By ISAAC JOB
Akwa Ibom Government has abandoned a multi million naira printing press procured by immediate past governor, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, for the state-owned newspaper corporation, The Pioneer. The Trumpet investigation revealed that the equipment worth $1.5 million was imported from Germany. But the state government led by Governor Udom Emmanuel has abandoned the printing press seven years since his administration came to power.
The printing press consists of a Supra Setter A105 otherwise known as Computer To Plate (CTP) machine and a Goss Community Press with a web offset press. It is meant to be operated by Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation (AKNC), publishers of The Pioneer.
It was learnt that the web offset press has 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 facility would have saved the state some costs and served as a commercial printing press for other newspapers among others. Findings revealed that some national dailies had already indicated interest to print their newspapers at the press especially as it would enhace their circulation and early arrival in the South South region to Uyo, the state capital.
The machines were installed and commissioned on May 28, 2015 but were not tested. They didn’t print any copy of The Pioneer on the day it was testrun by the experts brought in to manage the press and have been lying fallow, while the complex housing them have remained locked.
When our correspondent visited the printing press, it was discovered that the machines have not worked after the day they were commissioned by Akpabio, just as the government is yet to officially hand over the press to the management of the state-owned newspaper corporation.
Former General Manager of The Pioneer, Mr. Silas Udo, who was in office when the press was installed told our correspondent that the machines were neither used to print any paper nor was any member of staff trained on how to operate them. He explained that the Akwa Ibom Newspaper Corporation did not officially receive the printing press as it was never handed over to it by the supervising Ministry of Information and Strategy. According to him: “The press was never used to print The Pioneer in my time.
No Pioneer staff under me 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,”. Mr Idorenyin Umoren, the Production Manager of AKNC then, confirmed the position of Udo. He said he was a member of 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 visit to Hieldelberg, never happened.
He said they were only informed that the machines had arrived in Uyo through Onne in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and they were expected to receive them.
He said no production staffer of AKNC was trained on how to operate them. Meanwhile, Mr. Patrick Usen, the consultant who handled the project has blamed the ministry 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 would have been available at the installation and commissioning.
He questioned the manner in which the machines were received. According to him, there was no confirmation of what was received visa-vis what was sent, He disclosed that the auxillary equipment which came with the machines such as forklift, rollers and others for their smooth running were missing. “Governor Godswill Akpabio had excellent intentions for the state and The Pioneer newspaper in particular.
Unfortunately, the ministry 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 The Pioneer, that is, it has not been officially handed over by Goss Graphics to The 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 called for a technical audit of what was supplied and 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 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 lying idle. “There must be a technical audit of what was supplied, what was installed, how it was installed to 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. Efforts to speak with Mr Aniekan Umana, the then Commissioner for Information who supervised the whole process of purchasing, installing and commissioning the press were unsuccessful as he did not pick calls or respond 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 the plan never worked 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 Governor Emmanuel. In a telephone interview, the current commissioner of Information and strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong, said the state government will soon hand over the printing press to a consultant .
“Ehen i came into the office, i visited the facility and commissioned an enquiry into issues surrounding the press. We are working to reconcile all grey areas. In line with the governor’s determination to continue to achieve results in a most costeffective 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 managementt,” he said .