By UbongAbasi Ise
“Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor art. It is a practice.” – Peter Drucker
Akwa Ibom State is one of the highest producers of oil in Nigeria and therefore the state derives much of its revenue through oil proceeds allocated to account by the federal government. In recent times, the state economy has gone downward owing mainly to its dwindling revenue in the wake of oil price decline. It therefore becomes imperative for the state to look into other economic potential areas that would help boost the state’s ailing economy. One of these areas with tremendous economic potential is the ICT sector. In this edition, The Sensor is discussing the relevance of this economically viable sector to the economy of the state with particular attention to Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. Going around Uyo, one could easily find ICT business hubs scattering all over several major commercial locations. Examples of such locations include Epic Plaza along Ikot Ekpene Road with proximity to University of Uyo commonly known as Uniuyo. Another significant ICT spot is Ikpa Road where Uniuyo Town Campus is situated. Close to Ikpa Road by Ikot Ekpene Road is Ibiam Street which forms a base of a wider computer business hub spanning to Udobio Street. This axis is best known for competitive printing with different kinds of technology. Around Ibom Plaza and adjoining major roads and lanes, one would easily see computer and telecommunication outlets dotting the area. Udok Street, off Wellington Bassey Way near Ibom Plaza, is well known for the spread of ICT-based movie production and marketing. Other places include Udosen Uko Street, University of Uyo main campus surroundings at Nwaniba Road; and state and federal secretariats axis along Abak Road, Uyo. Indeed, the ICT-based business community in Uyo is diverse, active, and thriving. In this light we are going to discuss its role and capacity in economic sustenance of Akwa Ibom State and possibly look into ways of strengthening the sector in an attempt to revive the state’s dwindling economy.
ENTREPRENEURS ON ICT MARKET VIABILITY IN UYO
“The ICT market in Uyo is the emerging market actually. Uyo is gradually coming up as one of the top cities in Nigeria. I don’t think if it is not viable. In terms of viability, I can see certain ICT firms are emerging. The market has a great potential”. – Mr. Chidiebere Raphael, Director, Springlight Technology, 48 Udobio Street, Uyo
“ICT market in Akwa Ibom State is very lucrative as everyone is striving to be computer literate to cope with technology trend. Also since most organizations and ministries are embracing the use of technology in carrying out their operations, this makes the ICT market interesting.” – Mr. Itoro Udoinyang, Mindset Computers, 15 Ikpa Road, Uyo & Member of Nigerian Computer Society (NCS)
“ICT in Akwa Ibom State is viable in the sense that every organization now has a computer system, and people are no longer operating manually. If you look at any office, you won’t see any manual typewriter. Everything now is under ICT control. So it is very relevant to the present economy”. – Rev. N.N. James, CEO, TwelveGates Identification Systems Company, Epic Plaza, Uyo
“It is the business that everybody would like to involve in. Apart from the money aspect of it, the world today is all about ICT. Even the phones we are using, laptops, and even some of the television available in the market today, all have whole lots to do with computer technology. In this way, ICT business is very vital and the market is very wide” – Mr. Goodness Udoka, MD, DataGold Systems, 31 Ikpa Road, Uyo
ICT ENTREPRENEURS AND CONTRIBUTION TO AKWA IBOM STATE REVENUE PROFILE
Among the sources of revenue available to government are private business establishments. In Uyo computer-related businesses constitute a larger segment of private sector. Revenues are obtained through business premises’ registration as well as the renewal of their registration as provided in Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act 21 of 1998. Revenue can be demanded from government at any level depending on prevailing policy.
“As a registered entity, we have made yearly returns of all government revenue. I am talking about Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), that is, at the federal level, the state level as well as Uyo here at the local government level. Revenue collection in Akwa Ibom State, directly, has the multiplier effect on the economy and the general development of the state”. – Mr. Effiong Pius, TSGI Studios, Ikpa Road, by Uniuyo Annex
“We always comply in paying all forms of tax whether from the state government or local government. We also pay environmental levies from time to time” – Mrs. Omotola Hassan, Libhat Printers, 18 Ibiam Street, Uyo
“In terms of contribution to revenue, Springlight Technology actually registered with the Tax Identification Number and we pay our tax according to our profits. We are law-abiding citizens and we duly keep our records. Of course, we pay certain percentage of tax to consultants who usually come yearly” – Mr. Chidiebere Raphael, Springlight Technology
“Talking about revenue generation, we have contributed to Uyo local government, Akwa Ibom State and the federal government. As the business operators, we sometimes face challenges in this aspect. Uyo local government would come with their Demand Notice, the state government would also send their agents to come for revenue, and they would demand us to pay as high as N10,000 to N20,000 annually” – Mr. Goodness Udoka, DataGold Systems
“Mindset Computers have provided lots of technological solutions to most ministries, schools and various organizations and has helped set the pace for revenue generation in Akwa Ibom State” – Mr. Itoro Udoinyang, Mindset Computers
UYO ICT SECTOR AND EMPLOYMENT/CAREER DEVELOPMENT
“In terms of employment, we have 27 staff on our payroll, and we have trained many Akwa Ibom youths in the area of ICT and multimedia. Right now, we have risen to 800 stars. Also, University of Uyo is partnering with TSGI to train 200-level Uniuyo students on Entrepreneurship which is one of the university’s general studies courses” – Mr Banaiah Pius Effiong, TGSI, Ikpa Road, Uyo
“In 2008, I incorporated my first company called DePax Digital Production also known as DePax Studios. Between 2008 and 2013 when DePax Studio could no longer accommodate the influx of the people that come in for training, we decide to expand it to a full-fledged school called Creative Media Arts Academy. It has been licensed by the Federal Ministry of Education, though by the grace of God, we are still awaiting National Board of Technical Education (NBTE) report on accreditation they came here to conduct.
