_Barrister Ekpenyong Akiba is the Special Adviser on Special Duties to Governor Bassey Edet Otu of Cross River State. In this interview with CLEMENT JAMES in Calabar, he speacks on a number activities undertaken by his principal_

*It’s been about seven months now since the governor took over the mantle of leadership in the state. What has he been able to do so far?*

Well, first and foremost, I want to start with reforms. The governor has been able to do a lot in terms of administrative reforms. The civil service and government processes have undergone serious reforms so far because we came to meet a system where a lot of things were not properly coordinated, even the communication channels. So the governor has so far within this period been able to rejig the process and redirect the organizational structure within governance in which due protocols are now being followed. It’s actually work in progress because it’s really not easy to bend trees that have grown and for me, the governor wants to get things right. He wants people to follow protocols, do due diligence and know their boundaries where necessary.

*There is a verification exercise going on. Can you throw more light on why it is taking time?*

It meant to clean the civil service and ensure it functions properly. We have discovered that people no longer sit in their offices because the norm has been given that they believe that there’s no more work to be done. And over the period too, there has not been governmental services where people had materials to work. So the governor is trying to reposition the entire administration because that will be the first major channel to drive his policies because government policies will not be driven by politicians and appointees who are temporary government officials.

So for the reforms to be sustainable, it has to be integrated into the civil service structure whereby even after our administration, by God’s grace after eight years, the next administration will meet a structure that is stable; will be able to ask for records and can access those records without stress because if you can fix the civil service, that means you have been able to fix government because the bureaucracy of governance rests on the civil service. So the civil service is the bedrock of administrative development. The civil service is the engine room of every government, that must be understood. So the governor, on a scale of one to three, has taken time to ensure that everything follows accordingly: memos are generated properly and minuted accordingly, channel to channel, and even when it comes to financial application and release of funds, you follow due process. So, across the board, every ministry is trying to do proper coordination.

*Are you saying that the civil service before this administration came in was not up to standard?*

We came to meet a system where there were a lot of irregularities and inconsistencies and what I will call inappropriate government control or directives where the was conflict in hierarchy. So the governor at point is stabilising the structure of governance which is critical to us. I believe that it only when the civil service is functional that we can talk about others projections. While undertaking the reforms, he is also attending to infrastructure because that too suffered serious neglect . You will be surprised that we came to meet leaking roofs, broken chairs, offices not having electricity. In fact, infrastructure was in a state of comatose so the governor is doing a, beginning from his office and extending to other offices that are critical for the government to function.

*Federal allocation has been given to this administration. What areas are they being invested in?*

There are lots of renovation work going on in various offices because for the government to function well, you need comfortable and convenient accommodation. The state library which has suffered neglect for years has now been awarded for renovation , the conference center has been given a facelift but even at that a lot of work still has to be done to bring it to the level it ought to be. The same thing is with the cultural center which is a massive facility but which has suffered neglect over the years. Today, Marina resort is functioning and the cinema is back in Calabar. The truth is that people have lost confidence in government and what the governor is doing is to see how to give hope to the people and regain their trust.

That’s why he is attending to what we may classify as minor issues. But to regain that trust, those minor issues are important, for instance, a lot of investment has been put into getting Calabar to regain its status of cleanliness. You know that refuse management in the City is a very herculean task and people may not know. And within Calabar metropolis, he has declared operation zero porthole. A lot of work is going to ensure that internal roads are fixed. The governor is also doing a lot in the area of electrification, especially bringing back street lights. The governor is also bringing back the bus stops because our transport system had long collapsed.

*The issue of multiple taxes has been raised many times before. Is the present administration going to look into this matter in order to give reprieve to investors?*

Yes really, there’s been a lot of conflict in terms of revenue module. Conflict in the sense that local government structures are struggling for levies in conflict with the state structure and in some cases, those that belong to the federal government. So, we intend to harmonize these taxes and revenues. And it goes beyond those who are coming to do business. Even our transport operators and other min-traders and other business owners are victims of multiple taxation in the state. You are running your tailoring shop or provision shop and different people keep coming. Some will say they are environment officials, others will come in afternoon and even in the evening and sort of persons claiming to collect revenue for the government. At the end of the day, you don’t even know who you are dealing with. So the governor intends to coordinate this process. For now, we are still studying, monitoring and investigating the different channels.

The other time we were told of some people who claimed to be working for Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), but when we went there, they said they came from one environmental protection agency. But by the time we followed them up, we discovered that they were just impostors. So people are being extorted. Some criminals will wake up in the morning and print any kind of identity card and extort money from unsuspecting public. It is actually a difficult situation but the is going to come out with a uniform and properly coordinated format of taxation that would be made public. Taxes are not expected to be paid in cash so the governor is trying to block those leakages and recalibrate the entire process because there has been a lot of conflict, I must say. What we have come to discover is unthinkable. Across the state there are a multitude of roadblocks and they are all extorted.

*How can the government stop them from continuing?*

Some of these people are our people who have been there and have become institutions in revenue collection to the detriment of the populace and the governor is not ready to sustain such a dastardly act. There will soon be a lot of difference because we want people to come and invest in the state and create employment for our teeming unemployed youths, rekindle the face of Cross River and bring Us back into the national map.

*The governor before now was known as a master in youth empowerment. So when will he bring back that empowerment that people are expecting from him?*

Well, Prince Bassey Otu symbolizes generational empowerment, there is no doubt about that and he is an exception to the general rule that Politicians are liars and those who don’t keep to their words. He is not that kind of a Politician. He is a God-fearing pastor and that defines his status. He is one man that applies moderation principles. I give this background to help us understand that what belongs to the people would be given to them.

Pst Bill Francis Bill Spokesperson to Governor Prince Otu and Ceo Billionaire Bill media Team and Blog.

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