Udom Emmanuel, governor of Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom State, won elections on the back of his promise to transform the state into an economic powerhouse. So far, he is on the right course.
In the run up to the last elections, Udom Emmanuel, the governor of Akwa Ibom State, was touted as the right candidate for the right job at the right time. An accomplished technocrat, he was promoted as the man who could build on the legacy of his predecessor to take his people to the promised land of economic prosperity. Nearly one year into the job, he has met the expectations of his people. He is developing a network of roads to connect the economic centres in the state into one hub; he is boosting the power generation capacity of the state to provide the energy to drive an industrial revolution, and he is deepening the state’s educational capacity to provide the skills base to drive the economy. On top of all this, he has launched a major re-orientation campaign to change the mindset of the people from that of a dependent to one driven by the sheer drive to succeed. His Dakkada (‘Rise Up’) campaign is pushing the people to realise their potential for greatness.
He has also aggressively pursued the development of infrastructure to underpin his industrialisation drive. A taxiway, which will also serve as an alternative runway, is under construction at Ibom Airport. Emmanuel has promised to commission the project by the end of July.
He has tackled headlong, the power deficit in the state. Electricity supply is up to 18 hours a day, the highest in the country. He has even secured a licence to generate an additional 685MW of electricity, through the expansion of the Ibom Power plant which currently generates 150 MW a day.
The results of his hard work in the past months are becoming obvious. The Peacock Paints factory, moribund for more than 30 years, has been resuscitated. At the last count, more than 50 investors have lined up to take advantage of what is emerging as a new economic frontier in the Gulf of Guinea region. His government’s businesslike approach to industrialisation has shortened the turnaround time for the realisation of investment proposals. At the last count, at least 10 industrial projects are at various stages of completion.
Akwa Ibom State had hitherto been described as a civil service state. At best, one can call it an agrarian state. Therefore, the term industrialisation has been alien to it, but Governor Udom Emmanuel has succeeded in bringing that concept to bear in Akwa Ibom because of his administration’s industrial drive. This is a complete shift from the style of the previous administration. One of the Governor’s cardinal policies before coming to power was industrialisation. This was well encapsulated in his inauguration speech in May 2015. Since then, a lot has happened, such that even the blind can feel the wave of industrialisation blowing across the state.
In the inaugural address he told Akwa Ibomites: “You have kept your part of the covenant and I intend to keep mine by executing the programmes I enunciated to you during my official declaration to run for the office of Governor, which include to transform the economy of our state via industrialisation and sustainable public-private sector initiative, thereby opening up opportunities for growth and improved living standards”. It was on this premise that his administration started the current industrial drive in earnest.
To match his words with action, shortly after resuming office, one of the first things Governor Udom did was a visit to the Peacock Paint factory that had been abandoned for years at Ikot Ekan in Etinan local government area.
The state government subsequently released the sum of N 120m as buy-back to put the factory on track. Today, the factory which is scheduled to produce three million litres of paint a day, is back into productive activities and has engaged unemployed people.
In his commitment to industrialisation, Governor Udom performed the groundbreaking ceremony of an Automotive Assembling Plant in Itu local government area. The plant is in partnership with an Israeli company. When fully operational, it will assemble vehicles like buses, ambulances and security transport. It is estimated that at least 50,000 people will be engaged directly and indirectly.
Another landmark in the state government’s drive towards industrialisation is the plan to establish industrial parks in each of the senatorial zones of the state. As a first step, it is focusing on Ibom Industrial City because it is the international gateway into the state.
The Ibom Deep Sea Port, whose approval was given by the federal government towards the end of preceding administration, is another major step forward in revolutionising the industrial base of Akwa Ibom. On completion, it is expected to redefine maritime business in Nigeria, create employment for thousands and redirect economic activities in the state. Again, it is expected to overhaul the entire cargo handling capacity in the country. This will no doubt, drive youth empowerment, wealth creation and entrepreneurship. There is also the Itam Industrial park and the envisaged Ikot Ekpene Industrial Park, whose conception is in the pipeline.
