, an amount he said was lesser than the normal charge.
The council chair went ahead to relate that the applicants were informed by the consultants to go to the legal unit of the council in order to ascertain the duration of the stand and the stanches of subsequent payments and other relevant conditions to be enshrined in the contract documentation.
“But this is what happened: after the consultants had directed them on the necessary procedures, they went and paid the site fee which was N400,000 and they were shown the site. They next step would have been for them to come to the council and do the necessary documentation and get clearance to move to site. This is where they went on their French holiday.
“Till today they’ve not gotten back to Uyo LGC. Till today they’ve not gotten a single paper on how many years they will put the stand. Till today they’ve not shown us the specimen of what their stand will be like. Till today nothing has been done. Only for us to come to know that they left the site that was approved for them to another site.
“And where is their new site? The new site is a swampy area where people used to heap a lot of wastes in the market before I took over the office. In January was when I evacuated that site and did surface filling with laterite, just to create a park there. And it will shock you to note that they chose the centre of this space for their stand,” Elder Okon noted.
He informed that the council has directed the applicants to dismantle the structure, adding that “but if they still want to make that stand, they should come to the council. And I want to say here that if they have anything against us they should go to court and not the police.”