AKPABIO WOOS DIASPORANS TO INVEST IN AKWA IBOM
Akwa Ibom State indigenes in the Diaspora and other investors have been called upon to take advantage of the state government industrialization polices and invest in the state.
Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio who made the call recently in an interview with journalists in Houston, Texas, said the state government has laid foundation for the industrialization of the state through aggressive and massive infrastructural development.
Corroborating Chief Akpabio's call, Secretary to Akwa Ibom State government, Mr. Umana Okon Umana said with the construction of over 210 new roads, construction of international airport, completion of 191 megawatts Ibom Power Plant and 85 percent electricity coverage of the state with 1, 400 communities connected to the national grid, the state was ready for industrial take off.
Speaking at a panel discussion on industrialization organized by Akwa Ibom Diaspora Network (AIDN) at The Westin Houston Memorial City, Houston, Texas, Mr. Umana described the last four years of Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio-led government as a revolution, saying the construction of gas processing plant with 69 km of gas pineline, a world class business and entertainment resort, the Tropicana, among others, were geared towards the next phase of development.
Mr. Umana who headed the business session expressed the willingness of the state government to partner with Akwa Ibom state indigenes in the Diaspora, adding that with their exposure they would make meaningful contributions that would fast-forward development process of the state.
While inviting investors to come to the state with business ideas, he described the state as a safe haven for investment because of its natural resources and liberal economic policies in the Gulf of Guinea and sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr. Umana who disclosed that the state government has set aside N20 billion seed fund for the industrialization of the state, advised the private sector to take the initiative. 'There are potentials in the state, the Ibaka project and the deep seaport is a dream we all know will materialize. We expect the private sector to take the initiative because in the next two years, the landscape would change. This is not an academic exercise or a talk shop, but work in progress,' he said.
Speaking on the topic Legislative Framework for Industrialization, Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr. Sam Ikon, said one of the functions of the House was to make laws to drive the process of industrialization, creation of jobs, and laying of legal framework for proper functioning of the state.
Mr. Ikon said so far the House had passed the Appropriation bill, Child Rights Act and other laws that have enabled the sate government to embark on massive construction of roads, housing schemes, as well as re-visit the law establishing Akwa Ibom Investment and Industrial Promotion Council (AKIIPOC) for smooth implementation.
However, he said in the area of legal framework for investments and industrialization there were constraints as they belong to the exclusive list of Customs and Immigration, which are under the supervision of the federal government. But he said he was confident that the Federal government would improve the sector.
On Policy Framework for Industrialization, Mr. Senas Ukpanah, a former Minister of Commerce, who spoke on the topic said the sole aim of industrialization was to promote entrepreneurship, even as he stated that the government also has a role to play by creating policies that would encourage the promotion of industrialization from rural to urban economy.
Chief Ukpanah, however, said for industrialization to be effective, there were four pre-conditions such as adequate infrastructure, literate and skilled workforce, enabling environment and large presence of the middle class, even as he stated that the government has done a lot to provide infrastructure.
Also speaking Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, said the foundation for industrial take of the state has been laid by Chief Akpabio, saying the second term mandate given to him was to empower him to take the state to the next level.
Otuekong Nkanga who spoke on the topic 'Preparing for the New Vision,' advised the people of the state to desist from negative utterances and write-up as these were capable of derailing the process of industrialization. 'I would like to advise the people of the sate to desist from sending wrong signals to potential investors because if you put the state in bad light investors would not come. So, it is necessary that all hands must be on deck for the next stage of development of the state,' Otuekong Nkanga the former Military administrator of the state said.
Mr. Bassey Akpan, Commissioner for Finance, who spoke on 'Financial Framework for Industrialization,' informed participants that government has already created an industrial base for the take off by setting aside the sum of N20 billion as seed fund for a start. 'Government has already created an industrial base for the take off of this project. We have set aside N20 billion for a start,' he said.
Prof. Felix Edoho who was one of the speakers said industrialization was a joint undertaken between the government and the people, adding that foreign investors would be attracted to the state to bring about technological transfer as the state would not do it alone regardless of how much resources it has.
Commissioner for Works, Mr. Don Etim, said without infrastructure it would be impossible to industrialize the state as that is the integral part of the process of development and pointed out that the roadmap for infrastructural development was established in the first term of the Gov. Akpabio-led administration because the state of infrastructure they met on ground was poor.
Engr. Etido Inyang, Special Adviser on Bureau of Technical Matters, who spoke on 'Technical Readiness, Energy as the Enabler,' informed participants that the quality of the products and facilities on ground was enough to give people a clue to what is coming in the area of industrialization.
Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem, while speaking on the topic 'Industrialization and Urban Renewal,' stated that government has made enough provision to accommodate the influx of people that would be witnessed in the course of industrializing the state, saying his Ministry, which is a creation of the Akpabio-led administration has embarked on the construction of several housing units and urban upgrading and beautification.
Speaking on 'Information as a Critical Success Factor for Industrialization,' Commissioner for Information and Social Re-Orientation, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, stressed the importance of information, saying it was critical and strategic asset to any development process.
Mr. Umanah said his Ministry has kick-started the process of marketing and re-branding the state to potential investors as well as harnessing, providing adequate information resources, shaping of public opinion through the creation of information data bank to encourage free flow of information from the government to the people.