Buhari’s aides, Akwa Ibom govt exchange words over new federal university

An aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, Ita Enang, has exchanged words with the Akwa Ibom State Government over the location for a newly approved federal university of technology for the state.

Mr Enang, Mr Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Niger Delta Affairs, is feeling disappointed that the university would not be sited in his hometown, Ididep, in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.

He said Governor Udom Emmanuel wanted to take the university to his (the governor’s) hometown.

The location approved by the federal government for the university is in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, according to Mr Enang.

Mr Emmanuel is from Onna, which is a different local government area, but within the same Senatorial District with Ikot Abasi.

Mr Enang, a former senator who had represented Uyo Senatorial District, told PREMIUM TIMES he facilitated the establishment of the university, and that he had wanted it sited in his hometown.

“Every processing and everything was done for the university to be sited in Ididep in the present Senior Science College, formerly teachers training college, which has all the facilities to host a university,” Mr Enang said on Monday.

“I initiated everything about the university,” he added.

Mr Enang told reporters in Uyo that Mr Emmanuel wrote a letter to the federal government, asking that the university be sited in Onna where the governor hails from.

“I have considered his action as improper, imprudent and not acting as governor of Akwa Ibom State.

“The governor is acting in a manner that could be described as Udomcentric, Onnacentric. He was chosen to be the governor of the entire Akwa Ibom people and not the chairman of Onna local government or councillor representing his ward.

“Onna has a university teaching hospital, Onna has the flour mill, Onna has the plywood mill, Onna has a syringe factory, every good road is made in Onna, Onna has the biggest private estate owned by one person,” he said.


‘Enang is seeking attention’

The Akwa Ibom State Government has, however, dismissed Mr Enang’s claim that he facilitated the establishment of the university.

The Commissioner for Education in the state, Idongesit Etiebiet said the presidential aide was merely seeking attention.

“This transaction had and still has no input or contribution of the attention-seeking senator,” Mrs Etiebiet said in a statement on Monday.

She said the state government wrote to the federal government, requesting that the university should be sited in Eket Senatorial District, since the two other districts – Uyo and Ikot Ekpene – already have a federal higher institution each.

“I cannot comment on what I do not know about,” the commissioner responded when PREMIUM TIMES asked if it was true that the governor wanted the university to be in his hometown.

Eleven higher institutions in Akwa Ibom

It is a common practice in Nigeria for the government, at the federal and state levels, to distribute major institutions and projects among geopolitical areas so as to create a sense of belonging.

But sometimes, or even most times, due to excessive political influence, such practice is sacrificed, and replaced with the concentration of projects in a particular geopolitical area(s).

The Uyo District, which Mr Enang had represented in the Senate, already has a federal university, the University of Uyo, while Ikot Ekpene District has a federal polytechnic in Ukana, the hometown of Godswill Akpabio, the minister of Niger Delta Affairs and a former governor of Akwa Ibom.

Both Uyo and Ikot Ekpene districts, in addition, have two state-owned higher institutions, the College of Education, Afaha Nsit, and the Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osura, respectively.

The Eket District has Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, which could be counted as a federal institution, especially when the Senate has just passed a bill for the academy to be upgraded to a university for maritime studies.

Ikot Abasi, where the new federal university of technology is to be sited, is about 30 minute drive to Mkpat Enin Local Government Area where there already exists a university, Akwa Ibom State University, though owned by the state government.

Ikot Abasi, a coastal town, is also home to the moribund Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria and the Akwa Ibom State government-owned Ibom Power Plant.

There is a plan by the Nigerian government, in partnership with the Moroccan government, to establish a $1.4 billion dollar fertilizer plant in Ikot Abasi.

Mr Enang, despite the feeling of disappointment, appeared to have accepted Ikot Abasi as the location for the new university.

“The federal government said there must be a spread and that one senatorial district cannot have two universities from the Federal Ministry of Education.

“I am not selfish. The fact that it is not sited where I had in mind originally does not mean it should not be in Akwa Ibom State,” he said.

But the Commissioner for Information in the state, Ini Ememobong said the presidential aide was “suffering from a mirror syndrome”.

“This is the same person that attracts everything for Ididep, not Ibiono, not Uyo.

“When he is talking about Calabar-Itu Road, he is talking of the spur to Ididep, because he is from Ididep. He is suffering from mirror syndrome. When he is looking at the mirror he thinks he is seeing Governor Emmanuel but he is seeing himself,” the Punch newspaper quoted Mr Ememobong as saying.

The new university in Akwa Ibom was one of the four specialised universities approved by President Buhari in June. The other three are to be located in Jigawa, Bauchi and Osun states.

The minister of education had announced the president’s approval of an N18 billion take-off grant for the new universities.

By the time the new university takes off, Akwa Ibom, which would be 34 years old as a state, in September, would have 11 higher institutions, including two private universities and three private polytechnics.

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