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FDIs, infrastructure development boost Akwa Ibom industrial landscape

The rise in Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into Akwa Ibom State has been attributed to the presence of key infrastructure, incentives to investors and other developmental policies instituted by the current state government to make life better for the people, writes Osa Victor Obayagbona.

The industrial landscape of Akwa Ibom State is changing rapidly, and this is credited to the leadership of Udom Emmanuel, the state Governor. From a literally non-existent industrial sector in 2015 when the governor took office, the state now boasts of a strong and vibrant industrial base that is expanding by the day, which attests to his determination to re-write the history of a state where, for the nearly three decades of existence at that time, the only industry was the civil service.

The result of what is being witnessed in Akwa Ibom today is a testimony to what could be achieved when a round peg is fitted into a round whole – when a leadership is entrusted in the right person. The feeling by the generality of the people whose views are not tainted by politics is that the state could not have wished for a better leadership, from the perspective of industrialization. This feeling is borne out of a recollection of where the state is coming from.

Suddenly, a previously backwater civil service state has become the destination of choice for investors. This is attributable to the new image Akwa Ibom has today, which is that of a state where investments can flourish. The attraction the state holds to investors, their abiding faith in the governor’s competence and integrity, as well as the consistency of his administration’s policies, is evident in the fact that some of the industries that are operating in the state today are products of the public-private partnership policy that is driving the administration’s industrial revolution.

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Ime Okon, a Lagos-based Akwa Ibom industrial engineer, says the transformation of the state has not come to him as a surprise, if it is recalled that Governor Emmanuel’s five-point agenda at the time he assumed office had industrialization as the pivot of his administration’s economic transformation programme. He said the governor also made industrialization the cornerstone of the eight-point Completion Agenda of his second term.

“It shows that from his first day in office, the governor knew exactly where he wanted to take the state”, he said. “In fact, it can be said that Governor Emmanuel came to industrialize Akwa Ibom. And if that is all he would have succeeded in doing by the time he leaves office, then he would be remembered for that”.

The governor’s decision to set up a committee on Foreign Direct Investment shortly after assuming office underscored the importance he attached to investments from outside the shores of the country and the contributions they could make towards realization of his objective of making the state an industrial hub. The creation of a welcoming environment through building of infrastructure and provision of incentives made investors to begin to look in the direction of Akwa Ibom barely two years into the life of the administration. This interest manifested practically in the fact that at the 30thanniversary of the creation of the state in September, 2017, several industries, including a syringe manufacturing company and an electricity metering manufacturing company, had become operational.

It is proof of the faith investors have in the changing status of Akwa Ibom that within five years – a period many states have not had up to five functional industries – over 15 industrial establishments were already running full steam to stimulate economic activities and bring about improvement in the socio-economic lives of the people. This has come through creation of thousands of jobs and manufacture of essential goods that are required for everyday living, as well as payment of taxes.

Adebisi Adeniyi, chief executive officer of Metering Solution Manufacturing Services – a wholly-owned indigenous company based in ONNA, Akwa Ibom State – is full of praises for the state governor for creating the required enabling environment for investments to thrive, which investors find attractive.

“What the governor in his magnanimity has done is to invite investors, give us the enabling environment in terms of providing the land, access road and by doing so, take off the youths from the streets and reduce crime,’’ Adeniyi said.

Like other one-of-their-kinds industrial projects of the administration, the metering solutions company is the largest in Africa, with installed capacity to produce three million electricity meters annually working one shift. With two shifts, it can produce six million meters annually, and is also capable of meeting the metering needs of the country. The company barely manages to cope with increasing demand for its product because of its high quality, which it supplies to the Port Harcourt, Eko and Kano electricity distribution companies, and also exports to Liberia and The Gambia.

The governor’s focus on developing the three major gateways into Akwa Ibom – air, land and sea – is what is going to give significant boost to his industrialization efforts. He set up Ibom Air, the first state government-owned airline in the country, in order to open up the skies for potential investors from within and outside the country to be able to access the state at any time. The airline’s operations have significantly increased the number flights that go in out of the state daily, with impact on the state’s economy through visitors in search of investment opportunities as well as leisure.

The administration has stepped up efforts to build road infrastructure leading into and within the state, to make all parts of the state easily accessible to visitors coming in from other parts of the country by land. When completed, the ambitious Ibom Deep Sea Port is expected to be the game changer. A project for which the federal government is partnering the state, the deep sea port would serve as a major gateway through the Gulf of Guinea and enhance maritime trade in the entire region, with a significant boost to the economy of Akwa Ibom.

In the centre of Uyo, the state capital, a 21-storey smart office complex that is expected to provide office space for investors is nearing completion. The structure is the first of its kind in the entire eastern part of the country and underscores the administration’s commitment to achieving its industrialization targets.

The recent announcement by the governor of an impending $1.4 billion agricultural project to be established by foreign investors indicates that the people of Akwa Ibom may just be about to witness an influx of investments from outside the country. The investment, which the governor said cuts across two countries and would turn around the agricultural fortunes of Nigeria, is something he believes will gladden the hearts of the people of the state.

The changing industrial fortunes of Akwa Ibom will positively impact on the standard of living of the people. It would stimulate the level of economic activities that are expected to create jobs, create wealth and alleviate poverty – exactly what would be needed to take idle youths off the streets and keep them positively engaged to be able to improve their lives and contribute to the socio-economic development of the state.

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