The news that the Ministry of Women Affairs were at Qua River Hotels to pick up children came as a surprise, but that the Hon. Commissioner for Women Affairs WEPT sounds incredible.
I truly fail to see what caused the weeping; is it the fact that she saw (not for the first time during her tenure) baby mothers, wild, haggard and hungry children or that she was eventually arm twisted by an investigative reporting to go pick up these children. The same children CRARN had written the Ministry on several occasions over the years, to rescue?
Immediately following this heroic rescue by the weeping Mrs. Thomas, she granted an interview to a certain Ata Ikiddeh. She was so full of her love for Akwa Ibom children and almost remembered she too was a mother. Pointedly, she notified him of another planned expedition, this time however, the target were children in a properly organized settlement called CRARN, on a date agreed off records. She proudly invited him to come along and see her in action. I almost thought from the foregoing, the action of the Mrs. was all about a show off, now, I know better.
I was recently involved in a high level meeting, where issues surrounding the words ‘shake up’ were constantly referred. Mrs. Eunice Thomas has suddenly realized that in a finger’s snap, four years had come and gone. With such failed grades, she would love to repeat her appointment with a promise to do better. I doubt if she has such a chance. The show of shame at CRARN on 16/5/2011 portrayed a picture of a mouse whose been overlooked by much bigger and important actions and begins to shout and wave; Me! Me! Mee!
I am over here, look at me, I am over here! Godswill Akpabio is a man a lot of people today would love to hate, this is obviously due in part to the quality people he chose to entrust responsibilities to. This Eunice Thomas is one person that quite a few people thought she might just contribute her quota. I would say in all fairness that she did- in tearing any reputation Akpabio might have had in shreds- Would any right thinking person believe that Akpabio would in his good senses order that a Rambo style attack be executed on CRARN whilst he is busy strategizing for a make or break legal battle? Even more so when a Commission which was set up to recommend lasting solutions to some hazy but lingering issues of Child witchcraft branding and stigmatization was preparing to submit her report.
Obviously not; Mrs. Thomas, wanting to tell her boss, I was busy whilst we waited, goofed, Mr. Ikiddeh watched, CRARN watched, Esit Eket watched, the children cried the whole world heard, God sighed and she has children right? The Commission of Enquiries was set up to make recommendations on how to promote the rights and welfare of all Akwa Ibom children, the weeping Tom came along to the Commission totally blank and thinking it was set up to indict CRARN.
The totally uninformed commissioner came under oath to counter everything her Directors, who have the expertise, testified to under oath. It is for instance on record, that one of her better prepared Directors gave testimony on how volunteers on home based care were trained on ‘Organic Farming’ techniques to assist them care for the children in their custody. When the” Mrs.” arrived, she swore on oath that ‘Organic Farming’ was an NGO. Can any one beat such incompetence? She even went further to state that it is possible for a Director in the Ministry not to be familiar with the budget processes in her ministry, in a desperate bid to cover up an already obvious financial impropriety. It is on record that till date, the exact number of children under the Ministries care is yet to be ascertained. The figures given by the commissioner and that of the various Directors on the actual number of children reconciled and dates are still subject to guesswork and serious conjectures. When asked, she responded with so much gusto, I want my children back. As though she had any idea how any of these children were rescued. As though she has any plans for their upkeep. As though she has any plans for their education. As though she had any place to keep them. This same Madam Thomas when queried insisted on oath that she visits the Special Children Center along IBB Avenue every weekend on the strength of such averment the Commission paid the facility an unannounced visit. It was the goriest of sights. The facility was understaffed with professionals, overstaffed with casual labourers who could not lift a broom to wash the toilets that were oozing with germs and bacteria of all kith and clime, and overflowing with children totally malnourished. How can she justify all the Millions of Naira she say the Governor disburses for the upkeep of these children? The Staffers say she brings money from her purse if the children are to visit the hospital, why would she not do so when the fund becomes hers almost at point of budgetting? You could almost weep for the Directors who were totally helpless under cross-examination.
The Commission would practically force the words 'funds constraint' from their mouth when queried why certain necessary duties could not be performed by them. They could not betray their boss, knowing fully well that all the funds have been siphoned to her private accounts. There is this talk about a brand new security village. Why the village is named ‘SECURITY’? Is it a remand facility? These children are of course not delinquent children, they are just unfortunate to be ostracized by their parents and families. One major focus here is to reintegrate these children back to the society with little or no Post Traumatic Syndrome. Is the security village the way to go? If a mother with milk in her bosom would use Children, without any care or respect for their feelings or trauma, with a view to impressing an outgoing administration for a reappointment, then we need to do better than just pray and fast. Actions need to be taken. The Children in James 1:27 orphanage in Esit Eket were in a more critical (911) situation than the CRARN children, but when she was asked why the government is not doing anything to assist James 1: 27, she responded by saying that their care givers have not gone on CNN, Aljazeera.
Clearly her focus has long not been on assisting these children but on rebranding a perceived battered image of the state. For all Eunice cares, these children if possible should be wiped off the face of Akwa Ibom, so that this matter would be put to rest. I perceive a very bad intention; an evil intention. If the contrary was the case, there would have been a proper arrangement with CRARN who has been responsible for the custody of these children, some from as early in life as 2 (two years) old. The process would have naturally begun with a one or to two weeks meeting with CRARN to reconcile data base. Then there would be need for psycho- social analysis of each child, to guide their understanding of each child, especially those with special needs, then an agreement by all parties on who should be on what batch of the transfer and to what location.
A lot of these children do not know where they come from, where they were picked from and stuff like that. Their only link to their origin is CRARN- Who cares? The security village I believe was purpose built; it was not designed for general population. If the later was the case, then the children with special needs should have been identified by the care givers. There are better women with Milk of Human Kindness who can better take care of our women and children. I make bold to call for a change. Madame Thomas has done her bid; it is time to have a real Christian heads that Ministry.
I have compiled a list of a few women who would do their best without any pretence we can start from there. Enough is enough. Anthony Ebuk Uyo Ebuk is legal practitioner in Akwa Ibom State.