How Akwa Ibom became Nigeria’s most desired destination, by commissioner
Wherever you go, everyone talks of the state as one with an uncommon transformation. And those that have visited the capital, Uyo, as well as the other towns insist that such a tag is no misnomer. Indeed, Akwa Ibom State has, in the past few years, earned itself a name as Nigeria’s most transformed state, with many asserting that the governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, is the best among his peers in the country.?
The state commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, insists that Akwa Ibom has become Nigeria’s most desired destination since 2007 when Akpabio took over the leadership of the state mostly populated by the Ibibios, the Annangs and the Orons. “Governor Akpabio has handled the affairs of the state with uncommon zeal, determination and pragmatism since assumption of office.
He is putting the people first in the scheme of things and providing them with enduring projects, which have changed the landscape of the state. His approach to governance has been bold, decisive, and methodical. He has left no one in doubt that he was angry at the state of affairs that he met and therefore in a hurry to transform the state. These, he has done by embarking on monumental development projects that have changed the face of the entire state making the governor the harbinger of uncommon transformation,” Umanah says in a chat with this reporter. Indeed, many people visit Akwa Ibom state these days, not only to enjoy the Ibibio’s popular cuisines, especially the delightful, globally renowned fisherman’s soup, but also to see the transformation that has taken place.
And indeed, right from the airport, the transformation is clearly evident. Taking each sector one after the other, the commissioner explains why different people have turned Akwa Ibom State into their most favoured address. In the area of education, Umanah said the governor has bequeathed a great legacy to the people of the state with a free and compulsory education policy. Under the policy, children of school age attend school free from primary to senior secondary school level. The state also pays a N100 per primary school pupil and N300 on each secondary school student to cater for logistics and expenses for the administration of each child, says the commissioner.
Schools have also been rehabilitated massively. Investigation showed that many school blocks have been reconstructed, and laboratory and science equipment provided. Besides, the government also pays examination fees for the senior secondary school certificate examination. Other achievements include payment of NABTEB fees for students in public technical colleges, implementation of the 27.5 per cent TSS for teachers, payment of grant to law students, pre-medical and medical students, construction of internal roads in the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State University and other major schools, and the construction of an e-library in the state capital, among others.
If you’re a parent in the state and your child is loafing around during school hours, you might be on your way to jail. These days, many people insist that a trip around Uyo, Ikot-Ekpene and other towns in the state is a pleasurable venture. But until a few years back, it wasn’t so. Major roads remained in very deplorable conditions, with potholes littering every section of highways and intra-city roads.
“Many roads, including the Afaha Obong – Etim Ekpo, Iwukem road; Abak – Ikot Ekpene road; Nung Udoe, Itak – Use Ikot Amama road, Enin Nsit and Ikot Ekpene internal roads in various local government areas were completely impassable, thereby cutting off residents of those areas from activities of the state,” Umanah informs. Soon after mounting the saddle, Governor Akpabio started awarding road contracts. Right now, close to 300 roads, covering well over 1, 000km have been constructed, says Umanah.
He informs that the government also installed modern digital traffic lights in Uyo and started the Uyo Urban Renewal and Regeneration Project. Dual carriageways have replaced hitherto narrow roads leading into Uyo, just as flyovers recently constructed by the government now ensure the free flow of traffic. Collapsed concrete bridges have been reconstructed in many parts of the state, and the government also procured one grader in each of the 31 local government areas to ensure periodic maintenance of rural roads. To tackle flood and erosion in Uyo and its environs, the government constructed a N13.8 billion underground drainage system. It is also constructing a 10-lane ring-road III with two new flyovers, costing the state N28.5 billion.
The state government has also done a yeoman’s job in the area of agriculture, says Umanah. Governor Akpabio, he asserts, initiated various programmes to boost agriculture and food production even as he also empowered women farmers and agro traders. A major programme of the administration, the commissioner says, is the Women Agro Entrepreneurship Development Programme WAEDEP. Under the programme, no fewer than 6, 500 women have received an interest free loan of N250, 000 each for their agro businesses.
