Connecting Akwa Ibom

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Governor Udom Emmanuel has within his short period on the saddle, prioritised the linking of all the majors towns and villages to Uyo, the state capital. Joseph Ushigiale reports

In the last 19 years since the country returned to civil rule, Akwa Ibom State has been fortunate to be blessed with visionary leaders who have laid solid foundations for its development.

From the tenure of Obong Victor Attah who, in 1999, began the journey of laying a solid blueprint for a new Akwa Ibom State; to his successor, the Transformation leader, Godswill Akpabio under whose reign, the state attained its apogee in the provision of 21st century infrastructure.

Today, Governor Udom Emmanuel is consolidating the efforts of his predecessors by engaging in major road construction to link every strategic touch points including villages, towns and council areas to Uyo, the state capital.

Recently, the Commissioner for Works, Ephraim Inyang-Eyen for two days took some reporters on a guided tour of some of the roads currently either being rehabilitated or constructed from the scratch across the state.

One unique approach the present administration has adopted is to focus on such areas like Oron and others that had hitherto complained of being left behind in infrastructure development. It has also ensured it gets to the grassroots not only to unravel communities that are cut off from civilisation as a result of lack of access roads but also provides them with succour.

According to the commissioner, “the philosophy behind road construction in Akwa Ibom State is to open up the state for development. The prosperity of any nation is largely and inextricably linked to the quality and pace of infrastructure development. When good roads abound in a specific locality, it has the multiplier effect to stimulate local entrepreneurs and attract foreign investors needed for the creation of employment opportunities.”

Already across the state, the impact of the governor’s road projects is already being felt in the nooks and crannies of the state. It has created a value chain for local content providers like contractors, artisans, food vendors, and a host of others who provide related services as corroborated by the commissioner.

Inyang-Eyen explained that “Infrastructure variables like good roads have a positive correlation with private investment and economic growth, thus, it can be said that promoting investment-led-growth requires adequate funding on infrastructure to create new capacities while equally maintaining the existing ones.

“Expenditure on roads enhances distribution of goods and services through local and national markets and good transport linkages reduce transport costs while promoting industrial development.”

On the issue of how the state is grappling with sourcing funds to drive the process which is a major challenge at this point where some states can hardly pay workers’ salaries. The commissioner assured that the road projects are financed by the Akwa Ibom State Government through adopting a unique financing model called Alternative Project Funding Approach (APFA).

He pointed out that “We had to devise a new strategy that brought about the idea of Alternative Project Funding Approach (APFA); so we now decided to get investors who come in and invest their money and work out a MoU. So what we came out with was the APFA. We agree with you, give you the job, you use your money, do a minimum of 50 per cent of the job; then as you start the work when the contract has been awarded, we issue you an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO).”

Adding that “it is the reason why we are able to do much more than our resources can carry especially in times like this. For the APFA, what this government has done is a standardised method that a kilometre of road is N320m under a normal terrain; every job is given at N320m-N340m per kilometre maximum, except in difficult terrains.”

He also highlighted the strong local content built into the government’s initiative arguing that its mission is to encourage and challenge indigenous contractors to build world-class quality infrastructure that can compete with global standards. The commissioner said in order to achieve that “we set the ground rules, specify what we want and follow up with supervision.

“The problems in the past arose because even where there were specifications, no one bothered to supervise and insist that the right things should be done and of course we have very strong corporate governance ethics here. They all know me because if I come to your site and you deviate from the standard specifications we set for you, we will break the structure down and you start all over again at your own cost; that is why they call me ‘Bulldozer’.”

One of the local contractors Engr. Uwem Okoko of Hensek Integrated Services Limited described his company as “an engineering solution powerhouse fully manned by Nigerian professionals with world-class spirit. Incorporated in July 2006, this A-class Civil Construction firm has over 150 dedicated staff and over 350 skilled/semi-skilled workers. Hensek prides itself on being the highest paying civil construction company in Nigeria, today, 90 per cent of who are indigenes. We have done quite some significant projects and are proud of our growth.”

Commenting on the governor’s choice to take a risk with local contractors in building roads, Okoko said “It takes a high level of passion and trust to achieve that. That is why we thank Governor Udom Emmanuel for his desire is to develop local content and increase our capacity. He has given us the support and we have delivered.

“We have not compromised standards and it is evidenced in the projects handled by our firm for the Akwa Ibom State Government, which include the site office of Ibom Power Plant, 132KV transmission lines that convey power from Ikot Abasi to Eket, Mini Jetty in Ikot Abasi, 5km Mkpok Ukat Road, Access Road to Ibom Power Plant, Nto Obong/Ikot Ebo Road, Akai/Ikot Okoro Road and some Federal Government projects including a 330-132/33 KV Power Sub-Station at Ikot Abasi, which made Hensek the first indigenous company to handle a project of this magnitude and several other road projects we cannot count.”

He urged the people to emulate the good examples of the governor, have faith and work hard. Drawing from his own experiences, he narrated that “I started my construction company with one shovel and one wheelbarrow 10 years ago as a graduate! #Dakkada phenomenon is not just for Governor Udom Emmanuel. It is a wakeup call from God himself.

“We are all born great! You can become whatever you want to become! We are lucky, we don’t have war; we don’t have famine! We have rivers, we have sunshine, fertile ground and good Government. We have a Good Governor, who has the interest of the people at heart! We have all we need to succeed in Akwa Ibom.

“When you wake up, think of what you want to be! Start working on it immediately. No one has the key to success except you! There is no reason why an Akwa Ibomite should not succeed! Give your love and support to Udom Gabriel Emmanuel. There can only be one governor in a state. The seed of victory and prosperity has been sown in these eight months; only God knows what will happen in the next eight years.”

Another local contractor, Elder Ben Udobia of Benest Technical Services said his company is an indigenous multidisciplinary Engineering, Technical, Construction and Petroleum Products Marketing Company with wide National and International connections which started in 1983.

He commended the courage of the governor to support and encourage local content in all its ramifications. “I really appreciate Governor Udom Emmanuel for reposing trust in us. I have constructed and completed the Information Drive in Uyo, the Ikot Isop -Ikot Edehe Road with a bridge. We are on other projects. We have delivered to specifications and standards. It means a lot to us being saddled with these special responsibilities. It takes a man who has concern about his people to do so to ensure that local capacity is developed. Today we can favourably compete and bid for jobs outside our shores and to that we are grateful.”