Akwa Ibom state could be turned it into ‘Dubai’ in eight years, if we can rethink our development strategy and focus more on building our coastal areas. All we need is a strong political will to leverage on approvals recently given by federal government to build the Ibom deep seaport and adjoining areas which are huge economic drivers everywhere in the world.
I think the Ibom Deep seaport project should set an agenda for any incoming administration, but beside that, the state should promote peripheral projects like real estate, commercial and recreational fishing and other maritime industries within these areas, which at the moment, are underutilized and ravished by smuggling, foreign illegal fishing, piracy and other criminal activities.
Everyone knows that our State is a major producer of crude oil and natural gas providing existential value to the country. Many know that the State has the longest coastline in Nigeria and sits pretty close to the Atlantic Ocean. Yet, only a few understand that apart from producing oil and gas, Akwa Ibom State holds the key to immeasurable wealth which is by far more sustainable than petroleum.
The State’s maritime industry if developed is estimated to rake in $400billion annually, double that of Lekki Deep seaport floated by Lagos State Government. It will complement already existing seaports including Lagos and Rivers and enhance development of Nigeria’s maritime industry. Government sources say that once it comes on board, it will affect every sector of our economy and provide about 300, 000 jobs.
If this is so, then every electorate in Akwa Ibom State should support that man or woman who can make this happen. Of course, much of our problems revolve round socioeconomic issues. Who wouldn’t want an economically viable and financially self-sustaining state? Like I said earlier, this protracted project should be the rallying point of every well-meaning Akwa Ibomite. It should influence our decision on who governs us, going forward.
Why do I think so? I believe we have made remarkable progress in developing our hinterlands. We have great access by land and air, but our coastline is an eyesore. There is still much to be done inland but methinks any governor who sincerely wants Akwa Ibom to be economically viable and financially self-sustaining should tackle developing our coastal areas and promote a thriving maritime Industry.
I’ll expatiate on this further. China is rapidly overthrowing the United States as the global economic power because of its trade volume most of which are facilitated at the ports. The Chinese government understands the importance of ports to its economy and invested heavily on establishing ports in every economic district.
China alone has 17 out of 40 world class ports. In global ranking, 9 of China’s ports are within the best 10 namely Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou Harbor, Qingdao, Hong Kong and Tianjin. Imagine Akwa Ibom state with an established world-class port.
We are very close to actualizing this vision, all we need is the political will and experience. We need someone who understands the rigorous processes involved in building this multifaceted industry. The person must have been there every step of the way, gathering experience and contacts both within Nigeria and across the world for this project.
Without mincing words, the man for the job is Mr. Akan Okon, the immediate past Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport.
He recently resigned as Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom deep seaport to contest for the governorship of the State. Some of the ministries where he served as commissioner include, Finance, Economic Development, Housing and Urban Renewal, Special Duties, Aviation Development, Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport.
Speaking on Monday 28th March in his hometown, Mbiatok Itam, Itu local government area during the official commencement of his consultations, Mr. Okon said having gandered first hand experience in public service he is set to hit the ground running.
He pegged his development strategy on the three gateways into the state – sea, air and land – to ensure even development and job creation.
“At 34 years, Akwa Ibom State cannot afford to be an experimental field where people come to learn leadership in public service. We need someone who has been around and understudied the various sectors of the State’s economy, and also understands the challenges that our people are facing so that from day one, he will hit the ground running in embarking on those policies and programmes that will lead to an improvement in the standard of living of our people.”
“I have served in six ministries and in each of those ministries God helped me to deliver on all the projects assigned to me. Through my experience in public service, which God made it possible through His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel, I know the challenges facing this state and I will provide the best solutions to them.”
We have seen his diligence, serving two administrations. I think, just as Obong Victor Attah wasn’t wrong when he brought young Barrister Godswill Akpabio into his government, Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s insistence that Mr. Akan Okon join him in Akpabio’s administration and later retained Okon in his administration was for this purpose.
Standing at this threshold of our history, we’ve been presented with an easy choice to actualize our collective vision. We’ve seen that the developing our coastal areas especially the Ibom Deep seaport holds much promise for our next level economic growth therefore we should make this right choice now.