Industrialization: The Governor Udom Emmanuel magic formula By Emmanuel Sam

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Industrialization, the development of industries on a broad scale, is one policy vigorously pursued and strategically implemented by the Deacon Udom Emmanuel led administration in Akwa Ibom State that has left many astonished. In just six years, the advantage of the policy has not only changed the status of the state from a core civil service state but a bubbling industrial hub within the South South region.

Unarguably, industrialization plays a vital role in the economic development of underdeveloped countries through job creation, poverty eradication and mass production of goods and services. Industries no doubt plays a complex role in economic development, but these are some of its most important effects as we have witnessed in Akwa Ibom.

Even though not on a massive large scale yet, it has increased the revenue base of the state. Yes, we are not there just yet but the journey is on course. The standard of living of many Akwa Ibom households have increased due to the multiplier effect of the industrial revolution ongoing, while economic stability is more sustainable with increased employment opportunity for the many unemployed youths.

The Industrialization policy has promoted the advent of specialized labor as division of work increases the marginal value product of labor, thus enhancing the profitability of the average Akwa Ibom worker. One area of interest is that the Industrial revolution has no doubt brought about a rise and growth in the agricultural sector with increased savings and investments for wealth creation.

The Governor’s industrialization drive, has increased workers’ income, enhances their capacity to save and invest. Akwa Ibom today presents an industrialization success story. From the 2015 to 2021 alone, the basic foundation that will propel greater economic prosperity has been laid with it’s attendant consequences of urbanization and population growth. Uyo is fast growing and expanding due to influx of people and companies.

The Governor brought his visionary mindset to bare in policy formulation and project conceptualization which birthed the 21-Storey “Dakkada Tower” which stands as a testament to Akwa Ibom’s increasing profile as a fast industrializing State. As the Governor himself noted recently, the central focus of government’s initial Five Point Agenda which have now condensed into the 8 Point Agenda, was to rapidly industrialize the State and change the narrative as a purely civil service orientated State to an industrializing one with robust manufacturing base.

The fruits have been massive. From the Syringe factory, to the Metering company, to the Flour Mill company, to the Coconut Virgin Oil Refinery to the plywood manufacturing company to the signing of the MoU for the commencement of the Liberty Oil and Gas Free Zone, to the Ground breaking ceremony for the construction of Sterling petrochemicals and Fertilizer production factory, to the several industrial clusters which produce such items as pencils and toothpicks, plastics, tissue papers etc, to the rice mills in Ini Local Government Area, and several cassava processing mills, the narrative is indeed changing in Akwa Ibom.

The $1.4 billion Ammonia and Fertilizer plant alone is one investment that will fetch the state revenue apart from Oil while the St Gabriel Coconut Factory alone will generate over 1300 direct job and 3000 indirectly employment opportunity by September 2021. The Coconut factory has a capacity of processing 300,000 coconuts per shift which will produce 66 tons in a day from three shift of production, while employing 300 people to work in a shift.

Also, the much anticipated Liberty Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, has taken off with the signing of a memorandum of understanding, MOU, between the Akwa Ibom State Government, AKSG and Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, OGFZA. The commencement of operations follows the receipt of the first cargo components, establishment of an Immigration office and setting up of a dedicated Customs command, in the free trade zone. This will be another stimulant for Industrial revolution, while the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON located in Ikot Abasi, is on the verge of being resuscitated following a partnership between the Akwa Ibom State Government will partner with the federal government.

The Governor Udom Emmanuel industrialization drive is aimed at ensuring a process by which the state economy is transformed from a primarily agricultural/Civil service one to one based on the manufacturing of goods and services with individual manual labour replaced by mechanized mass production. This will trigger an industrial revolution with more efficient division of labor, the use of technological innovation to solve problems and inspire creative ingenuity.

Already, in just six years, Akwa Ibom is witnessing an Industrialization policy whereby a transformation is taking the state away from an agricultural- or resource-based economy, toward an economy based on mass manufacturing with increases in total income and living standards of the people, and a diversified economy. The policy is all embracing, with land, air and sea components which is why the Ibom Deep Seaport, the Ibom Air and the massive infrastructural expansion are geared towards boosting the pillars needed for it’s viability and sustainability.

Ibom Air for instance is today a success story that continues to astonish many. It started like an abstract vision, with a hypothesis that was yet to be ever tested by any state government in the West African region. Critics called it a scam, friends were doubtful about it’s viability, and fans were skeptical about it’s possibility of becoming a reality.

