By Ofonwuk Jimmy
The very first step towards unlocking the economic growth potential of a state or organization is to create a strategic economic vision. This, perhaps, derives its effectiveness, functionality and usefulness from the trite saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
The monumental implication of an exercise of this magnitude is to provide a guide to the Chief Executive of such institution. Therefore, any leader who fails this first litmus test could be said to be groping in the dark as the case may be. But then, pinpointing opportunities for economic growth is one thing, implementation is another.
Two years ago, when Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the Governor of Akwa Ibom state, stepped on the podium of greatness with a divine mandate, his unfaltering promise to the indigenes of the state was to unlock the potential of economic growth by creating a strategic economic vision, covering the richness, diversity and opportunities for all.
In creating economic strategy and investment plan, Gov. Emmanuel did not mince words when he stated, categorically, that the major plank of his government would be to harness developmental projects that would deliver maximum returns on investments as well as create employment opportunities for the people of the state and ginger food production. This policy direction was so vividly captured in his inaugural speech.
He stated “To transform the economy of our state via industrialization and sustain Public-Private-Sector initiative, thereby opening up opportunities for growth and improved living standards; to continuously develop, mobilize, and empower our women and the youths via planned and well-articulated welfare and capacity-building programmes; pursue the tasks of rural development and integration with all vigour, bring the benefits and dividends of our democratic governance to every nook and cranny in the state and provide basic amenities of life to all; and provide trade, commerce and tourism between Akwa Ibom and the rest of Nigeria, and in fact, the rest of the world,” among others.
So far, all of these milestones, which are encapsulated under his five point-agenda of wealth creation, economic and political inclusion, poverty alleviation, infrastructure consolidation and expansion and job creation, have been judiciously dealt within the projected period.
Gov. Emmanuel started his stewardship armed with industry intelligence and candour to arrive at where he is today. He devoted enough time to identify key economic priorities and actions that would unlock the growth potentials, ascertain the barriers to economic growth and ways of tackling them, and improve security to attract investment and enterprise to the state.
Like icing on a cake, he chooses to promote economic development through participatory, coherent, and coordinated economic policies. This, of course, has been the quality that stands him in good stead and sets him apart from his contemporaries. It is also the reason why Akwa Ibom people are reaping hugely from his investment drive.
At several fora, the governor has reiterated his commitment, saying “Our commitment to industrialization is irrevocable. We know that through industrialization, we shall re-write the Akwa Ibom story in employment and wealth creation that will pump the veins of our economy to overflowing, and take us to the highest rung of economic ascendancy.” In other words, Emmanuel’s middle name has become “Industrialization.” He dreams it, lives it and has translated it into reality.
Instructively, having achieved so much within a short period of time, there is reason to believe that the people of Akwa Ibom state were deeply altruistic when they came out en masse to support Deacon Emmanuel as governor of Akwa Ibom state in the 2015 general elections. Looking back and taking a cursory look at what plans are there for the future, there is further reason to conclude that Akwa Ibom people invested wisely by voting massively for Emmanuel to become their governor; and also, standing by him all through the legal challenge that followed his victory.
In standing by Gov. Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom people expressed their confidence in his ability and capacity to provide the roadmap for economic development, a new direction for industrialisation and growth of their state; capable of moving it away from a civil service state that was wholly dependent on government, to become a state whose future would be propelled by the private-sector working in partnership with government to bring about the much desired industrialization that would create job opportunities and also enhance the quality of life of the people.
This well-tailored focus has been the driving force behind the push by this administration to ensure that Akwa Abasi Ibom state, the only state named after God, remains relevant in the country and comity of nations. Somehow, this vision, which is very well articulated and communicated to critical stakeholders in the state and the people at large, seems to be the sole reason that almost all politicians of value, in spite of party affiliations, are throwing in their support. Indeed, it makes good economic sense to say that the new Akwa Ibom vision being championed by Governor Emmanuel is second to none in terms of priorities, relevance, and achievements.
“Mr. Industrialization” as he is fondly addressed, kick-started the implementation of his economic policies by setting up Technical Committees on Foreign Direct Investment, Ibaka Deep Seaport project, and Agriculture and Food Sufficiency. These think-tanks were designed and mandated to help actualize his vision of industrialization for the state.
