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Akwa Ibom: Sustainable Development in Nigeria’s Prime Investment Destination

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Akwa-Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel

Akwa-Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel

By Udeme Etukeyen

Seen from afar, Nigeria is one large African nation and the continent’s most robust economy, but within the powerhouse that Nigeria represents there are several engines that drive the economy. Best known is Lagos State, which includes Nigeria’s largest city and economic capital, but beyond there a less known success stories that merit global attention.

Of Nigeria’s 36 states, debatably the most impressive is Akwa Ibom state, led by Governor Udom Emmanuel, elected only three years ago. Just last month Governor Emmanuel commissioned seven new roads with 34 additional roads planned to provide over 2000 jobs to the state and stimulate commerce among Akwa Ibom’s population of four million.

A noted adherent of impact investing, Emmanuel selects projects for his state that add value beyond the sums marked on contracts or the profit margins racked up by contractors. Public benefit must be calculated in far more sensitive and inclusive terms, and Governor Emmanuel’s Sustainable Development Agenda over the last 1096 days does just that.

AGRICULTURE

With Africa’s 65% of its land still unexploited and food imports debilitating local economies, Akwa Ibom’s developmental finance strategy included a technical committee on agriculture and food sufficiency which broadened the “Dakkada” mindset in youth people, women and the elderly. With increased acreage of cultivated land growing by over 40,000 hectares comprising now 11,000 hectares earmarked for an ongoing coconut plantation, 24,000 hectares for new rice projects including two rice mills, 3,000 hectares of cassava lantations with rehabilitated processing facilities for garri, cassava pellets, flour, and ethanol, and the rehabilitation of competitive oil palm and cocoa estates, Akwa Ibom’s position as a leading food producer and exporter in Nigeria is assured.

The state government has facilitated thousands of high yield seedlings of oil palm, plantain suckers, maize and citrus seeds to ensure optimal source of farm input for its local population. The state policy on agriculture is firmly hinged on mitigating food scarcity, ensuring food sufficiency and security which impacts over a million households.

The Ibom Greenhouse Project has induced export capabilities for vegetables, tomatoes, cucumber, encouraging a massive response by young farmers to take up various forms of agriculture as a new economic mainstay. The government via partnerships with investors has also established a fertilizer blending plant at Abak, a meat processing facility project at Itam, a cattle ranch at Adadia, and an Akwa prime hatchery at Mbiaya and other strategic agribusinesses and related technical services.

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 households within the state and beyond. Akwa Ibom is positioned to feed her people and indeed the nation, making Akwa Ibom an attractive investment destination for those interested in the agribusiness sector.

INDUSTRIALIZATION

The innovative industrialization policy of Akwa Ibom State merits some comment too. Leading a much-needed and highly progressive departure from an epoch of oil revenue dependency and federal allocations Akwa Ibom state has understood that the key to industrialization is increasing power generation. The governor has seen to this by securing additional licensing for the state-owned power company increasing capacity from 190MW to 685MW, unlocking distribution via massive investment in substations and feeder lines, and installing a network of new power infrastructure around the state enabling parts of the state capital with 15-18 hours of power per day.

Dedicated lines and infrastructure have targeted special projects such as the airport, the Ibom Specialty Hospital and the industrial clusters in Onna, Uyo and Itu.

With both road and power infrastructure being addressed, the state government has pursued its first phase of its ambitious industrialization agenda by delivering an Electric Digital Metering Plant providing metering solutions that unbundle the legitimate concerns of investors, namely tracking power tariffs.

The state is also proud of its strategic investment in syringe manufacturing with capacity large enough to cater to Africa’s 2.4 billion-strong demand for syringes by producing 350 million units with capacity to upscale to 1 billion, adequate to cater for both local and international markets.

The state has also increased progress in a proposed flour mill within the Onna Industrial Cluster.

Hundreds of Akwa Ibom daughters and sons have been trained abroad to take up various technical and managerial aspects of these investments as part of the 350-strong human-power needs of the cluster.

As part of the overall vision, companies like the Peacock Paints Factory in Etinan have received fresh funding and rehabilitation, several state-owned enterprises and assets have become the prize possession of new investors who’ve encouraged that resources be assigned to business development from the state’s investment structure.

