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Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Gas), Rt. Hon. Ekperikpe Ekpo with the Ambassador of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, His Excellency, Hocine Latli, during a meeting held at the Minister’s office in Abuja to deliberate on the Nigeria – Algeria gas pipeline project, yesterday.
Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Gas), Rt. Hon. Ekperikpe Ekpo with the Ambassador of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, His Excellency, Hocine Latli, during a meeting held at the Minister’s office in Abuja to deliberate on the Nigeria – Algeria gas pipeline project, yesterday.

AKHA Considers For Second reading A Bill for a law To Establish A’ Ibom Bulk Purchase Agency for purchase of bulk Commodities

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In its avowed commitment to ensure adequate food security for its citizens, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly ( AKHA ) has considered for a second reading during today’s plenary a bill for a Law to establish the Akwa Ibom State Bulk Purchase Agency for the Purchase of Bulk Commodities in the State. The Bill, being an Executive Bill is Sponsored by the Deputy Leader of the House and a two-term member for Nsit Ubium State Constituency, Rt. Hon. Otobong Bob. The Agency, Rt. Hon.Bob said would be saddled with the responsibility of mitigating the high cost of foodstuff, ensuring food security and sufficiency as well as improving the socio-economic conditions of the population at the grassroots level by delivery of relevant food items at a subsidized rate geared towards poverty reduction in the State. He explained that the Agency which would have the Governor as the Chairman would purchase relevant food items in commercial quantities and sell the same at its various depots at subsidized rates, collaborate with market associations and unions for proper coordination and supply, formulate long and short-term policies for the purchase and sale of food items in the State, control and monitor the distribution and sale of food items in the State as well as advise the government on the best method of distribution and formulate strategies for such. Rt. Hon. Bob informed the House that foodstuffs to which the law applied include garri, rice, beans, melon, wheat, millet guinea corn, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, yam, maize, palm oil, salt, seasoning cubes, groundnut, groundnut oil, beverages, and livestock. Lending support to the Bill, the Chief Whip, Mr. Effiong Johnson, and the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Kufreabasi Edidem described the bill as people-centered which would have a direct bearing on citizens and bring down the cost and availability of foodstuffs. Presented before the House also for the second reading was the Bill for a Law to establish the Akwa Ibom State Infrastructure and Assets Management and Maintenance Agency. After due deliberation, the Speaker, Elder Udeme Otong, referred the Bills to the Committee on Agriculture and that of Special Duties for the public hearing to be conducted on the two bills to encourage accelerated passage.

RETIREES PLIGHT: REP. JIMBO CALLS FOR AMENDMENT OF PENSION ACT

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Worried by the level of injustice meted on public and private retirees by their former employers, the Honourable Member Representing Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency in Nigerian House of Representatives, Rep. Clement Jimbo has called for the amendment of the 2004 Pension Act to address inhuman treatment of senior citizens of Nigeria who have paid their dues through diligent services to the government and private sectors of the Nation. Presenting the motion on Tuesday, at the Green Chamber of the National Assembly, the Deputy Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on National Planning and Economic Development, frowned at the agony bedevilling our elderly citizens in the course of collecting what they saved for their olden days while in active service. Rep. Jimbo, further expressed displeasure on how Managers of their Contributory Pension Scheme denied them of having greater share of their lump sum after retirement as a paltry sum (25% of the total amount credited to their Retirement Saving Accounts) is usually dispensed to them across board under the scheme; whereas the balance of 75% is usually retained by the Pensions Fund Administrators for investment in capital market with high returns, which is never added to the retirees’ monthly payments. He further reiterated that the rising value of dollar against the naira, the recent removal of fuel subsidy and increase in price of goods and services has made such paltry monthly payments, which remain the same for several years grossly insufficient to sustain the retirees who had served the country honourably for 35 years and called on the National Assembly to amend the 2004 Pension Act which deals with retirement benefits, to make it optional and to bring it in conformity with the current economic realities. The motion which was widely supported by the Parliamentarians, was referred to the House Committee on Pension to interface with relevant stakeholders to address the yearnings of the retirees.

