By Ndiana Ekpenyong
Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation is an agency of the Government of Akwa Ibom State with the larger canvas of its work force being civil servants. There are also adhoc-staff and independent producers. Considered as a family, the State’s radio and television are both on the stable of AKBC. Both units share facilities and personnel and a Director-General as the General Overseer. Unfortunately, this mouthpiece of Government has become slippery with the erection of banana peels by saboteurs who have elevated their dubious economic interest far and above public good and interest.
Recently AKBC has been in the news for a twisted reason. In a publication reasoned as inane and entitled AKBC D-G in N30m Scandal, Top Directors in Dirty Fight for D-G’s Post, the report left no one in doubt as to its target and mission. To give a semblance of honest reportage, there is a conscious blend of facts and fiction to confuse the reading public and those familiar with the goings-on at AKBC. But by this strategy, the report has unwittingly betrayed its insider connection thus affirming the publication as targeted. It is an obnoxious character trait that often constrains many to accept the not so complimentary reference of civil servants as “evil servants” as valid. It is the putrid moral behavior some of them gleefully exude that has given rise to this entrenched public perception.
Fortunately AKBC has been presided over back to back by men of God of the stature of Pastors. It is an advantage that ought to shape the attitude ad conduct of its workforce. But sadly, this has been of little consequence as the people have persisted in their old ways with murkier dimension added as if to achieve a full cycle. Not even the calm mien, accessible nature, understanding character, winsome manners, genial behavior, simplicity and general warmth of Pastor Anietie Ukpe, former Chief Press Secretary to the former governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio have compelled a change of ways by these saboteurs who act as people sold to an evil cause.
The publication conveying the N30million Scandal is the machination of these saboteurs who believe that the DG, Pastor Ukpe should be punished for daring to bring to an end the routine sabotage that has become entrenched as a tradition in AKBC. To end the sabotage, some minor reforms had to be carried out by way of rotation or transfer of staff. Some of the affected staff saw the action as a shove that had become a push and so had to make a brutal re-launch with the intent to annihilate their common enemy being the DG using any method conceivable. The method they considered plausible and effective was a scandal that bordered on fiscal responsibility. In their warped thinking, that would earn the DG a sack and a replacement with one of them for a convenient return to status quo-ante. We would return the issue of N30million later.
Let us x-ray Pastor Ukpe’s stewardship so far with AKBC. His appointment as DG, AKBC came in July 2015 and he resumed on July 17, 2015. There were misgivings among workers of the corporation who felt that the Director-General ought to have come from among them. But Pastor Ukpe, a long standing journalism practitioner in the State who is at home with his colleagues was a soothing balm that he is on account of his personal qualities including people skills. The corporation quickly held a meeting and accepted him as one of their own. And so unlike the resistance appointees face in other such corporations, Pastor Ukpe, on account of his common touch walked into the warm embrace of convivial members of AKBC family.
Sometime in November, 2015, the executive governor of the State, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel was scheduled to be on live broadcast with the State’s broadcast station. Curiously, there was a report that the transmitter which had been in use before then had shut down. Frantic efforts were made to resuscitate the transmitter but to no avail. Management had to go to NTA to negotiate for the use of its transmitter while AKBC used its Outside Broadcasting Van (OB Van) to transmit that broadcast. Stories of sabotage filtered to the DG’s ears who warned the staff against such insidious act. He called on all to pray against such satanic development warning that he is a pastor who believes in prayers. But before this, the man in charge of the transmitter collected various sums for the rehabilitation of the said transmitter but failed to deliver.
At another time, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Ekerete Udoh called the Director-General informing him of the Governor’s intention to give a live broadcast. The DG alerted everybody to prepare for the important guest the station was going to host. Before one could snap a finger, there was a report of the malfunctioning of the transmitter. The DG was alarmed. Every effort to fix the transmitter for that event was futile. Fortunately, the event was cancelled as the Governor had to travel abroad. But the DG realized at that point that an insider sabotage was afoot. “I began to piece together snippets of report I had from some of the workers. It was unbelievable to contemplate such unethical behavior by someone employed by the same Governor and Government he is sabotaging”, the Director-General observed with dismay.
Then came another live broadcast. The DG said that based on previous experiences, he refused to inform those on the transmitter but shared the information as classified with other relevant units. The DG said that strangely, Engineer Emman Akpan who headed the transmitter unit called him to complain over why his unit was no informed of the planned Governor’s broadcast. The DG said he apologized to him and accepted responsibility for that information lacuna. This was on Saturday. But to the DG’s dismay, he was informed on Sunday, the day of broadcast that the transmitter had shut down. He rushed to the station to ascertain the veracity of the alarming report. This singular act confirmed all previous suspicious. The incensed Director-General informed them that if the transmitter did not work, he was going to report them to the Governor as well as recommend them for dismissal. He told them that it was the fear of the sabotage that they have carried out that restrained him from informing them of the Governor’s intending broadcast. He accused them of working from within as black legs and APC agents that are determined to sabotage government’s efforts. The then head of Engineering Department, Rev. James Okorie told the DG with every ounce of certainty that the transmitter would work when those behind it want it to work. The fuming DG walked out of the transmitting room to wait outside. Shockingly and in line with Rev. Okorie’s observation, the transmitter began to work again about an hour later. It was at this point that it became clear that reforms were inevitable to break the ranks of the masterminds of these machinations. The DG asked for the rotation of the engineers to break that stranglehold of monotony. For doing this, the DG had sinned and come short of their mercy. But the challenge was not over. Not long after then, the transmitter was again railroaded into a cul de sac. It stopped working and ABKC programmes had to be transmitted on startimes platform. The complaint this time was a component called grid module.
