Governor Udom Emmanuel has approved a large-scale mobilisation of supporters for his second term, two years into his four years tenure.
“His commissioners have been given the mandate to expand the political groupings that are working him (Udom)”, a mobiliser for one of the commissioners said.
Before Udom begins to solicit votes the second time, it is necessary to take a look at how far he has kept his first promise–to industrialise Akwa Ibom State. Mr. Udom Emmanuel had said in 2015, “When you elect me as your governor, my priority will be industrialisation”.
How far has he kept this promise? What do Akwa Ibom people say about his performance? How efficient is his model of industrialisation? These form the focus of this analysis.
Two years into Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration, many Akwa Ibomites say the governor’s performance was below average. A survey by 1521 media team, a group of investigative journalists in the State shows that the governor’s performance rating is low across interest groups; most especially among the self-employed. This group constitutes about 70 per cent of the State’s workforce.
However, there is no consensus on his performance rating between the two leading political parties in the State. His party members rate his performance above 70 per cent on a six point scale- industrialisation, job creation, security, administration, attitudinal reorientation, and reduction in social tension.
He got a 22 per cent performance rating from those who didn’t vote for him in 2015. Attitudinal reorientation, and reduction in social tension got a greater of this score.
The opinion survey involved unstructured interview with 80 Akwa Ibomites. The survey lasted 10 weeks- March 1, to second week of May 2017. Our interviewees were selected from six strata; self-employed, PDP members, APC members, civil servants, pensioners, and residents who didn’t vote for Udom Emmanuel in the 2015 elections.
“Governor Udom Emmanuel has tried his best, but his best falls below the average expectations of Akwa Ibom people”, Dr. Emayak Ukpong, chairman Labour veterans in the State and former member of the House of Representatives said in a telephone interview with 1521 media team.
Within two years, the Udom Emmanuel’s administration has established toothpick and pencil factory. The Akwa State pencil factory comes ahead of plans by the federal government to start her own pencil factory in 2018, with a production timeline of 2020.
The Udom’s administration has facilitated the completion and operation of a hatchery in Mbiaya, Uruan local government area, started by the Godswill Akpabio’s administration. The Akwa Prime hatchery’s actual production capacity stands between 100,000-200,000 per 21 days. Initially, the hatchery was fed with eggs imported from the southwest. The first set of 150,000 day old chicks reproduced from the hatchery suffered stunted growth. This challenge is gradually surmounted with the current 56,000 breeders stock raised in the facility. The hatchery has a processing plant, for killing, plucking, eviscerating and cutting up chickens. With the hatchery, the government made good effort to grow a pool of poultry farmers in the State through her out-growers scheme. Though selection of beneficiaries for the first phase of the scheme was politicised, the government successfully signed on about 1000 persons into poultry farming. Most of the beneficiaries who were not poultry farmers ab initio could not continue in subsequent phases of the scheme when government withdrew involvement. Akwa Prime hatchery is making tremendous progress, targeting 600,000 production benchmark every three weeks. However, a greater number of chicks rear in the State are bought from other States.
Peacock paint factory has been resuscitated. One year after reopening the paint factory, lingering labour unrest has intermittently disrupted production at the plant. The plant located at Ikot Ekan, Etinan, has been shutdown twice by old workers of the company who were owed arrears of emoluments and were not reabsorbed by the company. The government did not clear outstanding liabilities owed to workers of the company before reopening the paint factory. Eight months ago, when the affected former workers protested, locked the gate, and hoisted traditional injunctions in front of the factory, then chairman of the House of Assembly committee on Labour and Productivity, Mr. Samuel Ufuo, said the State government was working to address their grievances. Those grievances are yet to be addressed.
On May 1, during the 2017 workers’ day celebration at Uyo township stadium, chairperson of the Trade Union Congress, Comrade Akamba Awah reminded the governor of “lingering labour issues”, in the company.
Our opinion poll shows that only a very few Akwa Ibom people have seen Peacock paint since the company was resuscitated.
