… As COVID-19 Pandemic bites on
By Joseph Umoh
When the global pandemic, Coronavirus Disease 2019 popularly known as COVID-19 was first reported in Nigeria on February 27 2020, when an Italian citizen in Lagos was tested positive for the virus and on the first day of April, 2020, residents of Akwa Ibom State were not certain on its reality until there were media reports of the first five cases in the state went viral. The state government, in order to stop the spread of the virus, declared partial and subsequently, total lockdown in the state. The lockdown, however, brought untold hardship to families that depend wholly on daily income through menial labour, market sales etc as there was a general outcry in the state.
In a bid to reduce the suffering of the people, especially the poorest in the society, the state governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel announced his government’s determination to give respite for the suffering of that class of the people by providing them with palliatives and this was done through the political, religious and traditional leaders, representatives of youth groups among others. The relief items, which were locally made ranging from rice, beans, flour were made available through designated leaders who coordinated the distribution of those items.
Though some analysts argued that the palliatives were a mockery to the sensibilities of the people, others reasoned that though the gesture of the governor was so little, other political office holders supposed to have added theirs to augment the effort of the governor, “if what the governor gave was to be complemented by other political office holders such as Councilors, members of the State Assembly, National Assembly, appointees etc, the palliative could have gone round and made sense, what was given to the people was a complete mockery of the people”.
On their part, the royal fathers whose responsibility was to distribute the palliative to every member of the community through family leaderships spoke to Century Newsfront according to their experiences and expectations. The royal fathers who were largely village heads commended the governor for the gesture, said that they received the palliative in good faith, added that it was unsolicited gifts from the state governor, noted that though it was not enough and could not reach everybody in their respected communities but was shared among families in each of their villages.
The village heads expressed sadness over the emergence of the global pandemic, expressed the hope that prior to information they received, announcements had been made through various community communication mechanisms to inform their subjects of the dreaded disease and instructed them to observe all the precautionary measures as enunciated by governments while they themselves observe same in the palaces.
While thanking the governor, the village headship and other traditional rulers who variously spoke in appreciation of the current administration gesture as champion by Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and his efforts in positively affecting the traditional institutions bared their minds in varied issues also presented some requests to the governor and other relevant bodies to come to their help:
HRH Etebom Dr. Donald Uboh – Itam Clan head/Village head, Ikot Ekang Itam – Itu LGA
Etaha Itam market was built by Itam group of villages and according to the law, handed it over to Itu local government area to manage. Since then, we have not heard anything nor benefited from the market, what we hear is reports from our women and wives that sell and buy in the market that there are multiple levies and tickets given to them to buy ranging from N5000 to N8000 daily and how much are these women make or even sell in a day to warrant such levies, even they were to sell that much, don’t they have families to carter for? We have severally met the council chairman but to no avail. I want the state government to wade into the matter before it grows out of hand.
HRH Etebom Nsidibe John Etuk – Ibesikpo Clan head/Village head, Ikot Ikere – Ibesikpo Asutan LGA
The palliative of the governor was timely but a mockery of the intention of the governor. The governor is a liberal man, those who administered the palliative made it to turn to be a laughing stock of the whole exercise in terms of the contents. Aside from this, the governor announced that the palliative should be given to every citizen including people from other political parties but was shared only by the PDP members and the items were kept in the houses of PDP members, with this, is not possible to go round to benefit people from other political parties. Ultimately, the palliatives were meant only for members of PDP. By my observation, only those who collected the palliatives through social groupings that it will cut across party lines but I am sure, the governor has learnt a lot through the experience.
As a clan head, I personally understand the plight of my clan that is why I had to go out of my way to provide 41 brand new bicycles with communication gadgets to the 41 town criers in the 41 villages to cushion the effect of community announcement experienced by the town criers. I also provided four brand new motorcycles to four village heads that did not have means of mobility.
Eteidung Aloysius Thomas Ebong, Village head, Ekit Itam 2 Itu LGA/Chairman, BOT-Mboho Mme Eteidung – AKS
I heard some media organizations accusing village heads of diverting the palliatives to their palaces. This is not true, such a thing has never happened. Some well to do people in the village like myself did not even collect our share of the palliative, in fact, some even bought more and added for their people.
