Retired American business executive and chemical engineer, Jack Welch had the story of Akwa Ibom State in mind when he said that "great leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion". Governor Udom Emmanuel has relentlessly driven the Akwa Ibom project in the past one year and eight months to the admiration of even his harshest critic. His administration has made great strides in virtually all sectors in line with his determination to fulfill his campaign promises. The major pillars of Godom Emvernor Umanuel's administration include Wealth creation, poverty alleviation, job creation, infrastructure consolidation and political inclusion. This offering aims to highlight the positive strides of the government in the different sectors of the state.
INSPIRING THE PEOPLE TO PRODUCTIVITY
Nothing excites the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel than the privilege to change the chronicle of the story of the state through its development stages. May 2015 to date can be rightly described as the most interesting period in the state's history, characterized by a blight in the state's resources and defined by the can -do spirit of a leader who believes that whatsoever the mind conceives can be achieved. The past One year and eight months has been awe inspiring as the state can boast of tangible growth and development in all sectors of the economy.
The biggest of it all has been the reawakening of the consciousness, drive, and push of every son and daughter of the soil through the Dakkada Initiative. Mr Udom Emmanuel, visioner, leader and Governor saw the need for a mind-set change and attitudinal rebirth, which gave birth to the Dakkada Initiative. Dakkada is a movement to unshackle the people from underachievement by inspiring self-belief, confidence and courage to utilize skills to maximize results. Dakkada charges us to see beyond what others see, human and intellectual. It inspires us to rise to the faith that as a people, we can move beyond ethnicity, biases, religion and gender. The Dakkada efforts are yielding fruits. As we look around, there is a proliferation of various trades, crafts, products and services across the state and it is very heart warming to see the sense of accomplishment with which these entrepreneurs, at their various levels go about their businesses.
The education sector in Akwa Ibom state is well footed owing to the free, compulsory and qualitative education scheme where the cost of education in Primary and Secondary school is free.
It is therefore correct to say that Governor Udom Emmanuel is committed to achieving a globally competitive workforce, in a world that is increasingly being shaped by technology. There are 1401 public primary, secondary and technical schools, 895 private nursery, primary and secondary schools and four tertiary institutions which government ensures compliance with the curriculum, education policies and world best practices. In the same vein, the government has set up ICT laboratories in some of the public and private schools, the education sector has witnessed great improvement under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
The free and compulsory education programme gives every child of school age resident in Akwa Ibom, regardless of state of origin, access to qualitative education from primary to senior secondary school level. In addition to free tuition, the state pays a subvention of N100 per primary school pupil and N300 per secondary school students per term to cater for logistics. With over one million five hundred thousand students enrolment in public schools has tripled since the introduction of the programme.
To add quality to the free and compulsory education, Government has also created a more conducive learning environment through massive rehabilitation and reconstruction of school blocks, provision of science and laboratory equipment, construction of hostels and supply of desks in the 31 LGAs in the state.
As a way of ensuring that final year secondary school students are not constrained by lack of money, the government undertakes payment of WASSCE fees for all students in public secondary schools. This also includes payment of NABTEB fees for all students in public technical colleges and also providing funds for laboratory reagents for practical examinations. Udom Emmanuel has ensured prompt payment of primary and secondary school teacher’s salaries despite the economic situation while also providing subvention for the payment of newly recruited staff of Akwa Ibom State University. As basic as this sounds, several states in the country are owing worker’s salaries for several months. Governor Udom Emmanuel has provided counter- part funding to access UBEC fund for over 300 projects across schools in our state. ICT has been boosted with the commissioning of two ICT centres at Government Technical School, Ewet and Topfaith Int’l School, Mkpatak while releasing 250 laptops and computers to various other schools. Beyond the basic level, scholarships and grants are still on-going (like that for law and Medical students) 30 Akwa Ibomites recently returned from a government sponsored Master’s programme on ICT. The Governor has provided subvention for the payment of newly recruited staff of the Akwa Ibom State University.