A’IBOM CIVIL SERVICE COMMENDS NIPR, ASSURES OF SUPPORT

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The Akwa Ibom State Head of Civil Service, Elder Effiong Essien, has commended the leadership of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in the state for being a pacesetter in professionalism and excellence through its Uyo Study Centre. The Head of Civil Service made the commendation when he received a delegation of the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the Institute, led by Elder Manasseh Umoette. He added that the Uyo Study Centre of the Institute is of great advantage as it will help in raising the standard within the profession, ease certification effort and promote best practice among practitioners. Elder Essien stressed the importance of public relations practice in every aspect of life, and called on practitioners to continually promote best practice in the state. Early in his address, the Chapter Chairman, Elder Manasseh Umoette thanked the Head of Civil Service for granting the audience and for being a continual partner of the Institute, particularly in its quest for caderization. According to Elder Umoette, the purpose of the visit was to keep the Head of Civil Service abreast with the resolution of the National Council on Establishment, and also on the need for him to encourage civil servants manning any Public Relations related department or unit to take advantage of the Uyo Study Centre. He further solicited collaboration with the Office of the Head of Civil Service in the training and retraining of Information Officers and other officers at the Uyo Study Centre for optimal delivery of their public relations duties. Present at the event were the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of Civil Service, Mr. Joseph Esidem; the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Research and Documentation, Dr. Essien Ndueso, the Director of Administration, Doris Ikpuho; Elsie Udofia, Fellow Sam Uko, Fellow Okon Imerh, and members of the NIPR Executive Council. Press Unit Office of the Head of Civil Service

HENSEK: EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES, TOUCHING LIVES THROUGH MEDICAL OUTREACH

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By Darlington UDOBONG In a time marked by inflation, economic instability, and high cost of living burdening ordinary individuals, and where access to affordable healthcare remains a pressing issue for countless households and communities nationwide, initiatives like the HENSEK Free Medical/Surgical Outreach shine brightly as beacons of hope and wellness. In Akwa Ibom State, the name HENSEK has unequivocally become a household name and brand. For many, it represents an indigenous construction giant, a caregiver, a pathfinder and a torchbearer. HENSEK’s consistency in rendering free medical/surgical services to residents of Akwa Ibom State shows its holistic approach to healthcare delivery. Through 10 successful editions, HENSEK has partnered the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) to provide care and cure to vulnerable and poor citizens and residents of Akwa Ibom State. It is, indeed, humanity at work. Many thanks to the man behind the HENSEK brand, Engr. Uwem Stephen Okoko. The 10th Edition of the outreach, which caters for all forms of ailment and is open for everyone, is currently on at the General Hospital, Iquitaz Oron. So far, the exercise which commenced on Monday, February 12, 2024, has recorded huge successes in 592 Optical cases, 117 Dental cases, treated over 1500 outpatients, handled four Gynaecology cases (1 CS), handled 82 Ear-Nose-Throat cases and 208 Surgeries including cases of fibroid, myomectomy, Lipoma, hysterectomy and excisional biopsy. The event will come to an end on Friday, February 16, 2024. Some of the outreach grounds in the past include the Atan Offot Health Centre, Ituk Mbang General Hospital, the Oruk Anam General Hospital, and the Ikot Abasi General Hospital, where an Ultra-Modern Medical Theatre, christened Stephen Robert Okoko Memorial Theater, was constructed, equipped and donated for public use. Cardinal on the scorecard of the HENSEK outreach is its contribution to improving healthcare access for rural communities. By bringing medical services directly to dwellers of these communities, regardless of their financial status or social, HENSEK bridges the gap between healthcare providers and those in need. Again, through health check-ups, screenings, and awareness campaigns carried out by the HENSEK outreach, individuals have been empowered with knowledge about preventive measures and the importance of early intervention, thus reducing the burden of advanced-stage illnesses and improving overall health outcomes. Still on the scorecard of the HENSEK Free Medical/Surgical Outreach, it is noteworthy to mention that beyond medical treatment, the HENSEK outreach program has empowered communities by fostering a sense of self-reliance and ownership of their health. Through active involvement of host community members in health education sessions and awareness campaigns at every outreach event, HENSEK has instilled a culture of health consciousness and encouraged individuals to take proactive steps towards improving their well-being. The HENSEK Free Medical/Surgical Outreach also goes beyond addressing physical health concerns. It addresses socio-economic disparities that hinder access to healthcare. This is true in the sense that by offering services such as free consultations, medication distribution, and referrals to specialized care, the outreach alleviates the financial burden associated with healthcare expenses, enabling individuals to prioritize their health without facing financial hardship. This, indeed, is an undisputable mark on the scorecard. Another significant benefit of the HENSEK Free Medical/Surgical Outreach is the trust it builds within the community. The commitment of the outreach to community engagement and collaboration has fostered trust between NMA (the healthcare provider) and the communities it serves. Through this community engagement, HENSEK has also cultivated a supportive environment in which individuals feel valued, heard, and understood, thereby strengthening the foundation for sustainable healthcare interventions. So, the scorecard of HENSEK Free Medical/Surgical Outreach is unparalleled. The benefits of the Outreach extend far beyond the realm of healthcare, touching the lives of individuals and communities in profound ways. By championing accessibility, empowerment, and holistic well-being, Engr. Uwem Stephen Okoko, through this programme, exemplifies the transformative power of grassroots initiatives in addressing healthcare disparities and fostering healthier, more resilient communities. As our nation continues to navigate the complexities of healthcare delivery, HENSEK’s unwavering commitment to leaving no one behind in the pursuit of better health for all remains an incredible inspiration.

