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Akwa Ibom 2023: “I’ll Prioritize Job Creation, Rural Development & Agri-business- Umo Eno

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Michael Effiong
Umo Eno, a Pastor, is the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) gubernatorial aspirant for Akwa Ibom State. He is an acccomplished entrepreneur and visionary leader who at one time was the second highest employer of labour in the state after the government.
In this interactive session with journalists, the former Commissioner of Lands and Water Resources, who prides himself as a man of capacity, character, competence and compassion discusses his life story and vision for the state.
Akwa Ibom is generally regarded as a civil service state. How do you intend to change that perception?
That impression is not true. Yes, that used to be the case, but governments over the years have worked hard to refocus the state and its people. Having lived and done business here for over 25 years, I can say that things have changed remarkably.
In deed, Governor Udom Emmanuel has done a lot in the area of industrialization. That is why we now want to connect the dots and ensure that there is a trickle-down effect of the infrastructure and industries on the people.
Is this what has inspired your ambition to run for governor?
Becoming governor for me is a calling, not an ambition. I believe that God at any point in time controls the destinies of men.
I believe that with my experience, expertise and track record, I have so much to offer our people by serving as their governor. And we have very clear short, medium, and long-term plans.
Our current government, like I said earlier, is investing heavily in infrastructure. For example, it has done major roads, set up Ibom Air and facilitated the setting up of many industries.
Therefore, we intend to ensure that our people enjoy the benefits of these industries and natural resources. We intend to connect the dots while furthering peace and prosperity
What will be your major focus?
We will be all about jobs, jobs and more jobs.The next government would provide jobs in so many ways.
We will put resources into the completion of the Science Park, which was started by Governor Victor Attah. We will promote the knowledge economy by also funding and creating ICT hubs that will engage our talented youths. We will award grants and as well as, low interest loans to SMEs.
As someone who started business from the very scratch, I know full well how funding can hamper a budding entrepreneur. So this will be a top priority.
 We want our people to earn a descent living through the work of their hands which we believe will be ultimately blessed by God
In addition, we will be involved in massive rural development. Our women will be supported in their petty businesses. We intend to invest in primary health care , rural electrification, revamp our schools and ultimately reduce rural-urban drift.
We are an agrarian state. We will harness our agriculture potentials, for example, the Oil Palm. We will invest in and explore the agriculture value chain of various crops. Agri-business will be encouraged because of its job creation and economic benefits.
Because of the current realities of the country and even the world, our state needs someone who understands the practical aspects of running the economy not just people who talk about it.
 I keep telling our people that if God gives me the opportunity, we intend to create a middle-class for this state
Akwa Ibom has a vast array of waterbodies, any plans for the riverine areas?
Of course, we have 129kms of coastline. I have promised that within our first six months in office. I will invest in trawlers and boats for our people, build refrigerating facilities and put a fish canning factory along those areas.
The people are really suffering, they are not making much from their sweat because others own everything they use. Our government will stand in the gap for them. We will also collaborate with the security agencies to give them adequate protection along the waterways.
Also, we will develop the tourism potential of these water bodies, our beaches will be upgraded and we will tie this with our comprehensive hospitality and tourism plan.
You know hospitality/ tourism sector is my forte. We will upgrade all our tourists sites, harness our tourism assets and revamp our beaches to international standard as well as provide all support services like roads, bars etc. Our goal is to make Akwa Ibom the number 1 tourism destination in Nigeria.
Seriously, we intend to make the state very investment friendly, our people are hospitable, we have excellent road network, our state is peaceful. So, Akwa Ibom will be the one-stop investment destination. We will be deliberate about attracting businesses and as a businessman, I know what is required to make this happen.
 In addition, I am probably the only candidate who has conducted a needs assessment and has plans for all sectors and LGAs of this state.
My vision is to deliver a prosperous state with ease of doing business. We want to create a state where every Akwa Ibom person will have a sense of belonging and where every part of the state will be developed based on comparative advantage.
I will round off by saying that I have an economic blueprint encapsulated in what we have called the ARISE Agenda. Which covers agricural revolution, infrastructural renewal and maintenance, women and youth empowerment, ICT development security management and sound education and healthcare sector management, sports and tourism development, reorganisation and upskilling of the civil service as well as wealth creation.
