By Anietie Ekong
Lately my beloved state, Akwa Ibom State has been in the news for the wrong reasons, carting away every available trophy of infamy.
A state that was once revered and held out as a model in development and uncommon transformation has so retrogressed in the last four years that today, it has overtaken terror-ravaged states in notoriety in underdevelopment indices.
Few weeks back Akwa Ibom had the inglorious distinction of getting ahead of Benue State in HIV prevalence rate in Nigeria. The latest Nigerian HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) showed that Akwa Ibom State has the highest prevalence rate of HIV in the country.
The result indicated that about 5.5 percent of the people living with HIV in Nigeria are in Akwa Ibom State. Oh, Akwa Ibom!
Every well-meaning person should be worried and concerned. A former Chairman of the State branch of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Aniekeme Uwah captures it succinctly, “The HIV prevalence rate in Akwa Ibom State is really alarming and therefore should not be taken lightly because HIV/AIDS has no cure,” he said.
But the Commissioner for Health in the State, Dr. Dominic Ukpong who bandied his own statistics to counter the pervasiveness of the scourge in the state, nonchalantly blamed it on “influx of visitors into the state.”
Most Akwa Ibom people, however will not be surprised by this new low to which the state has sunk. Primary healthcare is virtually dead in the state as Primary Health Centres have become mere centres for gossip and farming activities by idle staff.
A world class Ibom Specialist Hospital which was founded as a solution to medical tourism in the country has been left comatose. Minister for Health, Prof. Isacc Adewole during an inspection visit to the hospital complex in May 2016 said: “Visiting the hospital complex today is an eye opener, there is no such complex like this anywhere in Nigeria, with this facility, no Nigerian will be allowed to go abroad for treatment.”
A world-renowned surgeon, Eapen Koshy commenting on the hospital said, “with Ibom Multi-Specialist Hospital in the country, Nigerians have got the best in Africa in the area of medicare.”
The hospital with the full compliment of expatriate staffs came to the rescue during the ill-fated collapse of the Reigners Bible Church in Uyo.
The Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon Onofiok Luke noted, “the reason we are all rejoicing at this moment is because of the Ibom Specialist Hospital. If this facility was not on ground, I am sure by now the number of dead case would have tripled. We have one of the best health facilities in the world here in Akwa ibom State,” he said.
Several orthopaedic and neuro-surgeries were done but sadly the hospital and the multi-billion Naira equipment have been left to rot by the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
As if the HIV scourge ravaging the state was not enough degeneracy, Akwa Ibom which by virtue of being an-oil rich state, receives the highest allocation of funds from the federation account, a few days later made an ignominious entry into the hall of shame by being named as the state with the second highest number of out-of-school children.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu said recently that a National Personnel Audit of public and private schools in Nigeria showed that Akwa Ibom State came second after Kano among the most endemic states affected by the out-of-school syndrome.
Social media is awash with Akwa Ibom children studying under trees or sitting on bare floors to receive education.
During the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio as the Governor, Akwa Ibom State was known for being one of the first to declare free and compulsory education. This policy encouraged parents from near by states to register their children and wards in schools in Akwa Ibom as the policy was not discriminatory.
The policy was followed by another which made it an offense for a child of school going age to be seen roaming about during school hours.
Parents of such kids were fished out, apprehended and reprimanded.
One of the most popular quotes of the then Governor Akpabio was that because of the free and compulsory education policy of his administration he had handed over the house boys and house girls industry to other states of the federation as Akwa Ibom children were no more available to be recruited by other Nigerians in servitude. They were busy in school.
School heads were paid subvention based on the number of children on their registers. With these policies school enrolment tripled and the administration responded with massive investment in education infrastructure. All that is history.
These days Akwa Ibom State shares the shameful spotlight with terror-ravaged states like Zamfara, Kaduna and Benue in the out-of-school children indices. States like Borno, Yobe and Adamawa with full blown terror wars have less percentage out-of-school children than Akwa Ibom. Oh Akwa Ibom!
Not yet done in these national infamies, the National Bureau of Statistics recently reported Akwa Ibom State as leading in the unemployment rate of 1,357.754 persons or 37.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2018.
In the build up to the 2019 elections, Governor Udom Emmanuel had touted industrialization as his greatest achievement in Akwa Ibom State. He claimed to have established 16 industries. However, these industries seem to exist more on billboards in Uyo, the state capital than in reality.
Akwa Ibom could not have had as many industries as touted by the propaganda machinery of the administration and leading the rest of the country in unemployment indices at the same time. Oh, Akwa Ibom!
Recently, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) threatened that it would shut down the Victor Attah International Airport constructed by the administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio owing to grinding indebtedness by the state government.
What used to be the only 5-star hotel in the state, Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort which boasted of the best golf course in Africa has been reduced to a glorified brothel following the pulling out of Starwood Group over indebtedness by the state government too. At a point it was run by the state Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The state government seems to also vow never to put to use a fully built, furnished and completed Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Ikot Ekpene for political reasons. Oh, Akwa Ibom!
According to Economic Confidential, in 2018 Akwa Ibom was among the highest recipients of the Federation Account Allocation Committee as she collected N272 billion in 2018. This excludes internally generated revenue.
In the last four years there has been nothing on ground to justify the receipt of such humongous amount from the federation account. Rather what stirs Akwa Ibom people in the face is massive unemployment and abject poverty owing to failure of governance.
Mr Ekong, a public affairs commentator writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.