By Edidiong Udobia |
“Abuja is peace. Abuja is a central city with a very contemporary, modern feel. The city is a fascinating place to visit. Its a beautiful and charming city which everyone would like to go. Abuja is a picturesque Nigerian city”, wrote Sani Musa Ibrahim during the recent #AbujaVsLagos social media war. It was and still obvious that Abuja’s bragging rights are mainly aesthetical. But talk about a Nigerian city that bears the brunt of the country’s burden, pride and shame; a Nigerian city with high prestige of turning most slumdogs to millionaires, then it’s agurably Lagos.
It was the core message of Singer Wande Coal’s debute album title, “Mushin to Mo’hits”. Even our own Nollywood idolizes Lagos as a city of overnight fame and fortune. Simply say, Abuja with the beauty, Lagos with the hustle. But there is an emerging city that will have both and even more. The city is Uyo.
Infrastructure and economy
Infrastructure, economic activities, standard of living and population are some of the common indices considered when rating a city, as well as key factors that contribute to the rise or fall of a city. Like me, I know there are quite a number of other people residing in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state capital, who have been so caught up in the struggle that they hardly notice the fast changes going on in the city.
When Governor Udom Emmanuel decided to rehabilitate the abandoned 10th Anniversary Hotel along Udo Udoma Avenue and convert it to a modern state secretariat, it was not just to get rid of a major dump in the city, but also a big step towards expanding the economy of the city and the state at large. Today, the Dakkada Secretariat has not only become a business hub but also a major economic melting pot with the capability of generating significant economic rent.
According to a source directly involved in the management of the Secretariat, the edifice has so far churned in a significant revenue into the state purse as well as provide a big and ready market for retail sellers of various products. “This is far better than when the building was abandoned and served as hideout for miscreants and a well-known harbour for criminals”.
The source, who spoke under anonymity, recalled that the rehabilitation work, which was handled by the then Prince Enobong Uwah led Housing and Urban Renewal Ministry, met stiff opposition by both illegal occupants of the building and the host community. He however added that since the building was commissioned and put to use, it has attracted more development to the area. “The roads around the Secretariat have all been tarred and it has further opened up the community to more business opportunities”, he added.
A stroll on the newly constructed 2.1km Road around the Secretariat and Believers Assembly revealed that beyond just boosting the beauty of the city, the new road has opened up many parts of Mbiabong community that were hitherto disconnected from the urban. New residential buildings and retail shops are springing up. The area is now a beehive of various economic and social activities. Unlike recent past, pedestrians no longer slog on mud during raining season like this.
“Before now, the road was usually very muddy whenever it rains and difficult to use even with a car. Nobody will even think of driving when it rains. But today, it’s no longer so. The best part of it is that the development has helped rid the area of petty thieves because at night the road is always well-lighted. We are grateful to Governor Udom Emmanuel for this intervention”, said Daniel Bassey, a resident of the area.
Sitting on about 362km² landmass, Uyo, within the last 20 years, has witnessed a steady all-encompassing urbanization – from population rise, infrastructural development to economic growth. According to the 2006 census, the city had a population of 427,873 people, but the number is expected to double by now. While past administrations focused on developing the outer parts of the city, the present administration under Governor Udom Emmanuel is taking the development to the very interior parts through construction of internal roads and siting of strategic projects in rural parts of the city.
For instance, while inaugurating the 1.2 kilometre road to Radio Nigeria Atlantic 104.5 FM station in Uyo, Governor Emmanuel said that there are 28 other intervention roads built by his administration which had direct bearing to the grassroots people in the state, adding that the 1.2km road was constructed because of its importance to the media industry and the people living around the area.
The inauguration was part of the activities to mark the governor’s third year in office. The governor said his focus on internal and rural roads was to address the socio-economic challenges of people at the grassroots and will continue to plan and implement strategies aimed at building a strong economy for the state.
“I think this is my second time of coming to this station and I am coming to inaugurate the road. Permit me to say here that this road will also come with some beautifications. The contractors have been directed to landscape and plant some fruit trees along this road. This is to ensure that when you are driving into this arena, you will experience an ambience that gives good sense of relaxation. We have 28 such grassroots intervention roads across the state and I will not be able to go round them today, but let me use this as the last point”, Governor Udom said.
In his remarks, the general manager of Atlantic FM, Mr Barikumo Adou commended the governor for the road, noting that it will better the lot of the station and open the area to more development. Mr. Adou did not only express the opinion of the radio station but also that of the indigenes who were all in a joyous mood during the inauguration. Like other newly constructed roads and intervention projects, the Atlantic FM road is a further testament to Governor Emmanuel’s commitment towards making Uyo an ideal place for both business and leisure.
Without completely abandoning the model of his predecessors, so far, there has been a deliberate effort by the governor to disrupt the existing development pattern of the city which aided uneven distribution of projects. “We have a blueprint for the development of the state and aggregating efforts towards that. So we should have no excuse not to deliver even in the midst of challenges and constraints. We should be able to do the much we can do,” the governor said.
