By N S Brown
Governor Udom Emmanuel has taken steps to actualise his vision for the establishment of Liberty Free Zone in Ikot Abasi industrial city – Akwa Ibom State. According to reports, he led a business delegation accompanied by Mr Umana Okon Umana, managing director of OGFZA, to meet Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, the minister of trade, industries and Investment in Abuja, to discuss his proposal.
The meeting was described as successful since it aligns with federal government policy to support states in their industrial development drive in order to help create job opportunities and attract foreign direct investment to the country.
This is one of several successful business negotiations initiated by the Governor that is steering the State towards economic growth and self-sufficiency. After delivering more than a dozen functioning industries and tidying basic sectoral needs including healthcare, food security, education and others, the Governor is taking on a new set of challenges as he drives his completion agenda aimed at pushing the State into the big league of industrialised state’s within the African sub-region. And, he seems driven to create an entirely new niche for the State in the aviation and maritime sector.
Such drive is understood considering that the geographical location of the coastal State at the Gulf of Guinea with unhindered access to the Atlantic Ocean is very significant as a major gateway State with huge business potentials. Unlike Lagos State whose unstable salty lagoon is unfit for large sea-going vessels to berth close to the shore, Akwa Ibom State has a deep continental shelf which would give easy access to large vessels up to the shore. This natural asset is what attracted European traders and colonists to Ikot Abasi, Ibeno and other coastal communities linning the State.
Perhaps Governor Emmanuel also draws inspiration from this historical fact which explains the sense of urgency he attaches to development. For instance, the State-owned international airport was merely a transit point when he took over. However, within his first term, the Governor renamed it Victor Attah International airport and undertook extensive expansion works on the facility to accommodate increasing traffic and almost completing a permanent terminal for the airport.
Also, within four years of initiating a State-owned airline – Ibom Air, Governor Emmanuel has painstakingly built a brand name for the only State carrier in Nigeria’s aviation industry as well as earned the State a place in global aviation map. Not done, the Governor is poised to capture a larger chunk of Nigeria’s often unutilized aviation industry. And, with the help of a highly professional board managing the airline company, the State recently added a fourth aircraft, a 90-seater CRJ900 bombardier to its fleet.
Being an astute businessman with keen eyes on trends, the Governor made sure the newly acquired aircraft is posted Covid-19 compliant. The new aircraft with registration number 5N-BXP, possesses the latest hyper-technology high-efficiency air filter (HEAF), a passenger safety device against viruses, including Coronavirus.
Besides investing in the aviation industry, Governor Emmanuel is working assiduously with relevant federal government agencies to develop the State’s maritime industry. With the longest coastline in the country, Akwa Ibom State has served as an important entry point since the pre-colonial era. Its coastal communities were among the first to have contact with seafaring European traders but were abandoned in the labyrinth of national politics.
Consequently, every investment made by the Governor in the sector is geared towards repositioning the state as a world-class maritime business hub. In so doing, he has interpreted the Akwa Ibom Development Master plan clearly.
Emmanuel’s quest to ramp up the actualisation of the Ibom Deep Seaport, IDSP, project began as soon as he entered office. Since then, he has achieved tangible milestones which culminated in the presentation of the Full Business Case Compliance Certificate for the project in June 2020.
During the presentation ceremony, the Director-General of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Mr Chidi Izuwah, said the project would become a major national and regional economic gateway that would provide additional container handling capacity for the country. He added the IDWP was also expected to handle petroleum products, crude oil, natural gas, vehicles and bulk trade in natural resources and commended Akwa-Ibom State government for its efforts in getting the project to the present level of achievement.
As stated earlier, in addition to ensuring the realization of Ibom Deep Seaport, Governor Emmanuel initiated the Liberty Free Trade Zone, in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, taking advantage of its unhindered access to the Atlantic Ocean. Juxtaposing these major development efforts with numerous industrial concerns proposed for the area including a coconut refinery, a jetty, fertilizer manufacturing plants, oil servicing platforms among other industrial concerns, it is readily seen that Governor Udom Emmanuel is opening sustainable business opportunities on several fronts that will impact on every area of Akwa Ibom State economy such that on completion of his tenure, he would have left an unmatched legacy, having set up the State for self-sufficiency and economic independence.