Wednesday May 24, 2017 will forever linger in the memory of Akwa Ibomites and indeed Nigerians. It was the day that Governor Udom Emmanuel flagged off the construction of St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factory at Ikot Ekpuk in Mkpat Enin LGA of Akwa Ibom state.
That day again marked a turning point in the economic fortunes of our dear state. That same day, Akwa Ibom was registered again on the global economic map, and realities on ground are testimonials to that legendary initiative by a visionary leader whom God had ordained for a time like this.
With the novel coronavirus ravaging the economy of the world in proportion not envisaged in human history, the price of crude oil has drastically dropped, thereby sending colds of confusion and fear upon countries that were totally dependent on crude oil for survival, Nigeria inclusive. About 90 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue from foreign exchange is from crude oil, and allocations sent to states from the Federal Government are from proceeds of crude oil. And now that things are not as expected at the oil market, what hope lies for such country?
Today, some countries of the world, like India, Indonesia, The Philippines and Brazil are not talking about crude oil again, as coconut oil has become a better alternative to crude oil in terms of revenue generation.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report, several countries’ economies are sustained by coconut oil production.
The Statista Report shows that in 2015/2016, the global export volume of coconut oil amounted to 3.32 million metric tons, while in 2017/2018, the global production volume of coconut oil was forecasted to amount to about 3.44 million metric tons. This figure shows that the production in line with the demand for coconut oil has grown steadily over the years, because of its widespread economic and health benefits.
Supporting the fact above, ‘Encyclopaedia Brittanica’ notes that coconut has important role in international trade and highly demanded all over the world as an ingredient in cosmetics, soaps, hair oils, body oils and food products.
Coconut is equally a perennial source for raw materials to a number of other industries like oil milling, coir and coir based industries with great potential for shell charcoal, shell powder and coconut milk powder. No wonder why coconut (Cocos nucifera) is highly revered in Asia as “Tree of Life” or as the fruit of the gods.
But someone saw today since yesterday and initiated a life-sustaining project that will save our economy, our nation and our future at a time like this. Someone who saw today since yesterday started a project that will secure the future of Akwa Ibom beyond crude oil.
Governor Emmanuel got a revelation of the future without crude oil and initiated the much talked-about coconut oil refinery, and it will remain a life support project for the sustenance of our economy.
Researchers and economists had before now been advocating for the diversification of Nigeria’s economy, but no one heeded to that call. Many had predicted that the crude oil will finish one day, hence the need to look beyond crude oil, but those predictions fell on deaf ears.
While others will now start thinking of what to do, Akwa Ibom will be leading in mass production of coconut oil. Thanks to our futuristic governor who has secured a future for Akwa Ibom, beyond crude oil.
With the project at 80 per cent completion, Akwa Ibom will soon join the league of other countries to export coconut oil.
This project which has been described as the biggest in Africa will undoubtedly process 300,000 coconuts per day, with not less than 5,000 people on its payroll. This is in addition to other business avenues it has already opened to coconut farmers and other business persons. Entrepreneurs will emerge in their thousands, as there are hundreds of goods that can be produced from coconut.
These entrepreneurs will also employ thousands of workers in their companies, thereby making Akwa Ibom an industrial hub, a recommendable shift from what it was known to be: A civil service state.
By the time the coconut oil refinery will begin operation, Akwa Ibom will be flying on the wings of harsh economy predicted by the International Monetary Fund(IMF), and will also bail the country out of the prison of hunger and stagnation in years to come.
This is the future of our country, a future beyond crude oil, courtesy of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Richard Peters writes from Uyo