Sunday, April 22, 2018

How we have elevated governance in Mkpat Enin LG, by Akwa Ibom Council Boss

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Ekanem Brown is the chairman, Mkpat Enin Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and has recently completed the first 100 days in office. In this interview with ANIEFIOK UDONQUAK, he speaks on various issues, including his major achievements and how he intends to transform the economic landscape of the area. Excerpts:

You recently celebrated your first 100 days in office; why was it so significant; was there any of your campaign promises you were able to fulfill within the period?

Before coming in, I made promises; I know the problem of my people. Number one was that I needed to grow their economy. Like I said, I came from a private sector, I know what I mean, I know what capital flight is; you bring one million naira to the council then, the whole money is taken out. So I decided that we would make do with what we have. They had started a shoe factory, but it was never completed by two administrations. I went there, opened it, completed the building, installed more machines, did the wirings, engaged the consultants, they came in, and as I speak today, we have the most equipped shoe factory in the entire Niger Delta. The shoe I am wearing now was produced by the factory- Cortina fashion, military boots; shoes, etc. all kinds of shoes. We are planning to launch back Cortina so, the most conspicuous products in our factory will be, the military boot and Cortina fashion shoes, not that we could not do other shoes, but being a new factory, we need to go into products that has market in the terms of volume. We have recruited up to thirty people. I just came back from Jos the other day where I went to see the manager of Naraguta leather works. They are to supply us with quality leather. I was so excited when I heard that the governor was about to start a ranch either in Uruan, Akwa Ibom State, where they will produce milk, beef and skin, we would need that. When they start, we will be the off takers that would need the skin to produce fine quality leather. So we hope to bring back Cortina; very soon you would see shoes made in Akwa Ibom.

Mkpat Enin Local Government is blessed with an arable land, do you see any economic potential to harness through this?

Agriculturally, Mkpat Enin is located in an area where almost everything grows. Arable soil, I had done the research before coming in. Anything grows; tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, cassava, lettuce, coconut, palm trees etc. So I decided that when I come into power, I would set up factories, production lines for red oil. I have currently discussed with bank of industries on that. The production line for coconut oil to support what the governor is doing in my Local Government, and also production line for packaged plantation meal, we want to start packaging plantain for sale. So, we are currently cultivating seven hectares of land, we are planting in a section; cucumber, another tomatoes and pepper. Why? It will create jobs for the youth. Currently, I have employed 27 people. It will be additional source of revenue for the council; everybody goes home happily. We have acquired 150 hectares of land that will be used to cultivate ginger, plantain and cocoa. So I am here, to key into the governor’s industrialisation drive, to see that his five point agenda to the state is followed to the letter, to see that we put the people first, that is paramount, and that is my slogan. Whatever decision I take in the council, it is to see that the people’s interest is paramount come what may. So I’m here to let you know that this is what we have achieved so far, the future is so bright. In the future, we will be making millions of naira. As I am speaking to you, people are coming in for the cucumber. In the next 3-weeks, we will make close to 12-million naira, can you imagine that from just about 7 hectares, we will make such a huge revenue income. So the future is bright, we have plans to organise economic summits, to bring in investors, that is why I’m here. People in Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, West will know that we are doing these things. People who will come and invest in Mkpat Enin should know that they have a chairman that will accommodate them, who is willing to protect them at least within my tenure and more. Recently, we sent in an execution bill to the legislature – The Public Private Partnership bill.

What does the PPP bill seek to achieve?

My being the executive chairman of the council is tenured after three years, and it will be over, but these investments need to be protected, they live beyond my tenure, so I have decided to send in this bill to the legislature, which will be passed soon. The oil mill, the plantain meal factory, the shoe factory, all of these investments need to be protected that is why I’m sending the bill. So I’m encouraging those who would want to farm, we have farm lands, very, very arable, they should come and farm. We are talking to the youth, they are seeing need not to be violent, they are beginning to see that they have alternatives, that if I can plant plantain, that if I plant 1000 suckers of plantain, in 9 months time, I should be making millions of naira. The youth are the ones involved in the farms. As I speak, some of them are already planting cucumbers in their own farms. So apart from having money and creating employments, we are also giving experience, they are acquiring these experiences that they would use, and this is not something you can quantify. So please investors should come into Mkpat Enin, and you can be sure that you will have high returns on investments.