A lot of people say that you do not have the requisite political experience for the job at hand?
Really? I am probably one of the few who combines public sector and private sector experience.
In terms of political experience, I have been in politics for decades, though not an active participant. I began my stint in public service courtesy of Obong Victor Attah, who made me Chairman, Akwa Ibom Hotels and Tourisim Board from 2004-2007. While there, we made our modest contribution. It was under my watch that the first Hotel/Tourism Directory was published in this state.
After that assignment, I went back to my business until Governor Udom Emmanuel invited me to become Executive Director, Agricultural Investments Directorate of Akwa Ibom State Investment Corporation ( AKICORP). While there, among other things, we planned and developed the first ever comprehensive data base of farmers in the state. And we covered crops and animal farmers. It has helped government to easily coordinate, support, educate and execute programmes.
 Also, I was made to Chair the team to establish the Ibom Fadama Microfinance Bank. This was a project that had been in the pipeline for years, but we were able to get all the approvals done. The bank is now up and running.
It was while still on that assignment that I was made Commissioner for Lands and Water Resources. I was there for slightly over a year before I resigned to face this gubernatorial race.There too, we initiated the Akwa GIS project, began the revamping of Akwapalms which had been moribund for decades and also negotiated compensation for communities whose land had been acquired for years. As you can see, I have always tried to leave a mark in any assignment I take up. God has been faithful at all times.
In the private sector, I began my work career in banking and left paid employment as a Group General Manager to start my own business called Royalty Group, a company that at a time employed over 2500 people and was second highest employer of labour in the state. We were the first indigenous company to win catering contract in the oil and gas industry. We were servicing thousands of staff daily on different platforms. That takes a lot of discipline, precision, project management, personnel management, quality control, and above all integrity. That is why I say with all sense of modesty that no one in the race has my job creation and management credentials.
Let’s mellow down a bit. I have heard that your story is an inspirational one. Tell us about growing up?
I grew up in the Police Barracks. I am a Barracks boy. I started from the lowest of the low. I grew up in the barracks because my father was a police officer. Therefore, because of my upbringing, I understand community living, and I understand inter- tribal living. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon.
As someone from that kind of setting, people sometimes may look down on you, because you have to struggle to survive. But the culture of discipline was something that helped to shape one’s life.
Tell us about your dad, the police officer
Fine police gentleman, one of the finest I have seen. My father was trained by the British, a very strict disciplinarian, someone who will not take no for an answer, a man who brought us up under strict disciplinary conditions, clean person.
I remember that while growing up that he won the award of the cleanest officer of the year times. He was meticulous
He was the kind of man that when he sits down, he will rub his hands on the table to see if it was dusty. If it was, you would be in trouble.
My father will put his radio (radio Nigeria)on to listen to the 4 O’clock news because he will come back home by 3pm and he knew where he left the setting of that radio.
 So if anyone tampered with it, he usually finds out. He will call me, Umo, who touched the radio? and you dared not lie to him because he knew what had happened. That was the kind of father I had.
He paid attention to details. I think some of these characteristics I have imbibed, and I will eternally remain grateful to him.
What of your mum?
My mum was everything to me and I don’t like talking about it in interviews because sometimes I become emotional,you know my father died in active service in Kaduna and my mum was barely forty years then.
My mum gave up everything to take care of all of us, six of us .
My mum was there for us, she never got married again. We were her only priority.
I am happy that later, she came to live with us and enjoyed her older years. She was able to live peacefully with my wife in the same house until she passed.
She was my prayer warrior. To her, I was still that small boy. She will scold you for things you didn’t do right, and for the ones you did right, she will hug and pray for you. My mum was just special
Take us into your educational journey?
My first school was Local Authority Primary School in Ikeja, we just used to trek to school because it was close to the Ikeja barracks.
While other boys used to go out to play football after school, I could not because I used to have so many chores to do and you dared not go out without finishing all my tasks. That was how I lost interest in football.
When I finished my primary education at Local Authority, my parents felt that we had to understand our language and culture because at the time, when you speak Ibibio to us, we could hear but we could not speak. We only spoke English, pidgin and Yoruba.
My father and all police officers from here decided to send their children home. That was how I was bundled to St. Francis secondary school in Eket.