The current capacity of Ibom International Airport, which at the moment directly and indirectly employs more than 1,000 indigenes of the state, is also being expanded.. As a result of this, the state government has awarded a contract to increase the terminal building to match the industrial dream of the state. To this end, the anticipated structure is expected to be 400m long and incorporate a five star hotel. Also, the runway has been expanded from 3.6 km to 4.2 km, thus making it the longest in the country. According to the Commissioner for Special Duties, Etido Inyang, the whole idea is for these projects to match the new vision of the state government in the area of industrialisation.
Because of the abundance of coconut in almost every part of the state, the government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a South African firm on a consultancy basis to produce coconut oil and refined coconut produce. This will create an unprecedented number of jobs for the people.
Besides this, the government is in collaboration with LED for the manufacture of low energy saving bulbs and production of electricity meters. The moribund Mapo refinery, which has a chequered history in the state, is also being looked into so that it can come on stream in the months to come. With all of these initiatives focused on industrialisation, Akwa Ibom State is on the way to joining the league of states like Lagos, Rivers, Kano and Kaduna. To that extent, the toga of Akwa Ibom being a civil service state will very soon no longer hold sway.
If there is any state in Nigeria where the public purse is well managed in line with the realities on the ground today it is Akwa Ibom State. This is not only because Governor Udom Emmanuel is a banker by profession but because he brought with him into governance a crop of individuals who are passionate about the need for the lean resources of the state to be well managed in such a way that all Akwa Ibomites can heave a sigh of relief. The people share in his vision and are willing to fly with him. This is the story of the current administration of Akwa Ibom State Government in the area of prudent management of resources.
For example, less than four months in the life of the present administration, the state government brought relief on the way of local government pensioners who were owed at least 10 years’ gratuities. The Executive Secretary of Local Government Pensions Board, Uduak Udoh, said that a total of 719 pensioners had been paid their dues under the first phase of the exercise. These were people who had retired between 2002 and 2011. The second phase of the exercise, he said, would commence as soon as funds were made available. Mary Bassey James, who retired as a Principal Adult Education Officer in Uyo local government in 2010, is one of the beneficiaries. She says that she was on the point of giving up all hope of receiving a pension until she discovered she was on the list of those to be paid. Now she has been able to set up a small business selling cloth.
Glory Stephen Bira from Itu Local Government, once worked as a Market Superintendent. Thanks to her gratuity, she runs a semi-supermarket in front of her house to augment whatever her husband supplies. Another beneficiary is Okon Ben Ekoh, a former Chief Rural Health Superintendent from Etinam local government. He has now been able to expand the building he acquired as a result of the money.
With the second phase soon to commence, Udoh warned that anyone who missed out on payments had probably not supplied right documents on time. According to him, a thorough verification exercise along with the biodata of each retiree would be carried out to ensure that only those entitled to gratuities would get them.
With the dwindling revenues as a result of the fall in oil prices, Akwa Ibom State Government is prepared to harness everything at its disposal towards ensuring that its resources are well managed to provide the needed democracy dividends for all.
The Commissioner for Finance, Akan Okon, said the state government should be grateful for having Udom Emmanuel in power at this time in the history of the state: “I'm glad to tell you that the state government is doing all those things necessary to sustain transparency in government. Even in the face of the dwindling resources coming to the state, the government is doing everything that needs to be done that can have immediate impact in the life of Akwa Ibom people.”
Unlike what used to occur in the past when state money seemed to go missing at the change of government, Governor Emmanuel ensured that all loopholes leading to such a state of affairs were blocked. Because of his experience in the banking sector, he also made sure that there should not be anything like a multiple revenue account so that it would be easy for auditors to access the accounts anytime the need arises. As a result of this, a lot of wastage were checkmated.
