By Athanasius Akarika.
Following widespread claims of an alledged manhandling of Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Environment, Dr Iniobong Essien by the Member representing Itu State Constituency in the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Idongesit Ituen, during last Saturday’s General Sanitation Exercise, recent investigations have revealed that the Itu Lawmaker, did not in any way, engage in any verbal or physical assault with the Commissioner.
According to an eye witness, who preferred anonymity, what played out at the West Itam sports Centre was a mere misunderstanding between some peaceful youths of the area and the Commissioner who had earlier ordered that they [the youths] be walked out of the pitch, claiming, the number of those cleaning up the Sports Centre, were ‘’too many.’’
Detailing the issue, the source confirmed that Hon. Ituen had on the said Saturday morning, after taking active part in the sanitation exercise, mobilized his personal aides and few youths of the area, to clean up the West Itam Sports Centre, in preparation for the match between his football academy vs Police machine by 4pm that evening.
Explaining further, the source said it was few minutes after they had rounded up the exercise, that the Commissioner and his team arrived at the venue, which was already playing host to many youths, owing to the presence of the House Member who he noted, is sports loving.
“The Member Representing Itu state constituency, Hon. Ituen being a sport loving young man, personally drove himself from his house carrying a grass cutting machine in his hilux vehicle to the sports centre. On arrival with his aides, he gathered some boys who were at the centre to sweep, handpick water sachets and personally used the grass cutting machine to clear over grown grasses, before handing over the machine to the youths who were very happy and eager to join in the excise, we were almost done when the Commissioner came.
‘’Anyone who is from Itu knows that the House Member is very close to the people, especially, the youths, and so, anytime he is around, everyone will be rushing to see him.
Narrating what happened when Dr Essien drove into the sports centre, the source said, the Commissioner who exchanged pleasantries with Hon. Ituen, asked the youths to be walked out of the field of play, claiming they were too many and that they are supposed to be working in their homes.
Another source who was part of the exercise, said the House Member who was concentrating on with some of the youths at first, did not notice that it was a Commissioner, but his attention was drawn by the youths.
“When the Hon. Commissioner came with his team, he noticed that the Hon. Member was there. As a government official seeing his fellow government man, he would have inquired of the House Member to know why he was there, instead, he ordered the boys he came with and the police to start beating and to send the boys who assisted the Hon. Member to clean the place away.
While wondering why the Commissioner was bent on forceful evacuation of the youths from the venue, the source explained that an altercation ensued when the Environment Commissioner later moved to confront the House Member.
“The Commissioner sent for the House Member, but the latter, who appeared visibly angry queried, “is it now you people see me? I am not ready to talk to anybody. I came to do sanitation with my people, ask the Director for Sport, he saw the cutting machine.”
Debunking claims that Dr Essien was beaten by Ituen, an aide to the Commissioner who did not want his name on print since he has not been authorized to speak on the issue, said, ‘’my brother, nobody touched the Commissioner, it was just a misunderstanding between the youths and the Commissioner and it was even Idongesit Ituen that came to calm down the boys who were asking the commissioner why he should send them out of the pitch that Governor Udom Emmanuel made for them, “is it wrong for us to take care of the field? They queried.
He said he was surprised to read stories on the social and print media, that the Commissioner was harassed by Hon. Ituen, and pleaded with those involved in the act to avoid politicizing issues.
When contacted on phone, Hon. Ituen explained that the allegations of him beating the commissioner were false and challenged anyone behind the claims to ask Dr Essien or anyone who was at the Sports Centre, if the Commissioner was manhandled.
Narrating what happened, Ituen explained that his Sports Academy were to play a match later in the day, he had to mobilize some boys to clean up the West Itam Sports Centre, since their former venue was not conducive.
“At about 9am, we were about rounding up but they were still using the mower to clean the place. We saw a convoy of about 11 cars drove in and I didn’t even know who drove in. I thought it could be a government official. I heard someone said the Honourable Commissioner for Environment is here and that he came to supervise the cleanup of the pitch ahead of the match that we will play there today.
‘’At this point, I discovered it was the Commissioner for Environment, I heard him say that people were too many and that they were not supposed to be at the venue. Later, he walked inside and I approached him.
‘’He said ‘Honourable Member why are they too many here?’ And I replied by saying that I don’t know most of them, especially, people in the outdoor court and handball court. I told him that the people on the pitch, are those who came to work there and he could see the mower.
‘’But surprisingly, he asked the people to walk out of the pitch. He didn’t have issues with me but the people there. The people became angry and asked, ‘you have seen an Honourable Member come to supervise cleanup exercise, why should you ask people to walk out, when we are doing sanitation?’ You know those kind of disagreement, I was even the person that finally calmed those people because they became so angry with him.
‘’ I want to stress that the Commissioner was not beaten, No body manhandled the commissioner talk less of him being in coma as circulated by some paid elements. Imagine them saying he was even in a coma, if he was, which hospital was he taken to, who resuscitated him, why has he not called a press conference to tell Akwa Ibom people this? He queried further. I want you to enquire from him. Forget the sensational stories on social media, my people love me and they know my efforts in making sure Governor Udom Emmanuel wins a second term come 2019. Why are some people paying opposition papers to write against me is what I don’t understand. The story is merely political’’, he added. Let it be known to those sponsoring the media attacks that Hon. Idongesit Ituen was with the Honourable Commissioner yesterday and the commissioner was amazed by the reports he has read online, he stated that never a time had he asked anybody to publish stories that tends to drag his name in the mud, he said he has no problem with the distinguish lawmaker. He pleaded with mischief makers to desist henceforth.
Efforts to speak with the Commissioner for Environment, Dr Iniobong Essien proved abortive, as he neither responded to his calls, or replied text messages sent to his phone.