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My story on Pioneer newspaper’s controversial printing press

Posted by By Sun News Publishing on 2008/04/05 | Views: 573 |

My story on Pioneer newspaper’s controversial printing press

It is customary everywhere in the world for government to set up a commission of inquiry whenever there is gross misgiving about any financial transaction of interest to the public.

It is customary everywhere in the world for government to set up a commission of inquiry whenever there is gross misgiving about any financial transaction of interest to the public.

It is the easiest and fastest way of establishing truth without playing unnecessary politics. This being the case, the press conference organized recently by Mr. Silas Udo, General Manager of the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation (AKNC) has been a futile exercise, which only succeeded in spreading falsehood.

Mr. Udo is a typical example of what to expect when a non-qualified person is placed in an exalted position that requires a technocrat or a better qualified manager. Because of his professional inadequacies, he has evidently been used to dish out false propaganda by the political actors who have pushed him into this. Without recapping all that Mr. Udo has deceitfully told newsmen, the following information is for the benefit of the general public, particularly the press men that he misled and the good people of Akwa Ibom State.

I state the following facts out of a Christian conscience and after this publication, which serves as a notice to the management of AKNC; I shall not hesitate to take legal action in order to protect my family’s name and our corporate integrity if any further defamatory publications are made:
Contrary to the lie told by Mr. Udo, HM Web House Private Limited, Faridabad, India, of which Chuduak Nigeria Limited is Africa’s principal agent, does not produce or deal in used printing machines.

This is a verifiable fact, since the company is big and India has a High Commission in Nigeria which can assist an investigator. Four officials of the AKNC who have been to our Indian corporate headquarters can testify to this truth. So, Chuduak Ltd. has never supplied a second-hand machine to AKNC or any customer anywhere at anytime.

The particular machine supplied to the AKNC was manufactured in 1999 and reached Nigeria in 2000.
Failure by AKNC to comply with basic infrastructure as we had demanded much earlier for the immediate installation of the machine led to unacceptable delays, which in turn led to the cumulative effect of some rust gathering in parts of the machine that remained in wooden cases throughout that long period (more than one year).

When eventually the press was installed in 2001, anti-rust measures, with oil and various lubricants were applied. Later when the machine became operational and it was discovered that the operators could not cope, some optional upgrading, e.g. pneumatic installations, ink-swing up control and chilling system were taken to enhance performance.

Even with these steps, adequate cooling of the press hall was never achieved when the press went into operation, as is the custom in all other locations in the country where we have supplied this same machine. Not a single air-conditioner was provided for a very long time the machine was operational. How can such a sensitive machine operate maximally without necessary conditions, including cooling and a dust-free hall?

The problem of adequate technical and professional competence has for years dogged the AKNC, in spite of Chuduak Ltd’s assistance in this direction. For instance, we trained four of their staff at our Indian headquarters and stood by to offer technical advice which was never implemented. When matters came to a head, the AKNC, Board of Directors intervened and discovered, among other things, that the Production Manager was not even aware that the handbook in his possession was the operating manual. After a working tour of other states where we have installed this same machine, the Board of Directors was satisfied that the problems of the AKNC were internal and had nothing to do with the supplier/contractor (Chuduak Ltd).

This contract to supply the press to the AKNC did not come as easily as some people are insinuating. It was awarded before the Obong Victor Attah Administration. Yet, the state’s Finance and General Purpose Committee (FGPC) under the chairmanship of the then Deputy Governor, Dr. Chris Ekpenyong, with Mrs. Evelyn Etuk as secretary, drilled us, as they should, to ensure that all was professionally well done.

Contrary to the malicious lie, deliberately told by Mr. Silas Udo in order to smear us, the contract sum, with all the related transactions and unavoidable variations, was no where near the fantastic figure of N200 million given to press reporters. The wickedness of this deliberate falsehood is indefensible since Mr. Udo and his employers have all the facts relating to this procurement.

It is important to note that when His Excellency, Engr. Patrick Ekpotu, who is currently the Deputy Governor to Akpabio assumed office as the Hon. Commissioner of Information, under Attah, he inspected the newly installed machine. As a seasoned engineer, he must have taken into account certain engineering indices to arrive at the conclusion that our machine was indeed new but that rust had adversely affected some of the parts due to long stay in the wooden cases by the machine in its sea voyage.