The recent establishment of the Itu Cluster which houses the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES) has promoted the creation and opening of a state-of-the-arts toothpick factory, pencil production and particle wood processing facility as well as bamboo conversion facilities increasing economic impact with 200 new, direct jobs and 400-500 indirect jobs, and creating foreign exchange opportunities with these products as exports.

With several MOUs and EOIs in place, the state continues to be the second highest destination for FDI in Nigeria, and prospects for growth in the SME sector look promising. International development agencies and the private sector are both positioned to forge the development of the state’s growing MSME sector. As negotiations result in executable action the huge FDI gap between Lagos and Akwa Ibom states lessens while under-developed opportunities in the later promise to render Akwa Ibom an increasingly attractive investment destination.

OVERALL SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT

In creating the Economic Strategy and Investment Plan, Governor Emmanuel has been clear in stating that a major plank of his government would be to harness developmental projects that would deliver maximum returns on investment and create employment opportunities for the people of the state while catalyzing food production. His vision for the future is “to transform the economy of our state via industrialization and sustain public-private-sector initiatives, and thereby opening up opportunities for growth and improved living standards,” the governor stated, “and to continuously develop, mobilize, and empower our women and youth via planned and well-articulated capacity-building programmes…” The state’s target, he said was to “provide trade, commerce and tourism between Akwa Ibom and the rest of Nigeria, and in fact, the rest of the world.”

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Opinion

Atiku’s withdrawal from the debate is a tactical masterstroke

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By Farooq Kperogi

I’ve read commentaries that aver that Atiku’s decision to bail out of Saturday’s presidential debate in protest against Buhari’s decision not to participate in it was a tactical error. I disagree. Here is why.

The presidential debate is designed to be a match–or, if you like, a push and pull– between the defending champion, i.e., Buhari, and contenders to the title he holds, i.e., Atiku, Moghalu, Madam Oby, Sowore, and others. If the defending champion declines to thrown his hat into the ring, the entire match becomes pointlessly self-injurious to the challengers. In other words, it would have been a fatal strategic and tactical error for Atiku to partake in a potentially bruising contest with other challengers while the defending championing sits pretty somewhere unhurt.

I’ve read other people suggest that Atiku, being Buhari’s closest challenger, should have used the opportunity of the debate to sell himself to Nigerians. Well, that’s what #NgTheCandidates town hall chat is there for. You don’t sell your agenda by making yourself vulnerable to potentially deathly blows from other challengers who don’t hold the title you are fighting for.

Instead of pillorying Atiku for not taking part in the debate, we should question the other candidates for agreeing to participate in a meaningless dueling match with each other when the defending champion who holds the crown they want to grab chose to run away. Their performance in the debate would only be meaningful if it’s measured against the performance of the defending champion.

From a tactical point of view, I also don’t blame Buhari for refusing to show up for the debate. His mental and physical infirmities are now on full display and would be exposed even more in the unscripted, back-and-forth format of a debate. The cabal that minds him already deeply regrets allowing him to take part in Thursday’s town-hall chat because his cringe-worthy performance at the event dramatized his dementia and aggrandized his unfitness for the job of president. His campaign trail mishaps aren’t helping, either. Another bruise from a debate would seal his fate before Election Day.

In a tragic irony, Buhari and Atiku are less qualified for the presidency than all the other contenders are, yet it is either of them that will emerge president in February. That’s why both candidates are more guarded and strategic in their choices than the rest.

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Opinion

Lalong as God’s plan for Plateau

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Gov. Lalong

Gov. Lalong


By Victor Pam

As the campaigns continue to heat the polity, we must be careful about the choices we make because our options can be our albatross, as well as our Messiah. I say this for two reasons, one is because of the empty promises flying around like promissory notes and the other is the attempt to put a veil on the eyes of the electorates by politicians who are advancing causes they know too well they cannot deliver on. I am from Plateau State, and as they say, charity must begin from home.

I recall I asked myself a couple of questions when Simon Lalong came on-board as governor of the state, questions like, is this going to be different from others? Would Plateau experience peace and tranquillity, would workers have a reason to smile? Would Plateau experience any form of infrastructural upliftment? Would pensioners have a reason to smile? And many more that I can’t recollect.

