By UbongAbasi Ise

“If you close your eyes to facts, you will learn through accident – African Proverbs

When I got the news on radio the other day that Akwa Ibom State government was pledging to go all out in completing a 21-storey intelligence building that would help facilitate the relocation of Exxon Mobil administrative and operational headquarters to the state, I was naturally thrown into a sort of excitement. It means a lot to have a multinational oil behemoth around. It is a common understanding that the all-presence of Exxon Mobil in Akwa Ibom would go a long way in resetting for good the state’s social and economic constructs: there would be increase in oil sector job opportunities; correlated companies would spring up causing indirect employments; the state’s internally generated revenue would peak; commerce and informal sector would be stimulated, and the company’s corporate social responsibilities in the state would improve. Aesthetically, the massive magnificent 21-storey structure would scrap our tropical sky, and add both luster and modernity to our already scenic environment.
But Akwa Ibom State citizens have heard their government vowing before. Therefore there was nothing unusual. The declaration for the construction of the 21-storey skyscraper that would facilitate the transferability of Exxon Mobil headquarters from Lagos to Akwa Ibom soil was pleasing to the ears, but not without the possibility of some listeners casting aspersions on the Governor’s motives. As far as we are gradually moving closer to the heart of electioneering season, any promise can go whether realizable or quixotic in so far it strikes the right cord. With Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s fixations on his reelection next year, one cannot tell gimmickries from genuine intentions. Of course the Governor has not fulfilled most of his numerous campaign promises as summed up under industrialization agenda. All we see today is spurious impression of industrialization that leaves the state with no impact in terms of employment and flood of exportable products. Most well-meaning Akwa Ibomites were thinking that Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s coming in 2015 with a toga of industrialization would do what Prometheus in ancient Greek myth did by stealing fire from the gods to humans. We expected an exceptional and extraordinary approach to industrialization; something unique. What Udom is doing today is not quite different from what the past leadership did since the days of Southeastern State, which has to do with partnering with private sector to erect a factory, and after the life of such administration expires, the company closed shop. There was, and there is absolutely lack of strong foundation for industries to thrive despite the huge potentialities and natural environment that could engender industrial growth.
Now we are going to see that Udom’s pattern in transmogricating Akwa Ibom is not far from what was done in the past, which yielded bad fruits of failure.
There was Asbestonit Limited in Oron which was incorporated in March 1972, and the production of asbestos, pipes, and corrugated asbestos roofing sheets commenced in 1975. The state government at the time with the ownership of 70% of the company, partnered with the private firm called Fulgurit Incorporated which provided 30% capital. But where is Asbestonit today? Again, there was Seastate Seafoods Limited incorporated in 1975. The Southeastern government provided 70% in share while its technical partner, Mudomar Enterprises from United States provided 30%. Seastate Seafoods through Mudomar Inc paid for six trawlers but only two were delivered for use. Mudomar withdrew in 1991 without being repaid its shares. Where is Seastate Seafoods today?
There was Pamil Industries in Abak incorporated in 1972 while operation commenced in 1977. The company was established for the crushing and extraction of palm oil. Government owned 60% of the shares while John Holt Investment Limited had 40%. In 1993, Akwa Ibom State government bought out John Holt shares but today the company is moribund despite the abundance of oil palm resources in the state.
International Biscuit Limited in Essien Udim was incorporated on 17th January 1980 when Dr. Clement Isong was the Governor of the then Cross River State. Biscuit production began 10th September, 1982 and ended in 1989. In that company, Akwa Ibom State which came to inherit it at creation in 1987 owned 33.33% of the company’s share; late Dr. Ime Sampson Umanah owned 13%; Manilla Insurance Company Limited owned 10%, while other subscribers altogether had 43.67% ownership. Today, the company is in ruins.
