By Meflyn Anwana
There’s no way the transformational agenda and Industrialization history of Akwa Ibom State will be written without the name Udom Gabriel Emmanuel not boldly inscribed in gold. In just three years at the helm of affairs of the State, Governor Udom Emmanuel has come to symbolise industry, enterprise, resourcefulness, and ingenuity.
The remarkable transformation of the state from a hitherto civil service state to an emerging industrial hub is a testament to this administration’s resolve and determination to leave a positive footprint in the sands of time.
On assuming office in May 29, 2015, the Governor made a promise to make his administration a gift to the citizens of the state by opening up the state to industrial growth and development, expand the economic activities within the state and create an enabling environment for investors to troop in and discover the hidden potentials the state has to offer to the outside world.
Three years down the line, we’ve all witnessed the manifestation of this promises in different forms. It’s only safe to say that from all indications, the Udom Emmanuel led administration has lived up to and even surpassed all expectations.
Agriculture is a leading sector of the economy of Nigeria and of the different states in the country. Agriculture supports over 75% of the population of Akwa Ibom. In the rural areas, the economy is agro-based. Akwa Ibom state is a hub for various agricultural products such as palm oil, cassava, yam, cocoyam, plantain, maize, rice, rubber, and many varieties of fish and other seafood.
The current administration came into power in a year where a majority of Nigerians experienced food shortages due to a multiplicity of factors ranging from a bad harvest year, and a dwindling purchasing power occasioned by the depreciating value of the Naira. Being a proactive government, the Udom administration quickly swung into action and declared a state of emergency in the agricultural sector. It saw the need to boost agricultural output to provide enough food for the teeming population of its citizenry and even for export. This led to an agricultural revolution across the state, a revolution that today has led to a significant improvement in food supply across the state.
Today, the state now boasts of the production of tomatoes, cucumber, and other cash crops for export. Also, with the Akwa Prime Hatchery and Poultry, located at Mbiaya, Uruan, the state is now poised to revolutionise the production and export of eggs and other dairy products. The Akwa Prime Hatchery produces 10,000-day old chickens per week.
To also diversify the economy of the state to wean Nigeria from reliance on oil, the Akwa Ibom State Government has also registered 4,920 rice farmers in the state who are producing rice for local consumption and sales to other parts of Nigeria and the West African Coast. The state is also boosting its comparative advantage in growing Cassava with the cultivation of at least 1,450 hectares of Cassava Plantation in 5 local governments. This is a seed multiplication scheme to provide free cassava stems to farmers in the three senatorial districts of the state.
Animal production and husbandry is also part of the overall agricultural policy of the Udom Emmanuel led-administration. The government is working with the Carlos Farms, a Mexican group that is investing in massive commercial farms – both crops and animal production in Nigeria to develop ranches for Cow Production and processing of Cow Milk for dairy companies.
Cocoa is a commercial crop that the state has comparative production advantage. Governor Udom’s administration has trained 450 youths in new methods of planting cocoa and other extension services to cocoa farmers in the state. There has been the establishment of Special Cocoa Maintenance Scheme (SCMS) for the training of farmers and youths on pruning/shade management, under brushing, and tree care by fumigation, to ensure the improvement of yields from 300 kilograms/hectare to 2000kg/ha over three years period. The government has undertaken the Zoning and mapping of the cocoa-producing communities in the State, and sensitization of cocoa farmers in the 24 cocoa producing local government areas in the State.
Furthermore, there has been the importation of 1000 bags of special cocoa fertilizer from Ghana for optimal yield. These 1000 bags were delivered to cocoa farmers in September 2016.
The foresight of Governor Udom has resulted in the procurement and establishment of 11,000 Hectare Coconut Plantation and Refinery Project in the state. This project is in partnership with VKS construction Nigeria Ltd. With 2 million stands of coconut planted, the plantation is the largest in the world and will feed raw materials to the coconut refinery. At full capacity, the refinery would process 300,000 coconuts per day. Virgin coconut oil is now a hot cake in the international market and would bring in much needed foreign exchange to Akwa Ibom and improve the economy of the state.
Other achievements in the Agric sector include:
•The Re-introduction of second planting season for enhanced food production and sufficiency
•Refurbishment and upgrading of three 10mt/day cassava processing factories in the three Senatorial Districts of the state.
• Extension of technical advisory services to about 350 sh farms in the State, as well as the cultivation of 300 hectares of cassava under the FADAMA III+ Financing Programme.
Currently, the state can boast of an enhanced food production capacity to feed its people and also for export. With all the investments in Agriculture, Akwa Ibom is poised to become the food basket of the South-south region and a major food hub in Nigeria, all thanks to the wonderful initiatives and Industrialization drive of the Udom-led administration.