Even when no one else saw the vision, Governor Udom Emmanuel saw ahead and realised that a viable aviation sector anywhere promotes an improved quality of life and helps to improve living standards. By facilitating tourism, he believed air transport also helps generate economic growth and alleviate poverty – providing employment opportunities, increasing revenues from taxes and fostering the conservation of protected areas.

To the Governor, commercial aviation has a direct impact on our nation’s economy, creating both direct and indirect jobs as air transport is an important enabler to achieving economic growth and development because air transport facilitates integration into the global economy and provides vital connectivity on a national, regional, and international scale while also helping generate trade, promote tourism, and create employment opportunities.

No doubt air transport generates wider catalytic benefits, with ability to serve larger markets, impact positively on business operations, influence investment, impact on the labour market, boast tourism and contributes to world trade.

Experts are quick to agree that an efficient air transport system allows people to have adventures in new countries, to relax on tropical beaches, to build business relationships and to visit friends and family. As global economy grows ever more linked, aviation is the factor that brings people together. Aviation brings together a world of facts and figures to give policymakers and the industry the important global view of how air travel creates jobs and drives economic growth.

It impacts on the labour market helps improves the labour market by making it easier for companies to attract high quality employees from around the globe. This is important for senior staff and professionals for whom
access to good international links
influences their decision on where to
live and work.

Similarly, high quality employees may find it easier to commute by air on a weekly basis or to be based in two locations; the headquarters and regional office. It improved access to a wider pool of appropriately skilled labour will improve productivity leading ultimately to higher employment in the local economy.

Governor Udom Emmanuel saw when others were doubting that air transport’s influence on investment is key as good air transport links influence where companies choose to invest. Many companies consider international transport links to be an essential factor for locating businesses. This makes Air transport one of the world’s most important industries. Its development and its technical and service achievements make it one of the greatest contributors to the advancement of modern society.
An effective air transport system improves quality of life by broadening people’s leisure and cultural experiences. It provides a wide choice of holiday destinations around the world and an affordable means to visit distant
friends and relatives and may provide the only transportation means in remote areas, thus promoting social inclusion.

By facilitating tourism and trade, it generates economic growth, provides jobs, increases revenues from taxes, and fosters the conservation of protected areas and it’s network facilitates the delivery of emergency and humanitarian aid relief anywhere on earth, and ensures the swift delivery of medical supplies and organs for transplantation.
On February 20, 2019, Akwa Ibom witnessed the inaugural landing of IbomAir when Flight IA200219 torched down at Victor Attah International Airport, an event that marked the genesis of a remarkable adventure that has stood of Akwa Ibom State as an entity with creative ingenuity that continues to baffle the rest of the country.

On May 24, 2019, IbomAir left Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja back to Akwa Ibom International Airport, Uyo after a successful round of test flights while on June 7, 2019, history was made again when Ibom Air inaugural flight Z4102, took off from Uyo enroute to Lagos, a journey that opened the floodgate of several other flights that has revolutionalize air travel in Nigeria.

On Tuesday 10th September 2019, exactly three months and a day since the company began commercial flight operations, Ibom Air carried her 50,000th passenger during the boarding of flight Z4100 from Uyo to Lagos. The spice of this feat is that passenger number 50,000 turned out to be first time Ibom Air traveler, Ms Ruth Nsaka.

On March 26 2020, Ibom Air was forced to suspend operations due to the Covid19 pandemic that ravaged the world. Recognizing the serious implications of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus around the country, the Management of Ibom Air announced the suspension of all scheduled flight services as of midnight on Friday 27 March, 2020, as her own way of identifying with the Akwa Ibom State Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria’s efforts to bring this pandemic under effective control.

Tuesday May 19, 2020, saw Ibom Air’s 4th aircraft, 5N-BXP joining its ‘senior’ colleagues in Uyo after completing all regulatory requirements with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in Lagos. 5N-BXP was warmly welcomed by her sister aircraft, 5N-BWK, 5N-BWL and 5N-BWM. It’s was a beauty to behold as they stood all together in front of the hangar at Victor Attah International Airport, Uyo, bonding with each other.

