The immediate past administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio is respected for taking Akwa Ibom into the global arena with landmark achievements in both human and infrastructure. Some of the projects executed by the administration include numerous road constructions, actualization of an international airport, free and compulsory education and many other life-touching projects spread across the entire state.
These and many other projects of international standard not only drew applause, but also became reasons why the state gained recognition as a destination of choice for tourists and investors from around the world. Given the zeal with which the immediate past administration kept the state in global limelight, the fear of many by May 29, 2015, when a new administration took over, was that the international standing and recognition of the state may begin to wane.
The fears were however unfounded, as the new helmsman has proved himself a globally minded leader, with the capacity to maintain the tempo of socio-economic development that brought the State to global limelight. Throughout his electioneering to succeed Akpabio, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel made it clear that with the needed experience for a rapid economic transformation, he was the right man for the job.
Coming from the organized private sector, where he sat as an executive director of a reputable international company, Mr. Emmanuel wasted no time in settling down for the task for which he was elected. Equipped with knowledge from his many years of corporate world involvement, he set up various committees to facilitate the speedy actualization of his vision for the state, as captured in his five-point agenda.
So far, the State has recorded three diplomatic visits from around the world within the last ten months. The envoys included Jamaican High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mrs Ann Scott who was accompanied by some Belgium Diplomats; Ambassador of Denmark, Mr. Torben Gotiermann; and the US Consul-General, Mr. John Bray. There is no gainsaying the fact that such diplomatic visits signposted a boost for the foreign direct investment drive of the Udom.
During the Jamaican High Commissioner’s visit, Governor Udom Emmanuel particularly canvassed greater participation of the Caribbean nation in the marine sector, like beach development to enhance tourism in the state. In spite of the progress so far made in the tourism sector, there are yet a number of undeveloped tourism sites, especially beaches across the state. If developed and fully utilized, such beaches have the potential of increasing the internally generated revenue of the State. Tourism no doubt will blossom in a state as peaceful as Akwa Ibom and with the influx of foreign nationals and holiday-makers, investment becomes a natural accompaniment.
The visit of the Denmark Ambassador, Mr. Torben Gotiermann was remarkable because it happened on the same day the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered judgment on the disputed electoral victory of Governor Udom Emmanuel. While there was tension in the state and at the Supreme Court, the Governor was still carrying out his official duties aimed at improving the lots of Akwa Ibom people, not minding the outcome of the ruling by the apex court.
During the visit, Governor Emmanuel told the ambassador in very clear terms that his administration had opened its doors for bilateral economic cooperation in the area of agriculture, logistics and maritime. Assuring him of a conducive business environment, he emphasised the fact that Akwa Ibom has a large coastal region of about 17. 73 metres, and that its nearness to high sea, supports the establishment of a deep seaport. The upcoming Ibaka deep seaport that is capable of creating thousands of jobs opportunities readily comes to mind.
The last in the series of diplomats to identify with the state and the governor is the United States Consul-General, Mr. John Bray. His visit according to him was to identify investment opportunities available in the state, with a view of furthering the age long collaboration that exist between Nigeria and United States of America. Mr. Bray commended the state government for operating a transparent administration, one of the indices which attract investment to any economy.
Apart from these high-powered government representatives, other international private organizations and investors have also shown keen interests in new socio-economic initiatives of the Udom administration. One of such is the John Kuffor Foundation of Ghana.
The Foundation is in Akwa Ibom to train youths in pruning, under-brushing, fumigation and shade management aimed at improving cocoa yield in the state. This public-private partnership is made possible because of the governor’s determined effort to ensure that there is additional revenue for the state outside crude oil. The target of the state government is to ensure that cocoa produced in Akwa Ibom which has a special attractive flavor is produced in large quantity, with an envisaged increase from the present 30,000 hectares to 60,000 hectares before 2017. This will no doubt make Akwa Ibom a major exporter of cocoa in the nearest future, which will come with the attendant benefits of job creation and opportunities for the people, especially the youths.
Apart from the John Kuffor foundation, a number of other international businesses have continued to arrive the state in droves. One of them is a South African Company, H.O Oil Food Consulting Limited, which has signed an understanding with the state government for the establishment of coconut plantation and Refinery Company. Already, the required seedlings have been acquired.
Similarly, an Israeli automobile manufacturing company, MIMSHAC Merkavim Transportation Technologies plant has settled for business in Itu with more containers arriving with necessary materials that will see automobiles roll out from the plant sonnest.
In the same vein, a conglomerate of Indian, Pakistani and Chinese manufacturing Services LTD is in the state to proffer solutions to problems arising from electricity generation and distribution especially in the area of building electricity metres.
With these number of international business concerns already taking position in the State, no one is in doubt about the capability of Governor Udom Emmanuel to sustain the positive global standing of Akwa Ibom.
The haste with which foreign organizations are coming to the State may be understood, if viewed from the passion, commitment and transparency of the Udom administration. This much was alluded to by the US Consul-General, when he applauded the security, reliable infrastructure, transparency and accountability his home government noted in Akwa Ibom, which are fundamental to successful business and in line with global best practices.
The commendable initiatives and actions of the Udom administration, which have so far continued to promote international business investment in Akwa Ibom, there is the need for the people to lend greater cooperation and support. As beneficiaries of the foreign direct investments, Akwa Ibom people should develop themselves into global players who can harness the business opportunities coming home to them. We must realize that it is a new dawn and we can no longer continue with etok syndrome, rather, let us brace up and join the big league.