At a time when many thought they had seen the height of dividends of democracy and good governance in Akwa Ibom State, governor Udom Emmanuel, has succeeded in raising the bar with his performance in the last three years. BERNARD TOLANI DADA (Uyo) writes.
Call it the Dubai of Nigeria you wouldn’t be wrong as Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, stands tall in development strides over the last decades. Not resting on its enviable position as Nigeria’s fastest developing state, governor Udom Emmanuel, has raised the bar far beyond what his competitors will ever imagine in just three years in office.
Over the last three years, since he took over the mantle of leadership, governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, has proven himself to be not just talented in the management of men and resources, but also a focused leader with capacities for great accomplishment.
During the electioneering campaign that brought him into office as the governor, he made several promises and commitment to the people, which became part of his five points agenda- wealth and job creation through massive industrialisation, poverty alleviation, economic and political inclusion, infrastructural consolidation and expansion.
Governor Emmanuel said that his election would mark the beginning of new hope and unity in the state. His administration, in the past three years, without gainsaying, has made great strides in virtually all sectors in line with his determination to fulfill his campaign promises.
Industrialisation: One sector which Emmanuel’s administration has become synonymous with is the area of industrialisation. For him, industrialising is the magic wand if the oil rich state is be to repositioned.
The governor made it clear that the plank of his governance would be the industrialisation of a state that has remained largely a civil service state. Perhaps drawing from his private sector experience as an investment banker, Governor Udom has created within a short period of his leadership, oases of industries which have brought Foreign Direct Iinvestment (FDI) to the state, created thousands of direct and ancillary jobs and improved the skills set of the people.
A few examples would suffice here. Hitherto moribund industries such as the Peacock Paint Factory at Etnan local government area of the state has been resuscitated and now in full operation; Pencil and Toot Picks Factory at Ekom Iman, Fertilizer Blending Plant at Abak, a syringe manufacturing company, the biggest in Africa commissioned by the vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo in Onna.
It is worthy of note that the syringe company has the capacity to produce a billion a year. Also commissioned by the vice president was a Metering Solutions company, which will ensure electricity companies bill Nigerians accurately. Recently, the Port Harcourt Power Holding Electricity Distribution (PHED) and some others in the Niger Delta region ordered over one million meters from the company.
Jobs are being created, so also are economies of scale built around these industries, all of which put money in the hands of the people. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently reported that Akwa Ibom State enjoys the second largest in flow of direct foreign investments after Lagos.
Education: The education sector in Akwa Ibom State is well footed owing to the free, compulsory and qualitative education scheme where the cost of education in primary and secondary schools are free.
This explains the commitment of governor Udom Emmanuel to achieving a globally competitive workforce, in a world that is increasingly being shaped by science and technology. There are over 1401 public primary, secondary and technical schools, 895 private nursery, primary and secondary schools and four tertiary institutions, which government ensures compliance with the curriculum, education policies and world best practices.
In the same vein, the government has set up ICT laboratories in some of the public and private schools, the education sector has witnessed great improvement under the leadership of governor Emmanuel.
Speaking on the development in the state, commissioner for Education, Prof Victor Inoka said that the free and compulsory education programme gives every child of school age resident in Akwa Ibom, regardless of state of origin, access to qualitative education from primary to senior secondary school level.
In addition to free tuition, the state pays a subvention of N100 per primary school pupil and N300 per secondary school student per term to cater for logistics with over 1,500,000 students’ enrolments in public schools tripled since the introduction of the programme.
To add quality to the free and compulsory education according to Inoka, government has also created a more conducive learning environment through massive rehabilitation and reconstruction of school blocks, provision of science and laboratory equipment, construction of hostels and supply of desks in the 31 LGAs in the state.
He explained that to ensure that final year secondary school students are not constrained by lack of money, the government undertakes payment of WASSCE fees for all students in public secondary schools. This also includes payment of NABTEB fees for all students in public technical colleges and also provision of funds for laboratory reagents for practical examinations.