CONSTITUENTS HONOUR ETTEH WITH GRATITUDE, APPRECIATION

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In a heart-warming display of gratitude, four constituents recently stormed the Osongoma residence of the Member representing Eket/ONNA/Esit Eket/Ibeno Federal Constituency, Hon. Okpolupm Etteh, to express gratitude to him. Hon. Etteh facilitated their employment as registered Nurses and Midwives in the state. The constituents are Idorenyin Otu Eshiet (Ibeno), Florence Clement Jackson (Esit Eket), Martha Cliff Bassey (Ibeno) and Grace Okon Jeremiah (Esit Eket). Hon. Etteh is the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on University Education. (C) Media Unit

A’IBOM ASSEMBLY APPROVES N30B BOND REQUEST FOR IBOM AIR

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The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly ( AKHA ) has given approval to Ibom Air for the accessement of N30B Bond under the N200B Bond Issuance Programme by IAL Financing SPV PLC sponsored by Ibom Airlines Limited. This was contained in a letter with serial number, GHU/ AKS/S/104/S.4/ Vol.1/597 by Governor Umo Eno to the Speaker of the Assembly for consideration and approval during Thursday’s plenary. The Letter titled, “Re: Resolution of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly on the Provision of Irrevocable Standing Order (ISPO) for up to N30,000,000,000.00 (Thirty Billion Naira) Bond Issuance Under the N200,000,000,000.00 (Two Hundred Billion Naira) Bond Issuance Programme by IAL Financing SPV PLC (Sponsored by Ibom Airlines Limited).” The letter, Pastor Eno, said, was in line with the relevant provisions of the Akwa Ibom State Bonds, Notes, and other Securities Issuance Law of 2023. In their respective contributions, the Deputy Speaker of the 8th Assembly, Rt. Hon. KufreAbasi Edidem and the Deputy Leader of the House, Rt. Hon. Otobong Bob, enlisted the unanimous support of their colleagues approval of the request to enable the State’s Airline to buy the Bond from the market to encourage their operations. For the the repayment plan, the Deputy Speaker went further to explain that it will be the responsibility of the Airline to pay back the money and not the Akwa Ibom State Government. After due deliberation on the matter with the approval of the House, the Speaker ordered the Clerk, Mrs NsikakAbasi Orok to communicate the resolution of the House to the Governor for action. Meanwhile, the House has adjourned its plenary to Thursday, February 15, 2024 by 10:00 hours.

PHOTO NEWS

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First lady of Nigeria, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (backing the camera) with Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Gas), Ekperikpe Ekpo and wife, Lady Esitmbom Ekperikpe Ekpo.