The Governor has ensured the provision of an enabling environment to motivate both the teachers, pupils and students for optimal performance and output as well as attract investors to boost the sector.
His achievements in addition to the on-going free and compulsory education policy for all children in the state, from primary school to the senior secondary school level include; consultations with stakeholders in public and private tertiary institutions, to streamline, re-position and stabilize the school system, prompt payment of teachers salaries, training of Principals and teachers on new educational curriculum, teaching methodologies etcetera, dialogue with Unions in the state tertiary institutions to stem labour unrest, signing of Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU) with Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) with specific mandate to promote widespread availability and usage of telecommunication and ICT services in the state plus promotions, conversions and confirmation for deserving teaching and non-teaching staff.
Every child means everything to Mr Udom Emmanuel and his administration and for him, every child must be equipped for future challenges and relevance. Governor Udom Emmanuel believes that those who have come to hold important positions in public offices and in the corporate world are products of this public school system. Consequently, he has made huge financial and human capital investments in schools beyond just regular obligations.
The Government has undertaken massive rural electricity interventions. Some of the communities which were cut off and can now boast of light include, Ikot Ibritam and Ikot Ekpuk (Oruk Anam LGA), Ikot Ekpeyong and Ikot Abia Utok (Mkpat Enin LGA), awa Atai, Ikot Akpan Mkpe, Afaha Ikot Nkang (Onna LGA), Ifa Atai, Uyo LGA. it is impossible to exhaust the list. At least a total of 50 transformers have so far been distributed to various rural communities in the state to boost electricity. Government has partnered with the Niger Delta Support Programme (NDSP) through AK-RUWATSAN to facilitate the design and implementation of water schemes for each of the five small towns in Obot Akara and Nsit Atai LGAs.
Through the Inter ministerial direct labour co-ordinating committee, Governor Udom Emmanuel has made provision of over 3,300 dual desks to more than 37 primary schools in three senatorial districts in the state. He has delivered electrification projects for at least 40 communities across the state and well as over 40 water projects to many communities in the state.
Three of the state's hospitals in Oron, Eket and Ikot Ekpene have been given provisional accreditation by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to provide training for House Officers in the state. place Mr Udom Emmanuel visited as Governor was a health facility, the St Luke's Hospital Anua. He did not mind that the long standing hospital was not owned by government, he immediately swung into action to give it a face lift mindful of the large number of child births recorded there, the largest number in the entire region. The health sector has experienced an unprecedented revolution since the advent of this administration. The Ibom Specialist Hospital has started operations, and the government did commission the state-of-the art residential quarters for the expatriates that will man the key aspects of the hospitals’ operations. Governor Udom Emmanuel is committed to providing affordable health-care services to our people. Other achievements in this sector include the upgrading of three Hospitals in Eket, Oron and Ikot Ekpene with provisional accreditation from Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to provide training for House Officers in the state, 48 House Officers had been employed and commenced training, immunization of our children and mothers, free Healthcare Programme and Malaria Elimination Programme (MEP) were pursued with success. HIV/AIDs reduction has also recorded progress as government is showing commitment in this respect. There is also the training of 272 registered nurses and midwives in the state under the Mandatory Continuing Professional Development Programme (MCPDP) plus the treatment of 4,038 moderately malnourished children.
Governor Udom Emmanuel in 2015 flagged off the 2015 Maternal, Newborn and Child Week in the state. The programme featured the supplementation of children with Vitamin A, pregnant women with iron folate and de-worming of children. Welfare of health workers has also been paramount, the Governor ensured the payment of Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) to medical and dental practitioners in the state with effect from 2015. There is also continuing professional development for doctors as a mandatory requirement by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. This development is a prerequisite for the annual renewal of license to practice. Government in partnership with MTN foundation coordinated a 21 day free eye care outreach for people in the state. A total of 15,350 people were screened for various eye diseases, 1,150 eye surgeries were performed while 2000 eye glasses were distributed.
