Akwa Ibom government abandons $1.5m AKNC Rotary Press

Seven years after acquiring and installing a Rotary Press worth over $1.5 million, the Akwa Ibom State government seems to have abandoned the same without putting it to use after commissioning.

Commissioned in the last days of the immediate past governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio in 2019, the verified report revealed that the management of The Pioneer, the state newspaper company that is to use the equipment, has not officially taken over the machine from the state government.

The Press, it was gathered consisted 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 at the time, was meant to be operated by the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation (AKNC), publishers of The Pioneer Newspapers.

The web offset press according to findings had the capacity to print 17 colour pages, 32 black and white pages of the newspaper, and runs 500,000 impressions per hour, while the CTP runs a resolution of 2,400 DPI.

It was further gathered that the new equipment was to facilitate the printing of Pioneer, the state-owned newspaper in the state at a minimal cost as well as serve as a commercial printing press for other tabloids, books, and sundry printing jobs.

Findings revealed as well that some national dailies had already indicated interest to print their products at the press especially as it would enhance circulation and the early arrival of the papers in the South-South region to Uyo, the state capital.

Unfortunately, the machines which were installed and commissioned on May 28, 2015, have been lying dormant, while the complex housing them has remained locked.

The report reveals that aside from the test-run carried out by the technician hired to manage the press, the machines have not worked after the day it was commissioned by Godswill Akpabio, even as the government is yet to officially hand over the press to the management of AKNC.

The former General Manager of Pioneer Newspaper, Mr Silas Udo who was in office when the press was installed, said the machines were not used by the Pioneer to print any paper, and nor was any member of staff trained on how to operate the machines.

Udo stated that the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation did not officially receive the printing press as it was never handed over to the Corporation by the supervising ministry, the Ministry of Information and Strategy.

According to him, the official procedure 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 what the government paid for, is what was sent by the manufacturers was not done.

Confirming the position of the GM at the time of installing the press, Mr Idorenyin Umoren, the Production Manager of AKNC at the time said he was one of the committee members of the AKNC Rotary Press Pre-shipment Inspection Committee announced by the state government to visit Goss Community Press Company in Germany.

Umoren however stated that the committee was not inaugurated, and the inspection of the Goss Community Press Company in Germany, Heidelberg, never happened.

He said they were only informed that the machines have arrived in Uyo through Onne in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and they were expected to receive them, saying no production staff of AKNC was trained on how to operate the machines.

Efforts to speak with Mr Aniekan Umana, who was the Commissioner for Information then and doubled as the supervising ministry on the process of purchasing, installing, and commissioning of the press were unsuccessful as he did not pick up his calls, nor responded to text messages.

Explaining the position of the current government on the subject matter, the incumbent Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong said, “When I came into the office, I visited the facility and commissioned an inquiry into issues surrounding the press, we are working to reconcile all gray areas.

“In line with the Governor’s determination to continue to achieve results 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”, he said.

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