Akwa Ibom’s far-sighted investment in human capital
In May 2018, during a visit to Nigeria, Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, advised the federal government that the best form of empowerment was not the financial handouts it gives citizens. He said the best, long-term, and rewarding empowerment is an investment in human capital through the provision of quality education and healthcare.
In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel did not wait for Mr. Gates’ advice. Apart from natural resources with which the state is hugely endowed, it is also blessed with abundant human resources waiting to be harnessed for optimal use. With the vision to make the state Nigeria’s industrial hub, the governor demonstrated at the inception of his administration an understanding of the importance of human capital in the development of a nation by investing in education and provision of healthcare, in order to have an educated and healthy workforce.
Today, with a little over two years remaining of his eight-year tenure, there is no let-up in the effort by his administration to educate, train and equip the youth of the state to be employable not only in the state’s emerging private sector, but to be internationally marketable as well. This is part of the eight-point Completion Agenda of the second term administration of the governor.
The latest of the many training and empowerment programmes of the government is the Ibom 3000 Project, for which registration has since commenced in the 31 local government areas of the state. The programme is designed to train 3000 youths in key areas such as Information Communication Technology (ICT), Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Agriculture, Oil, and Gas, as well as Business Education. The Ibom 3000 Project is in addition to over 3, 000 youths the government has trained in ICT, to make them fit into a global economic environment that is being designed by technology.
The government has carried out extensive reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure such as classrooms, libraries, and hostel blocks, as well as the provision of science and laboratory equipment in secondary schools throughout the state. This is in addition to taking the burden of running 17 secondary schools off religious organizations, in a bid to give all schools in the state access to adequate funding and equipment which it is providing.
The government goes beyond reconstruction, rehabilitation, and equipment of schools to take up the responsibility of paying the WASSCE and NABTEB fees for all final year students in public secondary and technical schools, respectively. The aim is to ensure no child in school misses out on the chance of getting a quality education.
It mustn’t be forgotten that the government has a policy of free and compulsory education at the primary and secondary school levels for all children of school-age residents in the state, irrespective of whether or not they are Akwa Ibom indigenes.
Tertiary institutions like the Akwa Ibom State University at Mkpat Enin, Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic at Ikot Osurua, and the University of Uyo have also benefitted from the government’s efforts at investing in highly educated and trained manpower the state needs for its emerging status as an industrial hub.
Investment in human capital cannot be complete without having in place a healthcare delivery system that guarantees accessibility and affordability of quality healthcare by all citizens. This explains the government’s huge investment in health infrastructure through rehabilitation and remodeling of health facilities in hospitals across the state.
This exercise has seen notable general hospitals like St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua, Uyo; Immanuel Hospital, Eket; Iquita, Oron, Etinan, and Ikot Okoro not just wearing a new look in terms of reconstruction and rehabilitation of wards and various structures, but also being equipped with modern facilities to be able to provide healthcare that meets international standards. Many of the hospitals were moribund when Governor Emmanuel assumed office in 2015. The transformation they have undergone bears testimony to the government’s commitment to providing quality healthcare to the people of the state.
The focus on human capital development is a deliberate and holistic approach by the government to ensure the state has the required manpower to drive the industrial revolution that has already commenced with the establishment of more than 16 industries in the unprecedented period of five years. It is a reflection of Governor Emmanuel’s ability to see beyond the present – to create a rich pool of well-trained manpower that would make it unnecessary to look outside the state for expertise to run its various industrial projects, now and in the future.
Since charity must begin at home, it is natural the youth of the state must be the first beneficiaries of the influx of investments that are coming into the state, through employment in all the cadres in the industrial establishments that are being set up. It shouldn’t be the case of the proverbial carpenter who makes doors for others and lives in a house without doors because he can’t afford them (A popular proverb in Akwa Ibom).
This, however, is not to suggest that indigenes of the state would have vacancies created for them in industrial establishments just on the basis of being ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ of the soil, regardless of whether or not they are qualified. Coming from the private sector where emphasis is on excellence, Governor Emmanuel is sparing no cost and effort to ensure the youths of the state are equipped to participate actively in building the industrial hub of his dream.
A good number of the state’s indigenes are already benefiting from the industries that are currently operating in the state, like the Jubilee Syringe Manufacturing Company Limited, Electric Metering Solutions Company, Kings Flour Mills, and numerous others that have collectively provided direct and indirect employment to thousands of them.
These efforts are impacting positively on the lives of thousands of people. And as the state’s private sector-driven economy expands to create more jobs and benefit more families, there is going to be the corresponding improvement in the standard of living of the people.
Ndifreke Essien wrote in from Abuja