To ensure a better health for its citizens, Governor Udom Emmanuel reactivated existing portable supply head works in Uyo including water reticulation in parts of the city.
INFRASTRUCTURE, HOUSING AND URBAN RENEWAL:
Government has focused on the three gate ways to a vibrant economy; road, water and air transportation. At the risk of repetition, the allocation accruing our state from the centre has crashed astronomically but inspite of the shortfall in federal allocation, several kilometres of roads and bridges have been constructed and many more are under construction. These roads are strategically networked to provide efficient movement of goods and services around the state and to accommodate the looming influx of vehicular traffic in the state. So far, government has constructed over 200 kilometers of roads, and 15 bridges across the three senatorial districts. Communities that were once cut off have been opened up. As part of the activities to mark Governor Udom Emmanuel's first year in office, he commissioned some of the shorter roads, a couple of them like Efiat, Mary Hanney, Anwana Esin were some of the over 6.6km internal roads with outfall drains in Oron where the entire terrain was taken out by flood as at the middle of 2015. The Information Drive In Uyo, the Ikot Udom road in Ibiono Ibom local government area, Mkpok Okat and Awa Iman roads in Onna, including the internal roads at the Cornelia Cornelly College, Uyo are some the roads we commissioned in our first year in office. Several other road projects are ongoing in all the senatorial districts of the state, including the dualization of the Eket-Ibeno road, Remodeling of Eket metropolis, the Nto Edino-Ekwere Azu road in Obot Akara Local Government Area and several others. The second taxiway is nearing completion at the Ibom International Airport to support the industrialization drive of our administration. Etebong Akpan, a journalist notes: The roads the government has so far constructed or intervened, cuts across the state. This is not done to massage anybody’s ego, but strictly, according to the industrial road map of the state in order to create a sustainable industrial culture. Gov. Emmanuel, has therefore, devoted a large chunk of the state’s resources to strengthen road infrastructure for a smooth industrial take off of projects in his agenda.
Such roads are littered throughout the state, all leading to proposed industrial zones. They are the 5 km Mkpok- Ukat Road and the 3.5 km Awa Ikot Nkan Road with a 15m bridge, both in Onna. Work is also ongoing on the Mbiaso-Nto Edino-Ekwereazu Road in Obot Akara Local Government Area, which empties into Abia state for the evacuation of finished agricultural produce. Work is also ongoing on the Ikot Usop- Ikot Edeghe – Ikot Ekpuk Road in Mkpat Enin with a 30m bridge that will serve the proposed Coconut Plantation and Refinery, while the Odoro Ikpe – Itu Mbonuso Road will not only open up Ini Local Government Area, but will also serve as the evacuation route for the proposed rice farm and rice processing industry in the area. Still in Ikono/ Ini Federal Constituency, the governor has also constructed the road leading to the School of Arts and Science in Nung Ukim.
There is also the construction of a dual carriageway from Uyo to Etinan and the Ikot Ebidang Road Onna LGA, which will serve the rice farming community. The Anua – Mbak –Issiet Beach Road in Uruan Local Government Area, which the governor recently flagged off its construction is another case of taking infrastructure to where it is needed most. The Beach Market in Adiadia, also in Uruan, is an income spinner to the people and government of the state.
