The Greatest Challenge Cross River Faces is The State of Its Roads – Hon. Owan Enoh

In Breaking News, Interviews, National News, Politics, Reports

by crossriverwatch admin

Hon. John Owan Enoh
Hon. John Owan Enoh

Hon. John Owan-Enoh is one of the longest serving lawmakers in the National Assembly from Cross River State. He began his legislative career from the Cross River State House of Assembly in 1999 and since then, moved on to the House of Representatives and has maintained his position. He is rumoured to be gearing up to contest for the Cross River Central Senatorial seat in 2015 while Senator Ndoma Egba is also gearing up for a record fourth term in the same senatorial district. In this exclusive interview with CrossRiverWatch, Hon. Owan Enoh says, his Senatorial ambition has nothing to do with Senator Egba. He also threw light on allegations that he is a member of nPDP amongst others.

Excerpts:

CRWatch:
Can we meet you, Sir?

Hon. Owan:
My name is John Owan-Enoh, member of the House of Reps. I represent Obubra/Etung federal constituency of Cross River State. I chair the Appropriation Committee of the ‘House’

CRWatch:
You’ve been consistently and politically relevant since the inception of the 4th Republic in 1999, what’s the secret of your success and what inspired you to go into politics?

Hon. Owan:
I guess its stability. I have remained the same person that was first elected in 1998, I’ve remained me essentially, I’ve tried to respond as much as possible to what I think represent the best for those who have continued to elect me. I’ve kept faith with those that I’ve been representing. I told some people that you can make me Nigeria’s president today, it wouldn’t change the essential John Owan-Enoh, I’ve remained that person. Public office has a lot to do with trust, it has a lot to do with confidence; when you get elected you’re only elevated, your conduct especially in the kind of society that we come from is very important. And basically I believe that I have kept it simple, I’ve remained as simple as possible in terms of my relationship with the electorate, I’ve taken my work seriously as much as possible. The fact therefore, that I’ve remained relevant according to you means that I’ve gotten it right all along. You talked about what inspired me: as a university lecturer, then I remember; whether you’re a teacher or whatever you’re doing, you’re actually serving the public good. But I think that I aspired to find a medium to have bigger capacity, because I was limited in terms of what I could do, so I believed that getting into politics and into public office would give me a wider horizon in terms of being available to people’s needs. So, it’s the desire for service, the desire to deliver service that will touch more and more people that will be much and more significant. In our kind of society, I think I also knew too early they was huge difference between what work I did then as a university teacher and what work I was going to do and how many people I was going to affect. I believe I wanted to affect and touch a wider spectrum of the society in terms of service delivery. That’s what drove me into politics.

CRWatch:
Legislators are generally perceived not to have executive financial powers of allocation and appropriation, how have you been able to oil your political machinery?

Hon. Owan:
Well, I think I’ve responded to that in some way when I spoke on the previous question. Unfortunately for us really, the expectation in our society is not different between whether you hold an executive position or you hold a legislative office. The expectation because of long period of military rule is to want to think that whoever is in government is in government doing the same thing. So I think the tendency has been to respond to that expectation as much as possible. We make much more sacrifices that our counterparts in more developed societies, we get involved in those things that we ordinarily should not get involved in. I learnt very early, I remember that in my very first four (4) yrs as a member of the House of Assembly I found out four years after that there is about no community, no ward of Etung Local Government that I had not done one thing or the other, and these things are very little things really. I remember in one of those communities I attended an event and I saw that the chairs that they were using for that public function were actually the chairs that had been donated by me at some other point. I remember that one community, their basic problem was the fact that they didn’t have a canoe that could take them across the river to be able to attend markets and all that, and I had provided that. I have never in the cause of my representation tried to be limited that because am a legislator, therefore, there are certain things I cannot do. As long as I am able to make the sacrifices, to be able to make enough savings and to be able to see what and what I can intervene in. Therefore, I had started very early in having yearly intervention programs in my constituency, then Etung, and therefore in 2003 the federal constituency of Obubra and Etung. I mean whatever you might find out that is becoming very common now, are things that I had probably started several years back. Every year, I organise an event in terms of constituency empowerment event and try to see how I can give back to the society of whatever proceeds or whatever sacrifices I must have made in the course of the year. I’ve said before, I’ve kept touch with my constituency, I’m very involved with them. I come from Etung, I represent Obubra and Etung, the way I’ve conducted in the last several years of this representation they are some people that would think that I even come from Obubra. I mean am too involved with them, I never shy away from being at home, I just came back after close to about twenty days stay at home for Christmas and new year. So, this kinds of tendencies obviously assist you a great deal; you don’t need to go and break the bank to be able to have the resources for example to oil a political machinery as much as how you conduct, how you relate, how you engage; I mean the kind of relationship and interaction that takes place between you and those that you represent. I believe that this has helped quite a great deal. Am one person who’s noted across to be someone that takes all the calls that come to my phone, I’ve kept my number from when MTN came out when I was in the House of Assembly of Cross River, I haven’t changed that number, I reply to every text message that I get, sometimes it’s not easy. Coming from Christmas and New Year, you have thousands and thousands of text messages and I take my time to make sure that I reply to everyone. This kind of things I believe reduce the kind of social gap that ordinarily exist between a representative and those that he represents and most of this things are things that I’ve tried to do in the course of the last years.