Besides, hundreds of youths have been empowered with N500, 000.00 each under the Integrated Farmers Scheme. Other interventions by the government, according to Umanah, include the approval of N11billion for the accelerated livestock and fish production programme (ALFIPP), procurement of 180,000 metric tons food storage and processing infrastructure at Abak at the cost of N1.5billion, under the Akwa Ibom State Reserve Food Programme, and the procurement and distribution of over 26,000 metric tons of assorted fertilizer at 60% subsidy to farmers in the last two years. The latter cost the government N2billion.
Even the College of Agriculture, Obio Akpa, has since been converted to a campus of the Akwa Ibom State University, Mkpat Enin. In the agric sector, the state government says over 4, 000 jobs were generated while 1, 500 others got direct employment opportunities through the various programmes in the sector. “The Akpabio administration has been supporting various externally funded programmes, including Fadama, community based natural resources management programme (CBNRMP), IFAD- assisted rural finance institution building programme (RUFIN) and World Bank/ Federal Government poverty alleviation programmes, among others,” the commissioner disclosed. Many foreign organisations also have agreements with the state government for the commercial production of and processing of rice and palm oil in the state.
The state government also established three cassava processing centres at Nung Udoe, Ikot Okudom and Ikot Ekang in Ibesikpo Asutan, Eket and Abak local government areas respectively. Umanah gives Akpabio a thumbs up for what the administration has done in the health sector. The 20th Anniversary Specialist Hospital at Ekim Itam has been described as a world class facility. The University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) has also benefitted from the state government, he informs, with the building of a paediatrics block as well as the donation of N50m. At the General Hospital, Ikot Ekpene, the first oxygen plant in the history of the state was built.
“The government also activated and expanded eight anti-retroviral therapy centres, 15 prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) centres and 37 HIV counselling and testing centres, all rendering free services. Others include the procurement and commissioning of state-of-the-art ambulances; construction of new primary health centres in the three senatorial districts of the state; procurement of utility vehicles to close to 200 doctors employed by the state; construction of Cottage Hospitals in Essien Udim, Ibeno, Ukanafun, Eastern Obolo and Ika, and a high immunization coverage to eradicate polio and all other childhood killer diseases.
There is also the provision of counterpart funding for all health programmes by donor organizations like UNICEF, UNFPA, Operation Roll Back Malaria and HIV/AIDs World Bank Assisted Programme,” Umanah affirms. The commissioner says the governor is currently working on providing 10,000 modern and affordable houses to the Akwa Ibom populace. Akpabio’s government also constructed a functional Governor’s Lodge complex just as the state built 10 prime units mini estates in each of the local government areas for local government administrators. An ultra-modern banquet hall was also built within the Government House. The present government, Umanah insists, has been working hard to make life better for women, children, the elderly and socially disadvantaged people. This category of people, he avers, have benefitted and continue to benefit from the government’s free medical services, including surgeries.
The Child’s Rights & Protection Law was passed in 2008 to enable children of Akwa Ibom origin enjoy all the privileges enshrined in the National Child’s Act 2004. In fact, an Akwa Ibom child is the present National Speaker in the National Children’s Parliament, he says. Women are also being encouraged to participate in governance just as orphans were empowered through various programmes. The rural communities in the state also have a cause to smile, says Umanah. In his words, the government has taken over rural electrification projects from the local governments, just as no fewer than 1500 communities are now linked to the national grid.
Many rural roads, schools and health care facilities have been rehabilitated across the state. In the area of tourism, few states can claim to do it better than Akwa Ibom. In truth, many are those that daily troop to the state to experience the unique Akwa Ibom hospitality. The five-star Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort has been completed, and the multi-million naira Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre is nearing completion.
It is a one-stop entertainment complex with Cineplex, galleria, malls, dry and wet parks, hostels and convention centre, among others
.Source; The Sun