Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that beyond scoring a resounding political point, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State’s courageous moves to encourage entrepreneurs and ensure prosperity through massive construction of economically viable roads has received warm applause
While the basis for measuring the performance of one governor may be fluid and based on the peculiarities of his environment, as one governor may consider certain sectors to be more important, while another considers another set of priorities guided by his manifesto. However, it is pertinent to put on a scale the performance of Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State.
When Udom set out with his ‘Divine Mandate Five- Point Agenda’, the words ‘industrialization and job creation’ made concurrent appearance whenever or wherever he spoke. He has since kept faith with this promise.
Even in the area of infrastructure and road construction, building of roads with economic value are given priority. It has been an aggressive drive to ensure the infrastructural development of the state from where the last administration stopped, especially sites for industries to further complement the governor’s industrialization agenda.
The Udom administration has provided 17 roads in the capital city of Uyo, with others ongoing. The Governor has ensured that the dividends of democracy are evenly spread across the state. In Esit Eket, Eket, Urue Offong Oruko and Okobo local governments that never had good road projects, Udom Emmanuel has kept faith with his profound promise of political inclusion, ensuring that the dividends of democracy are delivered to people at all strata. Others in the same league of not experiencing government presence in decades include Ika, Ini, Ikono, Uruan, Obot Akara and Oruk Anam,. In all these areas, the Emmanuel has changed the narrative.
Bound by an irrevocable obligation to peoples in seemingly forgotten communities, Emmanuel has been loudly applauded, particularly for providing road infrastructure and also making critical interventions in other areas. The 4.6km School of Arts and Science Road in Nung Ukim Ikono has been completed with side drains and commissioned. The 14.1km Ikpe Ikot Nkon – Obot Mme – Arochukwu road in Ini local government area is almost completed. The gully erosion that threatened to completely destroy the major access road linking Ikono and Ini has been arrested by the Udom Emmanuel administration. The 19.3km Anua-Mbak Ishiet road in Uruan traversing seven villages including, Anua, Ifa Ikot Okpon, Mbak, Ikot Otoinye, Ekim Enen, Adadia, and Ishiet is progressing.
The 4.0km Mbiatok – Ekritam – Mbiaya Uruan road, criss crossing Ita Uruan, Ikpa and Mbiakong villages is steadily advancing. The 8.5km Nduetong – Oku Ibiaku Uruan – Ekritam road with spur to Ini Uruan, that passes through the Uyo City Polytechnic to Planet FM 101. 1 is ongoing.
The dual carriage 20km Ekom Iman – Etinan road traversing Ikot Oku Ikono – Asuna, Ishiet Erong, Etinan Urban to the roundabout by Etinan Institute is taking shape by the day. The next stretch of 29.0km Etinan – Ndon Eyo road, also dualized, extending through Ekpene Ukpa, Efa, Mbioto, Ikot Oku Ekanem, Awa, Mkpok to Ndon Eyo is nearing completion, while the dualization of the 14.5km Uyo – Oron Road (Airport Road – Okopedi Oron – Oron Road by East West Road) cutting across Ekpene Ukim, Ikot Asua, Ikot Etieidung, Nung Atai Eta, and Okopedi Okobo in Nsit Atai and Okobo local government areas is in the offing.
The dualization of the 19.5km Eket-Ibeno road which opened up access from Marina Junction in Eket to Edebok, Esit Urua, Mkpanak and Ukpenekang villages has been commissioned by Governor Udom Emmanuel.
The 6.4km Nto Edino – Ekwere Azu Road linking Mbiaso and Nto Edino villages to Ekwere Azu, a border community of Abia State has been commissioned. Two bridges to replace the collapsed bridge on the road are complete. Trade, commerce and social interactions between the two states is now in full steam. It is a fact that many indigenes of the neighbouring states, particularly Abia state prefer to approach their homes from Akwa Ibom due to the excellent roads on the Akwa Ibom side of their border.
The once forgotten Obot Akara local government area also boasts of another ongoing construction of 4.2km Abak Iffia- Ikpe Mbak Eyop – Ikot Abia Ossom-Nko and spur road linking to Ikot Ekpene. It is exciting to the people of Oruk Anam who are having her first ‘taste’ of road projects. Opening up these far flung local government areas, is the first step to attracting any form of social, economic or industrial developmen. The construction of 42. 195km Ikot Ekaide – Ikot Okoro – Ikot Ibiritam – Ekeffe – Ikot Akpan Afaha Road sections 1&2, linking Oruk Anam to Ukanafun and the East West Road is on course. Another 28km Abak Nsekhe – Ikot Akpa Nkuk – Ikot Etim – Ikot Ikara joining up to Ikot Ibirita in Oruk Anam. Contract for construction of the road has been awarded and work has begun, giving Oruk Anam a sense of inclusion and belonging in the Akwa Ibom project.
Road network is vital to development and industrialization, just as job opportunities is very vital to the economic well being of the people. Emmanuel considers this paramount in his five-point agenda, as evident in one of the viable industries established in Akwa Ibom State, the St. Gabriel’s Virgin Coconut Oil Refinery located in Mkpat Enin local government area. The refinery has the capacity to refine one million nuts in one day through three shifts. The good news is that coconut oil is, arguably, more viable than crude oil!
The St. Gabriel project is one of the sterling examples of the silent revolution that the Emmanuel administration has introduced to the state. The company has employed One Thousand Two Hundred (1,200) direct workers and has the capacity to employ more than 5000 indirect workers when fully operational. Its subsidiary, St. Gabriel’s Coconut Plantation which spans through three council; namely Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo, where the nuts will be harvested for the refinery has a direct employee strength of 300, with room for more. Coconut has the potential of being processed into over 50 products majorly beverages and confectionery. With the St. Gabriel’s Coconut Virgin Oil Refinery on stream, Akwa Ibom people are open to numerous opportunities.
In industrialization, Governor Emmanuel has capitalized on his international exposure to attract foreign investment to the State. The industries established so far are Jubilee Syringe, Meter Solution Manufacturing Company, Lion Plywood Limited, Kings flour Mill, St. Gabriel Coconut Refinery, Fertilizer Blending Plant , Tooth Pick and Pencil industries, Plastic factory, Rice Mill, Construction of 33 Cassava Micro-processing mills are all ongoing projects in the economic diversification agenda of the Governor.
Also of note is the resuscitation of Peacock Paint Industry and refurbishing of Cassava Processing factories located at Ikot Okudom, Eket Local Government Area; Nung Udoe, Ibesikpo/Asutan Local Government Area and Ikot Ekang in Abak LGA which was leased to private operators for the production of high quality ‘garri’, odourless ‘foofoo’ and cassava flour are examples of revived factories which were once in a comatose state.
One may wonder if roads and industries are all the governor builds, other areas of human interest have received adequate attention and intervention. In Akwa Ibom today, there is a hatchery that produces over 200,000 birds every month. There are green houses for cultivation of cash crops, amongst other feats in agriculture, health care and education.
Considering the importance of power to industries and the businesses, the administration of Mr. Udom Emmanuel has ensured that most places in Akwa Ibom state now enjoy over 20 hours of power, a power sub-station has also been installed at the Victor Attah Airport, at Four Lane in Uyo and Ekim in Mkpat Enin . The Emmanuel administration has also ensured the connection of over 400 communities to the national grid, improved the generation of Ibom Power Plant to 167 megawatts, while receiving license for additional 450 megawatts.
With these sterling basket of projects on showcase, the state is preparing for a future beyond her crude oil deposit, by ensuring that Akwa Ibom State is on the road to industrialization.