CRWatch:
Legislators are those who make laws and try to represent the larger interest of their people. In the light of the above, how many bills/motions have you sponsored or moved and what is the relevance or bearing of such bills/motions on the lives of ordinary Cross Riverians or your constituents so to speak?

Hon. Owan:
Well, some number. Just straight up in my head now I can mention just a few for now. I remember I become one of the first law makers at the inauguration then to move a motion on the ASUU Strike, the significant of that cannot be overemphasized. If there’s calm and peace in our university system what implication does it have? Incidentally, for about two terms now, my work in the National Assembly has been finance-budget related, so I’ve spoken quite a lot in terms of motions about budget implementation, fiscal responsibility act implementation, etc. If we do a budget for example and that budget is implemented, a lot of the things that we go back home to go and do as individuals, we’ll not have to do them. So it has a direct impact and link. At some point, I had spoken on facility management because we’ve a lot of uncompleted projects here and there, how much of that hurts our economy and in terms of how much of that negates our crave for economic development. I have talk about the fact that we build a lot of big things but we’re not able to maintain them. I’ve spoken on a motion on the floor about the need for maintenance culture. In terms of bills, I can mention one or two or so… I’ve sponsored a bill that has tended to ask for amendment of the fiscal responsibility act in terms of the requirement of agencies of government to remit revenue to government account. If for example, year in year out we keep having a lot of deficits in our budgeting… At some point, I had chaired an investigation in terms of how much money were unremited and there ran into trillions, so if all these monies are gotten into government coffers, in itself it provide much more money for revenue and the funding of our budget. At some point I had sponsored a bill that has had to talk about the need to protect our water resources. For example, I come from a place that’s called Agbokim Waterfalls, the need for example, to get the national park to extend to also cover our treasured water resources so that this can be protected and maintained. I’ve sponsored a bill that had to do with that. You know for example that if that were to become law you know how much that will go. If you go to Agbokim Waterfalls now, because of its unprotectedness, we’re losing quite a lot as a result of human action here and there. But if the national park law is for example amended to also include the need to protect such treasured resources, of course it has a lot of implications for the nature and circumstance of our people.

CRWatch:
Sir, away from the budgeting issue you raised, you were a member of the ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy that led to the ‘banana peel’ experience by your committee chairman, Hon Farouk Lawan. Why has that issue been swept under the carpet and what has been your role subsequently?

Hon. Owan:
Well, I don’t think it’s quite correct to say that it’s been swept under the carpet depending on who you are addressing. I think that as a legislature, we’ve done our work; I think that in spite how unfortunate what took place was, the House of Representative didn’t shy away from having to take a decision about that matter. You know that the erstwhile chairman himself got suspended as chairman of the committee on education. As a government in a democracy, the executive also has its own work to do, as a legislature like I said, what work we needed to do about that matter had been done. At some point, the matter had gone to court and so you cannot really validly say that it has been swept under the carpet. I think that it is still going through a series of investigations and litigations and things like that. When it happened I got announced to take over the chairmanship of that committee but by the time this announcement was made, most of the work of that committee had been done so to speak. We had a few companies that we needed to do some work on, and it had actually been done the difference is that the report had not been brought to the floor before this took place. So, that’s where we are!

CRWatch:
As a Grade A committee member in the House of Representatives (Chairman, Committee on Appropriation), how has your chairmanship position benefitted the people of Central Senatorial District at large and/or the Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency in particular?

