by crossriverwatch admin
When former military Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar handed over the leadership of the country to a democratically elected President on the 29th of May 1999, not many people believed that the life span of the 4th Republic will be up to 14 years unbroken.
Today, Nigeria is celebrating 14 straight years of democratic rule, a government supposedly, of the people, by the people and for the people. And tomorrow, as it has become the tradition in the past 14 years, drums will be rolled out across the country to count and celebrate the blessings that democracy has brought.
In the band wagon events that accompany this national holiday, state governments also join the fray with activities to mark what has now been dubbed “Democracy Day.”
29th of May (tomorrow) has become a day of speech making and a day of promises by politicians and a period to count the benefits that democratic rule has accrued.
The Executive Governor of Cross River State will address the state in the morning as usual and send Democracy Day goodwill messages to the people. He will also reel the dividends that democracy has brought to the people during his five years rule.
But in bringing Imoke’s leadership to close examination for Cross Riverians, the Commissioners that were appointed to drive his Seven Point development agenda would be the first point of call:
1. Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice
Barrister Attah Ochinke is the No. 1 law man in Imoke’s executive council. He is young, energetic and perceived to be principled; the reason why he was saddled with the responsibility of providing the requisite legal frame work for the policies and programs of the administration.
Ochinke who is from Boki Local Government Area took over from Edward Ogon under whose tenure Imoke’s election was annulled in July 2008.
Since assumption of office, he has fostered unity between the Bar and the Bench as well as the Judiciary Workers Union.
Some respondents who spoke to crossriverwatch say Attah Ochinke is one of the commissioners in the administration who should be scored above average.
Others also accused him of complicity in some teething political crises in his local government. Some of these crises have always led to the destruction of lives and property. He has consistently denied the allegations.
He was first Special Adviser on legal matters before his redeployment to his current position.
2. Commissioner For Education
Call him the Colossus you will not be wrong. Professor Offiong Effanga Offiong has demonstrated that his appointment as Commissioner for Education by Imoke since 2007 was well researched considering the pivotal role the ministry is playing in the administration.
Offiong, a former union leader in the University of Calabar has demonstrated high level of professionalism and competence.
Under his watch, the state has seen the comprehensive renovation of 60 secondary schools across the 18 local governments of the state with additional 40 ongoing.
The commissioner is also working vigorously at changing the perception about Cross River State as an “Educationally Disadvantaged State” with improvement in the SSCE grades of students from the state.
His ministry has closed down several schools, particularly privately owned schools that did not meet the “Cross River State Standard” while some principals who bend the rules have been appropriately sanctioned.
The proposed establishment of the State Polytechnic, Ugep is under his supervision as well as the State owned University of Technology, CRUTECH and the College of Education in Akampa.
These institutions are of utmost importance now because they are coming at a time when the Minister for Education say, out of the 2.5million admission seekers who take JAMB, universities have only 500,000 spaces.
However, there are other analysts who accuse Prof. Offiong of playing politics with education by giving too much attention to primary and post primary schools and leaving the tertiary institutions with little or no projects.
The Professor is also said to have been spotted during the 2011 elections at a polling station by Lagos Street in Calabar South distributing “magi” cubes and Rice to the electorates in exchange for votes.
But on the whole, analysts agree that Offiong is one of the best commissioners in the administration.
3. Commissioner For Health
Professor Angela Oyo-Ita is a core medical practitioner who had worked with the General Hospital in Calabar for many years before her appointment to take over from Dr. Edet Ikpi in 2012.
But nothing much has changed in the health sector of the state despite the governor’s interest in delivering qualitative health care services in the state, particularly the rural areas.
The Commissioner herself asserted to this fact with her recent outcry that the state is losing doctors to private practice and federal health institutions in Calabar which poses serious danger to health care delivery in rural communities in the state.
Curiously, Oyo-Ita has elected to hire a consultant from India to manage the state general hospital in Calabar with periodic inspection to other general hospitals in other parts of the State.
crossriverwatch findings at the general hospitals in Ogoja, Sankwala, Abuochiche, Ikom, Obubra, and Ugep reveal an acute lack of personnel, including doctors and shortage of drugs and facilities.
The morale of the few workers too is very low and this is clearly manifested in the poor workers attitude.