Under governor Emmanuel, the Akwa Ibom State government has ensured prompt payment of primary and secondary school teachers’ salaries despite the economic situation while also providing subvention for the payment of newly recruited staff of Akwa Ibom State University.
“Governor Udom Emmanuel has provided counter part funding to access UBEC fund for over 300 projects across schools in our state. ICT has been boosted with the commissioning of two ICT centres at Government Technical School, Ewet and Topfaith Int’l School, Mkpatak while releasing 250 laptops and computers to various other schools.
“Beyond the basic level, scholarships and grants are still ongoing (like that for law and Medical students) 30 Akwa Ibomites recently returned from a government sponsored Master’s programme on ICT. The governor has provided subvention for the payment of newly recruited staff of the Akwa Ibom State University,” he stated.
The governor has also ensured the provision of an enabling environment to motivate the teachers, pupils and students for optimal performance and output as well as attract investors to boost the sector.
His achievements, in addition to the ongoing free and compulsory education policy for all children in the state, from primary school to the senior secondary school level include; consultations with stakeholders in public and private tertiary institutions, to streamline, re-position and stabilise the school system; prompt payment of teachers’ salaries; training of principals and teachers on new educational curriculum; teaching methodologies; dialogue with Unions in the state tertiary institutions to stem labour unrest, signing of Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU) with Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) with specific mandate to promote widespread availability and usage of telecommunication and ICT services in the state plus promotions, conversions and confirmation for deserving teaching and non-teaching staff.
Every child means everything to the Akwa Ibom State government and for the governor; every child must be equipped for future challenges and relevance. Governor Emmanuel believes that those who have come to hold important positions in public offices and in the corporate world are products of this public system. Consequently, he has made huge financial and human capital investments in schools beyond just regular obligations.
Road Infrastructure: In the past three years, Governor Emmanuel has constructed over 1,700 kilometers of roads across the state.
The state commissioner for Works, Mr Ephraim Inyangeyen, told newsmen while undertaken an inspection of some of the new roads under construction that many of the roads were federal government roads, which it had not rehabilitated.
“I want to say that, Governor Udom Emmanuel has done more roads than the Federal Government of Nigeria in the last three years. And I challenge anyone to come with a data contrary to what I have, and we would be able to sit with him in public and add up the figures.
“I believe that every road in this state belongs to Akwa Ibom State government, previously constructed by the government of former governor Godswill Akpabio. Federal Government has not paid a dime, and the state government solely funds the one we are currently trying to complete, the Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road, which we took over from the previous administration.
“So, in Akwa Ibom State, virtually all our roads are constructed and maintained by the state, exclusively.”
Inyangeyen said 27 out of the 31 local government areas have been covered, even as he said the state has set out modalities to touch the remaining four before the end of its first tenure in office.
Agriculture and Food Sufficiency: Government does not treat this sector of the state economy lightly. The objective is to ensure food sufficiency and security as well as diversify from petro dollar to an agro based economy.
To this end, as part of the private sector-led investment drive of the state government, an investor is embarking on a multi-billion-naira Coconut Refinery project in the state which will soon be commissioned with a capacity to employ more than 5000 people directly and indirectly. As part of the agricultural value-chain and backward integration to service the Coconut Refinery with raw input from local farmers, the state had embarked on the cultivation of 11,000 hectares of Coconut Plantation.
To also diversify the economy of the state to wean Nigeria from reliance on oil, the Akwa Ibom State government has registered 4,920 rice farmers in the state who are producing rice for local consumption and sales to other parts of Nigeria and the West Coast.
The state is also boosting its comparative advantage in growing Cassava with the cultivation of at least 1,450 hectares of Cassava Plantation in five local governments. Animal production and husbandry are also part of the overall agricultural policy of the Udom Emmanuel-led administration.