To ameliorate the sufferings many Nigerians are currently going through, the state government, less than 100 days in office, facilitated a micro finance loan from the Central bank of Nigeria, for the citizens of the state at nine per cent interest rate. However, the state government took over the payment of the interest to cushion the effects on the people. Depending on individual ability, beneficiaries borrowed N300, 000, and in some cases N500,000. A few of them even took on N1 m. All these took into consideration the fact that the state government was aware of what the people were going through. And to ensure self- sufficiency in many areas, local training schemes were also embarked upon for indigenes of the state after which the government disbursed small allowances to enable trainees to begin a business of their choice.
Today, when some states in the country cannot pay salaries and the few who can pay are up to three months in arrears, Akwa Ibom State Government does not owe any. According to Okon, “The debt profile of Akwa Ibom State is one of the lowest compared to other states in the country. For example, so many states in Nigeria took what they call bail-out loan from the government to pay salaries but we did not; yet we do not owe salaries. To that extent, you can testify that the extent of our debt profile is minimal compared to other state. Even pensioners in the state who had been owed for up to 10 years have been paid by this administration.”
Education is not new in Akwa Ibom but what is new about the sector is the innovation which the Emmanuel Udom-led administration has brought to bear.
During its first 100 days in office, the state government conceptualised the educational dreams that the new administration intends to pursue for the overall interest of its people. The previous government of Chief Godswill Akpabio enunciated the popular ‘red roof’ project in all state schools, which is still cherished today, but Governor Udom took the initiative further by ensuring that modern innovations are introduced in all schools.
The free and compulsory education for all children in Akwa Ibom, introduced by the previous government, is something the present administration is not willing to compromise on. The state Commissioner for Education, Aniekan Simon Akpan, says: “Governor Udom Emmanuel, without mincing words, is passionate about education and he is committed to the free and compulsory education, which is one of the cardinal programmes of this administration.
“Right from inception, he has shown a lot of commitment. This is because the government knows that the drive towards industrialisation of the state is anchored on sound education. We can actually build the industries in partnership with foreign partners but His Excellency believes that Akwa Ibomites should be the main drivers whenever they take off.
“To that extent, there must be solid foundation; that is why the Udom-led administration is providing the access through the free education campaign. This is why all the primaiy, secondaiy and technical schools are completely free.” That is why, within less than three months in office, the governor approved a N235 million grant to all heads of primary and secondary schools.
On October 1, 2015, the new educational blueprint was launched by Governor Udom. A major drive in the innovation was the introduction of ICT in all public and private schools in Akwa Ibom. As a first step, the sum of Nlm was released to all schools to begin the first phase of connecting all educational institutions to the internet. This is to ensure that all schools in the state are ICT compliant. Towards achieving this, a MoU was signed between the state government and the Nigeria Communications Commission. So far about 43 primary and secondary schools have benefited from the scheme. Also, more than 100 computers were supplied to these schools in order to support their ICT needs.
To further complement ICT expansion, the
Udom administration continued the sponsorship of 30 indigenes of Akwa Ibom studying ICT-related courses in India. The students, who were being trained in Oracle, Information Technology and Cyber Management, all graduated with Masters Degree in IT with specialisation in different fields towards the end of 2015.
During their convocation in India, Education Commissioner Akpan, who was representing Governor Udom, remarked that the students were products of a deliberate effort to consolidate on ICT as laid down by the previous administration in the state. Today, all the graduates are back home in Akwa Ibom in both the public and private sector building up the next generation of ICT professionals. Michael Bassey; Aniefiok Stephen; Mkpongke Mfot; Emmanuel Ekerefe and Umoh Offiong, who were among the MSc graduates from India, said they were grateful to the state government for choosing them for the programme. Aniefiok, an engineering graduate from the University of Uyo, ran a lesson centre in Uyo while some of his colleagues were doing menial jobs. “The exposure this training has given us can never leave all through our lives,” he said. “We are grateful to Governor Udom for not abandoning us after the end of the last administration. We are back and willing to share this knowledge with everyone. There is no aspect of ICT that we did not study in India. Remember that India is the centre of ICT in the whole world.”
