Akwa Ibom governor’s aide makes U-turn, says rot in public school “very ugly”

Mr Essien Ndueso, media aide to Governor Udom Emmanuel
Mr Essien Ndueso, media aide to Governor Udom Emmanuel

A media aide to the Akwa Ibom governor who has been campaigning strenuously to discredit PREMIUM TIMES investigative series on public schools in the state has finally admitted to the rot in one of the affected schools.

The aide, Essien Ndueso, has also been on a smear campaign against our reporter, Cletus Ukpong, who did the investigative reports.

“This is very ugly,” Mr Ndueso commented six days ago on a photo posted on Facebook, showing the dilapidated school, Ntiat/Mbak 1 Comprehensive Secondary School, Itu Urban.

The photo was posted, July 20, on the social media site by one Inyene David who is from the community where the dilapidated school is.

Mr David wrote that students from the school “were exempted from coming to classes during the raining season” because the classrooms are always flooded with rainwaters.

The governor’s aide, Mr Ndueso thanked Mr David for posting the “ugly” photo of the school and promised to forward it to the state government.

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When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Ndueso, he said his comment on the school was “personal”.

The 37-year-old school in Ntiat/Mbak, which was built through community effort before it was handed over to the state government, featured prominently in one of the reports in the PREMIUM TIMES series.

Here’s how the report, published on May 23, 2018, captured the poor state of the school: “It is quite a bizarre sight at Ntiat/Mbak 1 Comprehensive Secondary School, Itu Urban, where some female students are seen chatting freely inside a partially collapsed structure meant to be a classroom. The rafters and the remnants of the ceilings dangle menacingly above them, making the place a deathtrap.

“The school’s staff quarters are dilapidated and abandoned. Same with one of its major classroom blocks.

“The assembly hall had collapsed, while the library and the laboratory are in a terrible state and could go the way of other collapsed structures if not urgently rebuilt.”

A photo depicting the poor state of the school was published too, alongside the report.

Interestingly, both Mr Ndueso and Mr David had clashed previously, also on Facebook, over Mr Ndueso’s attempt to discredit the investigative series and demean the PREMIUM TIMES reporter, Cletus Ukpong.

Mr David said the governor’s aide was being petty in his attacks on the newspaper and its reporter.

“The report by Cletus Ukpong is the best thing to happen to Akwa Ibom State,” he told the governor’s aide.

“The rot, agreed, may not have started during the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel, but the administration would certainly draw applause if they are bold enough to acknowledge the magnitude of the decay in our education sector and take steps to revive it.

“It is uncharitable and condemnable for anyone to try to rubbish this public interest journalism which is rare in Akwa Ibom state. We won’t accept it,” Mr David said in the Facebook comment.

The administration of Governor Emmanuel has been on the spotlight lately following PREMIUM TIMES’ damning investigative series on how corruption, poor government planning, and outright neglect has ruined the education sector in one of Nigeria’s richest states.

Akwa Ibom has multinationals like Mobil, an affiliate of the American oil giant, ExxonMobil, drilling oil in the state. And because of its contributions to Nigeria’s oil earnings, Akwa Ibom regularly receives more money from the Federation Account every month than each of the other 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

This is beside the revenue the state generates internally.

In five years alone, between 2013 and 2017, the state received N1.029 trillion (about $2.8 billion) from the country’s Federation Account, for instance.

Yet classrooms in several public primary and secondary schools in the state are shamefully dilapidated and roofless, while pupils and students, in some cases, sit on bare floor to learn, according to the series which started running in the paper on May 23.

The reports also show low morale, incompetence, and corruption among ill-equipped and poorly-paid teachers who sometimes go for several months without pay.

Some of the governor’s aides in private discussions have hailed the PREMIUM TIMES’ reports as being capable of pushing the administration to speed up on its development drive.

Meanwhile, a Lagos-based lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, has filed a lawsuit, asking the court to compel the commissioner for education in Akwa Ibom to furnish him with records of renovation contracts and other capital expenditure in public primary and secondary schools in the state.

Mr Effiong, who is from Akwa Ibom, filed the suit on July 19 at a high court in Uyo, the state capital, after the commissioner failed to respond to his earlier request for the record which he made in accordance with the Freedom of Information (FOI) law.

The lawyer stated in the court papers that he had his primary, secondary, and university education in Akwa Ibom and that he was “deeply troubled by the embarrassing sights of decayed infrastructures in public primary and secondary schools in the oil-rich State as revealed by Premium Times”.

No date has been fixed yet for the case.

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