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Takeaways from the season two of AKSG inter-ministerial briefing

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Sequel to my previous series on the season one of Akwa Ibom State Government Inter-ministerial Briefing held in Uyo, where I highlighted what I considered the key points of the event, this piece is a further spotlight on the event but within the scope of the season two hosted on Friday, April 29, 2023. As a good governance advocate, I cannot help being endeared to Governor Udom Emmanuel and his administration particularly in the light of the mind-blowing facts that have come to my knowledge and that of millions of other Akwa Ibom people during the briefing. I believe Mr Udom Emmanuel will go down the history as one of Nigeria’s unsung heroes and this will be due to the fact that he is not loquacious and glib politician. I stand corrected.

My first takeaway from the season two of the briefing was that Governor Emmanuel has deployed the best of his skills and experience as a financial guru in his leadership of Akwa Ibom. This impression came after listening to the Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service (AKIRS), Okon Okon make his presentation at the briefing. For instance, it was very interesting to discover that the state ended an era of unprecedented economic boom with meager 15.4 billion and 15.7 billion naira as internally generated revenues for 2013 and 2014 respectively, while Governor Emmanuel, who led the state in the face of a dwindling economy due to nationwide economic recessions and a devastating global pandemic, grew the state’s IGR from 16 billion naira in 2017 to 34.8 billion naira in 2022.

Since coming to know this fact, I have taken time to appraise the almost eight years of the Udom Emmanuel’s administration and I cannot recall anytime in the history of the administration that the state overburdened the people with taxes which could have been the simplest explanation for the sharp IGR growth under Mr Emmanuel. It then occurred to me that Mr Emmanuel, from the inception of his administration, prioritised reducing the cost of governance as much as he pursued revenue generation. I vividly recalled that one of his first interventions was converting the abandoned edifice along Udo Udoma Avenue to what is now the Dakadda Secretary which currently houses key Ministries and other Parastatals which were previously in rented properties. I can only imagine how much the state would have saved by now from that ingenuity.

Akwa Ibom has also reaped bountifully from Mr Emmanuel’s business expertise as the governor kept to his promise of making the state business friendly, and evident in the state’s consistently ranking among to top states for ease of doing business in Nigeria. In 2021, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council ranked Akwa Ibom fourth following the outcome of its states ease of doing business substantial baseline survey. Again, in 2022, BudgIT, a civil society organisation, in its 2022 State of States Report, ranked Akwa Ibom behind Gombe, Sokoto, and Jigawa, which were first, second, and third, respectively.

My second takeaway was that Mr Emmanuel deployed the best leadership and management models in the world as governor of Akwa Ibom which did not only his subordinates to excel in their various roles but has set a new standard for leadership and governance in the state. The governor’s style of leadership gave his Commissioners, Board Chairmen, etc the liberty to be creative, innovative and solution-minded in their approach to service. Okon Okon particularly mentioned that thanks to Governor Emmanuel’s support, AKIRS had digitalised revenue collection in the state which has not only made payment of tax very seamless for the people but has also enhanced transparency and accountability in the sector.

“As a Board, we introduced technology in their operations, which has enabled online submission of returns, payment of taxes etc. This has limited human accessment and enhance transparency,” Mr Okon revealed. “Our reputation has improved unlike in the past years where tax payers did not fully trust the system. That is why we encourage tax payers to pay their taxes into the approved bank accounts.” According to the AKIRS chairman, Mr Udom Emmanuel is the first governor in the history of the state, to have constituted a full AKIRS Board in line with the revenue administration law.

Similarly, the Commissioner for Transportation, Chief Uno Etim Uno disclosed that Ministry, along with many other innovations, has digitalised the transport system to help curb crimes, adding that under the current administration, the Ministry has remitted the highest revenue to the state. the executive council of Akwa Ibom State, engaged investors on the operation of Ibom City buses in major routes (Nwaniba, Oron Road, Aka Road, Abak Road, Ikot Ekpene Road) in the state at subsidized rates. “All the paper work is done and in few months, the operation will commence in earnest,” Uno said during his presentation at the briefing. “This is the first time since the creation of Ministry of Transport in Akwa Ibom State that the ministry has remitted up to N500 million to the Internal Revenue Service. We have stopped the issue of monies diverting into wrong hands.” Mr Uno further disclosed that the Ministry deployed various strategies in regulating the transportation sector without causing disaffection among transporter. “In almost 4 years in government, there has been no protest by transporters in the state.”

Again, the Governor Udom, in bringing more hands on deck and expanding the development frontiers of the state, gave life to many of the state’s parastatals that were in a state of comatose. Prominently, the administration revived the Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection and Waste Management Agency (AKSEPWMA) was and it equipped it for maximum productivity. According to the chairman of AKSEPWMA, Prince Ikim, while making his presentation at the briefing, said that the Agency, which was created in 2000 by law, only came alive in September 2018 following the inauguration of the Board by Governor Emmanuel. The result-oriented governor ensured that the Board was fully repositioned for optimal performance and by 2019, the Agency had about 15 compacting trucks/tippers, provided 20 5000 litres of waste dump site, provided 50 galvanized roller waste bins, etc. These results-oriented efforts led to the state becoming a serial winner of the cleanest state awards in the country and south-south.

Nonetheless, what Mr Emmanuel has achieved in the power sector of the state, for me, remains one of the highlights of his administration. With the strategic interventions in the power sector, the state government is so certain that in no distant future, every part of Akwa Ibom will enjoy uninterrupted power. Commissioner for Power and Petroleum Development, Dr Etim disclosed that with the recent constitutional amendment to the license which allows Ibom Power Company to embed 10 mega watts for the new Ibom Distribution Company, the government is hopeful that with the amount of power given to the state by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), the state will have more power to distribute. “Most of the Ministries will begin to enjoy 24 hours electricity supply. We are planning to go to the local governments to duplicate this system,” Dr Etim further revealed. “In no distant time, most parts of Akwa Ibom will begin to have 24 hours electricity supply.”

The inter-ministerial briefings have so far been very revealing and like millions of other Akwa Ibom people, I am now looking at the prospect of the briefing becoming a key policy of the state government.

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