I also promised to keep a tab on the workings of government regarding the delivery of the dividends of democracy to the people of Plateau State that have seen and experienced the worst of governments since 1999. Indeed, Plateau had been unfortunate; my friends used to taunt me. But today, I am not sure anyone of them can tease me as regards governance in Plateau. And I say this with all sense of humility and sincerity of heart.

To say Plateau has experienced a change would be an understatement. And to also say Governor Simon Lalong remains one of the best things that happened to Plateau would also be uncharitable. What would be charitable and most appropriate is to say Simon Lalong was God’s plan for Plateau state because of the remarkable improvements experienced in all aspects of life on the Plateau. From the prompt payment of salaries to clearing the backlog of pensions. Generally, governance was delivered at the doorsteps of the people.

Anyone conversant with the happenings in Plateau under governor Simon Lalong would agree with me that God indeed heard the cries of the people when he delivered Simon Lalong to us as governor. It is incredible to state that despite the cash crunch that hit the country and the inability of most states to pay salaries, it was only Plateau state that was paying wages even before the end of the month. It felt like magic to many other governors on how Governor Simon Lalong was able to achieve such feat.

If one takes an opinion survey of civil servants in the state to ascertain whether there has ever been a time salaries were delayed under Simon Lalong, the response would be an overwhelming no. That has never happened since Simon Lalong assumed leadership of the state. From what I gathered, the governor vowed that never again in the history of Plateau state, would workers be denied their wages given the fact that the state is mostly a civil servant state. And when you have the bulk of the people in the public service what is the rational thing to do? To ensure that salaries are paid as at when due.

In my opinion, doing such would also have a multiplier effect on the economy of the state in the sense that there would be a movement within the ecosystem that would, in turn, generate activities that oil the wheels of progress, which is the case in Plateau state in the past three years of Simon Lalong.

It would be tantamount to questioning God should the people of Plateau make the mistake of casting their votes for those that have been making empty promises. And the curious part is that these people that are making those empty promises were part of the rot experienced in Plateau state. The difference is that they only changed their clothing’s. Would the people of Plateau allow themselves to be so deceived?

I am not sure the people of Plateau would want to trade Simon Lalong for anyone else. I am not sure the workers and pensioners have forgotten how God has used and still using Simon Lalong to better their lives through the numerous interventions in the state. Let me add this for free. It only takes a man that is upright and with the fear of God to do what Governor Simon Lalong is doing in Plateau state. He came on-board at a time that depression had enveloped the cloud and hopelessness was the order of the day. But undeterred he set out for impactful governance that has put the state on the path of glory once again.

Governor Simon Lalong is an upright man with the fear of God, unlike past governors that ruled like they were gods themselves because how could one explain a situation where a governor can go to bed and sleep when the people that elected him are hungry and dying of starvation. These same people also divided the state along ethnic and religious lines. It was so bad in the Plateau that at some point some ethnic groups see themselves as superior to all other ethnic groups in the state. This was how unhealthy the atmosphere was in the Plateau before the coming of Simon Lalong. But all of these have indeed changed for better.

There is now mutual respect amongst the various ethnicity in the state. There are no superior or inferior groups, so much so that it has translated to an improved relationship that has brought about lasting peace in the state. I will say this without fear, if not for the coming of Simon Lalong, I am not sure there would have still been a Plateau state because all the indices for disintegration were in place and it was just only a matter of time before its manifestation. Most of us residing in Plateau had perfected plans to move elsewhere with our families.

Indeed, Plateau state has never had it this good before, there has been lots of infrastructural development across the state, despite the lean resources coming to the state. In my opinion, what people do not understand is that Governor Simon Lalong has been able to do all of these because he placed the interest of the people above his interest. And I am not sure people, including him, could dip their hands in government coffers to embezzle funds meant for the people. I make bold to say that embezzlement of government cannot be associated with the present administration of Simon Lalong, if that was the case, I doubt if he would have been able to pay salaries promptly, settle the backlog of pensions and pensions payment up to date in the state and many more.

Like a messiah, he came to set the captives free. Today, Plateau state under Simon Lalong is an example of how to work for the people. I have assessed his administrative style using different parameters as a development expert, and the result of my assessment is the reason for this piece. Some could say that I am excited, some could also say I am elated. But I would say and I ecstatic with what is happening Plateau state. And I am not sure the good people of Plateau would want to leave the known for the unknown. That would be the height of ingratitude to God. Governor Simon Lalong is indeed Gods plan for Plateau state. This much the people know, and this much they are willing to go with as the elections approach.

