BY UMOH EFFIONG
A good way to measure the effectiveness of a leader in the discharge of his duties is to evaluate his/her time in office. Looking back at how Akwa Ibom has fared in the last three years, it is safe to say that the Akwa Ibom Governor, Udom Emmanuel has performed excellently well. Among the many improvements that Akwa Ibom has experienced in the last three years, is the improvement in the wealth and job creation sector. There are various cases of wealth creation through enterprise support and development championed by Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Looking at the case of one Ekemini Usoroh, a graduate of Physics from the University of Uyo, it is apparent that if not for the contributions made by the governor to secure the business of entrepreneurs, he would have been one of the many unemployed youth in the country today. Ekemini set up a small-scale nylon production factory in Ikono Local Government Area Akwa Ibom state. Initially, he was making profit from the business but over time, various constricting factors conspired against him and he was having a difficult time producing.
His business would have gone under if not for the interference of the government. He entered a government organised programme called ‘Umbrella Business Quest’. This programme was set up by the People’s Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom state where Governor Udom Emmanuel holds the reins as the leader of the party.
Udoh Ekemini emerged the overall winner of the programme after pitching his business idea of nylon production. He earned himself a cash price as business capital or supply fund of N250, 000. Ekemini was ecstatic about his win but little did he know that more was coming. On the day the cash prizes were to be presented, Governor Udom Emmanuel had stopped over at the People’s Democratic Party Secretariat in Akwa Ibom State for a stakeholders’ meet.
After listening to the rundown of the kind of enterprise that each winner was going to invest the cash Prize in, Governor Emmanuel decided to announce an increase in the categories of the Prizes. Eventually, Ekemini got one million, five hundred thousand naira (N1, 500,000) in addition to the statutory N250, 000 cash prize he won. This made his business N1, 750,000 richer. Today, Ekemini Usoroh is back to full scale nylon production business and is currently an employer of labour.
Another case under study is the case of one Mrs Grace Bassey. Mrs Grace Bassey, a popular food vendor in the city of Uyo, popularly known as ‘Eka Udo’ also benefitted from the ‘Umbrella Business Quest’ organised by Governor Udom Emmanuel. Mrs Bassey was selected for the honour category of the Business Icon Award and was eventually awarded with N1, 500, 000 to support her business. Eka Udo started her food vending business hawking food before making enough money to open her outlet. Sadly, Eka Udo had lost her sight about two years prior to the contest.
Governor Emmanuel then directed the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for health, Dr Dominic Ukpong to initiate the process of conducting immediate medical examination on the now visually impaired food vendor, Eka Udo to find out if her eye defect could be addressed medically, so that government could foot the bills for the operation.
These cases brought forward shows how Governor Udom Emmanuel decided to reach out to improve the enterprises owned by Akwa Ibom indigenes. The governor is leading the journey of wealth creation in Akwa Ibom through a two-pronged approach of creating jobs through industrialization and enterprise development by supporting SMEs; Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.
As regards enterprise development by supporting SME’s, Governor Udom, in deliberate effort to stimulate business growth in an economy that was under recession had approved the release of two billion naira, as interest-free loans to Akwa Ibom traders to boost trade and commerce within the state.
Governor Udom said ‘Interest rate in the country is high, but we are making our scheme interest free to empower the entrepreneurs to grow their businesses for more outputs optimisation. This is because if we charge these entrepreneurs interest rate on the loan, as they are into small scale businesses, the interest rate would automatically wipe out their profits, making it difficult for their businesses to thrive. Also, we decided to give the market women first, because if you empower 1,000 women, you have indirectly empowered a large population in the state.’
The other face of the two-pronged approach of creating jobs is through industrialization. In this regard, Governor Emmanuel has through a Public Private Partnership model, spread the landscape of Akwa Ibom with industries like Syringe Manufacturing Company, the Fertilizer blending factory in Abak, the Metering Solutions Company, the Toothpick and Pencil factories, even as the Coconut Refinery located in Mkpat Enin, and others soon to be commissioned. Apart from the direct jobs created by the existing factories and the new jobs which will be created by the ones soon to be commissioned, these factories have unlocked newer economic opportunities for residents in the communities where these factories are located. For instance, there is a marked increase in accommodation in all the communities where these factories are located. Cottage businesses have and will continue to spring up to support the rising demands occasioned by the influx of people to these communities.
As expected, in trying to attain these heights as regards wealth creation and economic empowerment, there have been discouraging setbacks. However, the persistent determination, vision and courage of Governor Udom Emmanuel to make Akwa Ibom a state that its indigenes are proud of has kept him moving. If re-elected come 2019, there are no doubts that the roads ahead hold brighter possibilities.