I spent only two years there because to be honest with you, I couldn’t really cope with the environment, the disciplinary nature, the punishments, it was just something I couldn’t stand so after my second year when I went on vacation, I was seriously sick so my mum decided that I should not return there despite my father’s insistence. That was how my mum took me to Victory High School in Ikeja which was where I eventually finished.I left as the Senior Prefect.
Pastor Umo Eno
Fill us in on the years between Secondary School and University?
The truth is that if you look at my CV, there is a lot of gap in my educational sojourn because when I finished secondary school and got employed in the bank. I started working in the bank two years before my father died.
I decided to work to augment the income of my parents and also save some money to continue my education.
I had been working for about two years when my father died. I was the eldest of six siblings, so I had to grow up very fast and become a bread winner.
At the time, too, I was courting my wife and she lost her mother too. She had five siblings as well and they too became my responsibility.
I was at the bank and was attending Apostolic church. It was in that church that I met a gentleman, Mr. Albert Inyang, MD, Bertola Machine Tools Nigeria Limited who invited me join his business because he knew the troubles I was going through and he stated that, if I worked hard, the money the bank was paying me in one year, I can make in one month.
He is still alive, he is one of the greatest men I respect because he gave me encouragement and that was how I found myself working for him as his Commercial Director and I moved on in life after that.
So, the gap in my education is the years spent trying to raise my kids and family. I eventually went to stùdy at the University of Uyo after I formed Royalty Group and relocated to Akwa Ibom State.
Now that you have mentioned Royalty. How did it happen?
From Bertola, two of us were invited for an interview at Norman Holdings. I was the preferred candidate. You know, they referred to me as the preferred candidate. So that name has been with me from way back. I have always had the grace of God in my life, and that was how I joined Norman Holdings as Investment Officer. I grew through the ranks and became the Group General Manager.
The company needed to do some expansion, and I led the team that was commissioned to come up with three areas of investment that we would like the company to dabble into.
After weeks of hard work, I made my presentation to the board. We asked the company to consider investing in hotels, water bottling, and salt.
My Chairman said, “Umo, you have done well, but I don’t think this will work. We think you should go and do some more research”.
We have been working on this thing for six months and I knew how thorough and solid our research was.
I felt really sad, especially the fact that the Board had lost confidence in my abilities. So I went to my immediate boss and we used to discuss in pidgin English, and I said, Aunty I dey go.
I told her I believed in these projects and God helping me, I will go and execute them. That was how I tendered my resignation.
At the time I took this decision, I was very much well paid.But I had made up my mind. I then decided to come back to Eket, Akwa Ibom State. When we got here, I saw an opportunity that despite Mobil now ExxonMobil being here, the town had very few hotel facilities. I made some enquiries, and that was how we started Royalty Group.
We built our first 5-room hotel facility. Our business is a story in resilience and today, we have many other facilities in other parts of the state and we are also into other businesses including water bottling.
https://thebossnewspapers.com/2023/01/07/akwa-ibom-2023-i-was-not-convicted-or-declared-wanted-pastor-umo-eno-insists/
You are reputed as someone who loves to serve. Kindly expatiate.
I am in the hospitality industry and I love serving my customers.
I would not sit and watch my staff do everything. You show leadership. If I walk into a place and things are not done right, I make it right. We are all called to serve and besides, I am a pastor and a pastor is a servant. People see it as humility for the owner to serve, but I see it as being a first among equals.
At Royalty, you called yourself Executive Governor. How did this come about?.
I had two inspirations.In those days, I used to go to Nightshift,this was a popular night club in Ikeja, Lagos. The owner of the place was Ken Calebs- Olumese. Everyone used to call him the governor. He was always on his feet, working and serving, and I really admired that.
Secondly, I always wanted to be different. Everybody was called MD, so I wanted to create my own identity, an empire where I will be in charge, so that was what propelled me to call myself Executive Governor.
How do you see your chances, especially with the opposition that characterized your emergence?
The PDP is a very formidable force in Akwa Ibom State. Virtually all the accolades the state receives today is the work of the PDP. The party is strong, but we are not resting on our oars. We campaigned vigorously and sold our vision across the 31 LGAs.
On my emergence, we had to deal with court cases. All manner of cases, some very frivolous and annoying, outright lies, but I am told it comes with the territory.
 We have overcome them, winning all the way to the Supreme Court. Like I have said, I abhor no grudges, we are going to run an all-inclusive government.
 My running mate, Senator Akon Eyakenyi and I, assure Akwa Ibom people that the future they desire for themselves and their children is possible.
We intend to run a state couched in Christian values and virtues. With the votes of our people, I promise that we are about to witness the golden years of Akwa Ibom State.

