In the 33 years of the existence of Akwa Ibom State, she has been blessed with very patriotic leadership; leaders who have given their all for the good and growth of the state. The patriotism of her leadership has always been complimented by a citizenry that is aware and alert to the responsibility of demanding for accountability from their leaders. The state is equally blessed by a people that have held their own wherever they are found; a people energetic and eager to contribute to the growth and wellbeing of their state. Beginning with the first set of military leaders, the foundation for a state that would be the pride of the federation was already laid. The likes of Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, the first indigenous military administrator ensured that solid infrastructure for the young state was put in place. This trend continued with the short-lived administration of the first civilian governor of the state, Obong Akpan Isemin, who tried to whip up the people into action; reordering their mindset towards achieving great and lofty goals.
The administration of Obong Victor Attah was to mark the beginning of the new economic and social order in the state. He dreamt of a state that would in the future become the economic and commercial hub of not only Nigeria, but the entire gulf of Guinea. He conceptualized the deep seaport, dreamt of a university that would set a standard in functional education; took into consideration the transportation needs of an emergent economy and commenced the construction of an International airport with a hanger facility; he built a five star hotel facility to accommodate the anticipated visitors to the state. He set out to create an independent economy, following the Indian model of an ICT hub in the sub region. He recognized the power constraints and established an independent power plant. Attah was a dreamer and a fighter, whose strenuous economic and political emancipating battles have continued to yield generous fruits that are currently oiling the wheels of progress for the state.
The administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio built on the super foundation already laid by Attah. It was a time of massive infrastructural renaissance that saw the expansion of roads networks all over the state; the completion of the airport, at least enough to make it functional; built an international standard stadium, beautified the state capital, making it a delight for visitors and residents. Akpabio used the interministerial direct labour scheme to touch rural communities, with water, electricity and health facilities. He expanded education through the free and compulsory education programme and built a world-class hospital in the state.
The coming of Mr. Udom Emmanuel as governor in 2015 was greeted with enthusiasm and hope. The hope was anchored on the intimidating credentials of the new governor, who had had an excellent career in the financial sector of the economy. The people hoped for an economic renaissance; a shift from the civil service sector economy to an industrial economy. The belief was that there was already enough enabling infrastructure on the ground for a movement towards industrialization. The governor himself was upbeat about taking the state to an era of industrialization and private capital inflow. Industrialization was to become one of his major campaign promises.
Since assumption of office, the governor had not left anyone in doubt about his commitment to the actualization of the lofty goal of making the Akwa Ibom economy a sustainable one beyond the life span of oil. He has consistently said that no matter what the economic trend was in the country, the economic outlook of Akwa Ibom state could be made to expand and grow independently.
How has the governor lived this talk? How has he fared in his dreams of an economy that would stand when oil no longer flows?
Even though the national economy took a major nose-dive when the Udom administration came on board, he has within the limiting factor of the downward turn tried to lift the economy of the state through massive inflow of investments in the state economy. To his credit, Akwa Ibom state is now home to a $30 million initial capital invested by a Turkish firm, VKS Group at the Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company Ltd, producing up to a million syringes daily, ranging from 2 millimeters, 5 millimeters, and 10 millimeters, located in Onna Local Government Area and a 500-tons per day capacity flour mill, still in Onna by the same Turkish firm. Norfin Offshore Limited, a Singaporean company is investing an initial capital of $5million in an ongoing construction of a ship-building yard, with capacity to build supply-vessels for oil platforms, tugboats, batches, ocean fishing boats, and ferries, in Oruk-Anam Local Government Area of the state. Also at Onna is the Metering Solutions Manufacturing Services Ltd (MSMSL), with a projected capacity for 1000 electric meters per day.
A Chinese company, Yiwu International, is building a $25 million international market in Eket, when completed this 100 per cent Chinese owned market will have 2,800 shops. These are all eloquent testimonies to the enabling economic growth environment brought about by the Udom Emmanuel administration.
The state is also showing confidence in the economic environment by going into direct investments to further spur external investors. The administration has invested in the 11,000-hectare coconut plantation, and a coconut oil refinery located at Mkpat Enin LGA. It is hoped that a private investor will soon key into the project. The BAU Group recently rolled out its plan to commence the building of an oil refinery in the state. The Armoured vehicles assembly plant located at Itu is receiving a renewed attention with the arrival of vital components.
The state government has shown an uncommon commitment to what many see as a game changer in the economic advancement of the state by the zeal and vigour with which the Udom Emmanuel administration is pursuing the Akwa Ibom Deep Seaport project. Expected to cost well over $4.2billion, the Ibom Deep Seaport Project (IDSP) will change the face of the state in many ways. It will create employment, social and economic transformation and propel the state to a position of wealth dominance in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea. Closely related to the Ibom Deep Seaport is the proposed Jubilee Oil and Gas Free Zone recently approved for the state. It is another economic enabler that would catapult the state to sustainable economic growth.
The effect of the economic reawakening going on may not be so obvious now, but a cursory look around us will show the emergence of new small businesses, mostly owned by people coming into the state from other states. It is a sure sign that the economic climate has serious promises. No business man worth the name goes to where he is not sure of making business success. The earlier the people starts taking a closer look at opportunities being created the better for indigenes of the state.
Another reason to keep hope high is the continued increase in internally generated revenue. This is another index that indicates economic wellbeing. Apart from bringing people and businesses not captured before into the tax basket, the increase, projected to hit the 100 billion Naira mark this year, is an indication that more businesses are coming in and are capable of paying their taxes. The future looks economically impressive for this 33 years old state of infinite possibilities.
Augustine writes from Uyo