‘I won’t play politics with Akwa Ibom’s development’ – Gov. Udom Emmanuel

Despite the criticisms of foes, Akwa Ibom State Governor, #UdomEmmanuel is committed to the implementation of his five-point agenda of infrastructural consolidation and expansion, job creation, poverty alleviation, economic and political inclusion, and wealth creation. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU reports.Akwa Ibom

Udom Emmanuel, banker-turned politician and governor of Akwa Ibom State, may not be good in self-advertisement. But, observers believe that he has many achievements to show for his almost three and half years in office. It appears the governor is not distracted by the politics of second term, especially the criticisms by the opposition. He has intensified efforts in the implementation of his policies and programmes ahead of next year’s elections.

As the oil-rich state prepares for the poll, the governor’s fate will be determined by his performance. Apart from presiding over a peaceful state, Emmanuel has made a mark through prudent spending. He has tried to fight the infrastructure battle by converting the state into a huge construction site. More importantly, he is turning Akwa Ibom into “a wonder of industrialisation and investment”.

The overview of the score card shows that the governor has awarded 110 road contracts. The roads cover 1,700 kilometres and 47 bridges. Many of them have been completed. Some of the projects are still on-going. Since health is wealth, the state government has taken concerted efforts to revamp the health care system. The flagship of its health sector is the Ibom Specialist Hospital, which is being completed by the administration. Apart from the priority attention that is being given to industrialisation, government has defended education through free, compulsory and qualitative education. In many parts of the states, there is a 24-hour electricity supply, courtesy of the four new sub-stations built by the state government.

“I am not playing politics with the development of the state. Our development efforts cut across the local government and senatorial districts. Ours is not a government of ethnicity,” said the governor, who also acknowledged the constraints. “Our projects are of high quality. But, the speed of delivery may have been slow due to financial challenges,” Emmanuel added.

In his employment generation drive, the governor has revived the Peacock Paints that has been moribund for many years. The provision of a conducive environment has yielded an inflow of direct domestic investment. Last year, the largest syringe company in Africa, the Jubilee Syringe factory, and the Electric Digital Metering Solution manufacturing factory were established. Also, the Fertilizer Blending Plant and the Flour Mill sprang up. In addition, a pencil factory and a toothpick factory came on board. Plans are underway to set up flour mills and coconut refinery, in addition to the plastic manufacturing company that has started operations.

Ufot Ebong, the governor’s aide on Technical Matters spoke with reporters on the success of the industrialization drive. There is an arrangement to train indigenes to acquire skills needed to work in the industries that are springing up, he said. Under the Akwa Ibom Enterprise Employment scheme (AKEES), more than 20,000 youths were trained in the last three years. Justifying the establishment of the Employment and Skill Acquisition Centres, Ebong said they were meant to promote the spirit of enterprise among the people. No fewer than 317,000 people engaged in small and medium enterprises are captured; over 3,000 were trained on ICT and many are employed in the agricultural sector for planting and nurturing of vegetables, tomatoes and other crops in commercial quantities.

A good foundation is being laid for the manufacturing sector. Akwa Ibom now has factories; cottage industries; for tooth picks, pencils, fibre glass doors and roofing sheets, and a brick making. “An artisan school is underway,” Ebong added. Also, Works Commissioner Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, said: “We are creating a class of artisans, instead of importing plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters from Togo and other neighbouring countries.”

Emmanuel’s policies are investor-driven. At Oku-Aback, Abak, few kilometres from Uyo, fertilizer blending operations have kicked off in Greenwell Technologies. In addition, the company engages in cocoa and coconut blending. Company officials explained that the incentives were from the government, which provided the land, warehouse, improved electricity and good road networks.

At the Jubilee Syringes (JSM), which commenced operations in September 2016, its Managing Director, Zubeyie Gulabi, an engineer, said the factory has capacity to produce 400 million syringes per year.

The governor described the “Metering Solutions,” the factory established for meeting the meter needs as a huge success. “We talk about electricity and we don’t talk about metering. We are trying to bridge the gap, Emmanuel added. The Chief Executive Officer, Tolulope Ogunkolade, said the factory commenced operations on July 15,last year. Apart from manufacturing meters, plastic enclosures for metres are also made. About 200,000 pre-paid meters have been delivered to the Port Harcourt Distribution Company. No fewer than 10 employees of the company are currently in China for training. Thanking the state government for its incentives, Ogunkolade said: “The government has been fantastic in terms of infrastructural support. The government also facilitated electricity supply. The intervention of the government has also led to improved company/community relations.”

Road construction is critical to industrialization. Thus, the Emmanuel administration is intensifying its efforts in completing the road projects, which cut across the three senatorial districts. The road designs include some flyovers and roundabouts. Of importance are the 25 kilometre dualised Uyo/Ikot-Ekpene Road, the 20 kilometre Ikot-Oku Ikone Road, the 29 kilometre Etinam-Ndoneyo Road  and other inter-town roads. Owing to its water-lodged terrain, road construction is expensive in Akwa Ibom. Many of the projects are also delayed due to the demand for compensation for demolition.

The Works Commissioner lamented that, once government announced an intention to build new roads, some indigenes will start erecting new houses on the road, in the expectation that the structures will be demolished and compensation will be paid to them for demolition. He also accused the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) of playing politics with its projects in the state, stressing that instead of teeming up with the state government for development, the commission has deepened rivalry.