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Democracy Day: Full Text of President Tinubu’s Speech

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President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday addressed Nigerians on Democracy Day for the second time since he assumed office on May 29, 2024.

In his speech, the President honoured heroes of democracy, rallied Nigerians to support his administration’s efforts to strengthen the economy and informed citizens that a bill for a new minimum wage will be sent to the National Assembly soon, among other things.

Read his full speech below:

TEXT OF PRESIDENT BOLA TINUBU’S NATIONAL BROADCAST ON THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNBROKEN DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA,

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DEMOCRACY DAY, 12TH JUNE, 2024
ABUJA

My fellow Nigerians, let me begin by congratulating all of us for witnessing the celebration of another Democracy Day today, the twelfth day of June 2024. This year also marks our nation’s 25 years of uninterrupted democratic governance.

On this day, 31 years ago, we entered our rites of passage to becoming a true and enduring democratic society.

Going through this passage was hard and dangerous. During the fateful six years that followed, we fought and struggled for our natural rights as human beings put on this earth by the divine hand of our Creator.

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We lost great heroes and heroines along the way. In this struggle, the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, the most significant symbol of our democratic struggle, his wife, Kudirat, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, and Pa Alfred Rewane amongst other sacrificed their very lives.

They bravely surrendered their futures, so that our nation might have a better one.

Let us honour the memories of Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Chief Arthur Nwankwo, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Chief Frank Kokori, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Ganiyu Dawodu, Chief Ayo Fasanmi, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Chief Olabiyi Durojaiye, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Chima Ubani, and others who have transited to the higher realm.

The sacrifices of General Alani Akinrinade, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Ralph Obioha, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, among many others, should never be forgotten. For at least six years, they bore the pains and difficulties of life in exile.

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While the exiled pro-democracy activists kept the fire burning, their comrades at home sustained the pressure on the military leadership. Among the latter are Olisa Agbakoba, Femi Falana, Abdul Oroh, Senator Shehu Sani, Governor Uba Sani, Chief Olu Falae, and other National Democratic Coalition leaders such as Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Ayo Opadokun.

The sacrifices they made, and the precious gift brought about by their selfless devotion can neither be repaid nor forgotten.

We could not have won the battle against dictatorship without the irrepressible Nigerian journalists who mounted the barricades along with the pro-democracy activists. We celebrate them today, along with their media establishments such as The Punch, Guardian, National Concord, Tribune, The News/Tempo, and TELL Magazines. The undemocratic government of the day proscribed these media establishments and jailed their journalists for standing for free speech and civil liberties and the sanctity of the June 12 elections.

Despite the lethal might of the authoritarian government, what appeared to be high and unyielding walls of dictatorship came tumbling down. The dismal fortress exists no longer.

The power of an idea, the power of the people proved more potent than all the guns, the munitions, and the threats of the strongmen.

The nation exited the yoke of dictatorship in 1999 to become the most populous democracy on African soil, the beacon of democratic self-determination for the black race and one of the largest democracies in the world.

This change stands as a pivotal moment in human history. From this change, we shall never turn, nor shall the annals of mankind’s progress forget the sublime meaning of this great moment.

Today, 25 years later. we celebrate the silver anniversary of our journey in democracy.

We have steadied the course. Democracy is neither a foreign nor abstract concept devoid of real-life meaning for us. Neither can we afford to reduce or minimalize it to being nothing but the mere holding of periodic elections where one candidate and party outdo another.

While elections attract dramatic attention, they are but one aspect of democracy. Democracy is a way of life that encompasses a broad outlook of which elections are but a part. As such, a nation can have elections without being democratic. But a nation cannot be truly democratic without holding elections.

That we have established a tradition of holding transparent, open, and fair elections gives credence to our democratic standing. That we have experienced peaceful transitions of government affirms our democratic temperament.