“I have heard about the paint factory in Etinan. Sadly, I have not seen Peacock paint anywhere yet. I may be wrong, but I’m very much on the streets, but I have not seen a bucket of the paint”, Barr. Aniefiok Omen Bassey, CEO Master’s Touch Community Development Microfinance Bank said.
Richmond Xavier, manager of a paint shop on Aka road, Uyo, said he “does not know yet of any depot, or distributor in the State; where Peacock paint is sold”.
Gov. Udom Emmanuel at the 2017 workers’ day celebration insisted that the factory was producing. “I have heard people say Peacock paint is not producing. That is not true”.
It is true that peacock paint is on sale. Products of the company are sold only in Uyo, only by a distributor who doubles as a retailer. 1521 media team visted the peacock paint depot at 81 Aka road, Uyo, a fortnight ago. The shop had in stock barrels (20 litres) of Peatone emulsion paint produced from Peacock factory, Etinan.
However, the resuscitation of the paint factory was just a step. The paint company is producing only liquid paint, the same quality produced by every Tom, Dick and Harry. This is why production and the enthusiasm to market the peacock brand has been low. Low production and patronage have made it difficult for the company to reabsorb old staff of the company who are spearheading protests against the company.
Information available to our team shows that government provided about N40million only, for the take-off of production of the factory. This can’t take care of the special quality of industrial paint the company used to produce. However, the governor said on May 1, 2017, “we are working towards introducing a new line of product that will meet international needs”.
The Udom’s administration started-off her industrialisation, targeting humongous plants- ground-breaking for an armoured vehicle assembly plant in Itu; coconut plantation and refinery spanning Mkpat Enin/Ikot Abasi/Eastern Obolo. And, a technical and advisory committee on Ibaka deep seaport project.
The car assembly plant and coconut refinery are the brainchild of the Udom’s administration. The government has started planting two (2) million hybrid seedlings of coconut for the proposed coconut refinery. Coconut seedlings planted in the plantation were imported from Ivory Coast at $5 each. The government must have spent N3.5billion (@ N350/$1) on the purchase of the coconut seedlings alone.
However, government has not fully paid compensation to natives expropriated from the land used for the plantation. This is hindering host community’s support for the project. Village heads of some of the host communities have incited youths to attack workers on the plantation. The governor confirmed that a mulching machine operator working at the plantation had his face critically severed with machete by youths of the host community. Recently, placards-carrying youths from Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo, stormed the plantation, saying, they were evicted them from their land without due compensation. The protest was ahead of a visit to the plantation by consultants from Malaysia hired to “inspect and advise [government] appropriately” on the project.
The government has been insouciance about demands made by the land owners. The governor’s response to the protest suggests government was not ready to oblige the landowners’ demands. The governor said such protest “will compel government to use force in executing projects”; and warned that he “will not hesitate to relocate any project being antagonized to another area”. This challenge points to a bleak future for the project.
The coconut refinery project has not received much applause from the masses. Bassey Efiom, a micro industrialist said the government should have looked at adding value to produce, the State has comparative advantage.
“We have abundance of Palm kernel and Palm oil; it would have added more value if government had started with the processing of these products. If the governor had said, oh let’s build Palm kernel oil processing plant, that would have added more value immediately compared to coconut. When you compare the demand for Palm kernel oil and Palm oil in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and agro industries, to coconut; you will know that we have greater advantage in the formers”.
The proposed coconut refinery is expected to run two production lines- coconut and Palm kernel oil production; but government’s emphasis has been on coconut.
It’s two years. The hope to realise the humongous armoured vehicle assembly plant, and the 13 years old Ibaka deep seaport project which the governor promised to execute, gets glimmer.
Government’s spokesperson, Mr. Charles Udo said, they “met a lot of bottlenecks in the process of doing the big projects”. So, government now looks at the “quick-wins; those low-hanging-fruits that can help achieve the dream of industrialisation”.
Udom’s “big-ticket-transactions” are hindered by macro-economics environments, chief among it is forex. For the first time after her independence Nigeria was hit by the worst recession in 2016 and early this year. Exchange rate soared, from N198/$1 to an all-time-high, N485 & N500/$1 in the parallel market.