Hon. Owan:
First, at the general state level, my chairmanship of the appropriation committee have had quite some benefits, and I think the details of this can found from my colleagues who represent the other seven federal constituencies of Cross River State. Since becoming chairman of Appropriation Committee, on a yearly basis I’ve tried to intervene as much as possible in terms of their various constituencies. At some other level in terms of the state, although not very significantly yet. The greatest challenge that Cross River State faces is the state of its road. Look at the Calabar – Ikom – Ogaja – Katsina –Ala Road; I’ve always described it as one of the worst road we’ve in Nigeria. Since becoming Chairman of Appropriation Committee and even before I become chairman of appropriation, as chairman of the finance committee I’ve tried on a yearly basis to always see how much more I can provide in terms of more funding for that road. I remember that in 2012 when we did our first budget when I became Chairman of Appropriation, after a lot of the failed attempts of the previous years – that road is actually divided into two sections – there’s the Calabar – Ugep section 1, Ugep – Ikom – Ogoja – Katsina Ala section 2. Some of the remedial work that was done by FERMA between Ochon and Alesi, although after one year is getting bad again, was actually done with the funds that I provided as Chairman of Appropriation. Am not going to get into the other details about my particular constituency of Obubra and Etung, but I think that there have been quite a lot of interventions that have been done in the various wards and communities. Most significantly is the fact that I’ve never tired in terms of the effort I try to make in trying to make sure that Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja – Katsina-Ala Road is properly rehabilitated. Before the 2014 budget proposal came, I’ve seriously engaged both the minister of finance and DG Budget about the state of that road. I remember they kept having to tell me to go to see the minister of works, and I kept complaining about the envelop that the minister of works had and the fact that he could get us enough. I remember making a suggestion as to the fact that that road can also benefit from the extra provision of the intervention that was provided from SURE-P funds which on a yearly basis have now been at about 180billion. Am glad to report that the proposal for the 2014 budget that is before the National Assembly today have a provision under SURE-P of about 5billion intended to intervene on that road. So, I think that one has been very proactive in terms of what benefit one can get as chairman appropriation that can actually have some telling effect in terms of both my constituency and then the overall interest of Cross River State.

CRWatch:
It was rumoured earlier that you and one of your colleague are members of the nPDP, it is also a rumour or no longer a rumour that your leader in the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal will be defecting to the APC soonest. As a leading legislator and a respected member of parliament from Cross River State and a strong member of the PDP, what does this portend for the stability of the National Assembly in the days ahead?

Hon. Owan:
First, the first part of your question where you talked about me being a member of the nPDP, I believe that you’re now in a position to appreciate the fact that that rumour was mischievous, wicked, and was intended for a certain political objective. As far as am concern, there is no case of nPDP in Cross River, the leader of the party in Cross River is Senator Liyel Imoke under the leadership of Bamanga Tukur and his commitment to President Goodluck Jonathan. And so there’s no nPDP in Cross River State. Yes, there have been quite some defections that took place in the floor of the House of Representatives before we went for Christmas, but I think that these are matters that PDP is responding to and the hope is that the PDP NEC is supposed to meet at some point next week, and the idea is to see how we can stem this development and get the polity and the party back into proper footing. As much as possible, I think that the PDP still remains the party to beat and will be able to put its house in order to make sure that whatever it’s going through on doesn’t affect her adversely.

CRWatch:
You talked about the governor’s commitment to President Jonathan. Governor Imoke was the Chairman, Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organization in the South South but since Jonathan became President, it just seems like the fortunes of Cross River State began to nosedive. He’s been to Akwa-Ibom State thrice personally and has not visited Cross River State. Our 76 Oil Wells were taken over and given to Akwa-Ibom State, even when there was opening for the President to go and technically delay the Bakassi issue in court; he gave instruction to the Attorney General which was not followed up and eventually we lost Bakassi. Why should anybody in Cross River State be committed or support the Jonathan’s administration? In fact, we can boldly say that the Obasanjo’s administration was a better tenure for Cross River State. Why should we in view of the above continue to support or be committed to the Jonathan’s administration?

Hon. Owan:
You’ve only mentioned the supposedly bad aspects, you’ve also not gone into whatever good aspect that there are. The issue about state visit or otherwise, I don’t want to commend on that. It is up to every state administration to organize something that invites the President. I don’t think that the President has said no to any invitation from Cross River Government. The loss of 76 Oil Wells as sad as it was and is still is, I think that there is also a lot that has been done thereafter to cushion the effect on Cross River which may not be in the pages of newspapers, and I think it takes a caring government to want to look that way and see what and what it can do. I think that without having to make comparisons between what took place before and what is taking place now, I think that the President has done his best in terms of his relationship with the state. Recently, Cross River had taken its turn in terms of the Chairmanship of the NDDC and they haven’t said that because we’ve lost Oil Wells we therefore can no longer chair the Board of the NDDC. So, I think that we cannot take the bad side too far without also looking at some other aspects that are also positive. And I think that therein lays the reason for us and the state leadership to remain committed to the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan.