The DG was inundated with suggestions of what should be done to restore the grid module. Before now, the repair of the grid module was a regular occurrence. The so called repair had become a goldmine for some people as they unconscionably deployed this stratagem to fleece the corporation of various sums of money. This time, they proposed that the grid module be sent to Italy for repairs. To do this, about N2million was to be set aside. In the face of the present economic dire-strait, expending such amount did not appear to be a wise course of action. So management had to put on its thinking cap to explore for alternative option. It was the exploration of this option that led to the discovery of one Engineer Mfon Inyang, a staff of AKBC who was said to be adept in the repairs of transmitters and was already handling those of Abia and Cross River States. The DG sent for him and upon enquiry and satisfaction on his competence asked him to join in exploring for a lasting solution for the perennial challenges brought about by the corporation’s transmitter.
Engineer Mfon Inyang who was supposed to join Engineer Emman Akpan, the head of the Unit and others in finding a solution to the crisis met a lot of frustrations. He did not have the co-operation of those in the unit who had constituted themselves into a formidable obstacle and could also hardly be availed with materials like schematics diagram of the grid module to facilitate understanding and possible repairs. And more than anything else, the erected banana peels to ensure that Mfon’s efforts failed. The insider abuse continued with accusations and various reports to the DG that Mfon was on the concluding verge of facilitating the obituary of the transmitter. The head of the Unit, Engineer Emman Akpan who refused to show up while Engineer Mfon battled with the transmitter advised the DG to withdraw Mfon without delay from the unit. But the DG showed firmness and encouraged Mfon to continue.
Faced with many frustrations, Engineer Mfon Inyang invited one Engineer Clement Bassey from Abuja. When Engineer Clement arrived, he asked for the head of the unit and log book. Still, Engr. Emman Akpan refused to subscribe his co-operation. He rather reiterated to the DG of the need to send the duo away or be ready to witness the complete destruction of the transmitter. But using the log book and know how Clement and Mfon were able to use exciter to start the transmitter but that provided very limited reach. They had also gone to Onitsha to purchase capacitors which they fitted and loaded on the transmitter. On September 5, a full repair of the transmitter was achieved by a staff of AKBC assisted by Engineer Clement Bassey from Abuja. More than half of the cost proposed by Engineer Emman Akpan for repairs in Italy was saved.
It would be recalled that Engineer Emmanuel while serving as head of the transmitter unit worked with Engineer Eke Ekpoh. It is said that Engineer Eke has no official relationship with AKBC but operated on terms and agreement only known to him and Emman Akpan. According to insider source, the clarification is necessary in the face of insinuations that Engineer Eke is consultant to AKBC. The insider is quoted to have said that no document exist to give this claim any force of validity. Of course Engineer Emma Akpan and about five other staff of AKBC that worked under him while heading the transmitter unit have all been transferred out of that unit. That unit is now headed by Engineer Mfon Inyang.
Let us return to the touted missing N30million. It is the transfer of these dubious personnel that has raked up the scandal of the missing N30million which is as porous as it is deficit of truth. When Governor Udom Emmanuel approved the subvention of N30million to AKBC, Pastor Ukpe did not only announce it to management, he also shared the information with other members of staff. According to a reliable source, the money was lodged at Keystone Bank with authorization to source for and transfer foreign exchange for the purchase of UPS that would protect the transmitter, inverter and other accessories. It is to also procure components for the rehabilitation of an abandoned transmitter that would serve as alternative. Unfortunately, keystone Bank was unable to get the requisite foreign exchange to transfer for the purchases. The said sum was moved to Union Bank which has recently acquired some but not all the foreign exchange outlay yet. According to the source, as soon as the equivalent outlay is gotten, the money would be transferred accordingly for the purchases. The source stated emphatically that the money is intact and has not been tampered with in any way whatsoever. The source further reiterated that the said position is verifiable.
It is unfortunate that we come from a clime where those who commit moral felony carry with them vengeful hearts rather than remorseful hearts. There is the erroneous belief that everything about government should be a duplicitous transaction. And anybody who attempts to stop such transaction is an enemy that should be crushed, vilified or scandalized. That sadly is Pastor Ukpe’s burden. He rose against entrenched impunity and the reactionary forces are up against him with a scandal that borders on fiscal rascality.
The laissez-faire nature of the civil service has encouraged acts of impunity and attitudinal challenges. The civil servant is deluded with the illusion of security in the service. The reality of the many hurdles to scale before he is punished with dismissal for serial official breaches has fastened them to the cesspool of impunity. They know that they can always get away with any breach. There is the need for a re-orientation of the civil servants to reinvent in them the culture of ownership or entitlement. Let them know that if they fleece the system, they are fleecing themselves. The civil service must also expand its statute’s book to incorporate deterring actions that would curtail the excesses of some civil servants so that a culture of discipline, anti-corruption and decency can be sustained.
Ekpenyong contributed this piece from Uyo.
AKBC AND ITS NOTORIOUS BANANA PEELS
By Ndiana Ekpenyong