At this point in the history and political life of Akwa Ibom State, one cannot but agree with Late General Sani Abacha when he labeled the State “Land of Promise”. Akwa Ibom state since its creation has truly been a land of promise. It had the right vegetation and resources (both natural and human) to see it rival states like Lagos and Rivers, and also the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
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Ever since its creation in 1987 by the Babangida regime, Akwa Ibom has never had it this good, or close to fulfilling its potentials as it does under the stewardship of Governor Emmanuel Udom. On his assumption of office on May 29 2015, and being faced with huge debt burden and contractual obligations, many were pessimistic about purposeful and impactful governance. He (Emmanuel Udom) truly hit the ground running, and three (3) years down the line, one can say he has lived up to most if not all his campaign promises to the good people of Akwa Ibom state.
In a bid to buttress my point, I will avail you of an excerpt of his speech in his swearing-in on May 29 2015, and a verifiable list of achievements on ground. You will all agree with me that he has indeed lived up to his words and promises. In his inauguration speech,he promised to continuously develop mobilize, and empower women and the youths via planned and well-articulated welfare and capacity-building programmes.
In a bid to achieve this, he introduced compulsory basic education in public schools, take-over of seven(7) community secondary schools, construction and renovation of sixty-two(62) school blocks, Strategic interventions in tertiary institutions (roads, equipment, academic blocks, etc), Procurement and distribution of free textbooks and other educational materials, Subventions to public primary and secondary schools, Over N600 million WAEC fees for indigenes in public secondary schools annually, Upgrading of Akwa Ibom state college of Arts & Science, Nung Ukim, Ikono to College of Science and Technology.
He further demonstrated his commitment to this by ensuring over 20,000 youths were trained in various skills. There is an ongoing construction of ten (10) Modern Sports Centres to combat youth restiveness and a two billion naira (N2bn) interest free loan for small scale entrepreneurs and traders.
A social welfare program was initiated in which over Eight Hundred (800) Orphans and less privileged children are catered for in five (5) Government Homes. viz: Special Children’s Home, Uyo; Divine Children’s Home, Uyo; Correctional Centre, Uyo; Shelter Afrique Transit Camp, Uyo; Government Children’s Home, Ikot Ekpene.
Some of them are presently in higher institutions. Under the social welfare scheme, there was a provision of Two hundred thousand naira (N200,000.00) grant each for about 500 women organizations across the 31 LGAs to enable them leverage on the public-partnership Initiative of the State Government and another provision of N50,000.00 grant each and wrappers for about 600 widows across the 31 LGAs to boost their businesses and alleviate poverty and lastly, a provision of N50,000.00 each and wrappers as well as food item for about 350 mothers with multiple births across the 31 LGAs.
In the said speech, he promised to give all Akwa Ibom persons (both within Nigeria and the Diaspora) a proud sense of belonging-built on good governance, economic advancement and due respect for the Fundamental Human Rights of all. No doubt, his Dakkada ideological campaign strongly connects these initiatives.
I recall he also promised to pursue the task 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 ensure Accountability and Transparency in government by fighting and tackling corruption in all facets of our Administration.
He went further by pledging to provide trade, commerce and tourism between Akwa Ibom and the rest of Nigeria, and in fact, the rest of the world, and also to foster, develop, and maintain a good working relationship with both the legislative and the Judiciary arms of Government in the state, as well as ensuring an effective Local Government Administration for grassroots development, mobilization and empowerment.
In furtherance of delivering on his campaign promises, Governor Emmanuel Udom embarked on improvement of existing infrastructure by constructing and carried out repair works when needed on over 1700km of roads and thirty-five (35) bridges. He also constructed the second (2nd) Airport Runway and upgraded the Airport main runway to category 2. It is noteworthy to state that these efforts made Akwa Ibom State the only state in Nigeria to independently own and maintain an airport.
Under his ongoing administration, he saw to the completion of the State Secretariat Annex. Emmanuel Udom promised immediate diversification of the economy of the state, and this went about with so much commitment. He initiated a massive industrialization agenda for the state which brought about the establishment of Syringe Manufacturing Factory (Largest in Africa), Pencil Factory & Toothpick factory, Electric Digital Metering Solutions Manufacturing Factory, and resuscitation of Peacock Paint Industry.
The Flour Mills and Coconut Refinery, Ibom Deep Seaport, Ibom Industrial Park/ Jetty, Plastic Manufacturing Factory and Fertilizer Blending Factory are ongoing projects in the economic diversification agenda of the Governor.
There is also a lot of governmental effort in the agricultural sector of the State’s economy by the Emmanuel Udom-led administration. This is not only part of the economic diversification agenda, but also to serve as youth empowerment. To achieve this, the under-listed projects and policies were implemented or executed, and in some instance; will be implemented. 11,000 hectares coconut plantation; 1,600 hectares cassava plantation in 15 LGAs (FADAMA), Registration of 4,920 rice farmers in the state. 450 youths trained on cocoa maintenance, subsidized fertilizers, oil palm & cocoa seedlings, Akwa Prime Hatchery – 10,000 day old chicks weekly, Free Improved Corn seedlings, Construction of Vegetable Green houses, Cultivation of 100 hectares of rice farm, Cultivation of about 2,100 hectares of cassava in partnership with World Bank under FADAMA III.
Additional Financing Project, using farmers’ co-operatives, ongoing construction of 33No. Cassava Micro-Processing Mills, Training of 300 youths under the Graduate Unemployment Youth Scheme (GUYS. Each will be empowered with one million naira to embark on any agricultural enterprise. Over 150 youths employed and over 85 businesses have been created or reinforced through the Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES). Construction of 1No. Tractor Hiring Enterprise (AEHE) Centre, with 4 No. tractors, and 14 No. implements delivered. So far 75ha of farmland has been ploughed, harrowed and ridged through the Centre. Refurbishing of Cassava Processing Factories located at Ikot Okudom, Eket LGA; Nung Udoe, Ibesikpo/Asutan LGA and Ikot Ekang in Abak LGA which was leased to private operators for the production of high quality garri, odorless foofoo and cassava flour. Procurement of 600,000 bags of fertilizer to farmers in the State. Planting of 500 citrus seedlings, 600 hybrids plantain suckers and 1,000 pineapple suckers at the Horticulture Garden, Wellington Bassey Way in Uyo LGA.
Premium importance is placed on manpower development and workers’ welfare as the payment of outstanding pensions and gratuities to retired workers of ten (10) years was effected.
There is also regular and prompt payment of salaries and entitlement to public servants.
In a bid to motivate the workforce of the State, Udom approved the release of backlog of promotions from 2012 to 2014 affecting 10, 352 public servants. He also ordered the implementation of immediate switch –over from salary payroll to pension payroll system for retirees.
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Ime Atim writes from Bayelsa