IBIONO IBOM: FEDERAL COLLEGE OF EDUCATION GETS CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY FROM AKSG 

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The Akwa Ibom State Government has officially handed over the Certificate Of Occupancy of the newly established Federal College of Education, Ididep, to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The certificate was presented to the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, SAN on Friday, December 1, by the Akwa Ibom State governor, Pastor Umo Eno.

Addressing the attendees, Minister Mamman highlighted the shortage of teachers in Nigeria and commended the President for graciously approving the establishment of the college.

He expressed optimism about the college’s potential for growth and development, emphasizing the importance of the favorable topography and the numerous opportunities available in the area.

Also speaking, Governor Umo Eno emphasized the significance of quality manpower in the education sector.

Represented by the deputy governor, Senator Akon Eyakenyi, Gov Umo Eno stated that the establishment of the College of Education was a reflection of the state government’s plans for the future.

He acknowledged the efforts of Senator Ita Enang in bringing meaningful development to the Akwa Ibom community.

Governor Eno further noted that the symbolic handing over of the certificate of occupancy, signified that the 94.927-hectare land, which was acquired with not below N95 million from the community, now belongs to the Federal College of Education.

He stressed the importance of education in combating anti-social activities, saying the college holds a special place in the hearts of the people.

In his welcome address, the Provost of the College, Dr. Edem Ntuk, expressed gratitude to the President for establishing the College and appointing him as one of the principal officers.

He appreciated the support in terms of waiver for employment, seeking government’s intervention on compensation payments, and infrastructure provision.

Meanwhile, the Paramount Ruler of Ibiono Ibom local area, Akuku Ime Udousoro Inyang, expressed his thanks to the Federal Government and President Tinubu for their generosity in granting the Certificate of Occupancy to the People of Ibiono Ibom.

Characterising Senator Ita Enang as a distinguished individual and praising his commitment to the development of the region, the Paramount Ruler also conveyed to the Minister that he envisioned the institution as not only a College of Education, but as a Federal University of Education in the near future.

Similarly, the facilitator of the project, Senator Ita Enang attributed the success of the college’s establishment to the collaboration between the APC-led Federal Government and the Akwa Ibom State PDP-led government.

Highlighting the approval of former President Muhammadu Buhari and President Tinubu’s endorsement for the commencement of the college, Ita Enang shared his gratitude for witnessing the growth of the institution, which he had attended when it was a Teachers’ Training College.

Among the other dignitaries present at the event were the Minister of State for Education, Dr Yusuf Sununu; the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Education, Hon (Mrs) Idongesit Etiebet; the Commissioner for Lands, Captain Iniobong Ekong(Rtd); the Surveyor-General of the State, Mrs Emem Isang; an elder statesman, Arc Otu Ita Toyo, among others.

EKPERIKPE EKPO: 100 DAYS OF REDIRECTING NIGERIA’S ENERGY LANDSCAPE

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By Owolabi Ajibade

As the global focus on sustainable and clean energy intensifies, and in the wake of changing economic tides, the landmark decimation of Nigeria’s Petroleum Ministry and subsequent creation of a standalone Ministry of Gas Resources was indicative of Nigeria’s readiness to harness a sustainable alternative to the extant fossil-fuel-driven economy which is prospected have a huge impact on the country’s economic trajectory and a pivotal moment in the country’s history.

Throwing Obongemem Ekperikpe Ekpo into the deep end with his appointment as the Minister of State for Gas Resources when he is better known for delivering gargantuan results, working from behind the scenes, sparked both anticipation and speculation considering the enormity of the unique task of tending to this vision. But being a former Federal Legislator in the Green Chambers between 2007 and 2011, Ekpo is however, not stranger to the challenges of the Nigerian state and so has duly folded his sleeves and gotten down to the business of expanding energy accessibility towards expanding the nation’s revenue stream.

Accordingly, the 100 days since his appointment have been a very defining one for the nation’s energy in terms of redirecting the existing landscape, given the unprecedented and renewed focus on the gas sector.In an era of interconnected economies and shared environmental challenges, the Minister has acknowledged the need to work beyond national borders.

