Abandoned $1.5 Million Rotary Press For Pioneer Newspaper, Usen Calls For Probe

By Solomon OKPO

Mr Patrick Usen, the consultant who facilitated the installation of the now abandoned Rotary Press worth $1.5 million (about 750 million naira by then) in the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation has called on government to set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the abandonment of the machine since 2015.

Usen who blames the Ministry of Information, then led by Elder Aniekan Umanah as commissioner, for the failure of the project, explained that the project did not follow the procedures necessary to set up a press.

He continued that if the machines were properly inaugurated, the representatives from Heidelberg, Goss graphics and himself, who facilated the process from the purchase and shipment would have been available at the installation and inauguration.

The consultant 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 auxillary equipment such as forklift, rollers and others which are among major equipment for the smooth running of the machines were missing.

According to him, “Governor Godswill Akpabio has excellent intentions for the state and Pioneer newspaper in particular, unfortunately, the Ministry of Information truncated the project.
“They should be held responsible, I don’t know where this inquiry should be set up to probe the issue”.
“They hurriedly put that up together and called the governor then, I think the machine collapsed that day” he said.

The consultant called for a technical audit of what was supplied, what was installed, as well as errors with the installation process so as to correct the abnormalities that have kept the machines from working.
He restated his willingness to return for a proper installation of the machines if government is willing.
Usen warned that the Supra Setter. AIOS computer-to- Press (CTP) machine may have outlived its lifespan of six years while lying idle.
The lifespan of the Goss Graphics could be up to 50 years but the CTP would last, let’s say, for between five to six years. All you need is to change parts and upgrade” he added.

The management staff of the Pioneer newspaper who preferred anonymity confided thus: ” That thing lying there was not properly tested and it did not print even one page of the Pioneer on the day it was test-run by the experts brought in to manage the press. So it has been lying fallow while the complex housing it has remained locked.
“We do not know whether the parts are complete or not. We have been awaiting its official hand-over to us for use, but it seems the government is either confused or not interested in the thing”.

This position was confirmed by the former general manager of the Pioneer newspaper, Mr Udo Silas, a strong advocate for the purchase of the press as he said that, the machines were not used by the Pioneer to print any paper, neither was any staff trained on how to operate the machines.

He continued that the Akwa Ibom newspaper Corporation , (AKNC) did not officially received the printing press as it was never handed over to the Corporation by the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Information and Strategy.

Mr Idorenyin Umoren who was then the production manager of the corporation said he was one of the members of the AKNC Rotary Press Pre-Shipment Inspection Committee announced by the state government to visit Goss Community Press company in Germany.

He however lamented that the committee was never inaugurated and the inspection to Hiedelberg in Germany never took place, adding that no production staff of AKNC was trained on how to operate the machines.

Curious enough, efforts to get the reaction of Elder Aniekan Umanah, the then commissioner for information, who supervised the whole process, proved abortive as he did not respond to calls nor text messages sent to his phone.

Comrade In Ememobong who is the present commissioner for information and strategy, in his response said when he came into office, he visited the facility and commissioned an enquiry into the issues surrounding the press.

It could be recalled that on assumption of office in 2007, the then Governor Godswill Akpabio had accused the late music artiste, Christiana Essien-Igbokwe and her husband , Edwin, of supplying a faulty printing press to the Pioneer newspaper.

Consequently, a whopping $1.5 million (about 750 million naira then) was used to purchase the assumed best and the most modern rotary machine to replace the old one which the present Pioneer management secretly sold as scrap without public bidding.

The new machines which arrived the premises of the AKNC in 2013 were installed in 2014 and the then Governor Godswill Akpabio commissioned them in the night of May 28, 2015 but the machines have been dormant till today.

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