The volume of trade on that route is bound to increase in leaps with the completion of the road as traders and other users of the market will be able to ferry their goods with ease in and out of the area. Another road under construction is the Idiaba- Nda Nsit – Ikot Abasi –Nung Udoe in Nsit Atai Local Government Area. It is another milestone in the road infrastructure development policy of the Gov. Emmanuel administration. It will serve as a quicker route for travellers from the Ibom International Airport to Eket and Ikot Abasi axis of the state, who now have to come to Uyo from the airport before going back to their bases. Oron Federal Constituency is grateful to the governor for his bold attempt to fix the road infrastructural deficiency in the area through the provision of underground drainage along Effiat lane to arrest the devastating flood that was about submerging the area. Additional roads in Oron LGA will be commissioned May 29, 2017. According to the governor, Oron must be returned to its lost glory as the centre of seafoods in the country, meaning that the airport must be linked to the East-West road. As a mark of sincerity of purpose and commitment to the realization of the Ibaka Deep Seaport and Industrial City project, the governor has approved the construction of 36.7km super highway that will traverse communities in Ukpenkang, Ibeno –Esit Eket to Mbo Local Government Areas. The proposed highway will be a 12-lane road of six lanes on each side. Four of the lanes will be medial speed lanes with a toll gate, while the other two, on either side will serve as service and exit lanes into the surrounding communities. The project, which is a complement to the Deep Seaport and Industrial City is to be funded through a public-private partnership.
The proposed super highway has innumerable benefits. Apart from serving as the gateway for the movement of cargos from the port to the state and other parts of the country, it will also serve as an evacuation corridor for goods and services from the coastal industrial city to other parts of Africa, especially landlocked West African countries like Mali, Chad and Benin Republic.
Other road projects include: the 9.1km road along Ikot Ebekpo-Ikot Ebidang road, Onna LGA, Ikot Ekaide-Ikot Okoro-Ikot Ibritam-Ekeffe-Ikot Akpan road, the dualization of 28km Uyo- Oron road down to the East West road, School of Arts and Science road, Nung Ukim in Ikono LGA, 6.4Km Nto Edino-Ekwereazu road in Obot Akara LGA, 6.6km road in Atan Offot, Uyo and several others.
To further expand infrastructure, Mr Udom Emmanuel has commissioned a 40 apartment residential estate for the expatriates that are manning the key aspects of the Ibom Specialist Hospital ‘s operations. That is in addition to constructing a brand new 300 bed capacity block the Dr Ann Ward Gynecology block at the St Luke’s Hospital Anua including the rehabilitation of the Pediatric and male blocks of the hospital. A modern state secretariat complex to supplement the existing state secretariat has been built to improve working conditions of the state’s workforce. It comes with a four storey office edifice with 600 m floor area and three access lifts, mechanical workshop and staff clinic. Governor Udom Emmanuel has also provided enabling environment for development of residential estates for prospective investors.
YOUTHS AND SPORTS:
The administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel has devised many creative strategies to make our youths to be relevant in a competitive world. As he stepped into office, he set in motion several training programmes to ensure their employability beginning with the 1000 of our sons and daughters that are on a state government training on Oracle Database Management. Another 200 have also completed a power sector training in Abuja. That power sector training was designed to equip the trainees with basic skills involved in power generation, distribution and maintenance. 100 youths have undergone a special programme on mechanized farming in Israel which was strategically factored into the annual pilgrimage. He had since floated a scheme tagged the Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme where young entrepreneurs are encouraged to be self reliant employing different combined methods like the franchise, common facility and business incubation system to address unemployment. Governor Udom Emmanuel places very high premium on education and skills development as both are pivotal to human capacity development. Governor Udom Emmanuel places very high premium on education and skills development as both are pivotal to human capacity development.
It is heartwarming that Governor Udom Emmanuel also sees sports as a window of opportunities to unlock hidden treasures for our younger generation . In 2015, he sat at breakfast with the management and players of our state owned team. He charged them to write the name of Akwa Ibom State on the national sporting map. He followed them all the way until we broke a 20 year old jinx. We won our first national football trophy at club level when Akwa United won the 2016 Federations Cup and qualified to play at the continental level. Akwa Ibom State is taking sports back to schools and to further develop sporting talents in our state, Governor Udom Emmanuel is building ten sports centres in the ten federal constituencies in the state. He commissioned the first one few weeks ago at West Itam Secondary School, Itu LGA. The second sports centre at Ikot Mbong, Onna is at advanced stage. He is running a youth-friendly government, and he knows that unemployment is the major scourge of the youths. He is designing more plans to provide opportunities for our youths and give them employment. His belief is that our youths should earn a living through the works of their hands as opposed to begging for a living. In the same vein, he have set up loan schemes for small-scale businesses, especially for our women.
