*Targets 60,000 hectares plantations
In a bid to enhance wealth and job creation, the government of Akwa Ibom is putting measures in place to make the State a cocoa production hub within the entire West African sub-region, targeting over 60,000 hectares of cocoa plantations. To fast track the project, over 30,000 hectares of improved cocoa plantations have been set up across various local government areas of the State, even as more than 35 hectares of palm oil plantations are established in 15 councils of the region.
The State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel disclosed this in Lagos, stressing that the State has about 129 shorelines that can be turned into wealth creation for the area. “Akwa Ibom is going to be number two in cocoa production, not even number 10. We have evergreen area and with such, we can produce raw materials. By May 29, 2016, we will bring out a day old chick from our hatchery. Poverty alleviation involves providing basic necessities for the people, and human development does not end with education only. Those who are not doing well in the classroom can acquire skills, training in football and other talents to enhance their development in the society.”
On agriculture projects in the State, he said, “Our projects in agriculture are expanding very fast. Currently, we are running two planting seasons and calling on more people to key into this scheme. Many of our youths were sent for a special training on modern agriculture in Israel, and we are going to send another 450 people for similar training. Those who did the first training will go for another phase of the training, to be fully equipped in the field. When we look at development and innovation in advanced economies, we will realise that Nigeria and African countries must come to terms with happenings in the global economic environment”.
Responding to question on the economic framework that government is putting in place to enhance industrialisation in the State, he said, “Three major things drive economic growth and development. These include security, reliable infrastructure and solid legislation. In Akwa Ibom, we spend so much from our federal allocation on security to protect the people and to secure the State for investments inflow. The previous government met total infrastructure decay on ground, tackled that aspect very well, thereby laying the foundation of development in the State for us to build on. We have been able to set up Technical Committees on Ibom Deep Seaport project, Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) drive, agriculture and food security. Our plan for the future is to establish a direct ferry to link the Republic of Cameroun and Oron area of the State. This will boost maritime and other economic activities through Oron waterways. The initiative is to enhance industrial growth. At this point in our history, it is imperative to diversify the economy into non-oil export sectors for greater growth, like what obtains in developed countries. We need to ask ourselves how much we realised from crude oil in the last 30 years and how it is impacting on the lives of our people.”
About what government is doing on medical tourism to curtail capital flight from the State, he explained, “Today, we have a world class hospital that receives an average of 1,230 patients everyday. Imagine how the government is coping with such a large number of patients coming into the hospital on daily basis. We believe government is continuous, as such, we are improving on what the previous government put in place. We have many on-going projects in the State on human development, agriculture, hard and soft infrastructure. Some of the projects initiated by the current government include fertilizer plant located in Abak, resuscitating the Peacock paint company at Etinan, establishment of vehicles assembling plant in Itu, establishment of Blue Marine -Light Emitting Device (LED) factory, construction of Ibaka Deep Seaport is in progress, introduction of the department of investment in the ministry of commerce and industry.”
He went on, “Now, the free and compulsory education in the State make us to have more primary school teachers, due to influx of pupils from the neighbouring States to our schools. Notwithstanding, we are still paying salaries and pension. We also established sport academies in the 10 federal constituencies to enhance youth development. The government successfully sponsored power sector training for over 200 youths from the State. The water project we are embarking on is the standard of World Health Organisation (WHO), because our boreholes are 500meters deep, which is the standard of WHO. We are also running the water project from the airport road, and moving towards the city, for people to have access to potable water. This is because we do not want our people to get water from shallow boreholes, which have high level of iron content, because it is not good for health. The media plays a crucial role in economic development and sustainable democracy by putting political office holders on check. Therefore, we recognised this, and we are calling on the media to partner with government in order to achieve sustainable growth.”