Fellow Nigerians, true democracy shines its light into the daily lives of the people who live under its nurturing wings. It affords us the freedom and liberty to think as we want, live where we want and pursue whatever legitimate endeavour that suits us.

Democracy does not assume some false or forced unity of opinion. In fact, democracy assumes that conflicting ideas and differing opinions shall be the order of the day. Given the diversity and variety of the human experience, there must be diverse perspectives and viewpoints.

What democracy demands is that we do not resolve differences through force and repression. But we make allowance for the legitimacy of views that differ from our own.

The other forms of government impose against the will of the people, democracy aims to make leaders who conduct themselves as servants of the common good, not as viceroys of the narrow interests of the mighty.

My dear compatriots, Nigeria faced a decision of untold gravity twenty-five years ago: Whether to veer toward a better destination or continue aimlessly in the fog of dictatorship.

We made the right choice then. We must continue with that choice now.

As Nigerians, we must remind ourselves that no matter how complicated democracy may be, it is the best form of governance in the long run. We must also be aware that there are those among us who will try to exploit current challenges to undermine, if not destroy, this democracy for which so much has already been given.

This is the great battle of our day and the major reason we specially celebrate this day as Democracy Day.

The true meaning of this day is not to focus solely on the great deeds of the past that have brought us to this point.

Yes, we pay eternal honour to those who laid down their lives, sacrificing everything to pave the way for the nation.

I stand uniquely placed in this regard. I was among those who took the risk to midwife the birth of our democracy. I am now a direct and obvious beneficiary of the fruits of those historic efforts.

As president of this nation, I am morally and constitutionally bound to preserve this precious form of governance. I vow to do my utmost best to protect your rights, freedoms, and liberties as citizens of Nigeria.

Even more than that, I pledge to do what is necessary to cement democracy as our way of life.

Although the challenges are steep and multiple, I am grateful to lead Nigeria at this moment in her history and point in her democratic journey.

I come before you also to declare that our most important work remains before us. This real test has never been whether we would rise to challenge the slings of misfortune and grievous pain of dictatorship.

The real test is whether we shall lower our guards and fail to defend democracy as the shadow of despotism and its evident physical danger fade.

I say to you here and now that as we celebrate the enshrinement of our political democracy, let us commit ourselves to the fulfilment of its equally important counterpart, the realization of our economic democracy.

I understand the economic difficulties we face as a nation.

Our economy has been in desperate need of reform for decades. It has been unbalanced because it was built on the flawed foundations and over-reliance on revenues from exploitation of oil.

The reforms we have initiated are intended to create a stronger, better foundation for future growth. There is no doubt the reforms have occasioned hardship. I feel your pains. Yet, they are necessary repairs required to fix the economy over the long run so that everyone has access to economic opportunity, fair pay and compensation for his endeavour and labour.

As we continue to reform the economy, I shall always listen to the people and will never turn my back on you.

In this spirit, we have negotiated in good faith and with open arms with organized labour on a new national minimum wage. We shall soon send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly to enshrine what has been agreed upon as part of our law for the next five years or less.

In the face of labour’s call for a national strike, we did not seek to oppress or crack down on the workers as a dictatorial government of the past would have done. We chose the path of cooperation over conflict.

Nobody was arrested or threatened. Instead, the labour leadership was invited to break bread and negotiate toward a good-faith resolution.

Reasoned discussion and principled compromise are hallmarks of democracy. These themselves shall continue to animate my policies and interaction with the constituent parts of our political economy.

I take on this vital task without fear or favour and I commit myself to this work until we have built a Nigeria where no man is oppressed.

In the end, our national greatness will not be achieved by travelling the easy road. It can only be achieved by taking the right one.

The words of the American President Franklin Roosevelt certainly ring true:

“There are many ways of going forward. But only one way of standing still”!

We dare not slumber lest the good things awaiting our immediate future pass us by. We dare not plant our feet in idle standstill in the middle of the intersection of hope and despair.

We know the proper way forward and we shall take it!

The initial rays of a brighter tomorrow now appear on the horizon. An abundant future and our capacity to achieve that future lies within our reach. Democracy and the institutions it begets offer to take us to our profound destination.

Let us board this progressive train together. Together, let us move Nigeria forward.

Let’s continue to keep the fire of democracy burning. Let’s keep the torch lit for generations to come.

May God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and preserve our democracy.