On the cultivation of ginger and cucumber, have you done the feasibility study; how long will it take to harvest them?

All these crops I intend to cultivate are things I have planted or cultivated. We talked about cucumber; cucumber is 45-days. In fact, we want to have 100,000 suckers or plantain stands. There is a factory and there are people that are willing to set up four different factories to process the plantain, then extract the fluid and put it in drums and sell. There are companies that buy these fluids as raw material for their companies. The body is used as POP. And then the inner parts when it is dry, is used to produce cartons.

So, we have companies that will produce carton, use the fluids and then those that will use the plantain, so I’m well informed about all these things and it is promising. That also answers your question on processing and packaging; yes in the long run we hope to bring in factories that will process our ginger, our ginger cannot be sold without processing. They have to be dried, milled and packaged, so yes we are planning to process all that we cultivate here in Mkpat Enin. On funding, the Local Government has allocation, apart from that, we do source for partnership.

Can your allocation accommodate all these lofty plans?

I think that is the advantage I have. I have been doing these things in the private sector, I have integrity, what you need physical cash to get, I only need words of mouth to get it, all I do is to ask, can you do this for me? You would ask when will you pay? I will mention. It matters, you know integrity matters in business, that’s why some people get goods, come, sell and return the money, while others will go looking for money to go and buy and sell. So it’s a strategic partnership, apart from allocation its strategic partnership. I know the problem of Mkpat Enin, so I was ready, I hit the ground, I started working on zero and that’s why we have been succeeding. The only thing I tell them is that I have the support of my governor; how? By creating enabling environment, that is paramount.

The common scenario in local government councils across the country is the issue of decaying infrastructure; how does your council fare in this respect?

With the cooperation I enjoy from the team members; the legislature and the members of the executive, we worked tirelessly to ensure that I fulfil my campaign promises, as soon as we were sworn into office, we took steps to ensure that we have a good working environment. We hadn’t electricity for the past six or seven years in the council. I was angry before I came to power; I was asking why people were not going to work? Why was productivity so low? I said when I get into the office I would ensure that everybody does their work so that we can take Mkpat Enin to the next level. It was easy talking from the outside, but when I came in, I realised that it went beyond what I thought. The staff needed to sit; I realised that there were no seats in the offices; offices were not furnished, the tables were not there, some places were leaking, no electricity.

Coming from the private sector, I was sick; I felt so bad that humans could work under such work environment; I wasn’t happy about it. Do you know that the council had no computer, they were using manual typewriters, and this is an ICT consultant, before coming to office, I was building software, I have more than four universities running and then the office I was coming into hadn’t one functional computer. It was so sad. So I thought it wise to first of all make the working environment healthy. I had to discuss with PHEDCO (Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company); they came and told us we were owing them millions of naira. Meanwhile, Governor Udom Emmanuel is building a sub-station in Mkpat Enin. Very soon Mkpat Enin Local Government and its neighbouring Local Government Areas will have 24-hour power supply, I wouldn’t want my council to be in the dark. As I speak with you, we have power in Mkpat Enin Local Government council and the neighbouring villages resulting from that discussion. I came into the office and there was no water in the council at all and this is a council that harbours a health centre, so how are they functioning without water? Incidentally, there were boreholes sunk already in the council, though not functioning. So it was just a matter of reactivating them. So I bought the pumping machine, pipes, hosts, tanks and behold three-boreholes were reactivated. Another question was; in the absence of Electricity supply what do we do? There were generators but they were already dilapidated and vandalised. I wanted to buy a new one, but as at that time we did not have the means to do that, so we came back and fix it, though it wasn’t a good choice, today we have a 40KVA generator working; not just that, we also have a 165KVA plant, I had to fix that because of a shoe factory we were proposing then. The 165KVA plant had not been in use for 12years, you know what that means, not just that, I had to also fix the transmission line back to where we have the shoe factory.




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