By Dennis Udoma, Uyo
Multi-million Naira security villages rot in A/Ibom; Criminals take over some of the estates.
The multi – million Naira security villages built across the 31 Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom are daily rotting away, and most of them are fast becoming safe havens for criminals.
The security villages built by the Akwa Ibom state government as residential quarters for top security personnel and senior officials of the 31 Local Government Councils in the state, were to complement the “Housing for All” policy of the former Governor Godswill Akpabio administration in the State, under the Local Government Administration Law in his first term.
The estates, made up of several detached bungalows with sports 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 purpose they were meant to serve seem to have been defeated, as most of the Local Government Chairmen live in the State capital and sometimes, go to work in their council areas from Uyo, the state capital.
The rationale for construction of the estates was to reduce rural – urban drift and also make the council chairmen live in their headquarters, to get them to understand first hand the challenges of the area as well as ensure that they are on ground to meet the needs of the people.
Members of the Correspondents’ Chapel of NUJ, who visited some of the estates report that, while that of Uyo has been converted into an orphanage, that of Eket has been allocated to the Army for accommodation.
That of Ikot Ekpene has no council officials living in them, while others located in rural parts of the state have also been affected by their remote location, making them unattractive to the senior council officials thereby allowing them to be abandoned to become hideouts for criminals.
Discreet investigation show that about 99% of senior councils’ officials live in the state capital, with a few of them outside Uyo living in their personal houses around the Council headquarters.
This situation has resulted in high level of absenteeism among the council officials, as many are not always available in their offices due to distance between the state capital and their places of work.
Some commentators, frowned at this state of affairs as the absence of key council officials have impacted negatively on service delivery and worsened the already low morale and productivity of the junior council staff.
They also argued that, the abandonment of the estates mean that millions of Naira spent in building them may have been wasted except for the few of the structures that have been put to other uses.
However, some of the council chairmen, when contacted, said they live and go to work from the estates.
Hon. Aniekpon Ekpo, chairman, Mkpat Enin LGA, said, “I am living in the security estate in my local government, and this has afforded me opportunity to acquaint myself with the challenges of the area and the people. I implore others to do so to reduce the rural-urban drift”, he counseled.
The chairman, Ini LGA, Mr Israel Idaisin, disclosed that the 100 units estate in his domain has been leased to private school operators as a polytechnic in order to ward off criminal elements, who had tried to occupy the facility for unwholesome activities.
Meanwhile, Chairman, House of Assembly Committee on Local Governments, Hon. Mark Esset has recalled that the sixth Assembly passed a resolution, mandating Local Government Councils’ Chiefs and other key officers to relocate to the security villages to be closer to their people.
While regretting that some of the council Chairmen have refused to abide by the resolution, Esset however disclosed that there was a plan by his committee to embark on quarterly visits to councils to ascertain performance and state of the security villages across the state, to check defaulters.