Furthermore, there was Qua Steel Products Limited in Eket set up in 1978 for the production of rods, iron bars, coils and angles. The state government owned 66%; Daniel, from Italy got 14% while others held the share of 20%. The question is: where is Qua Steel Products Limited today?
Quality Ceramic Limited put up in Itu for the production of ceramic tiles and sanitary wares was incorporated on 11th June 1980. Operation commenced in January 1987, and closed shop on 24th September, 1992. In the company, Akwa Ibom State government owned 36.56%; Welko Industries SPA, from Italy, had 14.53% in shares; Alliance International Nigeria Limited from Onitsha owned 11.28%; Manilla Insurance Company had 7.6%; Imesco Enterprises Limited had 1.69%; J. Udeaghala & Sons Limited had 23.69% share; Itu local government area had 1.13%; while 11 others shared 3.45% ownership. Today Quality Ceramic is history.
What about Plasto-Crown (Nigeria) Limited in Nnung Udoe which was incorporated in October 1976 with the commencement of operations in April 1978? The company produced crown corks and crates for beer and soft drinks including plastic buckets for paints and kitchen utensils. The state government owned 42.9% of shares. A German company, Deutsch Schaft had 17% ownership; NIDB Limited had 12%; Utuks Motors owned 8.6% while others had 18.5 % ownership of the company. But today, where is Plasto-Crown?
I can go on and on. The above instances have sufficed in helping explain that past administrations through partnership with private sector had done all Governor Udom Emmanuel is doing today but the state still remain largely unindustrialized. What could have caused the state’s frailties towards industrialization drive? What guarantee Udom that Jubilee Syringe Industry, AKEES Pencil and Toothpick Factory, and Electric Metering Company would not crumble once he leaves office? What is that magic wand that would make Udom’s industries not to toe the path of their failed counterparts that have been lying in rubbles all over the state? Is the governor not repeating the past mistakes? Has he no regards to history?
Till today, Akwa Ibom State is still irresolute and vacuous in matters of industrialization; the state is too mulish to learn from history. Surprisingly, the Akwa Ibom does not have a concretized foundation for industrialization. That is why the state is toddling and fumbling at every turn. If there was a well-articulated blueprint, then political desperation must have blurred all its directions. The state leadership is establishing industries at impulse without recourse to proximity to raw materials, demands and the environment. Nature has endowed the state with potentialities that could have placed the state at the same plane with Lagos. Akwa Ibom has a seaport, maybe deeper than those of Lagos; it has abundant crude oil deposits, and Lagos could not be compared to Akwa Ibom in that regards; the state has abundance of palm trees and several other resources. So the state can only grow with what it has, not those things found from without.
If Udom Emmanuel was prepared to industrialize the state, he would have first centred his energy on the development of Ibom Deep Seaport. Its blessing could have been multifarious. With a state-of-the-art seaport on ground, industries and factories could have sprung up on their own without much effort from government. Look at Lagos seaports and the whole tenements, they are championed by private sector with government only safeguarding the environments. As Akwa Ibom is boasting of giant industrial stride, can its industrial sector be compared to the whole of Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout in Port Harcourt? Instead of putting energy in few areas, the governor is gallivanting the whole state touching this and leaving that. This is ridiculous.
To the 21-storey intelligence building, if only it would be completed and Exxon Mobil relocated its headquatres to it, then it would be a good thing for the state. The problem with Akwa Ibom is that, there are a lot of incomplete monuments of failures – they were laudable at the proposed stage, but now they are eye-sore and environmental threats.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, every administration has left behind incomplete structure – some projects that could have better the economic life of the state. Victor Attah’s government had left behind Ibom Science Park after megabucks were sunk into the project; Godswill Akpabio’s uncommon administration left behind an embarrassing incomplete Tropicana after billions of naira had been splurged on it. Today, Udom is beginning the construction of a 21-storey building, if he leaves Hilltop mansion without finishing the project then it will become to posterity, a megalith of a failed administration.

Yes! I am UbongAbasi Ise. For comment, please send SMS to 08189914609 |ubongabasiise@gmail.com



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