By TONY NYONG,Â Uyo
Mr.Bassey Albert Akpan doubles asÂ the Akwa Ibom State commissioner for finance and chairman Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Committee. He was the vice chairman of First City Monument Bank before his present office. In this interview he explains the mega projects of the administration and his confidence on the target dates for their inauguration. Excerpts
AKWA Ibom is handling several mega projects, such as the Tropicana project, Ibaka Industrial Seaport, Ibom Power Plant and many more. Do you think that the state has the financial muscle to ensure the conclusion of these projects ?
What we have done in Akwa Ibom State, in line with the dimension of most of the cardinal and big nature projects, is to divide them into long term, medium term and short term projects. The short term targets are those targets we can meet in the first six months in the office. Medium are those targets we must meet in the first two years in office. Long term targets are those targets done within the first four years.
There is need to reposition Akwa Ibom State from civil service state to a preferred investment destination in the history of the country. We must impact positively on the life of the people in the rural communities. What we did was to develop a financial model facilities in line with the vision of the governor. There is a directive from the Federal Government that all routine in Nigeria should re-locate to their area of operation. It is on record that the present administration is to raise Akwa Ibom as an economic saint. For the state to be a tourism and investment destination, you must as a matter of policy put in place a convenient and comfortable infrastructure that will make life more meaningful.
We must implement and run an efficient capital management system as a government. In the last two years the state has not borrowed a kobo from any bank. Despite the magnitude of investment, we have limited ourselves to available funds from both federal allocations as well as internally generated revenue. As part of the cash flow management system, government has created an account called project stabilization fund. We make sure we set aside a certain percentage of every allocation that comes to the state every month after the payment of every advances in most of the state projects such as Tropicana, Ibaka Industrial Seaport since Akwa Ibom State project account is an interest unit account.
There is about N30 billion savings in this account as a balance to ensure that there is no element of shortage of funds in the course of implementation of most of the projects. There should be no cause for alarm, the government of Akwa Ibom State has the capacity to meet every financial obligations. Talking on Ibaka Industrial Seaport, we believe that Ibaka is not only a port.
Our vision for Ibaka is taking advantage of the natural features in partnership with both the private and public sector. Government is developing one of the biggest oil and gas free zones with a seaport as the component part of the project.
Since Akwa Ibom territorial waters is bounded by Cameroon, our concept for Ibaka is for the government to put in place an enabling infrastructural support. Ibaka is very strategic in the sense that once it is fully repositioned based on conceptualization and perceived reduction of traffic in Lagos port, it would automatically become a hub.
The federal government has
Akwa Ibom State as central processing unit in the Nigerain gas master plan which will automatically attract an investment of well over $4 billion to the state. Since Akwa Ibom State has the highest concentration of natural gas in the country, most of the cardinal programs is built around Ibaka. This is because Ibaka would soon become the gateway of the economic activities between Nigeria and international communities. With a seaport, airport and good infrastructure, Akwa Ibom will have a big position as the economic giant in the sub Saharan region. This is the same concept behind the Tropicana. Within the Tropicana complex you have an 18 storey, 250 room five star hotel, international conference center, shopping mall with 250 luxury shops that would make Akwa Ibom a one stop investment state in the sub sahara.
You said that about N20 billion has been put already in taking the airport to where it is now, can you explain more ?
We re-awarded the airport to a tune of about $170 million, equivalent of N20 billion. This is due to the fact that based on the records available, over $200 million had been spent on the airport project before now. We believe that an average indigene of Akwa Ibom needs an airport. Looking at the traffic study ofÂ Calabar airport, 70 percent of the travellers come to Akwa Ibom State. Once we have good infrastructure, because the road to Ikot Ekpene is being dualized from Itam to Ikot Ada Idem. There is intention to dualize the road to Ikot Ekpene and to relocate the prison, this is part of the strategy that people in Umuahia and Aba will be closer to Akwa Ibom airport. Since we are building an airport with cargo facilities, once we have a good road network, Akwa Ibom airport will be extremely attractive. To make the state a one stop destination, we need a veritable infrastructure that will drive the administration.