Pam is an advocate of the masses writing from Jos.

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PMB as God’s will for Nigeria

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President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari


By Sunday Garuba

The elections are around the corner, and again, the hysteria that usually greets such exercises has rented the air. There has been lots of politicking going on around the country. Political strategists and analysts are at their best-giving situations and scenarios that would shape the outcome of the elections. In all of these, I know for a certain that indeed 2019 is the year of greatness for Nigeria.

As usual, clergies have made all manners of positive predictions as regards the future of the country. And this is coupled with the relative peace that has permeated the nook and cranny of Nigeria indicates that something good is about to happen in Nigeria. So far the few prophecies that have been released suggest that Nigeria’s greatness might be around the corner.

I am happy as well as sad for two reasons; one is the fact that since the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, a lot has changed in the way we do things as a people and as a country. And I am sad for the fact that those that contributed to the downfall of Nigeria have all ganged up against a man that believes so much in Nigeria and they are hell-bent on undermining him and all the efforts he has put in to set Nigeria back on track. Now, this is the irony of life that calls for serious concern from all well-meaning Nigerians.

I am of the opinion that one of the best things that happened to Nigeria was the providential coming of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. What many did not understand then was that God indeed heard the cries of Nigerians who had been subjected to all manner of abuse by those saddled with the task of governing us. They took us all for a ride and stole our commonwealth. And they did all of these with so much impunity. The way and manner President Muhammadu Buhari won the elections indicated that God indeed loved Nigeria and would never allow the disintegration of the country.

This was on the heels of the various predictions on how Nigeria would not remain as a country after 2015. But God used President Muhammadu Buhari to thwart the plans of evil ones against Nigeria. And this much can be verified with the way and manner the president has carried on since he assumed leadership of the country. He has put the interest of the country first and above his interest. For him, the wealth of Nigeria belongs to all and not for a select few. And this has been his undoing and why the hawks that have held this country down for years are all gathered to ensure that he is voted out so that business, as usual, can resume. But they will fail. Just like the holy bible says in Psalms 91 vs. 7 “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” The evil plot against President Muhammadu Buhari shall not come near him if God is on the throne.

I am not one of those that would be blinded by religion or ethnicity and shy away from realities of life. And I would also not hide under the umbrella of faith to deny the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has impacted positively on the lives of the average Nigerians on the street. Take it or leave, President Muhammadu Buhari was God’s will for Nigeria in 2015 and he remains God’s will for Nigeria in 2019.

If not for anything, let us admit that he has freed our commonwealth from the hands of looters and for this singular act, they have vowed to take him out. But if God is for him who can be against him? No one. Also, but for his intervention, the Boko Haram insurgency would have engulfed North East Nigeria and by extension the whole country. Should we not be grateful to a man that has shown an unalloyed commitment to the Nigerian cause? Should we not appreciate God for this rare gift to humanity? Should we not stand up in unity and defend a man that is clearly on the side of the masses? Do we need a soothsayer to tell us that if not for President Muhammadu Buhari, the entity called Nigeria might have disintegrated?

All of these are questions the intelligent minds should ask if we must be honest with ourselves. We should not be deceived by the narrative bandied around by people with questionable characters. We should not fall for their gimmick that would take us back donkey years. I want to believe that we have gotten to that stage of our existence where we can decipher between good and evil.

President Muhammadu has indeed not failed in the discharge of his duties as president of this great country. This is evident in the numerous people-oriented projects that are ongoing around the country. And what do we owe this great and selfless man? It’s simple. Nigerians must unite with the voice of God to ensure that we defeat the evil ones at the elections. Nigerians must come together with one loud voice to say enough is enough to those that have milked us dry.

Nigerians must vote massively for President Muhammadu Buhari in the coming elections because here is a man that has not failed and his words to the citizens have been a strong bond. I am of the opinion that in the very least if we do not know or remember where we are coming from, we should at least know where we are going to. And with a man like President Muhammadu Buhari, we know he has been destined to take us to the promised land. Let us make no mistakes about this. For Nigeria, it is forward ever, and backward never. Enough is enough.

Bishop Garuba is the President, national inter-faith and religious organization for peace.

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