Akwa Ibom: Nigeria’s New Agro-Industrial Hub
By Uwemedimoh Umanah
One thing that has made Akwa Ibom state stand out in the comity of States in Nigeria today is its vigorous and deliberate policy towards providing enough food for its people. It is a universal reality that food is a basic necessity of life in addition to shelter and clothing; no man can live without food and proper feeding engenders a healthy population.
The desire for food sufficiency for the citizenry has been the priority of governments the world over. That is the reason governments in developed countries subsidize agricultural production reasonably.
In the US, The original intent of farm subsidies was to provide economic stability to farmers during the Depression to ensure a steady domestic food supply for Americans. 1956-57, it cost the British taxpayer $655,200,000 to subsidize agriculture, a sum more than enough to pay the whole of the agricultural wages bill. Had this money been used instead to reduce the government’s annual budget deficit, there need not have been the inflation of the British currency which has deprived provident classes of the community of nearly 50 per cent of the value of their savings since World War II. As there are only some 500,000 farms in Great Britain, the subsidy averages $1,310 per farm.
This burning need engender a healthy populace informed the formulation of Agricultural policies such as the Operation Feed in 1976 the Nation and Green Revolution in Nigeria which was part of the fourth National Development Plan in April 1980. These policies helped tremendously in boosting food production in the country since independence. But the challenge of producing enough food to feed the populace remains a mirage due to policy summersaults by successive governments in Nigeria.
Akwa Ibom state under Governor Udom Emmanuel has become a model in food production in Nigeria. Through a conscious, bold, and strategic insights, the state has formulated and implemented policies capable of engendering food sufficiency. Two (2) of the salient points of the Governor’s 5-point agenda are wealth creating and poverty alleviation. In this regard, His Excellency sees agriculture as an alternative to the oil economy.
According to Daily Nigerian, an online medium, the Akwa Ibom state budget 2017 ranks the state as one of the agriculture-friendly states in Nigeria and among the top four (4) states that have invested hugely in agriculture together with Sokoto, Kogi and Katsina.
With an allocation of 7.4 billion to the agriculture sector, the state is an emerging agro-industrial hub in Nigeria, which would orchestrate the realisation of three of the five-point agenda of Governor Udom Emmanuel: Poverty Alleviation, Job Creation and Wealth Creation.
In Akwa Ibom, government has empowered the Akwa Ibom Employment and Enterprise Scheme (AKEES) to grow agro- based cottage business. That is the reason tomato, cocoa and coconut plantations have evolved in the state. The state inspired coconut refinery would also create a sustainable economy and industrial base for the state. Speculatively, it has been said that the refinery would create over 5000 direct and indirect jobs. This is predicated on its over 250 uses, implying that different companies would be producing different finished products from Coconut.
This is an idea driven by a careful and deliberate development strategy and thoughtful blueprint.
Also, tomatoes produced in Akwa Ibom courtesy of AKEES is the best of species and variety as its richer in nutrients and cooperatively thicker for use as tomato paste. So far, the AKEES – inspired tomatoes have flooded our markets and streets, making it unnecessary for traders in the state to travel to the northern part of the country or anywhere else to buy the product.
There is a vigorous effort in the area of animal husbandry. Recently, the Akwa Ibom State Government engaged in Public- Private Partnership Scheme with a foreign investor, San -Jo in the area of commercial cattle production. This led to the development of a cattle ranch in Uruan and the importation of improved specie of cattle from Mexico.
To complement this ingenious gesture, special gasses that would serve as feed for the cattle have been planted to well over 100 hectares of land, four hundred hectares to go.
Upon completion, the Range will have an abattoir for meat processing, Fresh Milk factory which will produce fresh milk and cheese.
It is expected that this project would provide thousands of direct and indirect jobs, while steering an agro-based industrial revolution in the state. It will also obliterate our dependence on cattle from the other parts of Nigeria.
In the same vein, the state-owned hatchery has a hatching capacity of 60,000 broilers weekly and a breeder of 10,000 birds at different stages of growth, while the permanent site is intended to house 60,000 birds. Currently , many neighbouring states depend on the Akwa Hatchery products, implying that the impact on the economy of the state cannot be overemphasised.
Recently too, Governor Emmanuel also established and commissioned cassava processing plants in all the senatorial districts with a promise of extending it to the 10 federal constituencies of the state. So far, garri production in the state has been tripled, while the cost has astronomically reduced.
In this regard, to make Akwa Ibom the hub for garri production in Nigeria, efforts have been geared towards boosting availability of cassava, the major raw material with plans to cultivate 2,500 hectares of cassava by the end of the year, an increase from the already cultivated 1,450 hectares through the ongoing FADAMA 111 programme.
Mrs Veronica Dennis, a garri trader in Akpan Andem market described Governor Emmanuel’s vision in this regard as unprecedented. ‘We have never had it this good the processing plant our Governor built in Eket has brought about increased production and drastically reduced the price of the commodity…’ Her opinion was corroborated by one Anthony Akpan, a civil servant, who admitted that he recently joined well meaning Akwa Ibomites to buy garri at an exceedingly low price at the secretariat, in a Programme organized by the Special Assistant to the Governor on Trade Matters. ‘This gesture by our Governor of investing in food production has really helped the common man like me. Garri was gradually turning into an elitist food due to rise in price but I think with this new focus by the state government, things are getting better. May God bless our Governor…’
Another path breaking feat recorded by Governor Emmanuel in the area of agriculture is the Green House Project on airport road, Uyo.
A green house is where specific plants requiring regulated climatic condition are grown. The benefit of this project is that the state will begin to grow at all season, certain plants and vegetables which ordinarily wouldn’t be grown. Most importantly, it forestalls the ravaging prevalence of squirrels and other tropical diseases from attacking plants and vegetables.
An academic research in the University of Uyo recently has shown that in the last 24 months, more agro based business have been established in Akwa Ibom than in any other part of the country, thanks to the ingenuity of Governor Udom Emmanuel.
The multiplier effect of the food revolution is that the governor has created an Agro-driven economy, capable of complementing and possibly substituting the oil/ petroleum economy.
Agro business being the yardstick of the south East Asian miracle, would create a tremendous number of jobs in the state and will reduce pressure on the civil/public service.
Uwemedimoh, an international Public Affairs Analyst, writes in from Abak