Much-hyped Akwa Ibom e-library still under lock five months after presidential commissioning

The Akwa Ibom e-Library

Five months after President Goodluck Jonathan flew to Uyo to commission it, the Akwa Ibom e-library is still far from completion

After a showy commissioning and multi-billion investments five months ago, the Akwa Ibom State e-library, a proposed full e-learning facility flaunted as West Africa’s first, has yet to commence operations.

Instead, equipment shortages that have remained unresolved at the facility months on, are giving vent to earlier concerns that authorities in Akwa Ibom rushed out an unfinished project for immediate political gains.

A spokesperson for the state acknowledged parts of the project have yet to be finalised, and that managerial issues are still pending.

“It takes a process to put all the public elements in place,” Aniekan Umanah, the state commissioner for information said on Sunday.

The inertia at the library has raised fears about its completion, refreshing concerns about state governments’ penchant for delivering half-made projects, often, for lavish presidential unveiling, gaining public approvals, after which the projects are abandoned.

President Goodluck Jonathan opened the sprawling unit in Uyo, the state capital, late June, in a brassy ceremony that exhibited the details and prospects of the new project, and drew plaudits for the government.

The credits soon turned to criticisms after a PREMIUM TIMES’ report revealed that the library had no functional website, a basic requirement for such facility.

The publication spurred the state government to hurriedly switch on three unfinished websites.

Five months on, the project, which promised an array of unprecedented facilities to aid textual and multimedia studies for adults and children, has yet to commence operations.

At its Ibrahim Babangida Avenue site in Uyo, visitors are turned away from accessing the interior of the structure during the day, while a few salaried staff keep security and the reception.

Our reporters tried for several days to access the facilities for additional research for a story they had travelled to the state to report but were turned back each time by security guards who explained that the library was still under construction.

Members of the public on sightseeing, routinely screen photographs of the complex and of themselves with the structure in the background.

At night, the building’s superb exterior finishing is set clear and appealing by powerful lighting effects.

But beyond those snapshots, the office has offered no service despite inclining messages to potential users on its website, advising them on the glowing packages offered.

“More than 2,000,000 academic research, rare and special eBooks full-text fully downloadable from the year 1,000 till today,” one reads.

Another promises “Over 200 collections searchable either individually or in custom-built groups to maximise researchers productivity.”

The few staff around the complex hardly comment on the project’s delay, plan for commencement, or areas under construction.

When our reporters visited the library recently, workers appeared on strict instructions not to respond to inquiries concerning the project.

A staff, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES anonymously for fear of victimization, branded the June inauguration by Mr. Jonathan a “political commissioning.”

“Whether next year, or even 20 years to come, they may start. But it has nothing to do with that launching,” the staff said.

The state government claims the date could be much closer, although it failed to shake off the notion of a troubled take-off for the project.

Information commissioner, Mr. Umanah, who spoke via telephone, admitted the delay was caused by unresolved technical and management issues months after the inauguration.

The ongoing operations, he said, include “raising a certain platform within the digital section of the building,” which involves the laying of cables; hence the decision to close it to the public, Mr. Umanah said.

The selection of the right consultant manager for the office is also unresolved, he added, predicting both issues might be addressed by December paving the way for full operations to start by January, seven months after launching.

But those privy to information about the library’s contents say many more facilities that the state told the world existed in the library are yet to be installed.

They also doubt Mr. Umanah’s set January date.

The commissioner had earlier suggested a September date for the facility to be fully operational; a target that never materialised.

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