I wish us all Happy Democracy Day.

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Dangote Refinery: Akpabio Pledges NASS Protection, Says Dangote Silenced Detractors by Completing Project

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The Senate leadership yesterday described the 650,000bpd Dangote Petroleum Refinery as the 9th wonder of the world but came hard on those who are skeptical of the completion of Dangote Petroleum Refinery describing them as dream killers.

Indeed, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, who led the leadership of the 10th Senate on a tour of the Refinery in Lagos said detractors of the refinery have all been silenced and that indeed, previous governments have been put to shame with the completion of the project.

He assured that the National Assembly will give it what it takes to protect the project because its one project that Nigeria and indeed Africa should take the ownership and must be protected jealously.

Commending Alhaji Aliko Dangote for completing the construction of the largest single train refinery in the world in a record time, the Senate President said Dangote deserved all the accolades for this feat noting that ordinary residence of Nigeria’s Vice-President could not be completed until after 14 years.

Said he: “They told us in Abuja that Dangote Refinery is farce but we have come here and see for ourselves that the refinery is alive and running. Dangote has put to shame a lot of people. They are wondering how it will be possible for a single individual to accomplish what a whole nation could not accomplish; what 240 million people could not maintain; what a continent could not do and then one person will build 650,000bpd project.

“They keep wondering how one person can succeed where nations have failed; where continent has failed. But Dangote has done it. It is highly commendable. We came to see the refinery because we in the current senate believe in the Nigerian dream. We didn’t come as a doubting Thomas but we came because we believe the project, we came to rekindle the hope of Nigerians and the Nigerian’s can do spirit.”

Senator Akpabio stated that the whole Nigeria couldn’t make refineries function in Kaduna, Pot Harcourt, Warri, but that Dangote and his team have proven that it is possible to dream and achieve it in Nigeria.”
Akpabio said the shame that came with the discovery of oil in Nigeria in 1958 has been removed by Dangote alluding to a report that India does not have oil but his refineries from where the country exports refined products. The inability of the nation to refine its oil has brought untold hardship on Nigerians so much so that Belgian government recently ban the exportation of dirty and condemned fuel to the country to West African country just because we can’t refine our own products.

Describing the refinery as quite unbelievable, Senator Akpabio who was sandwiched by other senators comprising of the Deputy Senate President, Senate Leader, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele and a host of others said the Senate and the entire National Assembly would come up with a robust legislation that would protect the project and others like it.

He stated: “Mr. Dangote, I pity you a lot because even your friends will envy you simply because they will keep wondering how can you succeed when nations, and continents have failed? Now that we have seen for ourselves, we are here to announce our own endorsement of this major project. It is also shocking to see that we produce sufficient fertilisers for Nigeria and enough to be exported.

“As I said we will do our report and we will speak to Mr President to put a stop to fertisliser import to Nigeria. You will hear from us soon.”

Also speaking, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, enthused that it is a privilege that the refinery happened in “our time, our state and our country. People talk about dreams, but only few can make it happen. Dangote has put Lagos State and the whole of Nigeria on the world map of excellence.

“I am happy the senate came to see for themselves; Dangote was not ready to rest after successfully building the largest cement factory chain in Africa, second largest sugar refinery in the world. With investment like this, I can assure you that we are on the right path to meet the projected GDP of $1trn by 2030.

“You have the key to city, I have given you long time ago and I am happy you are using it very well,” Governor Sanwo-Olu stated.
In his remark, Mr. Dangote explained that the “visit could not have come at a more auspicious time than now just as the organization is in the process of bringing the various units of this complex integrated refining processes on stream, an eagerly awaited move.”

He stated further that the Dangote Refinery “produces a wide range of high-quality petroleum products, including premium motor spirit (petrol), diesel, kerosene, and jet fuel, all meeting the highest international standards (Euro V Grade). The Refinery apart from adding value to our crude oil, will yield 900,000 KTPA of Polypropylene and 36,000 KTPA of Sulphur and carbon black as by products.

“The Refinery will help boost Nigeria’s economic growth, with the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. During the construction stage, it supported over 150,000 jobs, made up of mostly Nigerians. These Nigerians in the process acquired various skills that are still useful in other construction projects.

