By Isaac Job, Uyo
The Akwa Ibom state Civil Society Organisations Forum is seeking the reversal of the recent merging of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDas) by the state government.
The group said some of the merged MDAs were better off if they stood alone, adding that the merger would stifle the proper functions of such MDAs and has the potentials to disqualify the state from the support it benefits from international donor agencies.
Specifically, the group called for the reversal of the merger of the ministries of women affairs and social welfare with that of agriculture, stating that the two ministries have critical roles to play in the development of the state and cannot be merged.
Speaking on behalf of the group yesterday in Uyo, Chairman of Akwa Ibom state Civil Society Organisations Forum, Harry Udoh argued that Akwa Ibom is an agrarian state and since it sets its sight on economic diversification and industrialisation, agriculture may not receive priority if it is merged with another ministry.
He noted that the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare is the focal point of the national gender machinery in the state and the hub for gender mainstreaming across the MDAs and government programmes, and as such should stand alone.
Udoh said the merger of the ministry with another could portray the abandonment of the national gender programme and capable of destroying or relegating its social inclusion programme as it relates to children, and persons with disability, and endanger the state’s eligibility for international donor funded programmes.
He further argued that the merger of ministries poses a budget tracking problem for the 2019 state budget which has already been passed into law before the MDAs were merged.
Udoh however, commended the government for creating the ministries of labour and manpower planning, and lands and water resources, saying both ministries would address both the labour capacity deficit and tackle the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) neglect suffered in the state in time past.
“We urge the governor to effect a reversal to a stand-alone Ministry of Agriculture to give the sector the serious attention that it deserves.
“We also call for a reversal to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare as previously constituted in the interest of the important and often vulnerable constituencies under its purview who stand the risk of being undercut from the policy agenda if the merger is left to stand.
“Government should put in place clear mandates for the operations of the merged ministries as well as strategies to ensure one ministry do not eclipse the other.
“We call on government to ensure budgetary allocations to the merged ministries do not fall below what it should be if the ministries were to stand alone,” he stated.