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AKPABIO: AND THE AWARDS KEEP COMING

By NBF News
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The Institution in a letter to the Governor signed by the Commandant, Major General Emeka Onwuamaegbu, listed the other honourees as the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Abubakar Sa'ad111, former Minister and Senator, Professor Jibril Muhammad Aminu, Minister for Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, and the National Security Adviser, General Owoye Andrew Azazi (rtd).

Past awardees of this prestigious award included Alhaji Yayale Ahmed (former Secretary to the Government of the Federation), Lt General TY Danjuma (former Defence Minister), and Professor SC Ukpabi (pioneer NDA Provost) were conferred with the honours in 2009. Similarly, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (former President), Dr Alex Ekweme (former Vice President) and Lt General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (former National Security Adviser) were honoured in 2010.

For Chief Akpabio, honours for the uncommon transformation in Akwa Ibom State have come in torrents from the media and academic institutions. He had earlier bagged honourary doctorate degrees from the University of Calabar, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, University of Uyo and Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State. He is also a fellow of Federal Polytechnic Kazaure and College of Education, Bichi.

Indeed there is a general consensus even among his political opponents that Governor Akpabio cannot be faulted on performance because he has exceeded the expectations of even the worst pessimist.

Before now, the rest of the country used to wonder why so much money was given to states in the Niger Delta region and yet there was not much to show for it. But Chief Akpabio has put a lie to that notion and now people are studying the Governor's economic wizardry that has seen a large chunk of the budget of the state being spent on capital projects.

Since he mounted the saddle in 2007, the Governor has turned Akwa Ibom State into one huge construction site. For the Akwa Ibom State helmsman, anyone who is in doubt is invited to 'come and see.'

If one accepts this invitation and travels by air into Akwa Ibom State, he will be landing at the new Ibom International Airport, whose first phase had been completed by the Akpabio administration in his first term.

Reputed to have one of the longest runways in Nigeria, international flights had already commenced from the airport. But as a man of vision, Governor Akpabio has moved on to complete the second phase which would have the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities to serve the West African sub-region.

What cannot escape the notice of any visitor to Akwa Ibom State is that the State has one of the best road networks in Nigeria courtesy of the administration of Chief Akpabio. Before he assumed office, major roads in the state were in very deplorable state while others were completely impassable, thereby cutting off residents of those areas from activities of the state.

However, on assumption of office, Governor Akpabio wasted no time in bringing his vision of a state that human and vehicular traffic could move from one point to another without hindrance to bear. Four years on, he has delivered about 211 new roads and three new concentric flyovers. Now, even the most remote part of the state could be accessed in the shortest possible time.

If the visitor who accepts the invitation to 'come and see' chooses to unwind, then the Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre, a flagship project to boost tourism in the state, whose first phase comprising of Cineplex has already been commissioned, is the place to go.

With work going on in a dizzying pace, the Centre which promises to be a world class entertainment destination in the West African sub-region, comprises a 15-storey of about 250 bedrooms, a five star hotel, a 10,000 sitting capacity dome, a shopping mall, a theme park and a multi-storey car park. This brand new facility complements the completed Le Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort to position the state as a destination of choice.

Another flagship project that has attracted many visitors also is the first-in-Africa underground flood control project using the pipe jacking technology to check the problem of perennial flooding of the state capital. Before now, residents in some parts of the state capital have lived in perpetual fear of their houses being submerged by flood.

But with the project, water is channelled into well lubricated huge pipelines buried 40 metres underground and taken to the discharged point. During a visit to the state, President Goodluck Jonathan was so amazed at the project that he said: 'One of the projects that is quite interesting to me is the drainage system. I think this is the first time I have seen that kind of drainage system and I believe it must be one of the firsts in the whole continent of Africa,' he said.

Peradventure, the visitor has a health challenge, then there would be no cause for alarm as Akwa Ibom state courtesy of the administration of Chief Akpabio the state has built and commissioned five brand new general hospitals and is almost completing an International Specialist Hospital and Referral Centre. In her unique health programme, Akwa Ibom State offers free healthcare services to children, the aged and pregnant women.

But perhaps the programme which may prove to have the biggest impact in Akwa Ibom State is the free and compulsory education policy of the administration of Chief Akpabio and the massive investment in the future of Akwa Ibom children.

Many people consider the free and compulsory education policy as his greatest achievement because long after the infrastructure would have withered, the human capital that the Governor has developed would have assumed positions of authority in the country and beyond because someone gave them the opportunity through the free and compulsory education policy which has seen to the tripling of school enrolment in the last three years.

This is complimented by the building of over 500 new classroom blocks and renovation of about 2,000 others and the first ever e-library. In Akwa Ibom, a visitor may mistake a public school to be private schools as the line between them have become blurred.

What the visitor would also notice is that the projects in Akwa Ibom State are not limited to the state capital or the urban centres alone. The administration of Chief Akpabio has transformed the rural areas with the execution of over 3,000 people's oriented projects in the rural areas.

It has pursued a comprehensive rural electrification scheme which has linked over 1,400 communities to the national grid, thereby making the state to achieve 85 percent electricity coverage. Governor Akpabio has promised that at the end of his second term, no community in the state would be in darkness.

Having addressed the infrastructural need of the state, for his second term Governor Akpabio has turned his focus on aggressive industrialization. During the campaigns he had promised that the administration would partner with the private sector to build at least one industry in each of the 31 local government areas in the state.

The federal government has also indicated interest to partner with the state to develop a deep sea port at Ibaka while an industrial city with a cluster of industries in petro-chemical and oil and gas sector would also be sited there. Having completed a 191 megawatt Ibom Power project and partnering with a private company to construct a gas processing plant with 69 kilometre of gas pipeline, the state is ready for an industrial revolution.

Visitors to Akwa Ibom State have been stunned by the dizzying pace of development and this is why the whole country from educational institutions to media organizations have celebrated Governor Akpabio as a charismatic leader and a man of great vision. Indeed this is why the awards keep tumbling in.

Mr Ekong is the Special Assistant (Media) to Governor Godswill Akpabio.