-Yakurr 2 Constituency: A Chat with Right Hon. Eteng Jones Williams (Part 1)-
It may sound strange and dishonorable to the people of Yakurr 2 constituency in Cross River State, if I address Right Honourable Eteng Jones Williams, their representative in the Cross River State House of Assembly as “Ludovico Ariosto”. But I respect the people of that constituency and can never perceive them as less than honorable.
I have been addressing Eteng either as “Ludovico” or “Ariosto”, since we became bosom friends, more than two decades ago. That is how he addresses me too. Eteng and I also address Viktor Necus-Agba, another bosom friend of ours, with either or both of that name. Viktor addresses us so, too. We gave that name to ourselves after receiving a lecture on Roman Literature in our second year in the University of Calabar, where we were classmates in the Department of Theatre Arts, during our undergraduate years.
Ludovico Ariosto was an Italian poet. Somehow, his name sounded funny to our teenage ears. The more we repeated that name and made fun of it during our revisions, the more we recalled our lessons on epic poetry. When we stuck together as an inseparable trio in school, our classmates and other friends started referring to us as “the Ludo brothers”. Time has not changed that bond.
In life, some memories never fade. One of such unforgettable memories in my life is the memory of my first ride in a Santana car. That was sometime in 1991, when Eteng Jones’ elder brother visited him in school, from Lagos. He conveyed Eteng, Viktor and I in that car from the students’ residential area in the University of Calabar known as Malabor, to our department in the main campus of the university.
Although it was an air-conditioned car, we were so excited about that ride that we kept wounding down the car’s tight glasses to wave excitedly at the people we knew, on the route to our department. We needed to ensure that everyone saw that we were “enjoying” a good ride! These days, nobody looks twice at a Santana. But it was posh and highly coveted, at that time. Nowadays, each time I see Eteng riding in cars that look as good or even better than the car that gave us a wild frenzy at that time, I get reminded of our boyish and innocent past.
Anyway, Right Honourable Eteng Williams Jones is currently serving a second term as Yakurr 2 constituency’s representative in the Cross River State House of Assembly. He is Chairman of the House of Assembly’s Committee on Finance and Appropriation, as well as Adviser to Speaker of the House. LinCornellah’s blog felt obliged to interview him not about friendship, but about his work as a representative of his people. This arose from this blog’s desire to use this medium as a channel of communication between leaders and the citizenry, as constantly as possible.
Please read on:
What was your background, before you got elected into the Cross River State House of Assembly?
Hon Eteng: I come from a humble background and worked in a family company called Jones Tech International, in Lagos. We are in the oil and gas industry. My elder brother (Eno Williams) is the company’s Chief Executive Officer. I worked there for fifteen years. I had never worked anywhere else, except there. I had been invited severally to come and salvage situations here but I felt the time was not ripe for it. Each time they called on me, my elder brother would say ‘no’ and I would say ‘no’. But all of a sudden, my mum said ‘no you have to go when there is need. You must go and serve your people’.
Equally, I needed to carve a niche for myself as a person. I had lived all my life working in my family’s company and I said ‘no, people might not know me well back in my state. I need to do something that people would know me’. Maybe when I finish, I would still go back to my family’s company. But for now, I need to do something that my children would say ‘yes my father did this or my father did that’. I didn’t want a situation where just like my children, most people didn’t even understand what I was doing and they felt that everything I did and achieved, originates from my elder brother. Nevertheless, I give credit to him because I have never seen a brother like that who would give his younger one such an opportunity to express himself. He is a man that didn’t spoil me, yet gave me the best opportunities in life. He keeps pushing me to aim higher.
How right is it for the public to regard your elder brother as your godfather?
Hon Eteng: I would call him a godfather. I would also say that for me, a godfather is a man that supports you and gives you opportunities to leverage on. But I would also give credit to Right Honourable Bassey Eko Ewa, member representing my constituency in the Federal House of Representatives. He insisted that I must come down to play politics with him. I heeded his summon and here I am.
How has your experience in politics been so far, compared with your experience in your family’s business?
Hon Eteng: My background gives me a good opportunity to express myself. I thank God for it. In everything I do, I always give glory to God because of the opportunity He gave to me before now. The oil and gas industry is a different departure from what I am doing today. It is just like my first degree in Theatre Arts which is completely different from what I was doing in the oil and gas sector. In life, experience really counts. My background shapes my opinion on most bills and motions in the House of Assembly. That background also gives me the believe that there is nothing that is impossible. With God, all things are possible. Your determination also helps you to achieve whatever you want to achieve.
For instance, the issue of giving alms to people is something I started before I got elected into the House. A lot of people benefited from my scholarship. If you go to my village, they would tell you this. I featured as guest in a radio phone – in – program sometime ago when more than five people called and were announcing to the public that I saw them through their educational pursuits. I don’t even know some of them. Alms giving has always been part of me.
I have lived all my life working for people. I don’t have anything that you call my own. I have worked for people to satisfy them. If you go to the Cross-River State House of Assembly Quarters, you don’t need to ask about my house. Just move round. Where you see so many people, is my house. Go to the office, ask any House of Assembly member or a staff, they will just tell you, ‘check where you see people’. That is where you will find me. So, for me, it has been my life all through even before I came to the House of Assembly. I don’t even look at my constituency as my focus. First, I look at Yakurr as a whole, then Cross River and the rest of Nigeria.
What contributions have you made in the House of Assembly, in terms of motions and bills that impart on your constituency and the rest of Cross River State?
Hon Eteng: Having already sponsored more than eleven bills, I currently rank among the best in the House of Assembly. I mean, private member bills. In this state, we are currently talking of Neighbourhood Watch or Homeland Security. It emerged from my bill. The Greater Calabar is also an outcome of my bill. A lot of bills passed through me. I do a lot of research. When I got elected, I knew there are several anomalies in the system. Even the Internal Revenue Administration Law came from me. That law gives the Internal Revenue organ, quasi autonomy to perform.
In the House of Assembly, I am ranked the best for reports of a committee. The Finance and Appropriation Committee which I head, has over twenty eight (28) reports. This is unprecedented. Our input on the tax exemption law is effective and exemplary. Just some days ago, I had to remind the State Governor about what the law says in response to all these double taxation and the rest of such anomalies.
For me, we have to work and ensure that our people have good governance. The people should feel positive impacts from us as their representatives. When you talk of double taxation, we have come up with a law that before every levy, the Commissioner of Finance must lay before the House for us to debate on. There is this issue of conflict in taxes and the rest. I am doing a review and also calling MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) because we need to restructure. There are over fifty (50) MDAs and some of them are not supposed to collect tax but they seem to be doing so. In the next one or two weeks, there would be a report on that.
Some of the MDAs that are not supposed to collect tax would be identified. I give you an example. There are some of them that have no business going to the market to ask for levy. The Maize Board and the rest of them. Again, if you are a Consumer Protection Board, you should protect. It is not your duty to collect levy. If you see an expired drug, why should you collect levy for that?
There are so many agencies that are extorting money from people. When the Governor says that he is not going to tax people above their limits and he is talking about people not going to bed with hunger, then when you do such things, you are spoiling the Governor’s good intentions. For some of us that worked to ensure the success of this government, we must go all out to ensure that we structure and strengthen all those things. I am at the forefront of that quest for success.
(To be continued on – Part 2)
- Cornelius Ellah
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