Analysts score the health commissioner below average.
4. Commissioner For Environment
With a scholar and former lecturer in the Department of History and International Relations in the University of Calabar, Dr. Sandy Onor, manning the affairs of the Ministry or Environment, it was expected that the Ministry will lead in shaping an environment policy that will take proper cognizance of the emerging challenges of climate change.
Aside the Clean and Green programs, the Ministry score card is low considering the continued lack of a consistent policy direction on the climate change challenges regardless of the persistence with which the state has continued to suffer natural disasters.
There is really very little that is known about the activities of the Ministry and analysts say the Commissioner is one of those who has performed below average in the administration.
5. Commissioner for Works
With huge budgetary allocations domiciled in the Ministry, the Ekorinim premises of the Ministry of Works is a beehive of activities.
The Commissioner, Barrister Legor Idagbo is a field master, always on site supervising projects executed by his ministry like the Channel 2 Drainage, the Airport By-pass and other road networks including the rural Access Mobility Projects, RAMP and the street lights in Calabar metropolis.
The Governor’s rural development drive is hinged on Legor Idagbo, the former Chairman of Bekwara Local Government. Analysts say he is silent but making steady progress with the mandate given to him.
He is touted as a possible contender for the governorship position in 2015 though some analysts say he is the one the Southern Senatorial district wants to use to usurp the ambition of the Northern Senatorial district to produce the next governor of the state by luring him with the position of deputy governor to a candidate from the South.
6. Commissioner for local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs
The Commissioner in this Ministry, Chief Peter Ojie is a grass-rooter who should have known what the rural people want considering the role of the Ministry in advising and mainstreaming the 18 LGAs in the State.
The current travails of the council chairmen where over 90 percent of them failed their re-election bid in the ongoing party selection process, is attributed to the under performance of the chairmen owing to lack of proper supervision by the Ministry.
The incessant inter communal crises and the attendant loose of lives and property in several local governments in the state and the governor’s recent suspension of ten traditional rulers in Yakurr and Obubra local governments is largely considered as a failure of the Ministry to adequately ensure that the traditional rulers lived up to their responsibilities to avoid a breakdown of law and order in their various communities.
Analysts score the Commissioner low.
7. Commissioner for Agriculture
Between the commissioners for agriculture and education, there are similar qualities of dedication to duty.
Mr. James Aniyom is at the driver’s seat of all the agricultural programs of the state and those of the federal government imported by the state from Abuja.
The transparency with which the ministry deals with the public could be described as “uncommon” as farmers now buy fertilizers in all the selling points in Cross River State at the announced subsidized rate of N2,000. This is in sharp contrast to the old practice in the Ministry.
Care programs and growth enhancement schemes for commercial farmers in the state are being pursued with vigor.
Some respondents also accused him of partaking in the imposition of candidates for elections in his local government.
The activities of the Ministry are widely publicized and can be verified on the internet.
Analysts had very high regard for this Commissioner and rate him above average.
8: Commissioner for Social Welfare and Community Development
Barrister Patricia Endely is in-charge of this Ministry. The Ministry which is saddled with providing succor for the vulnerable sectors of the society as well as championing the efforts of the government at tackling community problems seem to be losing focus.
The Ministry, with a collapsed fence that has remained on the ground since last year, is handling one of Imoke’s major social programs “Project Hope and Project Comfort” but has performed below expectations according to analysts.
There are widespread reports of the Ministry shirking their mandate when matters are brought to the Commissioner.
The ministry is also notorious for refusing to take its statutory duty of giving shelter to abandoned or stranded children in the state as provided for in the Cross River State Child Rights Law.
The safety net programs of the state being handled by the ministry according to reports from the field are now being politicized.
Getting access to the Commissioner to obtain information about the activities of the Ministry has also proven very difficult not only for crossriverwatch but also for other media organizations in Calabar that we have spoken to.
In the previous years, the Project Hope and Comfort changed the lives of the aged, pregnant women and children less than 5years in Bekwara, Obubra and Bakassi which drew the attention and support of the World Bank with Bekwara recording zero maternal mortality.
On the whole, analysts score the Ministry below average.