“The capacity of the refinery is enough to satisfy domestic demands for refined products. The Refinery will export about 50 per cent of its production thereby generating foreign exchange for the country. It will lead to growth in adjacent sectors such as logistics, shipping, engineering, and servicing.

“The Refinery has the requisite capacity to provide energy security both by providing a ready home for our crude and in ensuring steady availability of petroleum products for all. Nigerians will also get to partake in the financial returns once we list the Refinery on the NGX.

“We are thus making an important contribution to this administration’s plan to grow our GDP to $1 trillion.

“Our Group is at the vanguard of job creation and employment generation in Nigeria. We are the biggest employer of labour after the Federal Government. Dangote Cement sustains about 70,000 (Seventy thousand) direct and indirect jobs across Africa, while the Refinery, Petroleum Chemical Complex and Fertiliser will be able to create over 150,000 (One hundred and fifty thousand) direct and indirect jobs.
“We have remained one of the biggest contributors to government coffers as our three subsidiaries, Dangote Cement, Dangote Sugar Refinery and NASCON Allied Industries paid a total of N788.98 billion as tax and N276 billion in VAT in three years.
“We envision in Nigeria the equivalent of Jamnagar in India where crude oil refining is the backbone of specialised industrial zones, transportation networks, and ancillary industries, contributing to the overall industrialisation of the region. Or Saudi Arabia’s Jubail Industrial City, which is also undergirded by large scale petrochemical complexes.

“The Legislature has a great role to play in this. Globally, the Legislature plays a great role in protecting and supporting domestic industry. I am sure that the members of the 10th National Assembly are more than equal to the task. Supporting the Refinery secures the benefits. It will ensure energy security. As co-creators of value, we appreciate and acknowledge your consistent efforts in ensuring the enactment of vital laws promoting a conducive business environment in the nation,” he said.

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Remembering Nigeria’s Madam Excellence, Dora Akunyili

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By Eric Elezuo

While splendid Nigerian political office holders, past and present, can be counted only on fingertips, Anambra-born former Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and former Information Minister, Dr. Dora Nkem Akunyili OFR, will always make the list, and can arguably top the list.

The graduate of Pharmacy, who served NAFDAC between 2001 and 2008 succumbed to uterine cancer on June 7, 2014 after two years battle. She died five weeks to her 60th birthday. Today, the world rise to celebrate the ebullient stewardship and contribution to humanity of a woman, who received over 900 awards in her lifetime, 10 years after.

Born Dora Edemobi in Makurdi, Benue State, on July 14, 1954, to Chief Paul Young Edemobi who hailed from Nanka, Anambra State, the woman, who grew up to become a terror to fake drugs merchants, had her elementary education at the St. Patrick’s Primary School, Isuofia, Anambra State, where she received her First School Leaving Certificate in 1966. She proceeded to Queen of the Rosary Secondary School Nsukka, Enugu State in 1973, obtained her West African Examination Council (WAEC) Certificate, graduating with Grade I Distinction, and consequently, winning the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship.

She went on to study Pharmacology at the University of Nigeria (U.N.N.), graduating in 1978 and followed it up with a Ph.D. in Ethnopharmacology in 1985.

Dora’s stewardship in public service has remained a case study and a reference point in integrity, honesty, determination, focus, and ability to administer justice no matter whose ox is gored. Dora was Nigeria’s Madam Excellence, giving her best shots to ajob description, and redefining the administration and control of health related matters in the country.

The former minister’s work trajectory is captured as follows:

She served on several State Government Boards and then was named Supervisory Councilor for Agriculture in a Local Government unit in Anambra State. She worked as a hospital pharmacist in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. (U.N.T.H), Enugu State.

In 1981, she became a Graduate Assistant in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UNN. In 1990, she became a Senior Lecturer and in 1996, she was made a Consultant Pharmacologist at the College of Medicine.

In 1996, Akunyili became Zonal Secretary of the Petroleum Special Trust Fund (P.T.F), coordinating projects funded by profits from oil in Nigeria’s South Eastern States. In 2001, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed her the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

She was appointed NAFDAC DG in 2001 and served till 2009.

