Isaac Job, Uyo
Gov. Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, has abandoned multi million naira printing press equipment procured by immediate past Governor Godswill Akpabio for the state owned newspaper Corporation; The Pioneer.
Investigation by Bayelsa Times revealed that the equipment worth $1.5m was imported from Germany for Daily Operations of the state-owned newspaper .
But the state government led by Gov. Udom Emmanuel had abandoned the printing press seven years into his administration in the state .
The Printing Press which consist of a Supra Setter A105 otherwise known as Computer To Plate (CTP) machine and a Goss Community Press with a web offset press, said to have been worth over $1.5 million then, was meant to be operated by the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation (AKNC), publishers of the Pioneer Newspapers.
It also learnt that the web offset press had the capacity to print 17 colour pages, 32 black and white pages of newspaper and runs 500,000 impression per hour, while the the CTP runs a resolution of 2,400 DPI.
Our Correspondent gathered that the printing press would have been able serve the state as well as serve as a commercial printing press for both national and local newspapers among others.
Further findings revealed that some National Dailies had already indicated interest to print their newspapers at the printing press, especially when it would help to enhace their circulation of papers to the South South region of the country.
Unfortunately, the machines which were installed and commissioned on May 28, 2015 but were not tested, as it never printed any copy of the Pioneer on the day it was test-run by the experts who were brought in to manage the press.
It was observed that the machines have not worked after the day they were commissioned by the former governor.
When contacted, the former General Manager of Pioneer Newspaper, Mr Silas Udo, who was in office when the press was installed told our Correspondent that the machines were not used by the Pioneer for the printing of newspapers, neither, was any member of staff trained on how to operate the machines.
He explained that the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation did not officially receive the printing press, adding that it was never handed over to the Corporation by the supervising ministry, Ministry of Information and Strategy.
According to him, the procedural process of receiving the machines was not done because the necessary checklist to ascertain what the state government paid for, and what was sent by the manufacturers was not done.
“The press was never used to print the PIONEER in my time. No Pioneer staff under my watch went for training anywhere to master the workings of the Press.
“Yes, we did not receive the press. It was a deliberate decision not to receive it as the procedural processes were not done or seen to be done. For example, the checklist to ascertain that what the government paid for, are what were sent by the manufacturers was not done.
“It would therefore have been against civil service procedure to sign a Stores Receipt Voucher (SRV). So unless this was done after I left service, the Press remained under the administration of the supervising Ministry,” he stated.
Confirming the position of Silas , Mr Idorenyin Umoren, the Production Manager of Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation then, said he was one of the committee members of the corporation Rotary Press Pre-shipment Inspection Committee announced by state government to visit Goss Community Press Company in Germany.
Umoren, however stated that the committee was not inaugurated, and the the inspection to the Goss Community Press Company in Germany, Hieldelberg, never happened.
He said they were only informed that the machines have arrived Uyo through Onne in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and they were expected to receive them, saying no production staff of Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation was trained on how to operate the machines
Meanwhile, Mr Patrick Usen, the Consultant who handled the project has blamed the Ministry of Information for the failure of the project, and called for a probe into the abandonment of the printing press.
Usen explained that the machines failed to work due to improper installation, saying the managers of the project did not follow the procedures necessary to set up a press.
He revealed that if the machines were properly commissioned, the representatives of Hieldelberg, Goss Graphics and himself, who facilitated the process from the purchase and shipment of the machines would have been available at the installation and commissioning.
He questioned the manner in which the machines were received, saying there was no confirmation of what was received vis-a-vis what was sent, adding that the auxillary equipment which came with the machines such as forklift, rollers etc which are among major equipment for the smooth running of the machines were missing.
“Gov. Godswill Akpabio had excellent intentions for the State and Pioneer Newspaper in particular. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Information truncated that project.
”They should be held responsible. I don’t know where this enquiry will end, but I think that a Commission of Enquiry should be set up to probe the issue.
“That web offset press has not been received till today by Pioneer, it has not been officially handed over by Goss Graphics to Pioneer because of the haphazard installation procedures.
” There was no adherence to good engineering practice of installation. They hurriedly put that up together and called the Governor, and I think the machine collapsed and failed there.
“There was no ink, no rolling papers, no printing plate needed to print for the governor to see. All those things were not there, and the machine collapsed that day,” he stated.
The Consultant therefore called for a technical audit of what was supplied, what was installed, and how it was installed, as well as possible errors with the installation processes so as to correct the abnormality that has kept the machines from working.
He lamented that the state government was yet to pay him his contract fee for the project, adding that he was willing to return for a proper installation of the machines if the government was willing.
He however warned that the Supra Setter A105 (Computer To Plate) machine may have to be upgraded as it may have outlived its lifespan of six years while laying idle.
“There must be a technical audit of what was supplied, what was installed, how it was installed and also find out if there were errors with the procedures of installation and realign the machine to start all over again.
“The lifespan of the Goss Graphics could be up to 50 years, but the Computer to Plate would last, let’s say for between five to six years. All you need is to change parts and upgrade,” he advised.
Unfortunately efforts to speak with Mr Aniekan Umana, who was then the Commissioner for Information who supervised the whole process of purchasing, installing and commissioning the press was not successful as he did not pick up his calls, nor responded to text messages sent to his phone.
It was gathered that the state government had talked about bringing in a Consultant to man the place but unfortunately, the plans never worked out after the immediate past Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Charles Udo visited the place and promised to take the issue of the printing press to the attention of Governor Udom Emmanuel..
In a telephone interview , the state commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong said the state government would soon handover the printing press to a consultant .
“When i came into the office, i visited the facility and commissioned an enquiry into issues surrounding the press, we are working to reconcile all gray areas. In line with the Governor’s determination to continue to achieve result in a most cost effective way, we had to open up the business to private investors who would come and manage the press.”
“Many have indicated interest and we are still considering the options. I assure you that before the exit of this administration, the press will be taken over for proper management.
Comrade Ini Ememobong, Hon. Commissioner for Information and Strategy” he said .