1096 DAYS OF IMPACT: The Sustainable Development Agenda Upon Akwa Ibom State

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by Udeme Etukeyen

The Holy Book in Psalm 90:12 implores us: “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”.

For some, this connotes work hours tied to wages, shifts completed or just the break of dawn. In Governance, one day in the life of a Governor can attract huge impact either through the number of bills signed into law, the reward or benefits to persons, communities and groupings agreed at Executive level, meetings, deliberations, phone calls, or contracts awarded. It is so easy to impact a million lives through the thoughts, actions and declarations of a leader and Governor.

In one day, 3years ago, Governor Udom Emmanuel swore to various declarations to take decisions in the interest of the people of Akwa Ibom through the ‘Divine Mandate’ that was assented by God and the People. In another day recently, he commissions 7 Roads out of 40 newly constructed roads that provides succor to a lot more than 1096 people. Impact indeed is measured by the effect an intervention has on the physical, economic, political or social environment of its target.

As a scholar of Innovation and Impact Investment, I am configured to see beyond contract values and profit margins credited to contractors but to dispassionately burrow into the thoughts of policy makers and extract the extent to which the people; today and in the future will benefit from their decisions,  actions  and  inactions.  This  piece therefore offers  a  pseudo- graphical  expose  into  the  socio-economic  impact  of  select sectors  of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s Sustainable Development Agenda in the last 1096 days.

ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE:

A plethora of road projects embarked upon by Akwa Ibom State Government transcends personal or political considerations in manner of articulation or approach; I have observed a deliberate attempt to link states and communities along economic demand, viability and importance.

The continuation of past regime efforts has seen Trunk A roads from Itu–Uyo being pursued with the Uyo–Etinan stretch that continues from Etinan–Eket  Expressway  and  extensively  directed  through  Eket–Ibeno Expressway to feed the economic lifeline of the nation. All through the Itu–Ibeno  artery;  where  Exxon-Mobil  and  various  Gas/Power  projects constitute the massive economic potential that holds the fortunes and revenue of the people, state and nation, you would find a deliberate strategy in the quality architecture of dual carriage ways. Another strategic Trunk A Road diverts from Etinan–Onna with variants or spurs that unites the East-West Expressway and proceeds through the vast Ibaka Super Highway all the way to the coasts to open access to the Ibom Deep Sea Port Project. Just outside the Ibom International Airport has another major road  outlet  Okopedi–Oron  leading  through  the  East–West  road  with multiple options within Oron through Enwang culminating at the Deep Sea Port.  The  Uyo–Ikot  Ekpene  Road  equally  has  enjoyed  attention  as deliberate works has progressed to ensure access to the commercial city of Ikot Ekpene and neighbouring States.

From over 980 communities on the path where the entire road network directly connects or the millions of road users traversing the economic pots that the roads service to the obvious impact in thousands of direct job and indirect business opportunities derived in the course of construction and maintenance the story of Impact reverberates. Also note worthy is the relative drop in cost of vehicle maintenance on the populace as a result of these dedicated and strategic efforts.

A clear case  of Infrastructure Consolidation, Economic and Political Inclusion rolled into one as promised 3 years ago; little wonder the entire State is agog with Endorsements and gratitude.

AGRICULTURE

Conscious of the African challenge of 65% unexploited arable land and debilitating food imports, the Development Finance and Strategy guru in Governor Udom Emmanuel came alive promptly via the constitution of a Technical Committee on Agriculture and Food Sufficiency which swung into action developing templates and solutions that has broadened the “Dakkada”  philosophy  mindset  in  youths,  women  and  the  elderly  alike.

The State Government Policy on Agriculture is firmly hinged on mitigating food  Scarcity,  ensuring  food  sufficiency  and  security which  have  been interpreted to impact over a million households and individuals.

The Ibom Greenhouse Project has induced export capabilities for Vegetables, Tomatoes, Cucumber etc encouraging a massive response by the youth to take up various forms of agriculture as an economic mainstay. Government via Partnerships with investors have also seen to the establishment of a Fertilizer Blending Plant in Abak, Meat Processing facility Project at Itam, Cattle Ranch at Adadia, Akwa Prime Hatchery at Mbiaya and numerous other strategic Agribusinesses and related technical services for the benefit of its people. To date over 20,000 hectares of land have been cleared providing businesses and economic activity for equipment  owners,  farmers,  input  producers  and  direct/indirect  jobs  for over  80,000  households  within  the  state and  beyond.  Akwa  Ibom  is positioned to feed her and indeed the nation!