The retirement age crisis that had almost crippled academic activities in the state was also resolved less than six months after Udom assumed office. For instance, the mandatory retirement age for all academic staff is now 65 years. That has put to rest the issue which had been lingering for years. Also, the monthly grant of N200m to each of the higher institutions in the state for capital projects was increased to N250m. With this, each of the institutions is now able to carry out capital projects in their respective campuses.
The welfare of teachers in Akwa Ibom has not been compromised by the present administration, say its supporters. According to Akpan, “Training and retraining has been our watchword.” Many teachers have been trained in the last eight months either by the state government or through collaboration with other agencies. For example, 800 teachers were trained by Mobil last year, of which 400 were from public schools and the remaining 400 were from private schools.
As is the case with other sectors, education in Akwa Ibom has taken another leap forward.
Emmanuel’s divine mandate
SPEND A FEW minutes with Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom State, and you would think he has a direct line to God. The man who says he cannot separate God from governance believes he has a divine mandate to transform the lot of his people. In a way, you cannot fault his faith. He was carrying on with his career as a professional banker when his predecessor invited him to serve the state as secretary to the state government.
From that position, he contested and won election to the office of state governor. Despite a gruelling legal fight by his opponents, he kept his mandate. He sees God’s hand in all this and in his mission to use his experience in business to turn the state into an economic powerhouse.
Born July 11,1966, Udom Emmanuel, banker, accountant and politician, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the ladder of leadership and service. He was sworn into office as governor of the Oil rich state in Nigeria's Delta region, Akwa Ibom State on May 29, 2015 after running successfully for the office of governor in the April elections on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
His speedy odyssey in the world of politics began in July 2013 when he was appointed Secretary to the State Government of Akwa Ibom State. In2014, he aspired for the governorship of Akwa Ibom State in a hotly contested primary election and defeated 22 other aspirants (christened G22) to emerge the PDP candidate.
He went on to win the contest with 999, 071 votes, defeating the All Progressive Congress'candidate, UmanaOkon Umana, who scored 89, 865 votes.
A native of Awa Iman, in Onnal local government area, Udom Emmanuel attended Secondary Commercial School, Ikot Akpan Ishietin Onna LG A from
where he obtained his West African Examination Council’s Certificate (WAEC). From there, Udom Emmanuel went on to attend the School of Arts and Science, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, where he received his Advanced Certificate of Basic Studies (CBS) and a Higher School Certificate (HSC). He enrolled at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in
Accounting in 1988. He has also attended the Advanced Management Program at INSEAD, France. He is a Chartered Accountant by profession and trained with Price Waterhouse Coopers and is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management.
Before his appointment in 2013 as Secretary to the State Government, Udom Emmanuel was Executive Director on the Board of Zenith Bank Pic since He joined Zenith Bank in 1996 from Diamond Bank Limited and was the pioneer Manager of its Lagos Central Branch.
He served as Chief Financial Officer of Zenith Bank Pic. He also served as Group Head of Income Optimisation, Financial Control and Strategic Planning Department at Zenith, was in charge of the Telecommunications Sector as well as serving as overall General Manager.
Udom Emmanuel also doubled as Non- Executive Director, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) from 2008 to the time of his appointment, and Director, Nigerian Inter-bank Settlement Systems (NIBBS) from 2009; Non-Executive Director,
Zenith Bank, United Kingdom; Zenith Bank- Gambia; Zenith Bank-Sierra Leone; Zenith Insurance; Zenith Pensions and Custodian; Zenith Securities; Zenith Trustees and Zenith Registrars.
Emmanuel and his family are devoted members of Qua Iboe Church, Nigeria where he serves as a deacon.