By Paulinus Nnah
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources, Rt. Hon. Ekong Sampson has stressed the readiness of Akwa Ibom State Government to turn wetlands in the state into wealth lands.
Stating this in his address while formally marking this year’s World Wetlands Day on Monday, Barrister Sampson noted that “the essence of marking the day is to raise awareness and highlight the importance of wetlands to man and the environment, as well as to encourage people to consciously protect and preserve wetlands.”
Describing wetlands to include marshes, freshwater and mangrove swamps, ponds, deltas as well as coral reefs, called “mkpodioho'”, “okpuk”, “ndioho”, or “Ibiok” in local Ibibio dialect, he posited that this year’s theme: “Wetlands and Biodiversity”, is very apt as it provides a unique opportunity to bring to light the importance of wetlands biodiversity.
“Considering the rich biodiversity of these wetlands, the State has adopted the slogan: ‘Wetlands are Wealth Lands’.
“Yes, there abound opportunities of wealth in our wetlands! There is need therefore to convert these seemingly ‘wastelands’ to profitable/beneficial uses in their natural state,” Ekong Sampson said.
He further reiterated that climate change has natural effect on wetlands, and the vanishing earth, adding that the state government is gathering data on wetlands in the state which will enable government to identify viable opportunities where wetlands can be used to further promote agriculture, tourism and intervention in infrastructural development.
The erstwhile two-term state assemblyman charged communities in the state to see wetlands not as superstition sites, but as veritable opportunities for economic diversification.
Enumerating the opportunities for wealth creation in the wetlands, the Hon. Commissioner named all year round cultivation of grains such as rice, millet, corn and vegetables to boost food sufficiency and sources of income; availability of local delicacies such as edible frogs (“mfod”), “nten”, mushrooms, periwinkle (“mfi”), clam (“nkop”) and oysters (“nkonko”) as some of the articles synonymous with local wetlands.
While maintaining that wetlands also have centres for recreation and tourism potentials if developed, Barr. Ekong Sampson has identified IBB Ave, Atiku Abubakar Ave, Mbiabong, Udo Udoma Ave (Unity Park), Edem Ibiok, Ibesikpo, Itu, Ibiono, Ibeno, Ikot Abasi, Mkpat Enin (Mangrove swamps), Eket, Uruan, etc. as locations blessed with wetlands across the state.
Ekong Sampson who had earlier in the day featured in the Akwa Ibom Rising radio programme on Inspiration FM in Uyo as part of the activity marking the World Wetlands Day celebration, called on the people in the spirit of “‘Dakkada’ to explore and exploit the opportunities available in these rich natural ecosystems by converting the wetlands to wealth lands. This, to me, will also help address issues on the health of the earth – a mantra we now adopt at the Ministry of Environment and Petroleum Resources.”
He therefore appealed to communities and the private sector to maximize the agricultural benefits embedded in wetlands in various locations in the state.
Speaking on behalf of Uyo indigenous community leaders and members who were present at the function, Mr. Iniekong Bassey Ebong thanked the Hon. Commissioner for ensuring that they were made to participate in his year’s event, while citing development as chief cause of environmental imbalance currently experienced not only in our State, bit globally.
The Village Chairman of Ikot Etido Oku therefore called on government to seek measures of recreating natural wetlands for the people.
The event was witnessed by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Pharm. Mbuk Inyang; Head, Admin. and Supply, Mrs. Patience Enyinna; Head, Petroleum Resources, Engr. Emmanuel Inyang; Head, Climate Change and Awareness, Mrs. Ini U. Umoh, other officials and staffers of the ministry, and leaders of various indigenous communities.