EDUCATION

Education, no doubt, is one of the most fundamental sectors which successive governments are always judged on. This is so because it more often than not points to the kind of future the generations will have.

It is worthy to note that education is still free and compulsory at the basic level, which has given opportunity to over 100,000 households within the rural and urban centres to gain access to education for their offspring in spite of the global economic outlook. There has also been a massive renovation and   provision   of   fresh   classroom   blocks,   desks   and infrastructure in different schools reducing the huge deficit in existing educational infrastructure. Again investments in excess of $1.5m are spent annually to sponsor Certificate Examinations for Students in the Public Schools subsidizing the cost of Education on the parents.

Strategic Partnerships have been pursued with takeover of dilapidated and near extinct schools like Salvation Army School, Efa now Nigerian Army Command  School  and  Nigerian  Navy  Military  School,  Ikot  Ntuen  being rehabilitated and commissioned to provide standard learning opportunities for the people. Halliburton and Exxon Mobil has readily offered Technical skill options to add Oil Sector Competencies for indigenes of Akwa Ibom.

Tertiary schools in the state have not been left out in this grand repositioning; Recently, various landmark projects at the Akwa Ibom State University such as Digital Language Library, Commercial Farm Palm Oil Mill, Commercial Farm Feeds Mill, Vegetable Screen House, Ultra-Modern Mass Communication   Studios,   Standard   Performance  Arts   Theatre   and Administrative Block and road infrastructure have energized the capacity and revenue bases of most tertiary institutions.

TOURISM

Akwa  Ibom  has  various  opportunities  in  its  129km  span  of  beaches, International  Stadium,  fantastic  hospitality  footprint, Conference  and Leisure  infrastructure,  exquisite  cuisine,  security,  lush  ambiance  and  a most welcoming and friendly people. This sector is largely untapped and provides great opportunity for Investment. Government commitment must match savvy execution to harness the inert potential.

Recent strides include the unveiling of Akwa Ibom State Tourism Logo as well as a few awareness events

In the Governor’s words “Tourism is one of the greatest revenue earners in the world today. Therefore, in order to boost tourism and for increase revenue  generation  in  this  sub-sector,  Government  will  undertake  the following projects; the Cross/Pilgrims Park, Expansion work at Ibom 5-Star Hotel and Golf Resort, Completion of a multi-million Naira Ibom Tropicana Entertainment  Centre  with  Cineplex,  Galleria,  Malls,  Dry  and  Wet  Park, Hotels and Convention Centre, sponsorship of the State Arts and Culture Troupe to Arts and culture festivals in foreign countries, sponsorship of a Children’s  Cultural  Troupe,  development  of  Ibom  Unity  Park  in  Uyo  and provision of enabling environment for private ownership of over 50 standard hotels in Uyo, the State Capital. We intend to spend N14.604 billion ($4million) on this for continuous achievements.”

Recently, the state has witnessed series of activities in the tourism and culture sector of the state such as identification of tourist sites, Art Craft exhibitions,  State  Anniversary  Celebrations  of  Akwa  Ibom  at  30 and  the Christmas Street Party in the State Capital.

Once moribund, the sector seems alive to its complimentary role and opportunity to add a minimum of 50,000 jobs once the vast opportunities in Heritage site development and Modern Infrastructure completion etc to which the Government has pursued full completion and operations of the Four Points By Sheraton 14 Storey Hotel in Ikot Ekpene as well as encourage partnerships and proper management to leverage the hope this sector offers. The State was recently awarded as one other best with an active Tourism industry by a Federal Agency.

INDUSTRIALIZATION
The industrialization policy of Akwa Ibom State deserves a disquisition. The yearning for a departure from dependence on oil revenues and Federal Allocations developed the trust in the administration and clearly its Policy thrust points in that direction.