To ensure that the state is self sufficient in dairy and meat production, the administration of Governor Emmanuel imported over 200 highbred cows from Mexico, the cows are currently at Uruan.
Dr Uduak Udo Nyang, the state commissioner for Agriculture said that the Government Green House, along the Ibom airport has been producing vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers that were not grown in the state. Government has established 22 hectares of improved cocoa plantation in six LGAs namely, Ini, Essien Udim, Mkpat Enin, Ikono, Abak and Ukanafun. In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, government commenced the sale of oil palm seedlings at a subsidised rate of N180 each to farmers in August 2015
Mr Charles Udo, the commissioner for Information and Strategy, while addressing Journalists in Uyo said Akwa Ibom State, is known to have one of the best flavours of cocoa in the country. “That is why Governor Udom Emmanuel has resuscitated cocoa production through the establishment of Cocoa Development Committee chaired by the deputy governor, Mr Moses Ekpo. He also flagged off the Cocoa Maintenance Scheme to improve the yield of cocoa from the present 300kg/ha to 1,500kg/ha between 2016 and 2019.
“Governor Emmanuel has provided support for 8,200 cocoa farmers to cultivate 30,000 hectares of Cocoa. He has trained 480 youths on Cocoa Maintenance Scheme. Experts have been brought in to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and the technical committee to teach Cocoa farmers conventional agronomic practices to improve cultivation of cocoa in the state to earn foreign exchange.”
He explained that apart from cocoa, 6,000 hectares of land has been designated for the cultivation of cassava. There are cassava multiplication farms in Ikot Okudom in Eket LGA, Ikot Ekan in Abak and Ishiet Ekim in Uruan to teach cluster groups best practices in cassava production.
The government has approved counterpart funds for FADAMA 111 Programme. Under this programme, cassava is targeted for cultivation annually between 2016 and 2019. The state is expected to cultivate 6,000ha of cassava in 2019 thereby moving the present cluster to core status.
“In addition, I have approved the establishment of three new cassava processing factories in the three senatorial districts in the state namely: Ibesikpo Asutan LGA (Nung Udoe, Eket LGA (Ikot Okudom) and Abak LGA (Ikot Ekang). This will reduce the cost of processing cassava into other derivatives such as fofo, garrison, and pallets as well as their prices significantly. Governor Emmanuel has approved the reactivation and management of the defunct state premier fisheries at Obio Eket, Nsit Ubium by Merlot Anny Limited.
“To put an end to capital flight from the state, an ultra-modern poultry hatchery complex, which will produce at least 520-day old chicks per day, has commenced operation at Mbiaya in Uruan. The hatchery, which comprises a feed mill and a breeder farm, had commenced production. It is expected that the hatchery will attain its full production capacity of 520,000-day-old chicks per week,” he said.
Manpower Development and Workers Welfare: Workers in Akwa Ibom have reason to rejoice as the state government has ensured prompt payment of their salaries and wages despite the current economic downturn and release of backlog of promotions within the civil service
Rural Development: With over 70 per cent of the state’s populace dwelling in the rural areas, government has vigorously tackled rural development, to make life meaningful to them. Government investment in that area by reconstruction/rehabilitation of PHCN Electricity facilities along Ikot Ekparo village, Ikot Abai village, Ekpuk village and part of Nyaodiong village in Mkpat Enin LGA and provision of one 300 KVA sub station to supply electricity for effective water supply to adjoining offices at Wellington Bassey Barracks– Ibagwa, Abak LGA.
Traditional Institutions: The Akwa Ibom State government, in fulfilment of his promises to better the lot of traditional rulers in the state, ensured regular payment of stipends to traditional rulers and issued certificate of recognition to several of them. They include: Two paramount rulers; 17 clan heads; and 115 village heads.
He also performed the swearing-in of the 28th chairman, State Council Of Chiefs, Dr Effiong Bassey Archianga, Akwaha Owong Ibeno of Ibeno local government.
