By Joe Iniodu
It is trite knowledge that Akwa Ibom State has been largely a civil service State since its creation. A launch into the industrialization orbit in the days of old Cross River State by the Clement Isong administration failed sustainability test as all the industries were allowed to go moribund except Champion Breweries, which is still surviving on life support. The rest, inspite of the vision that informed their establishment became anaemic and completely prostrate with the State lapsing into its old order of being the civil service dependent
But the second coming of industrialization to the state seems set to depart from those crude ordinances that became reasons for the downfall of the other industries. One of such ordinances was government’s direct involvement. Agents of government that were involved saw the industries as an extension of their patrimony from the State. The industries could not break even nay to talk about making profit in the years of its existence. With such scenario and with government not willing to play the Father Christmas anymore, the industries had to close shop. That ended our first shot at industrialization.
Governor Udom Emmanuel just like the man who drove our first industrialization vision, Dr. Clement Isong is a banker. While th other was the governor of Central Bank, Emmanuel rose to become executive director in the fourth largest Bank in Africa. Both obviously share the vision that any buoyant economy must not be civil service dependent. More so, in these times, economies are private sector driven. It is why the governor is making concerted effort to stimulate the private sector through an array of incentives but without government’s direct involvement in the industries.
Akwa Ibom at 30 which came with elaborate celebrations devoted an aspect to showcase the strides the state is making in the area of industrialization. Government had through its enormous goodswill attracted two 100% privately owned businesses to the State, to wit: Jubilee Syringe Factory owned by a parent company from Turkey called VKS and Metering Solutions Manufacturing Factory. The inauguration of the two companies by the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was part of the celebrations and rightly so.
During the commissioning of the 400 million capacity a year syringe factory, the Vice President who could not hide his excitement lauded Governor Emmanuel for his foresight in attracting such landmark project. In a lavish bust justified encomium to the governor, he said: “You are one of the cleverest I have ever come across. I want to appreciate you for the innovation and creativity and for encouraging these investors”. Such remark from a Professor of law with equally lavish exposure cannot be taken for granted. It certainly means that Governor Emmanuel through various actions and decisions have made profound impact to necessitate such well embellished comment from the Vice President.
Professor Osinbajo in his appraisal of the syringe factory described it as a landmark project, not only for Akwa Ibom State, but also for Nigeria. He said that “it is a game changer for the nation” as it marks the beginning of production of syringes in the country. It must be stated that Nigeria imports disposable syringes from abroad with the attendant peril of depleting foreign exchange. With the local production of this essential medical consumable, the country can save the foreign exchange for other needs. The establishment of the syringe factory in Akwa Ibom therefore makes the state a strong player in the economic index of the country.
The syringe factory which is located in Onna in Akwa Ibom State at this commencement has an installed capacity of 400 million syringes and is expected to upgrade its production capacity to one billion next year. Ofcourse, this is achievable as all the factors that would enhance the projection are favourable. The committed workforce, the hospitable environment, access to raw materials, security etc are some of the factors that ease the consideration of expansion. Suffice it to say that all of them are on the positive chart.
It was not only the syringe that Governor Udom Emmanuel led his guest to inaugurate. Having also attracted another mega industry, Metering Solution Manufacturing Factory, Governor Emmanuel led the Vice President to commission the project. The factory is into the production of pre-paid meters for electricity consumers. Again, pre paid meters are imported at detrimental cost to the Nation’s economy. But even at that, they are hardly available for consumers of electricity. With its perennial absence, the power companies resort to a crude model called estimated bill. This obnoxious method gives them the liberty to arbitrarily give bill that suits their fancy without recourse to any empirical data. Metering Solution Manufacturing Factory is set to end that contentions billing process for Akwa Ibom people in particular and Nigeria in general.
But the snag is in meeting the growing need as consumers are increasing at phenomenal ratio. Currently, the installed production capacity is for about 25,000 meters monthly. The company which is already producing agrees that the prospects are bright. It is therefore planning to install another production line soon as part of its expansion programme. The centrality of meter in this era of “power for all” enunciated by Governor Emmanuel places the burden of meeting demand on the company necessitating an urgent plan to acquire another production line to meet the phenomenal increase in demand. The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo while inaugurating the plant had described the project as an excellent innovation which would help in addressing a myriad of power supply issues in the country, especially the inefficient billing system.
Attracting any investment into the country now is comparable to the scriptural parable of “a cow passing through the eye of the needle”. Stringent fiscal regulations instituted by the federal government has rather set off an economic cataclysm that has impinged foreign direct investment. For an investor to enter the country and invest today, he must have confidence in the facilitator. That is what Akwa Ibom is blessed with currently; a leader who inspires the confidence of investors. It is this confidence that gave Akwa Ibom the uncommon niche of being the second largest recipient of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), after Lagos according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This is a heartwarming development.
With the coming industries, the State is positioned to deal with a myriad of issues like unemployment and poverty. Poverty alleviation and wealth creation are some of the five-point agenda of the Udom administration. The coming of these two latest industries with its viable value claim, the state is prepared to tackle the hydra-headed problem of unemployment and poverty. The Metering Solution Factory currently has about 138 workers on its payroll. It is planning to do 2 shifts which means multiplying the figure by two. But more than that is the fact that the company is planning to build another production line of same capacity which also means more employment opportunities. Aside from direct employment are the broad spectrum economic activities the industries would engender within the locality and the state in general. For instance, owners of houses would become landlords; something they never dreamt in that hitherto sprawling rural community. Food vendorship has also become an attractive business as there is a bourgeoning market. Many other ancillary services have been birthed, because of the factories thus giving bright prospects to a local economy that will never to be the same again.
Joe Iniodu – public affairs analyst