Even as we understand that Power holds the key to Industrialization, silent and dedicated advances in increased power capabilities by securing additional licensing for increased power generation for the State owned Power  Company  from  190MW  to  685MW,  unlocking  distribution  via massive investment in Substations and Feeder lines putting a ring of impressive power infrastructure around the state with parts of the State Capital enjoying 15-18hours of power per day has in turn silenced pessimists. Dedicated lines and infrastructure are targeted to special projects like the Airport, Ibom Specialty Hospital as well as the Industrial Clusters in Onna, Uyo and Itu. With  Road  and  Power  Infrastructure  being  addressed,  the  Government pursued her first phase of the Industrialization agenda by delivering an Electric Digital Metering Plant to provide various Metering Solutions that would unbundle the Investor concerns in tracking power tariffs as well as a strategic Investment in Syringe manufacturing with large enough capacity to cater for Africa’s 2.4billion demand for Syringes by producing 350million initially with capacity to upscale to 1billion to cater for both local and international markets, also with increased progress is the proposed Flour Mill all within the Onna Industrial Cluster.

The recent establishment of the Itu Cluster which houses the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) promoted Toothpick Factory, Pencil Production and Particle Wood Processing and Bamboo Conversion Facilities brings economic impact of 200direct jobs and 400-500 indirect jobs delivering foreign exchange opportunities for these products.

With several MOUs and EOIs in the place, the State fundamentals as the second highest destination of FDI looks brighter with SMEs springing as an aggregator to co-ordinate and guide the Industrial Revolution . International development agencies and the private sector are all positioned to forge the development of  the  state’s  MSME’s  sector.  As reported  by  the  National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Akwa Ibom State attracted $18.361m capital inflow, second only to Lagos. As talks convert to executable action the huge gap between Lagos and Akwa Ibom hopes to reduce even as Akwa Ibom remains a virgin investment destination for Nigeria.

HEALTH
A clever fusion of wealth and wellness has put Akwa Ibom residents in pole position as the most catered lot within the Nigerian Polity. From huge investments in a World class Quaternary facility which is receiving focused attention and management to the determined upgrade of Secondary Healthcare facilities across the state right down to Primary Healthcare funding and implementation through the freshly passed and signed Primary Healthcare Agency and Health Insurance bills the average resident and visitor to Akwa Ibom continues to win.

Worthy strides include the continued provision of free medical services for children below 5 years of age and all pregnant women as well as the aged; Provision of relief for over 4,000 mal-nourished children, free screening and treatment of over 15,000 people for various eye diseases, importation of over 25 containers of state-of-the art medical equipment for medical facilities in the state. These equipments are serially being distributed to the various  General  Hospitals  like  Etinan,  Ituk  Mbang,  Oruk  Anam  etc  being completely remodeled and refitted.

Personnel development is not overlooked in this effort to better the healthcare delivery and re-position the sector for sustainability. In this regard, there has been training of 20 Biomedical Engineers; Provision of residential quarters  for  hundreds  of  House  Officers,  Accreditation  for Schools of Nursing, with 272 Registered Nurses; Training and certification of over 100 Doctors and Nurses in Basic Lives Support (BLS) and Cardiac Lives Support (ACLS). Even free post transplant medication for renal disease patients and provision of state of the art Renal disease management equipment remain a major plus of the Udom Emmanuel led Administration

It is also worthy of note that all ambulances are now fully fitted with External Defibrillators (AEDs) and Electrocardiograph (ECG) Machines for use in Emergency Response even as Trauma and Emergency Centres in Ikot Ekpene and Teaching Hospitals are being replicated

HOUSING AND SPECIAL PROJECTS
Mass Housing projects having undergone a rigorous evaluation process  are beginning to take root across the State. With the basic legal framework for the actualization of Investment within the sector at advanced stage, a beehive of activity beckons. Existing estates are enjoying infrastructural uplifts with its attendant economic impact.

The Ibom Deep Sea Port, Industrial City and Liberty Free trade zones will increase demand for Housing  alongside  Mortgage  financed  Housing  for  the   20,000  strong Public Service workforce. The morale of civil servants begins to rise with vast renovation and optimization of their working environment through Housing and other Infrastructure Schemes and facelifts.

Impact and opportunity in terms of materials and economic potential of the entire projects under the Housing Sub sector offers the largest economics and job creation indices as a whopping 9000 jobs with capital flow in excess of $100million within the next 24months.

SPORTS
Sports remains a veritable tool for national development as it offers limitless opportunities for all sectors of an economy to integrate and foster more benefits for future generations and organizations.

