Udom designed a road map that would guide his administration in the onerous task of lifting the state out of the backwaters of industrial underdevelopment
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State took office in 2015 with industrialization as one of the key areas of focus of his administration. Udom, a private sector player in the financial sector for over two decades, understood very well that for Akwa Ibom to shed its status of the purely civil service state it had been since its creation for one that could be economically self-sustaining, it needed to have a strong industrial base.
The governor resorted to self-help for the state by way of rapid industrialization to address the anomaly of Akwa Ibom being the largest producer of the country’s wealth but not having any federal presence in form of an industrial establishment.
Udom designed a road map that would guide his administration in the onerous task of lifting the state out of the backwaters of industrial underdevelopment to one that would be a hub of industrial activities. This, he did, by first of all creating the conducive atmosphere that is needed to make investments thrive.
Udom addressed the issue of insecurity, which had been a major hindrance to economic development in the state prior to his assumption of office, restoring to the state the peace that had eluded it for a long time. He restored integrity to governance through entrenchment of accountability, transparency and due process in the management of government affairs. And in no time, the effort began to yield fruits.
The result was that not quite two years into his tenure, in the first quarter of 2017, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) listed Akwa Ibom as one of the five states and the Federal Capital Territory being the most investor-friendly in the country. The NBS also said during the period, the state attracted capital importation of $18.361 million, a 27.75 percent improvement over the previous year’s figure, noting that it was experiencing rapid economic transformation, much faster than the Nigerian average, with quality of life index growing more than 300 percent.
More than three years into the life of his administration, and with just about five months before the curtain falls in his first term, about nine fully functional industries stand as testimony of Udom’s commitment to the industrialization of a state that had virtually no economic base before his coming. This is a record, when it is considered that the immediate past administration in the state had no industrial establishment to show in its eight years of existence.
As a matter of fact, it did not take more than two years in office for Udom’s efforts at industrialising Akwa Ibom to begin to attract attention through concrete evidence. At the commemoration of the state’s 30th anniversary in September, 2017, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was in the state to commission two industries that would have direct impact on not only Akwa Ibom, but the entire country – an electricity metering solutions company and a syringe manufacturing company reputed to be the largest in Africa. It was an occasion at which Osinbjao put aside political sentiments to commend excellence which, truly speaking, has no political colour.
While commending the governor for his foresight in bringing investors into the state, the vice president said assuredly that the Akwa Ibom Electricity Metering Solutions Company would bring an end to the challenges faced by consumers in the country in the area of power billing. He expressed optimism that the development would give consumers the right to determine how much energy they consume, and pay accordingly, instead of being left at the mercy of Shylock power distribution companies that use the estimated billing method to fleece consumers.
An early indication that the metering company would live up to its expectation and serve the desired purpose was the fact that no sooner had it been commissioned than it received orders for one million meters from power distribution companies in the Niger Delta region, notably the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company.
The Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company, arguably the flagship industrial project of Udom’s administration so far, has capacity to produce 400 million syringes annually. The company is more than four times the size and capacity of a similar company in South Africa, previously the biggest in Africa, which produces 95 million syringes a year. At the commissioning of the syringe company, Osinbajo described Governor Emmanuel as “one of the cleverest people I have come across”, obviously for his foresight in facilitating local production of a major requirement in the country’s health sector – and making Akwa Ibom the only state in the country to do so. He described the factory as a game changer, as it would meet the nation’s demand for syringes.
The Peacock Paints Industry at Etinan is the only surviving indsutrial establishment from the Clement Isong era of the Second Republic. For more than two decades, the industry remained comatose, with only its carcass still standing as a reminder of what it was in some distant past. Udom’s industrialization drive has seen resuscitation of the once moribund industry, such that it is today producing at full capacity.
The administration has constructed a state-of-the-art flour mill at Okat, in Onna Local Government area to meet the demand for the commodity in the state and its environs. There is also the Toothpick and Pencil Manufacturing Company that was initially located at Etinan, but had to be relocated to the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) Mini Industrial Estate at Itam, in Itu Local Government Area, which accommodates other cottage industries like the Paper and Pulp Industry, Plastic Manufacturing Company and Hydro Form Block Molding Company. Greenwell Technologies, a fertilizer blending company, is currently in operation at Oku-Abak, in Abak Local Government Area.
Tied to Udom’s industrialization efforts is a robust job creation programme that is aimed at creating employment, boosting the economy of the state and improving the standard of living of the people. All the industries he has set up so far are playing those roles.
In the last three years, more than 20, 000 youths have been trained on skills acquisition in various fields in a bid to promote the spirit of enterprise among them, with more than 3, 000 trained in information communication and technology.
Plans are underway for the establishment of a modern and well equipped artisan school that would create a new class of artisans to be involved in the various industrial and commercial projects the government is setting up.
Essien writes from Uyo