Comrade Udo Kierian Akpan is serving a third term in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, apart from being the international president of Ati Annang, the apex cultural organisation of the second largest ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State. He is a former State Chairman of NLC. By the privileged positions he has occupied through the people, he is a known voice in the State and someone the masses should look up to for direction and protection.
Before his voyage into circular politics, Udo Kierian as he is well known was the pride of the labour movement in the State. He was a labour activist in the mold of the once dependable Comrade, Adams Oshiomhole. Kierian used to speak up and loud on behalf of workers. He takes the credit for leading the advocacy which culminated in the creation of the Bureau of Labour and Productivity, Akwa Ibom State. He was an advocate of the masses but things had since changed.
On Monday 25th October, Kierian disappointed the vast majority of Akwa Ibom people who used to look up to him as a rational voice in the House of Assembly. Governor Udom Emmanuel had written a letter to the House of Assembly seeking a resolution to allow him obtain a loan (‘bridging finance facility’) of N18.746 billion from the federal government.
In March 2021, the State’s internal debt was N232.2 billion; this figure had risen to N242 billion in June according to the Debt Management Office, DMO. Despite this, in July, the House of Assembly approved a loan request of N7 billion for the Governor amidst criticisms from CSOs and the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa Ibom State Council. CSOs led by Policy Alert had raised alarm since last year that the State’s debt burden was no longer sustainable and had implored the House of Assembly to ‘apply restraint’ in approving more loans for the executive. The 7th Assembly being what it has chosen to be, would not disapprove any request made by the Governor even if it is a demand to sell the State with all its inhabitants including their children. After all, they will collect their own share and build mansions where their wives can have the plush backgrounds to take ‘selfies’ every morning and post on social media for likes and wow comments.
Kierian defended the Governor’s latest loan request of N18.746 billion with reasons and words which shown explicitly that he does not care a hoot whether the State is suffocated by debt or not.
When called upon by the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Aniekan Bassey, to lead discussion on the loan request, Kierian said: “I can say that this loan appears to me as a gift from the federal government because for 30 years I’m not sure how many of us will be available to repay this one. So, for me, I think it is good enough for us to tie into it…” For Kierian, the loan was good enough because he and members of the House of Assembly who sanctioned its collection will not be available to repay it.
As “Leader of Government Business” in the House of Assembly, Kierian has a responsibility to defend the government and the people he represents. However, he was most uncourteous, provocative, selfish, unpatriotic and un-statesmanly with his reasons and defence of the loan request. That unthoughtful defence meant simply that Udo Kierian’s generation who are the majority in government today does not care about my generation and the other up and coming generations.
Akwa Ibom State internal debt has increased astronomically under Governor Udom Emmanuel. Sadly, the economic team of the Governor and the House of Assembly are obviously not bothered because as Udo Kierian said, ‘they won’t be available to repay the debt’.
From N64.5 billion internal debts inherited from the Godswill Akpabio administration, the State internal debt has hit N261 billion, with the latest N18.746 billion loan. This does not include external debts in US dollars, contractual liabilities and outstanding gratuities, pensions, salaries and allowances owed to workers. With a projected population of 7 million people, each Akwa Ibomite is owing internal creditors at least N37,285.71. My worry is, with the current inflation rate, can a subsistent cassava farmer in Ndon Ekpe in Nsit Atai, who is blessed with a large family of 6 to 8 children or the fisherman in Offi Uda in Mbo, who has lost the engine boat he bought on hired-purchase agreement to pirates have enough savings to pay the debt owed by his State? The children of rich men like Udo Kierian who are not stricken by poverty can afford to pay it.
The once people-centric Udo Kierian has somersaulted irredeemably. Kierian had earlier on this year disappointed the lot of people who looked up to him to intervene in the political upheaval that rocked his local government council, Oruk Anam, which led to the impeachment of the council’s vice chairman. He was quiet in the face of that brigandage, in the end he became the ultimate beneficiary in the crisis. Kierian who should have shown direction had instead worked with other ‘stakeholders’ and violated Section 47(3)(c) of the Akwa Ibom State Local Government Administration Law 2017 in the appointment of the new vice chairman for the local government council. That section sets out guidelines for the appointment of a new vice chairman where there is vacancy in circumstances of death, resignation, removal or permanent incapacitation of the elected vice chairman. It states that “…a person from that ward [as the ousted officer] and with the approval of a majority of the members of the legislative council [shall be] appointed as the new vice chairman.” Paradox is, Kierian made very significant contributions to the passage of the Local Government Administration 2017 under the sixth Assembly, yet he violated it by nominating his aide outside the ward of the former vice chairman to fill the vacancy.
How hard has the quest to perpetuate himself in politics pinned down our dear Udo Kierian and exorcise him from his people? Some people say this scheming is about his fourth term bid and his desire to take a shot at the Speakership in 2023?
When a system perpetuates a person in a position, the person ceases to represent the interest of the people but the system, and would not mind sacrificing the future of his children and grandchildren including every other thing that matters to the people to please the system. During the last US presidential election, the respected American Diplomat to the United Nations and first female Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, working with six senators in the US Congress introduced a term limit amendment to the constitution to limit how long congressional members can serve. Haley, quoted by Fox News said, ‘the longer politicians serve, the more entrenched they are in [Washington] DC, and the more they forget about their constituents back home.’
A forward-thinking people should be wary of the impact of huge borrowings. States in unfledged economy like Nigeria where the national inflation rate is racing towards 20% should be encouraged to pursue debt reduction vigorously as they are pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. A strong campaign on debt reduction should foreground the impacts of excessive borrowings on the future of the Akwa Ibom child and strength citizens’ resistance against huge public debt. This is one way to safeguard the future of our children. And, I strongly advocate a reduction in public debt particularly those arising from borrowings that come with interests and I should think that global financial institutions should incentivize debt reduction.
The Akwa Ibom child deserves a future free from debt that was incurred by their grandfather.