In Akwa Ibom State, sports development has over the years become one of the focal points that have propelled the state to global limelight with the success story of the state at major national and international sporting events.

One of the earliest foundations of the renaissance of the success story of sports development in the state is the feat of Akwa United FC in November 2015 barely six months into the lifespan of the administration where history was made as the team won the 2015 Federations Cup in Lagos State as well as back to back conquests in National and Regional Sporting events.

That historic feat, marked the beginning of the Dakkada actualization in the state athletes and the new signature tune of self belief; the “can do” spirit of the Akwa Ibom Person to rise beyond any challenge to excel has become the working template which has sent positive signals globally.

The conception and development of Sporting Centres across the ten Federal Constituencies in the State is a welcome development providing opportunity for budding stars at the grassroots to utilize and consolidate on their competencies especially the zeal to ensure that education remains the driving force behind the sporting exploits.

Completion of the West Itam Sports Complex remains a milestone, perhaps, the very first in the country where a novel pilot sporting template has successfully started. The facilities, which include a football field, basketball, volley ball and tartan tracks for athletics is a beehive of activities for athletes in their zeal to reach their optimal strength. There is an on-going construction of another Sports Complex in Onna, Eket Federal Constituency which when completed will offer the youths of the area the opportunity to have access to quality, modern facilities.

Today, Akwa United FC has become a national brand with fans spread across the country, having qualified for the CAF Confederation Cup at the end of last season’s league.

It is worthy to note that for its unique role in sports development in Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State Government has already received three Diamond Awards of Most Comprehensive Sports Development Programme in Nigeria, State with the “Best Sports Infrastructure” and the State with the “Most Patriotic Sports Supporters in Nigeria” with the Governor retaining awards as the “Most Youth and Sports-Friendly Nigerian Governor”.

OVERALL SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT
In creating an 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 catalyze food production. This policy direction was so vividly captured in his inaugural speech.

“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 delivered within the projected period.

The Government 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 2 of the Ibom Power Plant Project will hit 685MW, the State Government’s Industrialization 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.

A breakdown of the economic indices shows that the five states and the FCT attracted a total of $908.268m capital inflow in the first quarter of 2017.  Lagos tops the list with 95 per cent of the capital, attracting inflow of $865.718. This is not surprising as Lagos is still by far the hub of commercial activities in the country. Next to Lagos is Akwa Ibom, which in recent years has become a major tourism destination. The state attracted $18.361m capital inflow  pushing  behind  the  FCT  ($14.867m), Ogun ($5.351m), Oyo ($3.419m) and Rivers ($550,000) respectively for the period under review.

Achieving the Ibom Deep Seaport, the cargo handling capacity of the Uyo International Airport as well as the Maintenance, Repair and overhaul capabilities will become a boost to the quest by Akwa Ibom people to have their state play a major role in the nation as a strategic economic hub.

The   education sector   has   employed over   5,000 qualified personnel signaling a focused return to higher standard of education, capacity and meritocracy, better living conditions, and a brighter future for families and relatives, not excluding reduction in unemployment indices.

The growth in the economy of the state is thus expressed in the IGR increase of over 23% within the period under review. (Source: Nigerian Bureau of Statistics)

A distinctive adoption of innovative financing models in Road Construction is largely responsible for the avalanche of quality Road Infrastructure. Industrialization efforts can only mean one thing; more engagement of the youths, as well as provision of infrastructure towards self sufficiency. Agriculture has brought a total refocus on both subsistence and commercial production levels; most of the food consumed in the state is produced within as against periods when all was brought in from other States, hence a reduction in capital flight.

This and many more reasons point the fact that against all odds, Akwa Ibom State has hit a per capita of $2.779bn as at 2017aggregating a total GDP of $11.179bn up from $1.2bn and $8.2bn respectively in 2012, thus placing the state amongst the top ten richest states in revenue, economic viability and impact.

These fundamentals position Akwa Ibom as a model to watch, emulate and invest in even as the reality of increased migration to the State is expected. A qualitative execution of the well thought out policy of Government is indeed critical.

Like a good omen; Sustainable Development has come upon Akwa Ibom in exciting proportions.

Udeme Etukeyen is an Impact Investment and Infrastructure Advisory Expert analyzing realities from the City of Etinan in Akwa Ibom State