“Nobody had thought forex could get to N500 to a dollar”, Charles Udoh said.
“We planned at 198 and 200 naira to a dollar, but the dollar went for above 500 naira and that shortened our plans”, Gov. Udom said at a monthly prayer meeting at government house, Uyo.
Government feasibility and projections toward these endeavours most likely did not take into account macro-economic uncertainties that are currently impeding these projects.
Fabian Emmanuel, an accountant and finance management expert believes it is possible government didn’t do a possibility analysis on these projects.
“There is always this impulse of beginning a project before doing feasibility, and possibility analysis; and at the end of the day as the project begins you find that government is not able to continue because of reasons they didn’t take into consideration at the beginning of the project”.
The commissioner for Industry, Commerce and Investment, Prof Eno Ikpe said the armoured car assembly plant project was abandoned because of “high foreign exchange”.
Udom, and Akpabio administrations have not made a deep scratch on the deep seaport and industrial city project at Ibaka. Former governor, Obong Victor Attah, said the two administrations probably “Did not know how to go about the seaport project, and was not humble enough to seek advice”. Udom gave assurances about the Ibaka deep seaport during his electioneering campaign. Now, he is working on an “alternative” project- planning to build an international Jetty and industrial park in Ikot Abasi. The government has not clearly talked about the fate of the deep seaport project, side-by-side with the proposed international jetty.
There are contentions that the government has laid to rest the most sought after deep seaport project conceived by the Atttah’s administration.
“I heard in the news about the proposed jetty at Ikot Abasi. Government has not been able to communicate with us the difference between the proposed jetty and industrial park; and seaport and industrial city project that we already know. That makes some of us confused about the sincerity of government on that project”, Barr. Omen Bassey said.
It appears the State government does have serious intentions to continue to belabour herself with the Ibaka seaport project; even though the governor had appealed to the federal government during the visit of Vice Preisdent Yemi Osinbajo, to help the State with the project.
Government spokesman, Charles Udoh said the State government did not have much control over the project, that’s why it need not focus all her attention on it alone. “Ibom deep seaport is not 100 per cent Akwa Ibom project, we don’t have absolute control over that. All we are doing is trying to force water out of stone. To show our first sign of commitment, government approved the construction of a super highway to give access road”.
He however said it won’t be an “overkill” to have the deep seaport and international Jetty.
There is a strongly held public opinion that the excuse is just a ploy to bring the seaport project to a death-kneel. The state has already spent a fortune on the project. Attah’s administration spent $50 million to get the drawings and layout of the project. By the end of 2015, the Akpabio’s administration had spent about N4.5 billion on the project. There is nothing at the site to justify this expenditure. The last administration had published as one of her achievements in her “uncommon transformation series”, a periodical of the Ministry of Information, that it has fenced the site of the deep seaport. In reality there is no fence there.
Several impediments, bureaucratic, financial, etc., have pushed the Udom Emmanuel ‘s administration away from the big projects to the “low-hanging-fruits”. The governor was quick to switch-over to the the low-hanging buttons. The quick switch is where his years of experience in private sector business management came in pretty.
Is Udom’s industrialisation drive becoming realisable with these “low-hanging-fruits”?
What quick fixes have Udom done? There is a pencil and toothpick factory. Products from the factory located at Kilometre 2 Etinan road are in the market. Twelve packets of the “non-toxic” AKEES pencil is sold for N1200 in stationary shops in Uyo. Last week, a member of the 1521 media team purchased the pencil in a stationary shop at No.4 Abak road.
“I have seen the pencil. I have also seen the toothpick where I normally go to eat. I have even used it”, Barr. Omen Bassey noted.
However, there is a raging criticism that the pencils are brandished with a production location, “Made in China”. That’s true anyways. But P.A on media to the governor, Aniekeme Finbarr wrote on social media that “some of the pencils wrapped with foreign materials especially the ones with cartoon characters like Ben 10 are patented. You cannot use a Ben 10 character and write made in Nigeria”.”Other pencils made with our own wraps, has it clearly written that it is made here. All the pencils are manufactured here in our factory at Ekom Iman”, Finbarr added.