Power Sector: Power and energy are very critical to industrialisation particularly and for the overall development of any society. Hardly can any sector of the economy grow without power. And so, in his quest to ensure that Akwa Ibom State becomes an industrial hub in the Gulf of Guinea, governor Emmanuel vigorously tackled Power generation in the state to boost commercial and domestic activities.
In the last three years, there has been significant improvement in power in the state. Electricity has improved tremendously in the state and several communities such as those in Okobo and Eastern Obolo, now enjoy regular electricity. License has also been acquired for the generation of an additional 495 megawatts of power.
The state’s Independent Power Plant (IPP) is generating more than 150 megawatts of electricity in the country. In communities where the rate of vandalism is low; electricity supply is constant on the average of 18 hours to 20 hours daily.
The state government has deployed more than 600 transformers and over four electricity sub stations have been built to alleviate the suffering of the people in areas where electricity installation has been vandalised. The state government is building a second power turbine to supply five local government areas along coastal areas with electricity. The state government is also building two sub stations in Uyo to improve electricity in the state capital.
Culture and Tourism: With tourism as the fastest growing economy globally, the Udom Emmanuel government is not relenting in boosting the sub sector to attract investors and tourists. This has yielded tremendous results according to state commissioner for Culture and Tourisim, Victor Antai. The state came second position in the overall competitive performance at that event, which had as its theme; “Exploring the Goldmine Inherent in Nigerian Creative Industries”.
He said the state also emerged best overall participating state at the Arts and Culture Exhibition (AFAC Expo) 2015, held in Abuja.
Nevertheless, in the past three years, Governor Emmanuel who, in spite of the nation’s dwindling economic fortune, has steadily ensured that the finances of the state are in good shape, has demonstrated sufficient passion and political level headedness to reposition key sectors of Akwa Ibom economy.
He has demonstrated his commitment to careful spending by tackling the tough challenges of governing the state, with relentless positive action to ensure that the number one oil rich state of Akwa Ibom is well repositioned for better tomorrow.
Youths and Sports: The administration of Governor Emmanuel has devised many creative strategies to make youths to be relevant in a competitive world. As he stepped into office, he set in motion several training programmes to ensure their employability beginning with the 1000 sons and daughters of Akwa Ibom State that are on a state government training on Oracle Database Management.
Another 200 have also completed power sector training in Abuja. That power sector training was designed to equip the trainees with basic skills involved in power generation, distribution and maintenance. 100 youths have undergone a special programme on mechanised farming in Israel, which was strategically factored into the annual pilgrimage.
He had since floated a scheme tagged the Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme, where young entrepreneurs are encouraged to be self-reliant, employing different combined methods like the franchise, common facility and business incubation system to address unemployment.
Governor Emmanuel, places very high premium on education and skills development as both are pivotal to human capacity development.
It is heart warming that the governor also sees sports as a window of opportunity to unlock hidden treasures for the younger generation said Ekerete Udo, the chief press secretary to the governor while exchanging views with LEADERSHIP Sunday last week.
He said in 2015, the governor sat at breakfast with the management and players of our state owned team. He charged them to write the name of Akwa Ibom State on the national sporting map.
He followed them all the way until we broke a 20-year-old jinx. We won our first national football trophy at club level when Akwa United won the 2016 Federations Cup and qualified to play at the continental level.
Akwa Ibom State is taking sports back to schools and to further develop sporting talents in the state, Governor Emmanuel is building 10 sports centres in the 10 federal constituencies in the state. He commissioned the first one few weeks ago at West Itam Secondary School, Itu LGA.
The second sports centre at Ikot Mbong, Onna is at advanced stage. He is running a youth-friendly government, and he knows that unemployment is the major scourge of the youths. He is designing more plans to provide opportunities for youths and give them employment.
It is the governor’s belief that the youths should earn a living through the works of their hands as opposed to begging for a living. In the same vein, he has set up loan schemes for small-scale businesses, especially for our women among many other achievements.
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