On Monday, the governor of Akwa-Ibom state, Godswill Akpabio, led President Goodluck Jonathan to an elaborate ceremony to inaugurate the state’s multimillion naira “e-library”.
The commissioning ceremony was organised to mark the end of construction work on the project and signal the beginning of use of the facility.
The president did the usual tape cutting, briefly inspected the facility and gave the governor a pat on the back before hopping on his plane back to Abuja.
But perhaps unknown to the president, the edifice he commissioned with much pomp and ceremony does not have a website as expected of any electronic library of this age.
A web platform, experts say, is a core, indispensable part of electronic libraries across the world.
“I was overjoyed after learning about the commissioning of an e-library in Nigeria,” Jackson Ikane, a university student, said. “But my joy was short lived. The library is not what I thought, It doesn’t have a website!”
Electronic libraries all over the world are designated as such for having a physical site, and most importantly, for having collections, stored in digital formats, that could be accessed remotely via the Internet.
The Akwa-Ibom “e-library” was inaugurated despite having only the physical site.
Aniekan Umana, the state’s information commissioner told PREMIUM TIMES the newly inaugurated library had one, but he could not provide us with link to the site.
“Google it,” he said on the telephone on Tuesday.
Pressed further on the matter, he asked for time to source it from the library. Twenty-four hours later, Mr Umana failed to provide us with a url to the state’s “e-library” website.
State governors in Nigeria often times overemphasise commissioning ceremony that state projects attract – for the media mileage – ahead of building high quality projects for their electorates.
In most cases, journalists are flown or bussed from afar to complement expensive live coverages of the commissioning ceremonies. Some inauguration ceremonies are usually conducted even when projects are still far from completion.
In some cases, governors spend more money organizing flamboyant commissioning ceremonies than they are willing to spend on the commissioned projects.
During the commissioning ceremony on Monday, Mr. Akpabio, described the three-storey library complex as the first of its kind in West Africa.
He said the library has digital collections of 16.5 million e-documents “which can be accessed by users simultaneously.”
He added that the library also has two million electronic books “that can be downloaded” in addition to 14.5 million electronic research e-journals.
The governor added that the library has a conference centre with language translators, and urged the president to bring international conferences to the state, to be hosted in the “e-library.”
Mr. Umana could not explain how books could be downloaded from afar (as claimed by the governor) without a functional web platform.