Akwa Ibom: A blueprint for industrialisation, empowerment
Akwa Ibom State desires that all its indigenes embrace a new culture of self-reliance, whereby the old habit of depending on government and others for their financial wellbeing would be supplanted with that of well thought out job initiatives. This is especially necessary in the face of the country’s dwindling economic fortunes, which call for an entirely different approach to past norms and what obtained hitherto in this regard.
To achieve this feat, the government has mapped out and is embarking on sundry programmes and projects, aimed at changing the people’s mindset, and getting them to key into the new trend.
Penultimate Monday, the United Evangelical Church (Qua Iboe), Suru-Lere, Lagos, was the venue for bringing the good tidings to members of the church, who are predominantly from Akwa Ibom.
The choice of the venue, as explained by Barr Aniekan Ukpanah, Chairman, Qua Iboe Church Committee, was informed partly by the fact that the church has a duty to not only counsel members on how to better their lots and survive the current economic downturn, which is a golden opportunity in disguise, if well utilised, but to also imbue them with moral integrity that can be trusted for the future.
“We want to build leadership that can impact positively on the society. We believe no matter how small the resources, with good leaders, it will go round. It is knowledge and opportunity that can yield the desired result,” Ukpanah said. “As believers, we have faith that everything will turn out well in the end, regardless of the current economic situation in the country. The government of Akwa Ibom has dreams anchored on the industrialisation of the state, based on its natural resources, other than oil. So, it will be a good thing, if church members can key into these programmes to make ends meet.
“If church members can tap from the many projects that abound in the state, which would result in their financial empowerment, the church would also benefit, as it would be enabled to carry out its primary duty of spreading the gospel.”
Explaining the strategy being adopted by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, which would facilitate the actualisation of the dream, Samuel Bassey, Special Representative to Akwa Ibom State Governor in Lagos, said because the number one Akwa Ibomite has the interest of the people and his state at heart, the governor “had taken time to craft the five-point agenda, which form the basis of his development projects in the state.”
He said: “The first of this five points is job creation. The second is poverty alleviation, with the third being wealth creation and the fourth, economic and political inclusion, while the fifth is infrastructural consolidation and expansion.
“A close observation will show that points one to three are interwoven. In tackling them, there are different programmes designed to attract both the state indigenes and outsiders. For instance, there is the Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES), established as a platform for wealth creation. Through it, youths from the state get paid, while undergoing hands-on training for the acquisition of technical and vocational skills.”
But since the government is inviting and encouraging interested investors to come to the state, he explained that certain incentives have been put in place to make it easier to do business there.
“These include the provision of free land to start industries. There are also tax incentives, while government takes on the responsibility of processing required documents involving such bodies as the Corporate Affairs Commission, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), among others. All these would ordinarily have cost lots of money and time, but the government is taking them up to relieve potential investors of such burden, as well as, ensure that the processes go smoothly and quickly,” Bassey explained.
But these opportunities are not limited to only one particular political party or indigenes of the state, as Bassey said, “the governor doesn’t discriminate. He just wants people to come and develop the state. He has thrown open the door and is ready to support whoever is truly interested in keying into his vision of developing the state and creating opportunities for the people to also develop themselves.”
While praising the immediate past government of the state for doing a lot in the area of infrastructural development, Bassey explained that the present administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel is consolidating on what was met on ground.
“Urban renewal is going on in several parts of the state, including Eket and Oron, where many roads were recently commissioned. The government is also reviving moribund projects,” he said.
Enumerating the many areas of possible investment in Akwa Ibom, Udeme Ufot, CEO, SO&U, Direct Foreign Investment, said the agricultural potential in the state is huge.
He explained that a group conducted a soil quality test in the state and pronounced that the soil can yield three times the amount of rice being presently cultivated.
He said: “Aside rice cultivation, there is potentials in cocoa and palm oil. Before the discovery of oil, everything in the state was built from palm produce. Interestingly, a barrel of palm oil is currently $99 against crude oil that is $45. And it takes less stress and energy to produce palm oil. So, the idea is to widen the production base.
“But there are other areas that equally offer wonderful opportunities, such as the aqua culture. The seaports, creeks, etc. are ready, waiting for people to explore them. Akwa Ibom government is offering all this not just to foreigners, but Africans and Nigerians that want to take advantage of the opportunities.
“There is a Free Trade Zone, where virtually anything can be produced and exported. Some companies have already started heading in this direction. For instance, there is a firm that is into the generation of power from water to the tune of 2, 000 megawatts, which would boost the national grid, when added. There is also the by-product, which is potable water.
“The future must go beyond oil and gas. And the best way to achieve this is through empowering the people with skills and the right attitude. Governor Udom Emmanuel wants his people to wake up and develop themselves and the state.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Marketing and Branding, Sam Edoho, is positive that with the Dakkada Initiative, Akwa Ibom indigenes would be inspired to do the right thing and take the right step in this regard.
“The biggest potential is that of the mind and the people are the greatest asset,” he said. “Dakkada is a philosophy of a lifetime, a change of mindset. We want Akwa Ibomites to embrace the virtues and values of hard work, integrity and excellence in all they do. Hard work yields good results. They should also embrace entrepreneurship and take calculated risks.
“So, we have embarked on activities that are aimed at sensitising the people and encouraging them to stand on their own and be masters of their future. They can actually live their dreams, if they are prepared to give all it takes.”
Edoho was particularly delighted that some reputable companies are cooperating with the government to realise this lofty goal.
These include MTN, which has given some 600 people the seed capital to start small-scale businesses.
“Others are willing to empower the people with ICT donations. The state is sowing industrialisation seeds, which if pursued consistently and doggedly, will start yielding results in no distant future. Our message of hope is: Why look for a job, when you can create one yourself?”
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