It is not in doubt that a good road network is a critical enabler of economic development. This explains why physical infrastructure is given pride of place in yearly budgetary allocations by all levels of government. Sadly, though estimates may have been made, the delivery of the projects as envisaged many times fall short of expectations.
In Akwa Ibom State, it seems much attention has been paid to road infrastructure and bridges to the extent that several kilometres of dual carriageways have been constructed and put to use in the state. Thanks to the investment made by successive administrations in Akwa Ibom State.
From Victor Attah, who built the majestic airport road to Godswill Akpabio who constructed the beautifully laid Uyo-Nung Udoe road with illuminating street lights and more to Udom Emmanuel who has constructed several kilometres of dual carriageways, notably the 29 kilometres Etinan-Ndon Eyo road linking the East West road; the 23.4 kilometre Etinan-Eket dual carriageway and Uyo-Etinan dual carriageway, Eket-Ibene dual carriageway, among many others.
Akwa Ibom can easily claim to have one of the best networks of roads in a compact state of 31 local government areas which could be reached from any part within a maximum of two hours from the state capital.
The network of good quality roads has helped in positioning Akwa Ibom up there in the comity of states ready to attract both domestic and foreign investors and this has not been in short supply.
One of such roads that has attracted much attention is the 23.4 kilometre Eket-Etinan dual carriageway constructed by the state government which was recently launched by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The road completed with three bridges at Atabong road in Eket town, Ndiya in Nsit Ubium local government and in-between Nsit Ibom Local Government and Etinan Local Government Area as well as outfall drains totalling 4.11Km will serve as a booster to economic activities between the coastal areas and other agrarian communities and the upland parts of the state.
Inaugurating the project, Obasanjo noted that with the quality of infrastructure available in the state, it was up to the people “to make efforts to increase investment in the agricultural sector and optimally utilise the infrastructure provisions available to boost the state economy.”
He further said: “To you people of Akwa Ibom State, God has given you this precious gift who has initiated these projects. You are to take advantage and make good use of them.
“If you have good roads and it is not used to enhance economic activities, that road is not serving the full purpose it is meant to serve.
“When you have peace, security and stability, you have the basics you need for economic development and progress.”
Indeed, the availability of basic infrastructure in the state is capable of encouraging the growth of small and medium enterprises as well as attracting investors both local and foreign.
For instance, the state is witnessing an upsurge of businesses and influx of people from neighbouring states and this is a major boost to the local economy, from housing development to the hospitality industry.
Though Akwa Ibom State is said to have one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in the Niger Delta, an assertion that has been disputed by the state government, experts say that it would only be a matter of time before things take a new shape.
Along the major streets of the city, many businesses are springing up and firms are setting up shops in addition to the growing number of hospitality outfits across the state.
Still on the road infrastructure, it is expected that with the ongoing expansion of the airport dual carriageway, it will not only contribute to the ease of doing business index but will significantly boost economic activities as more businesses along the road including housing projects are also expected to come on stream.
According to Governor Udom Emmanuel who attributed the success of his administration to the focus he had on the campaign promise to work for the people of the state throughout the tenure of his mandate, he explained that many projects await commissioning before his exit from office on May 29.
He listed the projects to be launched soon to include second runway, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul facility and new terminal building at the Victor Attah International Airport, hospitals, more roads, and the International Worship Centre, adding that the projects not completed in his tenure would be completed by the next administration.
The inauguration of the 23.4km Eket-Etinan dual carriageway by Obasanjo came barely five months after former president Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated one of the longest bridges ever constructed by any state government in Mbo Local Government Area of the state which was completed by the Udom Emmanuel administration.