Billboards that dotted the space in Akwa Ibom during Gov. Emmanuel’s electioneering campaign in 2015, promised a new industrialization policy. That policy was envisioned to drive the growth of industries in the state to meet local demand and also for export. To make things happen, the investment-driven governor, has been unrestrained in pushing the limits of hope to ensure he delivers on power generation and distribution, which would serve as the fulcrum upon which the greater Akwa Ibom industrial growth would be built.
Emmanuel has pursued this with vigour and achieved the licensing of the upgraded Ibom Power from 190mw to 685mw. The import of this is that with the phase two of the Ibom power plant project hitting 685mw, the state government’s industrialisation policy is backed with adequate provision of power. Taking it together, the implication is that the Ikot Abasi axis of the state is open for industrial and agro parks with capacity to generate, and deliver to the people, up to 5,000 jobs. This is unprecedented in the history of the state especially in a country with high rate of unemployment.
With this, Governor Emmanuel’s vision to achieve the Ibaka Deep Seaport, and cargo handling capacity of the Uyo International Airport, becomes a boost to the quest by Akwa Ibom people to have their state play a strategic role in the nation’s economy as an economic hub. The deep sea project is boosted by the construction of a dedicated 36.7km super highway that runs from Ukpenekan in Ibeno Local Government area and through Esit Ekid and Mbo. It is designed to be a 12-lane highway (six on either side) with a rail line running between. If things work as planned, this would, definitely, take the shine off Lagos.
The Ibaka port complex falls within the Ibom Industrial City and is designed to have between three and four jetties stretching from Mbo to Ikot Abasi with facilities for drafts, ocean access and ancillary services that would boost job opportunities. Those who have had the opportunity to visit the area would discover that strategic investments like the mega ocean terminal, being piloted by Port Nortel, has advanced steadily without constraint.
Already, the creation of industrial parks in the Ikot Abasi economic belt has led to an upsurge in the growth of businesses, which are involved in manufacturing and packaging. This growth answers to the need for more jobs. For instance, the Peacock Paints factory comes to focus as not only an ordinary factory for paint manufacture, but one with special capacity for anti-corrosive industrial paints, which are a necessity in the maritime industry. Alongside, Mr. Emmanuel has established an automobile assembly plant at Itu as well as the Blue Marine LED factory at Ikot Ebom Itam, also in Itu Local Government Area.
At the moment, Akwa Ibom is responding positively to the regular criticism of Nigeria importing toothpicks from China and, in doing so, is wiping shame off the faces of Nigerians who bear the shame of their country importing toothpicks from neighbouring countries. The Toothpick and Pencil manufacturing plant springing up in the state is a boost to the vision of eliminating toothpicks and pencils from Nigeria’s import list. It also boosts federal government’s vision on pencil manufacture locally. For instance, the AKEES’ Toothpick and Pencil factory located along the Uyo-Etinan road at Ekom Iman, in Etinan Local Government Area of the state, has capacity to produce 20,000 pencils in just eight hours. It also produces 50,000 kilograms of toothpick in one week. So far, it is the only state that has made investments in this regard.
With the vigorous pursuit of his administration’s industrialization policy, the kind-hearted governor is driving transformation in agriculture with massive interest already shown by the people in the cultivation of cassava, tomatoes, water melon, among others. Also, there are businesses springing up within the state, which are ready to mop up the cassava and process them for local consumption and export.
But one massive project, the first of its kind in Nigeria, which Emmanuel is passionate about and pursuing it with all the energy he can muster, is his vision for a Coconut Oil Refinery in the state. It is a major boost to the industrialization agenda of the state government. The plantation stretches over 11, 000 hectares of land across Ikot Abasi, Mkpat Enin, and Eastern Obolo communities.
Speaking to journalists on the coconut refinery, Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Etekamba Umoren, who commended the initiative of the Governor said that the coconut refining technology would also be deployed in palm kernel oil refining. “It is a multi-faceted technology that would refine both coconut oil and palm oil. The technology will be the cool press, not the hot, which is even more expensive than the hot press. This is very spectacular as there is no such plant currently in Nigeria.” That’s the stuff the Akwa Ibom industrial revolution is made of.
Gradually, coconut oil has gained world acclaim for its health benefits and usages. On the international market, it is priced higher than crude oil. Gov. Emmanuel as an investment banker understands this quite well.
– Jimmy wrote from Uyo
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