Even at a point when we wrote that we were geared towards locking up the Press Hall unless all the required infrastructure were provided, it was the same present Deputy Governor (then a Commissioner) that wrote to persuade us to rescind the decision, advancing the reason of government’s poor financial standing.

The reputation of our Rotary Web machine as a rugged print-master is easily attested to in all our present locations where it is operating efficiently both in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. We have supplied our Rotary machine to Champion (both for their Lagos and Owerri plants); Mark Ross Company Limited Port Harcourt (which prints on daily basis the Vanguard (eastern editions) and Nigeria Delta Standard, and the present AKNC Pioneer newspapers); Anambra State Newspapers (National Light); Delta State daily newspaper (Pointer); Ghanaian News Times and Daily Guide (all in Accra , Ghana ):

What is suspect in all this noise being made by Mr. Silas Udo is that, on assumption of office, for no good reason he suspended the use of the press which he met producing the Daily Pioneer by the AKNC. This and other reasons led to a protest against his appointment by the staff. He then proceeded to print the Pioneer in Port Harcourt , using a similar press, which we had supplied to Mark Ross Company.

Why Mr. Udo chose to stop a working machine, with the excuse that it was only producing 2,000 papers per hour, which is a big lie. He had used a funny report which called our machine 4-page Manugraph machine; whatever that meant, we do not know. Since that decision, the AKNC may probably have spent as much in printing expenses in less than one year as the entire company must have spent in three and a half years. What kind of business wisdom is this? More important, what is the motive?

But the most important question to ask is why Mr. Udo and his sponsors are angling for a new machine, instead of the less expensive option of light-overhauling as suggested long ago by Chuduak Ltd which will restore the press to optimum-level performance, with prospects of profitable commercial printing for greater income by the AKNC? This light-overhaul request had been forwarded by the former management at the AKNC to the supervising Ministry (Ministry of Information) since 2006 unattended.
Mr. Udo and his sponsors should listen to sound counsel and do what is right.

I offer my advice as a professional and as a businessman, who is conversant with printing machines. I dealt with more challenging problems as General Manager of The Punch Newspapers than Mr. Udo is facing today. As a young manager of Igbo extraction (only 26 years old on assumption of office) in a company owned by a Yoruba man and dominated by Yorubas, I managed to sail smoothly with printing machine headaches and related problems, rising eventually to become Executive Director.

I am not a politician and I do not know how to dissemble and tell lies. This is why I cannot understand Mr. Udo’s false statements when the facts of this transaction are accessible on demand from the government. Neither is my wife given to political controversy. She simply wrote a letter to Barrister Godswill Akpabio, protesting the threats to our family probably by some of his over-zealous operatives. It was in that letter that she warned the administration against the incredible idea of buying a new press, a clear wastage of scarce resources when there is the option of making the present machine to work well. Now, Mr. Udo has taken the initiative of distributing my wife’s letter to the press but the greater questions in the letter are still awaiting official response.

Chief Mrs. Christy Essien Igbokwe, mfr, a widely beloved daughter of Akwa Ibom, is the Managing Director of Chuduak Ltd. She is one of the midwives, if not mother, that ensured the abrogation of the obnoxious off-shore and off-shore oil dichotomy that got Akwa Ibom State into the league of high-earning from the federal accounts.

This is a common knowledge in Akwa Ibom state today. She is clearly a stakeholder in all this development and has watched with dismay the present state government’s to run down our family and our corporate image. As a citizen of Akwa Ibom, a citizenship which I also share by marriage, she is on fair ground to caution the Governor against wastage of state resources in purchasing a new press when he has not done what prudence demands: overhauling the existing press which is already a considerable investment.

We all know that some politicians, for pecuniary reasons, always create unnecessary opportunities for contracts and this is why all authorities must be alerted to forestall this development when there are viable options to achieve full potentials for the existing press.

Mr. Udo will do well to publish in full the letter to Governor Akpabio by Chief Mrs. Igbokwe, MFR, since he had claimed that it was given to him for the Press. He should also do well to find out from the top why the state administration believes that any time a voice is raised against Akpabio in public discourse; it must be Chief Edwin Igbokwe’s handiwork in collaboration with former Governor Victor Attah.

Good governance and good conscience will make unnecessary this false sense of persecution.
For emphasis, I repeat that by this press release, Mr. Udo, to whom a copy is being forwarded, is warned that any subsequent attempt to smear my family by associating us with an inflated contract or second-hand machine will be answered with appropriate legal action. He should get his facts right before speaking again to the press.

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown