Commissioner of Information, Akwa Ibom State, Charles Udoh, in this interview with Financial Vanguard disclosed the state government’s drive to industrialise the state and efforts to build infrastructure to attract foreign investors in different sectors of the economy. He disclosed that opportunity exists to build gas fired thermal power, other factories, among other viable projects in the state.
WHAT is the motive behind the state government’s drive for industrialisation?
The motive behind the industrialisation is that Akwa Ibom State is no longer young. It is over 30 years and in those years it has been centred around government. The current administration under Governor Udom Emmanuel wants the economy to be private sector driven. So before now, the drive has been the government. The government has so much to do in order to empower the people; it has not much to do in the area of business than to provide the enabling environment for businesses to strive.
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So, the state government believes that the state has potentials for industrialisation and it is through that it will continue to grow and develop.
So what is the government doing in terms of providing an enabling environment?
The current administration is poised for providing the infrastructure that will attract both local and foreign investors to invest in the state. The government has consciously been building roads, developing towns. We have built 1000 kilometres of roads. We are building economic roads; in fact, the government has invested heavily in terms of road infrastructure. We are also taking security issue seriously. We are making sure that necessary infrastructure is put in place to drive industrialisation. All these will help reduce the cost of production.
What is the state government doing to address the high cost of doing business which is prevalent in the country?
Like I said earlier, we are here to provide the infrastructure that will make the cost of doing business low. We don’t want the private sector to build roads; that we are already doing. We are partnering with the private sector to build power. There is a conscious effort to grow the leadership of the state. So, we want the industries to be concentrated, so that we can have industrial hubs. It is our dream to lead the way. We provide power through injector stations; we have at least 18 hours of power supply in the state. We are building two additional two power plants.
Do you have plans to build a gas plant to help boost power supply?
There is an opportunity to build a gas-fired thermal power plant designed to generate 500 megawatts of electricity into the National Grid. Akwa Ibom State has the largest reserves of oil and gas in Nigeria. Any power generated is guaranteed to be purchased by the Federal Government. It is also possible to generate for a secluded area (captive power). We have the gas required to power the plants in abundance.
What are other resources available in the state?
There are abundant rubber trees in the Akwa Ibom/Cross River belt. Currently, all vehicle tyres used in Nigeria are imported. With a population of over 180 million, vehicles plying Nigerian roads are estimated to be in the region of 30 million, conservatively.
Accordingly, an opportunity exists for the setting up of a tyre manufacturing plant. We also have clay. Good quality clay is in abundance. Again there is no ceramics company producing plates, toiletries, tiles, etc, in the country. This is an excellent investment opportunity.
We have Steel Plant located in Eket axis, which has been assessed to be in a fairly good state, even though the plant has not been operated for a number of years. We have cassava. Flour has many uses – from cakes to bread to cookeries to pastry etc. There is currently no Flourmill in the South-South/South East region of the country, despite the heavy use of the end products. These are opportunities available in the state.
How do you assess the performance of Governor Udom Emmanuel in the past two years?
In just two years in office, Governor Emmanuel has implemented several people-oriented socio-economic programmes and projects which have catapulted Akwa Ibom State into the premier league of states in Nigeria. Building on the foundation laid by his predecessors, Emmanuel is leading the state on the path of economic prosperity anchored on sustainable development.
The cardinal objective is to transform the state into an industrial hub, a preferred destination for tourism and a major food basket. The success level so far recorded was accentuated in a recent report of Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics that listed Akwa Ibom as the second best Foreign Direct Investment, FDI destination in the country.
Today, there are several visible footprints of industrialisation across the length and breadth of the state. In addition to the resuscitation of the Peacock Paint Industry and the establishment of the Pencil and Toothpick Factories, two major factories; Electric Metering and Syringe Factories have been commissioned.
The syringe factory, which is the largest in Africa, has a production capacity of 400 million syringes per annum, expandable to 1 billion syringes. It is noteworthy to add that the State Governor recently flagged off the construction of a Flour Mills and Coconut Refinery while ensuring the sustainable operations of the Akwa Prime Hatchery.
To underscore its commitment to providing an enabling environment that fast-tracks its industrialisation agenda, the present administration has so far constructed over 700 km of roads connecting the economic nerve centres of the state and invested heavily in the power sector.
Apart from highlighting the various investment and tourism potentials of the land of promise, Discover Akwa Ibom 3.0 offers a snippet view of the numerous accomplishment of the visionary administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel, even at a time of economic recession in our country.
What other opportunities are available in the state?
There is no fertilizer plant in Akwa Ibom State. Given the fact that the nation is now focusing on agriculture, in a bid to diversify the economy, it is critical to have enough fertilizer. Over 80 percent of the fertilizer currently used in the country is being imported.
This administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to developing the tourism sector by opening up its tourism sector by opening up its tourism frontiers to accommodate interested investors. The recent massive investment in infrastructural renaissance and the remodeling of urban towns are geared towards positioning the state as a desired destination for tourism operators.
There is also a modular refinery with a capacity of 6000 barrels per day, which has already been built in the United States of America and is ready for shipment. The equipment has been in storage since it was manufactured a few years ago.
All licences required have been secured. There is also an opportunity for fish production. We have a coastline of about 129km, which is complemented by abundant rivers, tributaries, mangrove, swamps, creeks, and floodplains. The marine waters are very rich in aquatic animals and fishes, while the continental shelf, creeks, and swamps are the natural homes for various species of fishes, crustaceans, and shrimps.
What is the condition of some of the abandoned projects in the state and what is the state government doing to complete them?
Yes, there are some uncompleted projects. They were not abandoned. The state currently has some outstanding projects that are roughly 80 percent completed. These consist of a hotel in Uyo, another hotel in Ikot Ekpene, and an international hospital in Uyo.
These are very viable projects and the hospital is reputed to be the best in terms of infrastructure and equipment in West Africa.