• Eno says collaboration regardless of party affiliation key for citizens’ welfare

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu has assured the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Umo Eno, of the Federal Government’s intervention to complete the Calabar-Itu road.

Eno made the disclosure to State House Correspondents after meeting with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Eno emphasised the state’s commitment to collaboration with the federal government, irrespective of political affiliations, for the welfare of its citizens.

Eno expressed his desire for the federal government’s assistance with the Ibom deep seaport, specially designed to accommodate larger vessels with the capacity to carry up to 13,000 containers in a single voyage. Additionally, he requested an export license for the free zone at the Ibom Airport, referring to these as strategic government partnerships that the state of Akwa Ibom is keen about. He said in response, the president promised to review the proposals.

Recall that the federal government had approved in August 2021, approved N185 billion for the construction of dualised Calabar-Itu Highway.

The federal road, which links Cross River State and Akwa Ibom and the Northern states has been in a deplorable state, subjecting commuters to severe suffering and risks.

The first phase of the contract was awarded to Julius Berger to the tune of N54 billion, which started construction in the Odukpani and Ibiono Ibom axis of the highway in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states until it went on holiday that year.

The then Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, had attributed the delay in the construction of the road to a lack of funds, assuring the people that the project will be completed by April 2023.

The immediate past Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, had in August 2022, issued a letter, saying that the government would not pay compensation to affected communities in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states on certain sections of the road.

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In a letter written to the Akwa Ibom State government in May of that year, Fashola had said: “Following the resolution of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) held on Wednesday, October 2, 2019, I am advised to inform you, Your Excellency that Federal Government projects would be executed only on locations where the state government has provided the required land at no cost to the Federal Government.

“It is pertinent to inform Your Excellency that the timely resolution of the pending compensation claims on the dualisation of Oku-Iboku-Power Plant section of the Odukpani junction-Itu-Ikot Ekpene road in Akwa Ibom State will facilitate early completion and delivery of the project with the associated diverse socio-economic multiplier effects and benefits, which would certainly place your state in good stead to attract more Federal Government projects.”

Recall that the paramount rulers of Itu, Ibiono Ibom, Ikono and Ikot Ekpene local government Areas of Akwa Ibom State had called on the federal government to pay compensation to property owners at the right of way whose assets were destroyed for the construction of the Itu-Calabar highway.

Asked if his requests included the Calabar-Itu road, Eno said: “Of course, we talked about the road you have just mentioned, the Calabar-Itu road. We will need the president to help us intervene and let’s get that road finished. We talked about our Ibom deep seaport, we will need the president to also intervene and let’s get the Seaport. I also mentioned to him the export license, the free zone for our airport, so that the maintenance, repairs, and overhauling facility there, we will be able to bring in spare parts to service the aeroplanes.

“These are strategic partnerships that we want with the federal government. So, I talked about it and he has promised to look into it, and I believe him.”

On the purpose of his visit, the governor said: “We came to visit with the President, to congratulate him on the election and his swearing-in and to pledge our support, our commitment and our loyalty to the President and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Politics is over and governance has started. So Akwa Ibom is an integral part of Nigeria and we have to work with the federal government to ensure that Akwa Ibomite will see the benefits of democracy and we cannot do that if we work standing apart. And so I came to visit with the president like I said, to congratulate him and pledge our support to work with him and our commitment as a state so that Akwa Ibomite will derive the full benefit of democracy.

“There are lots of things we expect from the federal government and it’s only with that cooperation that we can work together and achieve the common good, whatever I know I can do, to bring the dividends of democracy to my people, I will do it.“

The Governor also highlighted the distribution of palliatives to mitigate the impact of subsidy removal and outlined future initiatives aimed at supporting the people of Akwa Ibom.