Akwa Ibom, despite huge oil wealth, is one of the states with the highest unemployment rates in Nigeria. Employing 50 people in a single move by a lawmaker is seen as record-breaking in the state.
Mr Ukpong-Udo, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), represents Ikono/Ini Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Abuja.
He is a fresh lawmaker.
The position of the aides ranges from special assistant on special duties, community relations, community development, and logistics duties, to special assistant on women matters, protocol, and local legislative matters.
Also included are four media aides.
Members of the House of Representatives are permitted to employ only five statutory aides. Therefore, 45, out of the 50 aides, would be getting their salary and allowance from the lawmaker’s pocket.
One of the aides, Imowo Mbede, told Premium Times Wednesday that the appointment of that number of aides was the lawmaker’s way of “empowering” his constituents.
“It’s basically an empowerment thing,” said Mr Mbede, an executive assistant to Mr Ukpong-Udo.
“A good number of them are from all the wards in the two local government areas (Ikono and Ini), while others are from outside the federal constituency.”
Mr Mbede said the appointment is to run for a year, after which a new set of persons would be appointed as a replacement. All the 50 aides are said to have direct access to Mr Ukpong-Udo and are to serve as his eyes and ears in the local communities.
The announcement of the appointment in June, prompted a debate in Akwa Ibom, with some people wondering why such a large number of aides was needed.
“Ukpong-Udo is in a hurry to do good to as many persons as he possibly can,” one of the media aides to the lawmaker said in an article he wrote as a response to the criticism of the appointment.