In a din of five years, Governor Udom Emmanuel has the right to thump his chest that he has attracted 18 industries to the state. In a row of five years, the state government under his leadership can firmly proclaim that it has succeeded in changing the landscape of the hitherto civil service status to an industrial city toga. It is not a mean achievement.
This message, as endorsing as it was, came from the Governor as part of activities that marked his fifth-year anniversary on May 29. Like a surprise package, he deftly declared “Industrialization is the linchpin of our governing agenda, and so far, we have attracted over 18 industries to this State; some which include the largest syringes manufacturing company in Africa, the metering solutions company, the plywood factory, the fully digitized flour mill, coconut refinery, whose work is at advanced stages of completion, numerous cassava processing mills.
“Pencil and toothpick industries, Rice mills, plastic making factory, among others. These industries have helped with our job and wealth creation agenda. We will continue to make our State a destination of choice for investors, post-COVID-19.”
Over the years, the cloud that surrounded the exact number of industries was foggy as some government officials bandied with 15 or 17. Even some wrote or spoke to those who cared to listen that Governor Udom Emmanuel administration has “established” so, so, and so industries in four years. Undoubtedly, it was a good marketing strategy during the electioneering period that some campaign agents and monied-craving persons jumped into the boat of praise and set on sail without really knowing the import or implication of the statement. But the number One Landlord in the state has laid rest to what were outright hearsays and mere pontifications to woo voters and sway the gullible.
Obviously, the governor is emboldened to achieving his 8-point Complete Agenda anchored on industrialization. As a recap of the agenda enunciated in 2019, the governor pledged to establish at least one Petroleum Refinery, one Thermal Power Plant, one petrochemical plant, and one steel plant in Akwa Ibom State before the end of his second term administration in 2023. This was backgrounded by his earlier 5-point agenda in which job creation formed one of the planks. So, the 18 industries are like little flies in the frying pan as more are being expected.
Though the governor has sliced his 2020 Budget which is still anchored on industrialization, COVID-19 pandemic appears the only stumbling block to his laudable vision. Except for the recently inaugurated 20-member post-COVID-19 economic reconstruction committee headed by Professor Akpan Ekpo, former Director-General of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management offers different technical advice, Emmanuel is indubitably bent on etching his name on the industrial map of the state.
We, of the Straightnews, profoundly laud the effort and vision of the Governor in attracting the industries capable of providing employment opportunities to the teeming Akwa Ibom people, opening the state for more meaningful development, reducing the poverty index, attracting more foreign direct investments to the state and scaling up internally generated revenue profile of the government through payment of taxes and PAYEE.
However, we are cautious to loudly shout Hallelujah on the feat. In the 80s, the late Dr. Clement Isong administration in the erstwhile Cross River State established Biscuit Industry, Battery Industry, Champion Breweries Ltd, Qua Steel Industry, Peacock Paints Ltd, Pamil Industry and Quality Ceramics, among others. Though Champion Breweries Ltd and Peacock Paints Ltd are the surviving ones (not in the true sense of it), the rest had been railroaded into oblivion due to frazzled politicking, unfavourable Federal Government’s industrial policy, technological change-over by foreign manufacturers and other inconceivable factors.
Though some people still castigate Godswill Akpabio’s administration of promising to establish industries in the 31 local government areas of the state, they easily forget that it is one thing to promise, it is another thing to fulfill. It is the primary duty of the government to provide welfare and security (as provided for in the 1999 Constitution) to its citizenry. The establishment of industries by any government is secondary, but the government can provide an enabling environment for prospective investors through participation in the Public-Private Partnership arrangement.
Yet, some people who still hang on the promise of the 31 industries have not reflected on some salient points about government, an established and well-structured institution. What was the government policy on industries in the state? Was there a legal framework in place for the establishment of industries? Were the industries budgeted for by the government and money released to that effect? Were there bankable loans for prospective investors? Assuming the administration failed in this regard as erroneously believed by some, is what the present administration doing a fulfillment of the scripture? I Corinthians 3:6 says, “I planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour. Is the present interpreting the vision of the outgone? Who knows?
For more than 10 years, the free and compulsory education policy for Akwa Ibom children was implemented, yet there was no legal backing to the policy. At present, Akwa Ibom House of Assembly is battling to enact an Act to back the policy. It clearly shows that the government is a continuum.
Frankly, the Governor has to do spadework to sustain the growth and survival of the industries. As a matter of urgency, the government must send the Bill to attract or establish industries to the state House of Assembly for passage and signing into law by the Governor. The bill must contain, but not limited to, the status: PPP arrangement, Equity shares of the government, Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, Board of Directors, and Annual General Meeting for directors and shareholders. Others are staffing, employment status of the company, financial profiles- debts and dividends of the industries, management team, among others.
Moreover, we call on the state government through Ministries of Economic Planning and Trade and Investment to design and implement a broad-based industrial roadmap or blueprint anchored on the location of industry, availability of raw materials and nature of the industry, among others to enable prospective investors to follow suit instead of coming with their agenda which may not run in tandem with the peculiar development needs of the state. Let a committee of experts assembled by the government recommend such for endorsement by the Governor before the investor is handed papers to begin the business.
Again, security is an important ingredient in attracting industries to the state. The government must go beyond mouthing Akwa Ibom as the safest state in the country. Many rural communities are bare without the presence of security agents. Let the government act fast to forestall any infraction at a time some strangers are migrating to the South.
When this is done, the incoming administration and Akwa Ibom people will applaud the transparency of the government and be ready to work for the success of the industries. Let the right thing be done and at the right time to curry the confidence of the people.