There are a couple of things that happen through which true identity of an individual can be painted and if in politics, the mindset of the government he works for, the premium the government gives to citizens right and dignity can be established. This is so because government has no image other than the cumulative image and characters exhibited by individuals working for the government. This week, we saw irresponsibility, insensitive and rascality exhibited by Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Environment in a way that is brash and condemnable.
On Tuesday along Idoro road, the civility quotient of Prince Ikim, Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Environment Protection and Waste Management Agency was established. A trending photo of a man packing refuse back into the trunk of his saloon car surfaced on the internet posted by the Press Unit of the Agency. The claim was that the yet-to-be- identified man who was neatly dressedman, dumped his refuse at an unauthorized hour. The release said the man voilated the agency’s law which prohibits citizens from using dumpsites in the state between the hours of 6 am till 6pm. In effect, the law prohibits individuals from disposing their waste in the day time. That law is absurd ab initio, a bad law and thus, a non existent law, lawyers told the Press.
But even if there was such a law which probably could have been passed by Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly in error, can and should an officer of government authorise or watch how a man is robbed of his dignity in the most bazaar manner if the man is not one with a criminal mindset? The rule is that even when there is a law in place and that law is breached, no man except the court can interpret and punish the offender for breaching the law. Where the law is breached, it is also against the rule for an individual to be a Judge in a matter he is a party to. So, where a man had committed a breach of the law that prohibits him from disposing waste at a certain time, the right thing to do is not to compel him to pack it back to his car, that is odd and very dirty akin to what cultists do to their victims, but to either excuse him especially where he shows remorse or arrest and prosecute him in court.
Prince Ikim has demonstrated over the years that he is against the law and each time he disagrees with citizens in the course of his duty, he goes the way of the cultists- lawlessly inhuman in a way and manner that signals the Udom Emmanuel government as harsh, lawless and even brutal. Last year, it was Prince Ikim who ordered physical assault on a female journalist, Mary Ekere for recording the brutality meted on roadside traders along Ikpa road in Uyo, the State Capital. Apart from being manhandled by Ikim’s task force, her phone was smashed in a way that suggested they force was above the law. That action irked the press community in Akwa Ibom State and almost caused a stampede between the government and the Fourth Estate of the Realm. On Tuesday, there was a repeat of such brutality by the same squad led by the same Prince Ikim on an unidentified man who looked responsible and may likely be a married man. He was helpless. For fear of being assaulted by an illitrate taskforce, the man risked contacting diverse diseases when he went packing refuse he dumped back to his car. From the picture sent to the public, the man went over the dumpsite many times. His tormentors watched him with glee ofen without conscience.
We tried to speak with Prince Ikim, leader of the task force as well as Commissioner for Environment, Hon Charles Udoh who supervises works of the agency. Both men refused to pick their calls and would not answer questions sent to them regarding the incident which many who we spoke with condemned as inhuman. We had sought to know why it was better in the estimation of the ministry to subject the man to health hazard which can endanger others in the society or even help to contact and spread the dreaded Covid-19 virus instead of allowing him to go or prosecuting him as stipulated by law.
In a message we sent to Honorable Charles Udoh, Commissioner for Environment, we asked: “Good evening Honorable Commissioner. There are trending photos of a man who reportedly dumped his waste at a refuse dumpsite along Idoro road, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State Capital and was made to pack the waste back into his car trunk (with bare hands and face unprotected) by Taskforce of the Akwa Ibom State Environmental and Waste Management Agency led by Prince Ikim under the Ministry of Environment which you lead. The man purportedly used the site at a wrong time.
“How do you justify this action which is very demeaning and breaches the dignity of the person in question? Don’t you think this action of forcing the man to use his bare hands and pack from the dumpsite instead of prosecuting him if he had breached the law is extreme and condemnable?
“Below are the pictures and the notes from the Press Unit of the Ministry for your perusal. I shall wish to have your reaction to balance our news report. Thanks most respectfully.”
The message was copied Prince Ikim. However, as at the time of this report, neither the Commissioner nor the Chairman of the Waste Management Agency responded to the mail.
Governor Udom Emmanuel may soon have his Government become another terror regime in Akwa Ibom State if he does not tame the excesses and brutalities of most of his agents especially such as are coming out from Prince Ikim’s team. Government is formed to protect citizens. Protection ought to come with respecting the dignity of the citizens and never subjecting them to any form of degrading or inhuman treatments. How Prince Ikim had treated citizens especially in the two instances reported above should be a cause of worry to Akwa Ibom State Government because these excesses are landmines that can trigger mass action against the government if not checked. The Arab Spring is an example of what the public can do to a government when agents of government operate without human sympathy and conscience. Penultimate week, news filtered in that Prince Ikim was being considered as State Chairman of the PDP. That’s fine if he is the image of what PDP stands for. For a man like Ikim whose antecedents are laced with criminal allegations but favored by a government which ought to have prosecuted him for sundry offenses, wisdom should dictate decorum and moderation in all he does. Global Concord is of the view that there should be a change of attitude in how Ikim treats members of Akwa Ibom public. He has become a terror and a nightmare to most citizens he has brushed.
The Press is also of the opinion that Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly should review and amend any environmental law restricting when citizens can dispose their waste to night hours. So far as our laws allow citizens to sweep and do general cleanup anytime of the day, there should be no law restricting them from disposing waste gathered during the cleanup. Limiting time to dispose waste to only when darkness falls is equally dangerous and should be discontinued. If the House fails to do this, they shall be embarrassed anytime the law which provide covers for all the assaults will be subjected to legal test in the court. Finally, both the House and Prince Ikim should know that Lex Injustica, non est lex, a bad law is no law at all.