CRWatch:
Sir, back to the state and to Central Senatorial District of Cross River State, we also read in the news that you and some of your colleagues had in a meeting agreed that the governor’s successor in 2015 be anointed by him. As a true democrat, don’t you think that this portends great danger for our democracy?

Hon. Owan:
I don’t know what you mean by danger. I disagree outrightly, although it is also not true that they’re saying that we said that we should wait for the governor to anoint his successor. What we actually said and what we stand, and I stand by the fact that we should work with the governor as leader of the party in Cross River to determine his successor and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m waiting to see the next governor who after 8years is going to permit and allow people go their desperate ways in terms of working for who becomes his successor. So I think it’s cheap politics for people to want to disagree to the fact that the party in Cross River should remain one united family, and that the leader of that party remains the governor and that decisions are always taken as a party, and that it is better, right and is going to be for the overall interest of Cross River State for us to work together with the sitting governor to determine who takes over from him. I don’t see how that should portend danger. I don’t see anything wrong with that, and I think that that’s what we’re working on.

CRWatch:
Honourable, in the course of this interview you did mention the water resources in your community Agbokim Waterfall and its tourism potentials. As a much respected high profile parliamentarian, one would have thought that you would’ve used your influence to attract at least a tarred road from Four Corners to Agbokim WaterFalls since that road has remained in a deplorable state for a very long time now. Can you tell us why that road has remained so for so long?

Hon. Owan:
Well, that has remained so not for lack of effort. That is one example of a matter in which in spite of so much effort nothing has happened yet in the positive. Of course you know I come from that community and I cannot enjoy having to go to my community driving through a road as bad as that. I’ve often said that that is one project that if I could use my money to do I would’ve used my money to execute. Haven said so, I think that that road has remained the way it is because the NDDC that awarded it since about the year 2009; I imagine that for example if the NDDC haven’t gotten into that road, there’s no how the state government would not have done that road by now. But you know there’s that technical problem and the NDDC is on it. Year in year out, you can check the NDDC budget; I have always worked with the chairmen of the NDDC in both Houses to make sure that there’s a budgetary provision for that road. That first is what I am supposed to do and I’ve continued to do that every year, but it has also been a very frustrating experience getting the contractor to actually coming to doing the work, that’s why the road has remained as it is. I’ve had to explain for example that maybe the fact that in late 2013, we now have a Cross Riverian who’s chairman of the NDDC board in addition to having a Cross Riverian also sit as commissioner, we may have come to a point now that that road is going to be done. On my part, what I have tried to do is that the 2013 NDDC budget that just got passed has in its provision the Ikom – Etomi – Agbokim Waterfalls road. I am highly very expectant that the road is going to be done and we’re going to put this behind us. Like I said, a lot of the time it’s not everything you put your hands on that comes out well, that road is the way it is not because I’ve not been interested or haven’t made enough effort but I think that everything is located in time and I think that we may have reached a point now where it will be done. I have had secret meetings with Senator Boycee Henshaw since after he got inaugurated as Chairman of NDDC talking about the road. I met with the commissioner and my former colleague, Hon Paul Adah. And in fact, I met with the governor a few days ago still speaking on that road saying that I would like that he adds his voice in addition to my meeting with the Chairman of the NDDC to make sure that we put that bad road behind us.

CRWatch:
Finally, we’re aware that you’ve your eyes in the Senate in 2015 and you are from the same Senatorial District with the Senate Leader, Ndoma Egba who wants to return for a record fourth term. I want to simply ask… Why do you want to retire Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba at the peak of his political career?

Hon. Owan:
Well, I don’t see the connection between my having an eye on the Senate seat and retiring Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba. I’m not sure there’s a direct one to one connection, I don’t think. If am going to run for Senate, I don’t see my running for Senate as meaning that Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba should go on retirement; I think that the two are different.

CRWatch
Thank you for talking to us.

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One commentOn The Greatest Challenge Cross River Faces is The State of Its Roads – Hon. Owan Enoh

  • Professor Asuquo Onda

    This is a good piece by Hon. Owan who is one of the oldest representative of his Etung and Obubra people. What happen to those representing Biase Local Government Area. I am yet to see what they have accomplished since 1999. As the president of Northern Cross River sate Association in North America, we have done more than most of the elected representatives in terms of health provision, scholarship awards, classrooms renovations,libary books, disks etc. I congratulate Hon. Owan on behalf NOCRA (USA)

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