By Joe Ini Odu
Governor Udom Emmanuel has continued in the streak of distinguishing politics of service and that of demagougy or sloganeering often contrived as a snare to secure votes from unsuspecting electorates. When he therefore pledged that the thrust of his administration would be industrialization, many wondered at the feasibility especially in the face of a national power supply system that is not only prostrate but comatose. But the debonair ex-banker understood clearly the impediments and how to overcome them. Known to possess skill-sets and experience that enable him think out of the box, he had obviously addressed his mind to the fact that industrial take-off is impossible without stable power generation and supply. When he therefore tasked the management of Ibom Power Company to reposition the outfit as a prime-driver for the industrialization of the State, it was pursuant to his agenda of harnessing all the requisite elements and coalescing them into the vision that would drive the dream of industrial revolution in the State.
Today, that plan of action has sired viable fruit that is witnessing a dramatic change in the number of hours of power supply the State is enjoying. The history of the stability of power in Nigeria has for many years remained a contentious issue. It is one sector that has defied every concerted effort and remained intractable to diagnosis. Every succeeding administration comes with a strategy that is easily defused by entrenched interest. The matter is made worse by Federal Government’s policy on generation and distribution. Until recently, generation was on the exclusive list of the Federal Government. But some semblance of privatization which is largely guided has leveraged on generation while retaining distribution in the exclusive list of the central government. There is no gainsaying the fact that the distribution of electricity in our country has been generally tacky with all manifest signs of inefficiency. Yet, the electricity company assigned the responsibility of distribution by the Federal Government has continued to carry on as if all is well. It has persisted with the rip off of the people through dubious bills usually claimed to be estimated.
But Governor Udom Emmanuel known for his fair-mindedness and proactive approach to governance has made very deliberate and bold intervention in the sector and his commitment is already yielding results. The gains which are in facets have reached irreversible levels. Let us begin from electricity coverage. The Akpabio administration met a State that was as low as 35% in electricity coverage. It took up the gauntlet and ensured that electricity coverage was boosted to a phenomenal 85% as at the time he left office. He provided transformers and ensured that most of the rural communities were connected to the national grid.
Encouraged by this feat and determined to fulfill his pledge of surpassing superior performance, the Udom administration has taken the issue of electricity notches higher. Governor Udom has not only expanded the coverage which today is said to stand at about 95%, true to his trait as a renowned corporate player, he has gone the extra mile in terms of content and approach. Of course, such extra mile always leverages any performance far and above the ordinary.
As noted earlier, his advent to power was immediately followed with a marching order to Ibom Power Company that it repositions as the elixir for industrial take-off. Government, having an understanding of the critical fulcrum power supply occupies in the matrix of industrialization imbued the mandate with elements that would expectedly boost output and enhance efficiency. Buoyed by his encouragement and support, the management of Ibom Power Company did the following to wit: it empowered the staff; it created some elements of ownership culture; built capacity and strengthened corporate governance. A synergy of all these resulted in the completion of the second turbine which was not completed from inception.
The aggregation of these efforts of the State Government has foisted appreciable efficiency on the generation capacity of the Ibom Power Plant. The company today generates a steady output of 155 megawatts with the plant running for an unprecedented over 170 days without any shut down. With such output, the State can cover its electricity needs as well as supply to Abia, Imo and Cross River States. But the challenges of evacuation, distribution and revenue collection which are on the exclusive list of the Federal Government have continued to pose as hindrance to our efforts in meeting our electricity needs. As soon as these knotty issues are sorted out, Akwa Ibom State would have a non-stop clock work power supply. In the interim, as a Corporate Czar who is familiar with the dialectics of negotiation, Governor Udom Emmanuel has entered into gainful negotiation with the distribution companies resulting in the State enjoying an average power supply of between 18-22 hours daily. This is indeed a feat when compared with other States including the Federal Capital Territory which often have most of its areas enveloped in pitch darkness.
But these are not the only things the Udom administration has done in preparation for the industrial revolution that is about to be unleashed on the State. First and foremost, to ensure that the entire State is properly primed for the industrialization, he has through the Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs restored power to several communities that either had issues or were hitherto not connected to the national grid. He has built a sub-station in Uyo that would cater for exigencies that may arise. With this, some technical issues can be resolved without necessarily going to the main station at Ikot Abasi.
Perhaps the clincher which further reveals Governor Udom Emmanuel as a visionary and a strategist is his administration’s Metering Plant Project. Issues of non-remittance of tariffs by consumers to the power company are traceable to dubious charges called estimated bills. With distrust underling the billing system, consumers compromise officials to connive with them for the bills to be circumvented. With meters from the plant at affordable cost to Nigerians, estimated bills would be a thing of the past. The metering plant, a strategic thought through of Governor Emmanuel which is scheduled to commence operations in January 2017 would enter the power sector with a bang as it would be the first of such company in the South-South region
Meanwhile, the company has already advertised for job vacancies in national and local papers with applicants from Akwa Ibom on first line charge. The company which has advertised for about 150 vacancies would also create more than 500 ad-hoc and ancillary jobs. And this is just the beginning of a series of many others on cue, ready and willing to do business in Akwa Ibom State. The Udom administration is gradually transforming the State into that industrial haven where cost of production would be within competitive limits as hitherto known reasons for spiraling cost like power, difficulty in the procurement of certificate of occupancy, multiple taxations, lack of incentives would have been duly mitigated or eliminated by a responsive government that is committed to the improvement of the wellbeing of the people
Public Affairs Analysis