On road project stagnation, Inyang-Eyen said: “Court cases often arose over proposed demolition. We had to convince the owners. We had 189 cases. We needed to have peace to be able to construct the road. The governor never intended to abandon any road project. But, some owners were using private valuers to cause problems.” On maintenance, he said the roads, which are built to specifications, are expected to last for 15 years, adding that the ministry has always insisted on quality jobs.

For the Eket-Ibeno Road Project, the governor had to raise facility from the United bank for Africa (UBA) for implementation. Eket has the longest roundabout in the state. Work has also started on the 12 lanes of dualised Eket-Abeno Road, leading to the 18 metre-Ibom Deep Sea Port. Explaining the huge investment, Inyang-Eyen said: “We want to be different from Lagos by providing roads so that we will not have another Apapa scenario along the sea port. We want to prevent traffic snarl. Before December, we will intensify efforts in doing the road. Already,m we are filling the sand and building bridges on the 5.5 kilometre road Already, nine kilometer has been sand filled. It will be commercialized. Tolls will be collected and the money collected will be used for maintaining the road.”

In Eket, there is a mini-stadium under construction. It is almost at the finishing level. On the size of the stadium, Emmanuel said it was built to guarantee minimum maintenance cost. Indeed, Akwa Ibom is becoming a state of sports and sports laurels. There is a plan to establish a sport centre in each of the 10 federal constituencies. The sport centres are to be built within the secondary school premises.

Information Commissioner Charles Udoh, who lauded the initiative, said the goal is to boost sports development. He also said the governor is defending education as a priority. Over 500 schools have been renovated, he said, adding: “We run free and compulsory education. People come from neighbouring states to attend our public schools. If we train our children and leave the children of our neighbours alone, they will later come to harm our children. We pay N600 million yearly as WAEC fees. We also focus on the recruitment of quality teachers.”

In the health sector, the government is up and doing. “We maintain one General Hospital in each of the 10 federal constituencies,” said Udoh, adding that they are equipped with qualifies personal and high grade equipment and drugs. The Health Commissioner, Dr. Dominic Ukpomo, who conducted reporters round the General Hospital, Ikono, said the hospital receive patients from Akwa Ibom and other neighbouring states. “Unfortunately, it was neglected and taken over by grass. It was bad; it was not functional. But, it is now refurbished; digitalized. We got our supplies from “Project Cure,” a donation to states, and we enjoy exceptions from the Federal Government. We are planning for a School of Nursing and Midwifery here.”`

The Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo,  is first of its kind in Africa. It was established by former Governor Godswill Akpabio. It is now being completed by Emmanuel, who has attracted a team of medical personnel from Canada, led by Dr. Harrison, to manage it. When Health Minister Prof. Isaac Adewole visited the hospital, he said it will reduce the penchant for medical tourism abroad. Ukpomo, who conducted reporters round the premises along with the ICT expert, Joyce Ofili, recalled that a brain surgery was recently carried out on a medical doctor in the hospital.

Many equipment make the hospital to stand out. The health commissioner listed the as  the CTI Scan (640), tele-radiography equipment that is very rare, breast scanning machine, medical glass tank, incinerator for medical waste, six temporary dialysis unit, proposed 60 dialysis units, automated laboratory and chemistry machine. “There is also a facility for kidney transfer and transplant,” Ukpomo said.

The Akwa Ibom Airport in Uyo also underscores a huge investment in the aviation sector by the state government. The airport was powered by generators for 12 years. A whopping N25 million was spent monthly for fueling the generators, apart from other expenses on maintenance.  Now, two big transformers-12 megawatts each- are erected outside to guarantee regular electricity supply. In addition, 22 compact transformers are installed at the airport.

The Commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation Development, Akan Okon, said the airport was built by the state government to boost the economy of the state. Recently, Emmanuel built a Commercial Building at the airport. But, Okon complained that the burden of maintaining the airport rests on the state government, although aviation is in the exclusive list. “We pay FAAN and other agencies. There is no concession from the Federal Government,” said the commissioner, who asked for support for the state government for maintenance.

Emmanuel said the obvious constraints notwithstanding, he will forge ahead in delivering dividends of democracy to the over six million population of indigenes and residents. He promised to sustain the industrialisation drive, saying that it has put Akwa Ibom ahead of other states. He spoke briefly on the 26,000 coconut plantations, which he believed, will yield income for the state in the future. He promised to sustain the youth sports festival for talent hunt. The governor said education will be defended, adding that the quality of teachers will not be compromised. Emmanuel noted that education infrastructural development has led to an upsurge in school enrolment. “We will continue to have free and compulsory education at primary and secondary levels. We will also have education monitors to enhance quality of teaching and learning,” he added.

He chided the NDDC for being an adversary, instead of a partner in progress. In his view, the commission is unfair to the state in its approach. He warned against playing politics with the development of the state, saying that it is counter-productive.

Emmanuel reflected on the preparations for next year’s elections, urging those spoiling for war to have a re-think. “We should ask them: where are their children. They keep their children abroad and use children of the poor as thugs,” he fumed.

Urging security agencies not to sleep on guard, the governor said: “Some people are sewing fake army and police uniforms. If your intention is to serve, why do you want to kill the people you want to serve?” Exuding confidence, he said in 2019, the people will know the difference between a servant-leader and a camouflage. “When you are at the verge of a rescue mission, enemies will arise,” added.

Asked to comment on the anticipated battle between President Muhammamadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the candidate of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), during the 2019 election, Emmanuel said: “I don’t know any party than the PDP.”

-The Nation