9. Commissioner for Women Affairs
With Mrs. Edak Iwuchukwu at the helm of affairs, the Ministry of Women Affairs has been repackaged and is bringing dividends to the women of Cross River State.
Her performance in her previous Ministry has distinguished her as an achiever and trail blazer.
Women and children programs are not currently for party members alone as it used to be the tradition; it is now in line with laid down rules and procedures devoid of party affiliation.
Several widows who spoke to crossriverwatch say their many years of crying for recognition, inclusion and celebration found fulfillment with the appointment of Mrs. Iwuchukwu. They praised the work she has done and rate her above average.
10. Commissioner for Lands
Surveyor Ralph Uche is a core professional who want to right the wrongs of the past.
Immediately after taking over as commissioner, Ralph Uche who had been Surveyor General of the State, realizing the deluge of irregularities that characterized land transactions in the state, some perpetrated by fraudulent staff of the ministry, decided to regularize all those transactions and set the records straight.
He is succeeding in this largely because of his long years as a civil servant in the same ministry and his in-depth knowledge of the land administration in the state.
The current repositioning going on in the Ministry of Lands is also a pointer to the fact of his commitment to the mandate. The ministry periodically renders account of its activities to the public.
Respondents gave him a pass mark.
11. Commissioner for Youth and Sports
The incumbent Commissioner, Patrick Ugbe grew through the ranks of Imoke’s administration and knows the administration’s focus very well.
From Chief Press Secretary to Commissioner for Information and now Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, some analysts describe him as the de facto deputy governor.
Since his assumption of his new mantle, the sports fortunes of the state have actually turned for good. The 14 gold medals won by the state athletes at the National Sports Festival in Lagos is attributed to newly discovered sport talents by the Pat Ugbe team.
Through his vision and guidance, the state has discovered new talents in Swimming, Boxing, Track and Field as well as Soccer.
He has also represented the State creditably in the activities preceding the hosting of the next National Sports Festival dubbed Paradise Games in Calabar.
Some of the respondents however asked the Commissioner to redirect his policy to inculcate youth development. They accused him of concentrating too much on Sports while neglecting other aspects of youth development.
They say he has performed above average.
12. Commissioner for Information
Chief Akin Rickett is the man in charge of the State Ministry of Information.
With little or no media background, the Chief’s disposition to information management in the state has been rated poorly by analysts.
Most of the activities of the state government particularly in the rural areas are largely unknown beyond Cross River.
The transformation promised in the State owned Cross River Broadcasting Cooperation, CRBC, Radio and TV as well as the Print, Chronicle, is still a dream while it appears as if the Ministry is not keeping a tab on the activities of the MDAs and public perception.
The bi-annual media tour and parley usually organized by the ministry to brief the Press on government activities seem to have been long forgotten and this according to one analyst, has “Put information about the Government of Cross River State under lock and key” particularly now that the Commissioner is facing allegations that he forged his certificates.
The allegations are presently being investigated by the State CID in Calabar amidst speculations that the commissioner may lose his job and this has further slowed an already crawling ministry to a halt.
13: Commissioner for Finance
Rev. Takim Caifas aside from being a “Man of God” is also a banker by training.
Analysts say he has brought his experience into the Imoke’s programs with sustainable financial guidelines that will entrench accountability and due process as well as curb corruption.
The Creek Town born former banker has the support of his boss when it comes to financial judgement. He is seen by his colleagues as a difficult man that will not bend the rules regardless of who is involved.
He is generally perceived as a principled financial manager that is mindful of the consequences of his actions after he would have left office.
He is not seen as a politician but as a close ally of his boss who does his job to the satisfaction of his boss in line with his mandate.
He ts rated highly by respondents and some of his colleagues.
14. Commissioner for Special Projects
Bassey Ika-Oqua is a professional that no core politician who enjoys cutting corners will want to meet.
It is rumored that is it because of his principled stand against short cuts that caused his re deployment from the Lands Ministry to Special Duties.
Considered an outsider in the administration by the ‘Calabar Boyz’, having been brought in by the governor from Abuja, he is currently in charge of the ongoing construction of the football Stadia in Ikom and Ogoja, as well as the proposed International Market at Nasarawa Bakoko.
Analysts say he is fairly on track and still needs to be given time.
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