The good aspect of the lockdown is that it happened during farming season and it afforded an opportunity to our people to get engaged more in farming activities. Another issue is that as you may know, we are the host to Ibom Specialist hospital, at a point, we were afraid of the virus, being air-borne and proximity to our people here. We are, however, pleading with the government to protect us.
Most Elder Okuku Akan Etim Akpan Usanga
If we can go back to the traditional government, that is the only means of choosing a credible political leader. This means, before anybody is appointed or elected into any political office, the reason is that royal fathers know all their subjects and cannot send criminal or people with questionable characters to represent them. So, the traditional government is the answer to solve the leadership question as long as the political office is concerned.
Eteidung Etinyene Okon Edet Effiong, Village head Nna Enin – Uruan LGA
Our major constraint is access road and fortunately for us, the present administration has started road construction in our area, I want to passionately call on the governor to complete the road project he commenced from Anua and spans through, Adiadia, Nnung Oku through Idu, the council headquarters. But we are pleading that the road should not end at Idaha Secondary School, should be extended through Nna Enin. Aside from the road, our community is at the hinterland, we need the government to provide us with potable water and cassava processing mill, and this will help our local farmers to process their cassava in a large scale.
Eteidung Cletus Okon Benson, Nsukara Offot – Uyo LGA
My village is situated on a timing bomb who knows when it will explode. The timing bomb is a very large and deadly ravine, which may collapse any time and submerged the entire community. We are calling on the governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel to come to our aid by filling and reconstructing that place before it collapsed and our community gets to the news in a wrong way. If you go behind my palace, you will see it there.
Eteidung Emmanuel Ben, Village head, Nwaniba – Uruan LGA
I want the government to come o our help, we have incessant attacks by Ifioyong Usuk who attack us at will, kill our people, destroy valuable things and even steal our outboard engines at the waterside at gunpoint. You can confirm this from Prince Etim Effiong Ekpo, the Chairman, Nwaniba Beach Management Committee. We don’t have security in our water ways despite our contributions to the local and state government revenues.
Apart from these, our women, especially beyond the rivers, find it difficult to access health facility, as at the period of putting to birth, before they are rushed down to this side, they are already dead. These and many other issues that we have, like the ongoing clan headship matter. As a matter of leadership, I am interested in the clan headship position, we cannot do it by ourselves at this level, we want the governments to come to our help, our people are dying silently; these are avoidable issues if arrested by the government.
Eteidung Okon Bassey Joseph, Village head, Nnung Udoe – Ibesikpo Asutan LGA
You may be shocked to hear that for the past four years, we don’t have public power supply in my village, being the headquarters of our local government area. We are really suffering here, our people that use power for their businesses are spending money on petrol and diesel, and this is a colossal waste for us. In this village, we have 27 larger families you can imagine how these people survive without public power for that number of years. When our governor came here on his re-electioneering campaign, he promised to construct road that will link us at Nnung Udoe to Ishiet, there is no move whatsoever in that direction. So we call on the governor, relevant bodies and even corporate bodies to our rescue.
Eteidung Emil Effiong Isaac, Village head, Owut Uta – Ibesikpo Asutan LGA
Youths in my community including those with qualifications are not gainfully employed. We have vast lands, we call on investors to invest in Owut Uta, the gateway to Uyo and Eket so as to create employment to our teeming youths. We also need skills acquisition youth our youth, empowerment programs for our women and widows.
Eteidung Anthony Ekpe Asuquo, Village head, Ifiayong Usuk – Uruan LGA
I personally appreciate the effort put by the governor to alleviate the suffering of the local person through the palliatives sent. It is something that is rarely done, especially in this part of the world. The major challenge we have in Uruan Central is the issue of clan headship. If the government could come and ensure that election is conducted and the right person installed, so that we could be a new traditional dispensation, it would help our traditional institution in our area. Though I am interested in the office, but not desperate because I know that power comes from God and He gives it to whomsoever He wants.