Nigeria : Checking reality against vision. Nigeria 's economic potential has never been in doubt. The country is greatly endowed with abundant human and natural resources, which, if properly harnessed, should catapult us into the big league. But 49 years after independence, very little of this potential has been realized. Development commentators have often blamed this state of affairs on poor vision and planning by successive administrations. Others have pointed a finger at poor synergy between developmental efforts at the national and state levels.
However, observers have noted that far-reaching decisions for reforms which started during the Obasanjo administration have placed the economy on the right path for growth and global competitiveness, providing a sound basis for optimistic permutations on Nigeria's economic prospects by the year 2020. It is this thinking that is being captured and animated by the Yar'Adua administration as Vision 20: 2020. According to the Concept paper for the Development of Nigeria Vision 2020, "by 2020, Nigeria will be one of the 20 largest economies in the world, able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena".
While Mr. President is pursuing this vision with dedication through a seven-point agenda comprising power and energy, food security and agriculture, wealth creation and employment, mass transportation, land reform, security and education, it is gratifying to note that some states in the federation are also connecting to Vision 20:2020 with clearly defined home-grown development agendas and concrete actions. The Federal Government needs to identify these nodal states and synergise with them towards achieving Nigeria Vision 20:2020. In line with this, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria's 21st state, is strategically positioning itself as a critical hub for the actualization of Vision 20:2020 under the visionary and pragmatic leadership of Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio.
Enter the Akpabio Phenomenon
From the moment he assumed office as Governor of Akwa Ibom State in May 2007, Chief Godswill Akpabio has left no one in doubt of his determination to transform the state into a leading economic hub in Nigeria and West Africa. To achieve this, the Akpabio administration has articulated a nine-point agenda, a definitive framework that is driving his Vision for a Greater Akwa Ibom.
Understanding the imperative of unity as a critical ingredient for mobilization and development, Governor Akpabio has employed equitable distribution of political offices, projects and investment in human capital as a tool for balancing the state's geo-political fault-lines. A hitherto civil service state, Governor Akpabio is steadily repositioning Akwa Ibom to become a vibrant industrial economy and a compelling tourism destination of choice in Africa. For instance, over N200 billion has been invested in building a network of roads across the state using the best international construction firms, with N80 billion invested in the reconstruction of Federal roads across the State. Unarguably, a good road network is indispensable for the growth of a vibrant economy. Governor Akpabio is therefore employing this as a strategy to link up all parts of the state and therefore boost economic activities. In so doing, he has had to abolish the dichotomy between federal and state roads. Indeed, the massive investment on road construction in Akwa Ibom State complements Mr. President's emphasis on mass transportation and critical infrastructure development as espoused in his Seven Point Agenda.
Ibom Power Plant
To attract investments, promote enterprise development and move Nigeria towards its place among the twenty most industrialized nations by 2020, the need for self-sufficiency in power and energy must be emphasized. In this direction, the Akwa Ibom State Government under Governor Akpabio is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the completion of the Ibom Power Plant initiated by the last administration. The power purchase agreement between Ibom Power Company and Power Holding Company of Nigeria has been sealed. The transmission lines have been designed and direct piping of gas supply from the Nigeria Gas Company has been completed. To ensure that every community in the state benefits from the Ibom Power Plant, more than 465 electrification projects have so far been completed and commissioned. An additional 1,035 electrification projects are to be commissioned over the next two years. With the Ibom Power Plant currently undergoing a series of test-run; Akwa Ibom is on its way to becoming the first state in Nigeria's history to achieve constant and sufficient electricity supply.
Akwa Ibom international Airport
The Akwa Ibom International Airport is another project with huge potential to improve transportation and promote import and export activities in the state. Designed to have maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities, a 3.6 kilometre runway (the longest in Africa) and cargo facilities, the airport will on completion become the first of its kind in Sub Saharan Africa. Aviation authorities have already certified the facility as Nigeria's first National Hangar. Work on the first phase is eighty percent completed, and the inaugural flight is billed to land on September 23rd 2009. (This piece was written before the landing of Arik Airline's Boeing 737, 800 series on 23rd September 2009)
Ibaka Industrial city
Another key plank of Governor Akpabio's New Economy is the Ibaka Industrial City, which has been described as the future ‘economic jewel of the Gulf of Guinea'. With a deep seaport, a Liquefied Natural Gas plant, a rail line linked to the national rail network, a fertilizer plant, a Gas-to-Gasoline plant and an industrial housing estate, the Ibaka Industrial City will on completion be an Oil and Gas hub for Deep Offshore Operations. Akwa Ibom State has recently been pronounced a central processing unit in the Nigeria Gas Master Plan by the Federal Government of Nigeria because of its abundant gas potentials, and the state is looking forward to attracting an investment of $4 billion dollars from the gas component of the Ibaka Industrial City project. Efforts are underway to get an Oil and Gas Free Zone designation from the Federal Government for the Ibom Industrial City.
Tropicana Entertainment centre
Nigeria Vision 2020 strives to diversify the country's economy away from its current oil-based, mono-product status. All over the world, tourism development is recognized as a veritable source of foreign earnings. Akwa Ibom State is already positioning itself as a destination of note in Nigeria and West Africa through its huge investments in culture and tourism. Work on the construction of the N33 billion Ibom Tropicana Entertainment Centre has commenced, which foundation stone laying ceremony was performed by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua on October 24, 2008. On completion, the 82,000 hectare facility will house an 18-storey, 250-room five star hotel, a 10,000-seat international conference centre, shopping malls, a Cineplex, theme parks and a multi-storey car park. At the same time, the existing Le' Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort is being expanded to maximize its full potential.
Empowering Citizens for the New Economy
How is the state's citizenry being prepared for this launch to the next level? Governor Akpabio is systematically investing in social and human capital development to ensure that Akwa Ibom people are not caught unawares by the state's industrial transformation. Hundreds of youths are benefiting from local and international capacity building programmes under the state government training schemes. At the basic education level, the Leave No Child Behind policy is Governor Akpabio's initiative to take free, compulsory and qualitative education to the doorsteps of every Akwa Ibom family. With the Akwa Ibom State University of Technology (AKUTECH) finally taking off, and a state-of-the-art digital library complex nearing completion, the state government is guaranteeing education, training and personal development for all, thereby creating a ready local manpower pool to support the New Economy. New hospitals are being built while old healthcare facilities are being upgraded across the state to ensure that the populace stays healthy and fit. Construction work is also ongoing at the 20th Anniversary Specialist Hospital, which is designed to be a medical referral centre for South-South Nigeria.
The Future is Akwa Ibom
In view of the super infrastructures the Akpabio administration is putting in place in Akwa Ibom, the state is already making a bold statement in Nigeria's bid to hit the league of 20 most industrialized economies in the world. With the Ibom Power Plant, the Ibaka Industrial City, the state-of-the art airport, Ibaka seaport, a good road network, huge investments in human capital, security and social development, Akwa Ibom State is moving sure footedly in the direction of Nigeria's Vision 2020.
Benedict is the Personal Assistant to Governor Akpabio on Public Affairs