With dwindling fortunes at the oil market, agriculture is the surest way out of poverty and lack. The Udom Emmanuel government is on the right track diversifying into agriculture. For the Udom Emmanuel government , agriculture has gone beyond a subsistent engagement to a business project.
Government has established 22 hectares of improved cocoa plantation in six LGAs namely, Ini, Essien Udim, Mkpat Enin, Ikono, Abak and Ukanafun. In collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, government commenced the sale of oil palm seedlings at a subsidized rate of N180 each to farmers in August 2015
Akwa Ibom State is known to have one of the best flavours of cocoa in the country. That is why Governor Udom Emmanuel has resuscitated cocoa production through the establishment of Cocoa Development Committee chaired by the Deputy Governor, Mr Moses Ekpo MFR. He also flagged off the Cocoa Maintenance Scheme to improve the yield of cocoa from the present 300kg/ha to 1,500kg/ha between 2016 to 2019. Governor Emmanuel has provided support for 8,200 cocoa farmers to cultivate 30,000 hectares of Cocoa. He has trained 480 youths on Cocoa Maintenance Scheme. Experts have been brought in to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Technical Committee to teach Cocoa farmers conventional agronomic practices to improve cultivation of cocoa in the state to earn foreign exchange.
Apart from cocoa, 6,000 hectares of land has been designated for the cultivation of cassava. There are cassava multiplication farms in Ikot Okudom in Eket LGA, Ikot Ekan in Abak and Ishiet Ekim in Uruan to teach cluster groups best practices in cassava production. Government had approved counterpart funds for FADAMA 111 Programme. Under this programme, cassava is targeted for cultivation annually between 2016 and 2019. The state is expected to cultivate 6,000ha of cassava in 2019 thereby moving the present cluster to core status. In addition I have approved the establishment of three new cassava processing factories in the three senatorial districts in the state namely: Ibesikpo Asutan LGA (Nung Udoe, Eket LGA (Ikot Okudom) and Abak LGA (Ikot Ekang). This will reduce the cost of processing cassava into other derivatives such as fofo, garrison, and pallets as well as their prices significantly. Governor Emmanuel has approved the reactivation and management of the defunct state premier fisheries at Obio Eket, Nsit Ubium by Merlot Anny Limited.
To put an end to capital flight from the state, an ultra modern poultry hatchery complex which will produce at least 520 day old chicks per day. It has commenced operation at Mbiaya in Uruan. The hatchery which comprises a feed mill and a breeder farm had commenced production. It is expected that the hatchery will attain its full production capacity of 520,000 Day Old Chicks per week.
There has been significant improvement in power in the state. Electricity has improved tremendously in the state and several communities such as those in Okobo and Eastern Obolo now enjoy regular electricity. License has also been acquired for the generation of an additional 495 megawatts of power.
The State's Independent Power Plant (IPP) is generating more than 150 megawatts of electricity in the country. In communities where the rate of vandalism is low; electricity supply is constant on the average of 18 hours to 20 hours daily. The state government has deployed more than 600 transformers to alleviate the suffering of the people in areas where electricity installation has been vandalised. The state government is building a second power turbine to supply five local government areas along coastal areas with electricity. The state government is also building two sub-stations in Uyo to improve electricity in the state capital.
However, electricity transmission is still the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government meaning the state government has limited control on implementation of power policies and programmes.
Further series will highlight the strides of Governor Udom Emmanuel in making Akwa Ibom State better.
By Aniekeme Finbarr
Finbarr is a public affairs analyst.