On Wednesday, 15 March and Thursday 16, the Akwa Ibom State Government through the Ministry of Information and Strategy, hosted the maiden edition of the state inter-ministerial briefing in Uyo, the state capital. Tagged “Tracking the Promise”, the season one of the briefing featured sectoral assessments of six ministries – Ministry of Works and Fire Service; Ministry of Agriculture; Ministry of Labour and Manpower Planning; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Economic Development; Ministry of Special Duties and Ibom Deep Seaport. The Ministries were all represented by their respective Commissioners, and quite commendable was their eagerness to come forth with answers to all the questions.
In this part one of what will be a three part series on the inter-ministerial briefing, I will be highlighting some major takeaways from the briefings by the Ministry of Works, which is primarily saddled with overseeing road projects and other infrastructures in the state, and the Ministry of Agriculture, which is responsible for interpreting and implementing the government’s programmes and policies in the agricultural sector. Infrastructure and agriculture have been cardinal parts of Mr Udom Emmanuel’s policy drive since 2015, and therefore would have been very surprising if both Ministries did not show up for the inter-ministerial briefing with inexhaustible lists of achievements. Infrastructure was a key item in the governor’s 2015 five-point agenda and also his completion agenda in 2019 so inevitably, the Ministry of Works and other sister Ministries whose supervisory roles crisscross in the infrastructural sector, should make a very impressive presentations during the inter-ministerial briefing.
In every society, infrastructural expansion and economic development are intertwined. This explains why Mr Emmanuel had prioritised road construction so much that by the end of his first term, the Ministry of Works had no fewer than 50 road projects that were either completed or ongoing. One of the most economically significant roads that the administration undertook was the dualisation of 47.54km Abak – Ekparakwa – Ikot Abasi road. Until the state government intervention, the road that is a major link between the two oil-rich states (Akwa Ibom and Rivers) was almost impassable and this negatively affected economic activities in the border communities in Akwa Ibom. With the dualisation of the road, communities along that stretch which are renowned for trading in farm products have been witnessing economic boom. At the briefing, Prof Eno Ibanga, the State Commissioner for Works, acknowledged that most of the road projects executed by the administration have enormous economic benefits.
Good road network has enhanced rural-urban trade in Akwa Ibom by helping farmers and traders in the rural communities have easy access to high-profile customers in the urban areas. The 4.2km Abak Ifia – Ikpe Mbak Eyop – Ikot Abia Osom – Nko Road that connects communities in Ikot Ekpene and Obot Akara Local Government Areas and opening the areas to inter-state trade with Abia State; 8.5km Nduetong Oku Ibiaku Uruan – Ekritam Road in Itu; 13.13km Akpambiet Edo – Edida Edo – Ebeekpe – Ndon Edim – Idung Akpantuen Road in Esit Eket; 12.742km Awa Iman – Ikot Emem Road that connects communities in ONNA and Mkpat Enin; 14.1km Odoro Ikpe – Ikpe Ikot Nkon – Obotme – Arochukwu Road in Ini; 23.25km Ikot Ekaide – Ikot Okoro – Ikot Ibritam Road in Oruk Anam; 19.5km dualised Eket – Ibeno Road; 29km dual carriage way Etinan -Ndon Eyo Road, etc are some of the major roads constructed by Udom Emmanuel administration to strategically open up the rural areas and expand their economic fronts.
With the state of roads in Akwa Ibom, there is no local government area cannot be accessed from the state capital within an of driving. Prof Ibanga however noted that the government is not relenting especially on the completion of ongoing projects. “Nsit Atai – Oron road will definitely be completed. We are running on speed and today whatever that had happened on that road, the narrative has changed”, Prof Ibanga assured. “This government is firm on delivering good roads so it has terminated and reawarded contracts because of non-performance. We have terminated up to five major contracts because this government wants to meet deadlines. At the speed we are running, these roads will be completed”. Besides connecting the rural areas to the urban cities through major roads, the administration has also constructed internal roads in almost all the local government areas and the hinterlands are booming with trade and other economic activities.
Governor Udom Emmanuel, within the last seven years plus, has explored many ways in pursuing the twin agenda of job creation and poverty alleviation and one of such ways has through agriculture. The administration consciously provided strategic support to farmers in the state to boost the agricultural sector and under the current administration, the state has made major breakthroughs in the production of cash crops like rice, cocoa. According to the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Offiong Offor, the government has supported farmers in the state through donation of seedlings, funding and access to farmlands. With the greenhouse located within the Victor Attah International Airport, the administration lifts up to 50-60 tonnes of vegetables like cucumber, pepper, tomatoes and onions daily and retail them at subsidised prices. The establishment of agricultural-based factories for production of agricultural products like rice mill, coconut oil refinery, fertiliser blending plant, etc have added significantly to the employment statistics of the state.
The Greenwell Fertiliser Plant in Abak was built to have an annual production capacity of 400,000 metric tons and the capability to blend assorted and multi-purpose types of fertiliser. Findings reveal that the Plant has a staff strength of 30 who are all indigenes of Akwa Ibom. Reacting to a question on the present condition of the plant, Dr Offor, during the inter-ministerial briefing, confirmed that the plant was still blending fertiliser but only on demand due to high cost of raw materials and production. “The GreenWell Fertilizer Plant in Abak is still very much working and production is based on demand. People make their demands and it is produced”, she said. “The reason for this is due to the heavy costs in production and to avoid waste as a result of over production. There is even a Public Private Partnership in ensuring that the place moves on well”.
There is no denying the fact that under Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration, Akwa Ibom has fared well in terms of roads and agriculture. Interestingly, these two sectors are closely connected especially for a state like Akwa Ibom that has a vision of making agriculture a mainstay. For instance, the completion of the 29km dual carriage way Etinan – Ndon Eyo road has brought a sharp increase in communal farming and trading among communities in Etinan and ONNA Local Government Areas. When completed, the 20km Uyo – Etinan dual carriage way currently under construction will be a game changer due to the looming economic boom. Good enough, Prof Ibanga has assured that the state government is committed to completing all ongoing projects before the end of the administration in May. The confidence exuded by the Works Commissioner and his Agriculture counterpart during the inter-ministerial briefing could only come from the fact that the government has done excellently in these sectors.
*Usen writes from Uyo