On July 20th, 2020, the company’s expansion policy to link many cities in Nigeria continued as Ibom Air received a warm welcome at Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar, a new route it added to her area of operation. The growth and expansion has never compromised it’s signature of schedule reliability, on-time departures and superior service that has become the envy of other airlines. Ibom Air score card includes over 96% schedule reliability & 94% on-time performance, unparalleled in Nigeria’s Aviation history.

On August 1, 2020, after delays occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, Ibom Air finally receive it’s fifth Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft, the second of the two additional aircraft purchased in December 2019. The aircraft, with registration number 5N-BXO, arrived Lagos from Calgary, Canada at 00:05 am local time, Saturday morning, (1st August, 2020).

With the arrival of this aircraft, its modern and efficient fleet grew to five aircraft as the airline continues to operate the youngest fleet amongst Nigeria’s airlines in line with it’s vision to be a world-class African regional airline.

A key benefit of Ibom Air’s very modern fleet of Bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft is that they all come factory-fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. HEPA filters are high-intensity filters that do not just filter dust, but effectively capture greater than 99.97% of the airborne microbes in cabin air, including microscopic particles such as bacteria and viruses. Cabin air in HEPA equipped aircraft generally pass through the filters every 2-3 minutes, removing contaminants and greatly enhancing the quality of air in the cabin.

On September 2, 2020, the company had a new addition to the fleet, when it took procession of her 5N-BXO, which touched down at Victor Attah International Airport for the very first time. Despite the minor setback the aviation industry had as a result of Covid19, Ibom Air came back on it’s wings on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, after months of inactivity.

On September 14, 2020, Ibom Air touched down for the first time at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu with direct daily flights from Lagos and Abuja in it’s effort at extending it’s service to the Southeast geopolitical area.

Just when other airlines are complaining of how difficult it is for them to launch back after months of Covid19 induced inactivity, Governor Udom Emmanuel just announced that Ibom Air is set to boost it fleet with two additional aircrafts in June 2021.

“Two new A220 300 series ought to have arrived before now but assured that the aircrafts would be in Uyo in the next two months”, the Governor announced during the recent 2021 Easter retreat in Uyo.

For effective service delivery and conscious of the need to offer quality service to its teaming customers, the company launched a new City Travel Centre located in the foyer of the Akwa Ibom State Secretariat Annex on Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo, to ease the burden of flights bookings and a bus service to convey Ibom Air passengers to and from Victor Attah International Airport.

On Monday, March 1, 2021, Ibom Air carried its 500,000th passenger since commencement of operations on the 7th of June 2019, a key milestone the airline would have clocked earlier but for the three and a half months Covid-19 lockdown of 2020 but still, an indication of steady customer uptake, and validation of the airlines services.

Giving his scorecard in the aviation sector while addressing the state to mark his sixth anniversary, an elated Governor Udom Emmanuel said, early in the life of his administration, he gathered some stakeholders in the aviation industry and revealed to them his plans to establish a thriving airline.

“We went to work quietly and once I made our plans public, the usual naysayers said the project couldn’t be done; that if countries in Africa couldn’t set up an airline, how then could we, a State achieve such a feat. We ignored their pessimism and went to work. Today, Ibom Air has become a national sensation. The colours of Akwa Ibom State now dominate the Nigerian aviation space. We were recently named the Best Airline in the Nation”.

“We started with three CRJ 900 series, later added two more CRJs bringing the total aircrafts in its fleet to five. In the next few days, we will commission two newly acquired brand new Airbuses (A220-300 series) bringing the total fleet of aircrafts to seven. We are not just concentrating only on Ibom Air, ours is a total dedication to aviation development. Our international terminal once completed, would be the best in the nation and you can quote me on this. It would also be the smartest. Our MRO is on-going; the pace of work only got slowed down, due to the restrictions placed on international travels due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our taxiway, the new Category 2 runaway, these are huge investments that prime our State as an emerging industrial hub. Fellow Akwaibomites, this huge achievement in aviation should gladden the hearts of everyone, irrespective of one’s political affiliations. Ibom Air carries the collective pride of Akwa Ibom people and we should all celebrate it. God is indeed doing great things here!”, he noted.

If all these benefits could be derived from the Industrialization policy in just six years, one can only imagine what Akwa Ibom will look like when the Ibom Deep Seaport comes on board, when the Liberty Free Trade Zone begins to flourish, when the multiplier effect of the numerous companies and factories begins to flourish. Indeed, as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo once confessed, under the Udom Emmanuel led administration in the state, Akwa Ibom remains Nigeria’s best kept secret.

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