From Joe Effiong, Uyo
The multimillion-naira security villages built across the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom State, have remained in ruins and inhabited by criminals, following their non-occupation by targeted beneficiary council chairmen and other officials of the third tier of government.
The villages were built by the Akwa Ibom government as residential quarters for top security personnel and senior officials of the 31 local government councils in the state, to complement the “Housings for All” policy of former Governor Godswill Akpabio’s administration under the Local Government Administration Law.
The estates, made up of several detached bungalows with sporting and recreational facilities, were meant to accommodate the council chairmen, secretaries, heads of personnel and heads of the different security agencies in each of the council headquarters.
But several years after, the reasons for which they were established to service the councils have been defeated, as the local government chairmen live in the state capital and occasionally go to work in their domains.
The rationale was to reduce rural-urban drift and also make the council chairmen live in their headquarters, to avail themselves of the challenges as well as meet the needs of their people.
Members of the correspondents’ chapel of of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), who visited some of the estates recently, reported that while the estate in Uyo has been converted to an orphanage, that of Eket has been allocated to the Nigerian Army for accommodation.
The one at Ikot Ekpene has no council official living in them, while others located in more rural parts of the state have been hampered by their remote location, making the buildings unattractive to senior council officials, thereby becoming hideouts for criminals.
At least than 99 per cent of senior council officials live in the state capital, with a few of them outside Uyo living in their personal houses in the council headquarters.
This situation has resulted in high absenteeism among the council officials, as many are seldom available in their offices due to distance between the state capital and places of work.
Some commentators have criticised the state of affairs as the absence of key council officials has impacted negatively on service and worsened the already low morale and productivity of council staffers. They have also argued that the abandonment meant that millions of naira spent in building the estates was virtually wasted, except for the few of them that have been put to other uses.
However, a few stakeholders, like the chairman of Mkpat Enin Local Council, Mr. Aniekpon Ekpo, who said he resided in his own security village, however, noted that logistics had made it expedient for them to also reside in Uyo, the state capital.
“As for me, I am living in the security village of my local government in Mkpat Enin but, sometimes, due to commitment and work exigency, I may be in Uyo, probably on official engagement in the ministries with the commissioners/permanent secretaries on things that concern my local government,” Ekpo said.
The chairman of Ini LGA, Mr. Israel Idaisin, disclosed that the estate in his domain has been leased to private school operators as polytechnic in order to flush out criminal elements who wanted to occupy the facility for unwholesome activities.
In another instance, attempts by Daily Sun to find out why the security village has been abandoned by council officials yielded no result as the chairman of the council, Akon Michael, and the council secretary, Emem Akpan, were not around when our correspondent visited their offices on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, chairman, House of Assembly Committee on Local Government, Mark Esset, recalled that the Sixth Assembly had passed a resolution mandating local government council chiefs and other key officers to relocate to the security villages to be closer to the people.
While regretting that council chairmen have refused to abide by the resolution, Esset disclosed there was plan by his committee to embark on a quarterly visit to councils to ascertain performance and state of security villages across the state, to check defaulters.