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Akwa Ibom: Where ease of doing business is attracting investments

The transformation in the security situation that has taken place in Akwa Ibom State in the last few years has been quite significant, compared with what obtained about six years ago when the Niger Delta, of which the state is a part, was a hotbed of militancy, kidnapping and banditry.

Governor Udom Emmanuel took the first major step, upon coming into office, of creating the peaceful atmosphere that is required for businesses to thrive in order to make the state an investment destination. He enacted a law that criminalized cultism, which was a major security challenge in the state, gave amnesty to repentant cultists and bandits who agreed to lay down their arms and got them re-integrated into the society. Today, Akwa Ibom is unarguably one of the most relatively peaceful and secure places to live in the whole country, if not number one on the list.

One cannot talk about the conducive atmosphere for doing business in Akwa Ibom without mentioning the incentives the government has put in place to enhance ease of doing business. Among numerous incentives is an initiative that has accelerated the process of issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for investors wishing to set up businesses in the state – the first of its kind.

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The first beneficiary of this new process, Victor UkoAbasi, managing director of Masterplan Innovative Industries Limited, is full of praises for the government for re-inventing the wheel in the issuance of C of O for businesses. His company is into recycling of plastic and nylon waste, to achieve a balance in the state’s ecosystem and that of neighbouring states.

Perhaps there couldn’t be a better testimony of the ease of obtaining C of O in Akwa Ibom than the comments of Engineer Oludemi Akinsanya, managing director and chief executive officer of Ibom Tropicana Shopping Mall, the world-class facility that has made shopping a pleasurable experience in Uyo, the state capital. Akinsanya was reported as saying that the ease of doing business in the state is unequalled in Nigeria. He said while it took him a longer period, in some cases up to two years to obtain C of O in some states where he has investments (he has invested in nearly all the states in the country), it took him only one month to obtain the all-important document in Akwa Ibom.

What is happening in Akwa Ibom, from the perspective of laying the foundation for the growth of the private sector, shows a methodological, step-by-step approach by the government to first of all create the needed environment before investors begin to come in to exploit the investment potential that abound all over the state. Now, the state is ready, against the background of an array of areas to choose to invest in.

Among the areas potential investors may find attractive is the futuristic Ibom Industrial City which occupies 14, 517 hecters of land across four local government areas. Designed to be a national and regional economic hub, the City will accommodate several high profile industries including a refinery, petrochemical and fertilizer plants, power plant and facilities for manufacture of several products. There is also the Ibom Deep Sea Port which Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was recently reported as saying would soon become operational. The port occupies 2,565 hecters of land across about three local government areas, and will provide capacity for Nigeria’s transshipment facility for the West and Central African regions. It would provide coastal access for a railway line to the Victor Attah International Airport, and would also be beneficial to investors within and outside the state who may be interested in marine business, petrochemicals, auto plant, as well as power plant.

The Liberty Oil and Gas Free Zone, for which the state has obtained a federal government approval, is going to offer investment opportunities in areas such as petrochemicals, fertilizer, poly polypropylene and others.

Despite the domineering presence of ExxonMobil in Akwa Ibom, the state still boasts of oil deposits that are said to be waiting to be tapped. This should be of interest to prospective investors in the oil and gas industry.

The government’s efforts at easing transportation between the rural and urban areas are not limited to construction of roads and bridges. The waterways are being opened up to create opportunities for water transport, especially since a large proportion of the state is riverine.

There is investment potential in the aviation sector. The existence of the Victor Attah International Airport in Uyo, with the longest runway in the country, provides opportunity for airlines to operate cargo flights at the facility. Investors can also take advantage of its position as the gateway to Central Africa to engage in international trade in the region.

Tourism and hospitality are areas for which Akwa Ibom is well known in Nigeria. Investors are already taking advantage of the friendly climate to invest massively in hospitality, if one considers the number of hotels that have sprung up in the last few years. A pointer to the attraction hospitality holds for investors in Akwa Ibom is the decision of the Kenya-based Icon Group Hotel Africa, a household name in hospitality on the continent, to partner the state government in the running of the Ibom Icon Hotel and Resorts, the leading hospitality facility in the state.

Akwa Ibom is blessed with arable land that enhances high yields in various crops all year round. The successful pilot cultivation of vegetables such cucumber, onions and tomatoes, for which the state’s soil was hitherto said not to be suitable, shows that agro-based businesses can flourish in the state. This is in addition to traditional crops like yam, cassava, plantain, bananas, etc, in which the state is rich. Investors in agriculture and agro-allied industries would certainly find this area attractive.

Akwa Ibom has an abundance of natural gas reserves, which offers opportunities for investment in gas-to-liquid projects, gas gathering (dry) and distribution; renewable energy, as well as low emission fuels. The Ibom Power Plant, with current capacity for 191 megawatts, has opportunity for upgrade, to a capacity of 500 megawatts.

Potential investors can tap into the opportunities available in the forgoing areas, quite certain of the full backing of a supportive government that has put everything in placed to drive industrialization in the state.

The long term benefits of the investments that are going to come into Akwa Ibom as a result of the conducive environment enhanced by the ease of doing business are the impacts they would have on economic and social inclusion, like job creation and raising of standard of living for the people of the state. This is being driven by Governor Emmanuel’s wake up call to the people to strive to go forward.

. Bassey writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State

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