By presenting a clear vision and roadmap for the future, he has actively sought to attract both domestic and foreign investments in the gas sector.

 At the 13th Nigeria Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association (NLPGA) Conference and Exhibition held in Abuja, Mr. Ekpo solicited the cooperation of private sector investors in deepening the utilization of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in Nigeria. Minister Ekpo has also tabled the offerings of the Nigerian gas project before industry players and key stakeholders at the continental level. During a meeting of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) Project Authority Committee of Ministers in Cotonou, Benin Republic, he restated the commitment of Nigeria to supporting the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) Project realize its full potential and objectives, while also assuring other member countries (Benin, Togo and Ghana) of uninterrupted gas supply from Nigeria to meet their domestic needs.

He led the country’s delegation to the Gastech 2023 Conference and Exhibition in Singapore (touted as the world’s largest meeting place for the global natural gas, LNG, hydrogen, low-carbon solutions, and climate technologies industries) where he urged investors to avail themselves of tremendous opportunities that the Nigerian gas sector offers the global market while informing the forum that Nigeria is playing a leadership role in Africa for an inclusive energy transition that considers a central role for gas as a transitionary fuel and some of the key objectives of Nigeria’s decarbonization plan.

The first 100 days of Ekpo’s stewardship have witnessed tangible economic benefits arising from his proactivity. Job creation and infrastructure development have boosted a positive economic ripple effect within the country.

Aside from  meetings with various local and international investors geared at unlocking the potential of the sector for national growth, the Minister also undertook tours of infrastructure projects, one of such being the NLNG plant in Bonny Island, Rivers State; Obrikom, Obiafo, and Oben (OB3) gas pipeline project, where he urged contractors handling the project to ensure its completion by December of 2023. The 48 × 1.8km gas pipeline project is designed to run across the River Niger conveying gas from the South-South and South-East of the country to the South West and the Ajaokuta, Kano and Kaduna (AKK) Project where he also told contractors that the July/August 2024 deadline is sacrosanct, among others.

Ekpo has also assured that the construction of the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project, which targets connecting the European market, is expected to begin in 2024.

Under this project, Gas will be transported through several African countries, including Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco.Under Mr Ekpo’s watch, the gas sector has witnessed reforms to modernize and streamline it.

Moves have been made to resolve all challenges, stifling efficient gas supplies to consumers in the country at both the upstream and downstream levels.

During a meeting with a delegation from Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria in Abuja, he announced the roll out of initiatives to improve distribution networks and encourage private sector participation, towards making gas available as a source of fuel to the Auto, Power and industrial consumers.

On the domestic front, Minister Ekpo has timely waded into the challenges bordering on the supply and pricing of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in the country’s domestic market. The intervention follows the rise in recent months in the price of LPG from about Seven Hundred Naira (N700) to above Nine Hundred Naira (N900) per kilogram in some parts of the country.

He has swung into prompt action by setting up a committee to look into issues around the increase in the price of cooking gas, with a view to identifying and proffering solutions that will drive down the soaring prices of this essential product in the local market.

While the initial strides have been promising and there is transformative potential inherent in the Minister’s crucial 100-day timeframe, challenges persist. Fluctuating global energy prices, geopolitical uncertainties, and the need for sustained policy implementation pose ongoing hurdles. The minister has, however, laid a foundation for economic growth and resilience.

He has earmarked security enhancement and industry-based partnerships as areas that will help drive the Ministry’s vision and his socio-political capital while serving as the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Industry, as well as in the Customs Service, National Security and Intelligence, and Power Committees during his time at the National Assembly, will provide him the opportunity for collaborations in the areas of regulatory enforcement and security, as well as for other strategic partnerships that will catalyze the development and industrialization of gas resources.

As the nation looks ahead, whether the focus is on sustainable energy practices, economic growth, or international cooperation, the plans and actions of Obongemem Ekperikpe Ekpo, in his capacity as the Minister of Gas reverberate with a sustained commitment to initiatives that balance energy security, economic growth, and environmental sustainability; initiatives that will be pivotal in establishing Nigeria as a prominent player in the global energy landscape.

Dr. Ajibade is a gas expert and writes from Lagos