Different from what Finbarr, and one Ekemini James, media aide said was the reason from the inscription, Governor said at a press conference Saturday night that “the pencil lead was produced in China”. The toothpick and pencils are trademarks of his administration.
In the agro-industry, the government has tried to revive a 26 hectare cocoa farm in Ini. Consultants were paid to prune and disinfect the cocoa trees. Youths have been trained on cocoa pruning and have been given inputs. Akwa Ibom State was one of the leading producers of cocoa some years ago. In the last 10 years, cocoa farming has become very unlustrous.
“We didn’t have a good market. People came in from Abia State to buy our cocoa, very cheap; sometimes as cheap as N8,000 a bag. So some farmers had to abandon their farms”, a cocoa farmer in Ini told 1521 media team.
Ukpong Ukpong, Editor-In -Chief of “Investor Eye”, a business-based tabloid published in the State said, “Local farmers had preferred riding ‘Okada’ to cocoa farming because of poor pricing”. It is not known yet what the government is doing that will improve pricing of the produce. Currently, 50kg of cocoa seeds sells above N70,000, in Benin, Edo State. However, the State government’s intervention is pushing a little more focus on cocoa farming.
The government has invested in a-100 hectare cassava project in Okobo. The governor and his wife, Martha, flagged-off planting last month.The cassava plantation is an initiative of FEYReP, a pet project of the wife of the governor, Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel. The governor’s wife hopes that the initiative “will crash the price of garri substantially”. Data obtained from garri sellers in the State under the foodstuffs traders association, show that Akwa Ibom people spend N30 million every week importing garri from Cross River State. Weekly consumption of this staple stands at 30 tonnes.
Complementing this effort, government has upgraded facilities at the five cassava processing plants in the State built by Victor Attah’s administration. 1521 media team visited one of the plants at Nung Udoe, Ibesikpo Asutan local government, March this year. New machines that will make frying of garri mechanically propelled have been installed. However, “the machines have not been put to use since they were installed”, a worker at the plant said.
Udom’s administration says it is working towards taking a peck off the global market share on sales of syringe. Construction of a syringe factory is halfway done in ONNA.
“The initial capacity of the factory will be 350 million syringes per annum”, government spokesperson said.
Governor Udom Emmanuel while addressing World Bank Group in Uyo said his administration considered to invest in syringe production because “Nigeria with over 170 million people consumes about 6 billion syringes imported from foreign countries”.
“The syringe factory will start production before May 2018”, the governor said at the 2017 workers day celebration. Ten young engineers drawn from different fields of engineering are already on state-government-sponsored training in Vienna, for the factory.
There is also an attempt to build a metering factory and fertilizer production plant in ONNA. Construction of the metering factory started about a year ago.
Most of these small industries are sited in the governor’s local government. The governor defended localisation of the projects at a press briefing on May 27.
“The investors who are bringing those projects said, we want to site the project in your place, because with you we are safe”. “Shared services” by these businesses will “reduce cost” each company will not have to “bring [their] own infrastructure”.
However, there is a feeling of distrust in the governor’s localisation of these projects. And that has created a perception, that his government is “parochial”. “There is a problem of parochialism. If we check, most of the projects are concentrated in the governor’s axis. Governor Udom Emmanuel has not been able to convince us that he has brought broad-mindedness into governance. We still see the Akpabio’s legacy, of, this is our chance, we must maximize it”, Barr. Omen Bassey said.
In the same vein, Dr. Emayak Ukpong observed that “Udom has not completely divorced himself from the influence of Akpabio”. That is evident in the sitting of projects.
Udom’s industrialisation drive has not had a “Robert effect” yet on indigenous industrialists, and employment. This is because most of the industries are still at the stage of conceptualisation. However, it seems most indigenes of the State cannot really identify with what the government is doing.
Dr. Emayak Ukpong who is also an agropreneur said Udom’s achievement on industrialisation was almost unheard because it focus is on highly technical areas, where people of the State cannot draw much gains.
“Udom is rather focusing on high fallotine things”. There is a strong opinion that focusing on “indigenous homestead industries”, would have jump-started the economy than going for such a project as armoured vehicle plant.