Akunyili had a special motivation for attacking the country’s counterfeit drug problem  and this is because, in 1988, she had watched her sister aged 21, die after being given injections of fake insulin as part of regular diabetes treatment. She put together a team of mostly female pharmacists and inspectors and started a war against counterfeit drugs that saw many open-air medicine markets across the country closed down. Including one in Kano State after her officers confiscated £140,000 worth of fake drugs. The agency, under her leadership, broadcast jingles on radio and television to make the public aware of the dangers of substandard drugs and to encourage people to report suspicious drugs while also publishing lists of counterfeit products regularly in the newspapers.

In July 2003, the International Children’s Heart Foundation visited Nigeria to operate on sick children at a teaching hospital in Enugu. After four children died in what appeared to be a case of counterfeit medical supplies, and despite being confronted with what seemed to be a hospital cover-up, Akunyili confiscated supplies and found fake adrenalin, fake muscle relaxant and infected intravenous drips.

As of June 2006, she was reported to have secured convictions for 45 counterfeiters with 56 cases pending. Her efforts led to increased public awareness about counterfeit drugs and more direct and purposeful surveillance at Nigerian customs.

On 26 December 2003, while Akunyili was on the way to Anambra State in Eastern Nigeria, gunmen fired on her convoy. The bullets narrowly missed her, with one of the bullets going through her headscarf and through the windscreen of the car. Prior to the incident, she had faced constant death threats against herself, her family, and her staff. In 2014, at least six people were charged with conspiracy and attempted murder, but acquitted and discharged in 2014.

In 2008, Akunyili was appointed Minister of Information and Communications.

She resigned her appointment as Minister of Information and Communications on December 16, 2010, after two years of service to run for office as senator representing Anambra Central in the National Assembly.

She ran for election as Senator for Anambra Central for the APGA in April 2011 but was defeated by Chris Ngige of the ACN. She immediately sent a petition to the Independent National Electoral Commission disputing the result.

She was a pharmacist and governmental administrator who gained international recognition and won several awards for her work in pharmacology, public health and human rights.

In 2012, her book: The War Against Counterfeit Medicine: My Story was published.

Dora Akunyili died at a specialist cancer hospital in India on 7 June 2014 after a two-year battle with uterine cancer. Her funeral took place on 27 and 28 August, attended by many dignitaries from within Nigeria and beyond, including former President Goodluck Jonathan, and a former Nigerian military ruler General Yakubu Gowon. Akunyili was laid to rest at Agulu in Anambra State.

On 28 September 2021, her husband Chike Akunyili was killed by gunmen at Nkpor, in the Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra on his way back from an event to honor his late wife at Sharon Hall, All Saints Cathedral, Onitsha, and organized by the University of Nigeria Nsukka Alumni Association (UNAA). At least seven other people were said to have been killed in the attack. The Federal Government of Nigeria alleged that IPOB is responsible for his death.

Akunyili received over 900 awards throughout her career, the highest number of awards ever received by any Nigerian. With over 900 awards, Historyville reports that over 100 awards were later discovered in her boxes.

Some of the awards Akunyili received were:

  • Order of the Federal Republic, OFR
  • Time magazine award 2006 (“One of the eighteen heroes of our time”)
  • Person of the Year 2005 Award – Silverbird Communications Ltd, Lagos, 5 January 2006
  • Award of Excellence – Integrated World Services (IWS), December 2005
  • Award of Excellence – Advocacy for Democracy Dividends International, Lagos, 17 December 2005
  • Meritorious Award 2005 – St. Michael’s Military Catholic Church, Apapa, Lagos, 4 December 2005
  • African Virtuous and Entrepreneurial Women Merit Award 2005 – African Biographical Network, December, 2005
  • Award for the Best Government Parastatal – National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), December, 2005
  • An Icon of Excellence Award – The African Cultural Institute and Zenith Bank PLC, 8 December 2005
  • 2005 Grassroots Human Rights Campaigner Award London-based Human Rights Defense Organization, 8 December. 2005
  • Most Innovative Director Award Federal Government College, Ijanikin, Lagos, October, 2005.
  • Integrity Award 2003 – Transparency International.

Dora was married to Chike Akunyili, a medical doctor, and they had six children: Ijeoma, Edozie, Somto, Njideka, Chidiogo and Obumneme. In 2017, one of her children, Njideka Akunyili Crosby was awarded the prestigious Genius Grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

While Dora continues to rest in peace, her work continues to speak for her even as her she replicated so much of herself in her children.

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