“Between 2008 and 2013, DePax has successfully trained over 180 film-makers in Akwa Ibom State. We have trained them in continuity editing, which is part of a movie production crew, and we have trained many film editors who have making a living now. Some of them own their businesses today and employ others.
“From 2013 till date, we have, under Creative Media Arts Academy, trained and graduated 230 students. This one includes people in acting and production which does not need too much ICT, but in the area of cinematography, continuity editing, and graphic design, it requires much of ICT. Some of our students range from 17 to 19 years, we catch immediately they finish secondary school. Once, we launched a programme called the SSCE & JAMBites Scholarship. All that was required from them was to pick the form for N1,000, and we trained them for 6 months on whatever field they chose from our curriculum. The scholarship scheme alone produced 123 youths that made up the 230 youths graduated from Creative Media Arts Academy.” – Prince ‘JTT’ Jude, CEO, Creative Media Arts Academy, 5 Udok Street, Uyo
“One thing about our own, I don’t know about others, is that we always want to contribute our quota in ending unemployment amongst youths. Mostly, we deal with those that have just come out from secondary schools. We offer them training, and in the course, we still pay them. We do this so that even if they go out from this place, they could still stand on their own” – Mrs Omotola Hassan, Libhat Printers
“In terms of employment, by the grace of God, we have been able to hire the best brains to work with Springlight. About 80% of our workforce are Akwa Ibomites. As at now, we have 11 permanent staff, but when we want to outsource for contract staff, the number would be more than that. Hiring these people is to bring human empowerment to Akwa Ibom youths. We are very keen to develop human capital here so that in turn, by God’s grace, they also give back to the society” – Chidiebere Raphael, Springlight Technology
“From its inception in 2009 till date, Mindset Computers has employed several people and have helped even more to secure jobs by equipping them with marketable ICT skills needed in the labour market. Mindset Computers is currently increasing its staff strength to five.” – Mr. Itoro Udoinyang, Mindset Computers
“We have employed sometime one, sometimes two, at times three staff, and add up with IT students. We have created employment for youths in the society” – Mr. Goodness Udoka, DataGold Systems
“I have employed over 10 people in my organization, TwelveGates. We have also trained 50 people annually on ICT. And each time they finish their training, they are independent. They can surf internet, and they can operate any kind of ICT programme.” – TwelveGates Identification Systems Company, Epic Plaza, Uyo
ANY GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION?
“I am not aware of any government programme, rather, we are standalone. We are operating on our own. There is no time I have ever gotten any government grant or whatsover…” – ” – Mr Banaiah Pius Effiong, TGSI, Ikpa Road, Uyo
“Actually, we do not really have the government intervention programme we could subscribe to, but indirectly, we believe that government have created enabling environment for business to grow as far as Uyo is concerned” – Mr. Chidiebere Raphael, Springlight Technologies
“In the area of empowerment, the state government has not done anything to empower the entrepreneurs operating in the state. If government do that, we would have gone a long way in empowering others” – Mr. Goodness Udoka, DataGold Systems
“…I have been sourcing for government’s presence in my own area. Why do I need government? I don’t need government to come and give me money, but I need government to come in and empower some of these youths. Concerning the youths participating scholarship, after they might have acquired the skills, they would not have capital to buy laptop or camera that they could use in making their own money. For example, if government for a batch, provide 10 laptops to best 10 graduating students, provide 20 cameras for the best 10 students, we can contribute to build a robust economy in the state” – Prince ‘JTT’ Jude, CEO, Creative Media Arts Academy
COMMON CHALLENGES FACED BY ICT ENTREPRENEURS
“As an ICT firm, we have generally two major problems that are quite challenging: they are the issue of power outage, and poor internet services. These are the main things that ICT sector requires to survive. Constant power supply and internet service availability are the main anchors to ICT business” – Mr. Chidiebere Raphael, Springlight Technologies
“Not only peculiar to those in the ICT sector, it occur everywhere in Nigeria, it concerns everybody. It is the problem of power supply. Sometimes we spend almost 80% on buying fuel…” – Mr Banaiah Pius Effiong, TGSI, Ikpa Road, Uyo
“Personally, the challenge I can say, what everybody face in Nigeria is high fuel pump price, problem of power supply and rent” – Prince ‘JTT’ Jude, CEO, Creative Media Arts Academy
“The economic downslide in Akwa Ibom and Nigeria at large is posing a serious challenge to the running of ICT firms. To make matters worse, the government increased the price of petrol coupled with unsteady power supply. All these make sustaining of our operation challenging” – Mr. Itoro Udoinyang, Mindset Computers
“Presently, we have the issue of power supply. So most times, we are using power generating plant to operate. We buy diesel everytime. Even if there is power supply from NEPA, the voltage would not be enough to power the machines” – Mrs. Omotola Hassan, Libhat Printers
SUBMISSION FOR CONSIDERATION
As now revealed, there is apparent disconnection between the state government and the private ICT business owners in the state. As the state’s economy is nose-diving, the state government should identify ICT sector as one of the vibrant sectors that can be strengthened to stimulate the economic and entrench stability.
“I want to thank The Sensor Newspaper for providing this platform just to reach out to people like us in the ICT sector, I appreciate” – Prince ‘JTT’ Jude, CEO, Creative Media Arts Academy
“I would like to thank the management of The Sensor Newspaper for this opportunity. I also thank the state government for creating the enabling environment for businesses in the state” ” – Mr. Chidiebere Raphael, Springlight Technologies