“If you go into a traditional industrial venture, a lot of people will be able to key in, but when you go into ventures that are so highly fallotine, people will not know what you’re doing. Take for example UOU is the MD of the oil and gas free trade zone; it’s a highly technical area. How many people from Akwa Ibom people are able to key in to that and draw any meaningful use? Whereas there is another portfolio you would have held, for instance NDDC, people can already know where to come in to see how they can help themselves”, Ukpong added.
“Government has lost the basics when it comes to choices of what to invest in. We should be looking at how to meet the basic needs of the people first, before going into some of these elephant-sized projects”, a state lawmaker who didn’t want to be named told 1521 media team.
Fabian Emmanuel, said “It was not too alright to initiate a programme that is too elitist in a way, without taking into consideration available skilled labour”. However, he added that Gov. Udom Emmanuel should be commended for “investing in the real sector”.
Taking a deeper look at the nature of these investments, it seems government is more interested in counting the number of industries it has attracted, the returns in revenue that will accrue to the State government, and building a new corps of industrialists, than building capacity of existing indigenous industrialists.
How efficient is Gov. Udom Emmanuel ‘s industrialisation policy?
Udom’s industrialisation policy is driven by a Foreign Direct Investment model. The model allows very little of government participation in ownership of these companies. This template is very efficient on one hand- it allows government to spend less on each project, and save the businesses from un-business attitudes with which employees often run government owned ventures. It seems the FDI model is more cost-effective than the PPP and government direct funding model used during the Attah and Akpabio’s administration. The PPP involved greater financial commitment by the government; where such engagement failed, government was always losing huge counterpart funds. Akwa Ibom State has lost 85 per cent of the cost for the building of Ibom Science Park paid to SBT JUULES, South Africa. Much more money are also laying unproductive in the multi-billion naira Ibom Tropicana Entertainment project.
Under the FDI model deployed by the Udom Emmanuel’s administration, government equity holdings in each of the industries attracted to the State, is less than 20 per cent.
“The factories we are setting up are not owned by government. They are not such that when Udom’s government is gone, the factories die. Government has equity shareholding, which is between 10 -20 per cent, and which sometimes is the land we give. So the companies run properly as private businesses”, government spokesperson, Charles Udoh said.
What do Akwa Ibom people think about the FDI model?
A few persons we spoke to who understand the tenets of the model say it’s the best for this season where the State was facing serious economic downturns. Fabian Emmanuel, Dr. Emayak Ukpong, are in support of the model.
“In the moment where revenues have seriously dwindled, FDI is the best consideration because the model needs little or no support from government”, Fabian said.
On the other hand, the model leaves little room for local participation in the structuring of the industries.
“We won’t have indigenous businessmen playing roles in organising the companies. The FDI model may not reduce the issue of capital flight but it’s not a bad start”, a respondent told 1521 media team.
However, it is argued dispassionately, even within government circles that Udom has vested interests in all the companies he has brought to invest in the State. This claim could not be verified though. But it could be verified that the Udom’s administration has attracted many investment interests to the State with less expenditure than his predecessor did with the annual Akwa Ibom investment summits held in high-brow cities abroad. There is not any serious foreign investment still operational, which the foreign-investments-scouting trips by the last administration left behind.
On the whole, there is a wide disparity in opinion on Udom’s actualisation of his industrialisation promise.
“Udom’s industrialisation has not really created a lot of impact”, a respondent said. Yet another added, “We have not experienced the practical aspect of industrialisation”.
Clement Ikpat, former Special Assistant to Governor Godswill Akpabio in an article titled “Akwa Ibom Industrialisation Policy” served up on facebook said, the “hope for Akwa Ibom industrialisation is fast degenerating into an illusion because of prevailing approaches towards that culture”. The government has not provided full information to the public on government participation and holdings in these businesses.
However, there are ample manifestations that the udomdustrialisation could be a super-kick towards diversification of the State’s economy. But he may be leaving behind many unproductive projects if he continues to take-on many big industrial projects like the car assembly plant, the proposed International jetty and industrial park, that would require more than two years completion period.