Governor Udom had barely started when his development strides already earned the state some high reputation. Recalled that a report from Foreign Direct Investments, FDI, rated Akwa Ibom as second best state in Nigeria with the ease of doing business. As the capital city, Uyo must have been among the samples. This was before the completion of over 27 internal roads within the state capital city which, in practical terms, will ease doing business.
It is observed that Governor Udom is keen on ensuring that all the streets linking to major roads within Uyo have a pitch-black look. Of course, the governor is aware of the fact that roads, however insignificant they may seem, are gateways to businesses. He has equally taken on mega roads that link Uyo to other parts of the state. Few of them are, dualization of 20.0km Uyo – Etinan Road; dualization of 14.5km Uyo/Airport Junction – Okopedi Okobo Road; dualization of 9.5km Ring Road III in Aka Nung Udoe Road; construction of 19.37km Anua – Mbak – Ishiet Road; and many others. These roads have massive economic and social benefits.
Interestingly, Governor Udom has replicated this infrastructural development in the health, education, trade and other sectors. One of the governor’s earliest intervention was at the prestigious St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua. The intervention saw the hospital being given a face-lift through the rehabilitation of administrative block and wards, and construction of Dr. Ann Ward Gynecology and Maternity block in the hospital.
Today, the hospital wears a look befitting its status. In education, the governor has undertaken construction and renovation works in many schools within the capital city through Inter-ministerial. In addition, high-rises which will serve as huge commerce, trade and investment centers are springing up. At the central business district in the metropolis, there is ongoing construction of high-rise and investment buildings. A 21 storey modern office complex is in the offing.
Evidently, Uyo is already too juicy for companies. As part of the activities to mark his third year in office, Governor Udom commissioned the Anchor Insurance House; an ultramodern office complex of one of the country’s leading insurance companies, along Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo.
Performing the commissioning, the governor assured the insurance company that they were yet to scratch even ten percent of the market available in the insurance industry and urged them to be creative so as to come up with new innovations and products that would enable them to break even and come top. He assured them of his readiness to approve the convertsion of one of Government’s real estate properties in Lagos for equity investment in the company, to enable the company meet the recapitilisation directive of NAICOM to insurance companies in Nigeria.
In his welcome address, the Chairman, Board of Directors of Anchor Insurance Company Ltd, Dr. Elijah Akpan, had expressed his Company’s deep gratitude to the present Administration for adopting Anchor Insurance as the preferred Company for the State insurance business, through an EXCO Decision, thereby, directing all Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to patronise the Company’s products. While pledging his company’s determination to continue to contribute immensely to the growth of Akwa Ibom State’s economy through employment generation, income redistribution and corporate social responsibility, Dr. Akpan, who is also the Executive Chairman, Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation (AKICORP), assured the Governor of their unalloyed loyalty to his administration’s industrialisation programme.
Power, security and the challenges
Like every modern city, power means two things in Uyo; steady electricity in homes and functional streetlights. Among Governor Udom’s efforts towards providing stable electricity in the capital city was building of a 2×5 MVA, 33/11KV injection substation at Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo. During a citizens’ tour of the facility, I recalled that the engineer and site operator, Mr. Ekpenyong Okorie, who took us round, noted that the facility will boost power within its catchment area. He said the substation was the long-awaited answer to prayers of Uyo residents.
“The substation will facilitate the provision of special power distribution lines to Shelter Afrique estate, Ewet Housing estate, Fourlane, Osongama and its environs providing homes and businesses in its catchment area at least 18hours of uninterrupted power”. He however, did note a few shortcomings like that the facility can only distribute power generated from the national grid and if there is a major electrical fault like electricity pole falling in any of the areas connected to the substation, it will have a kickback effect on the facility.
In a recent interview with newsmen in Uyo, the chairman, Ibom Power Company, Engr. Etido Inyang noted that the challenges in the power sector are enormous and are mostly due to the failure on the part of the distribution company, but assured that Governor Udom is not relenting in his effort to find a lasting solution to power.
“Most of the constraints are from the Federal Government. When you come to distribution, PHEDC is supposed to provide sub-stations at strategic positions to reenergize the power and take it to the end-users, they are not doing that. Looking at transformers, when they go bad PHEDC should replace them, same for cables. But they are not doing that. Now, how is IPC concerned with this? If you look at our objectives, we are providing power and we have been urged to take that power to our own people. What Governor Udom Emmanuel is doing now is that we are going through a process called ‘Power-for-All.’ And when once we are able to get that done, whatever power we pump will remain in Akwa Ibom”, Engr. Inyang said.
On the issue of streetlights, it appears that most citizens only come to appreciate the importance of the lights when the streets are dark. It is only then that we hear loud voices bashing the governor for the darkness on the streets. But big the question is, what really happens to streetlights that one moments they are all shinning bright but the next moment, they are no longer working? I had this discussion with a friend and he said, “the attitude of our people towards public infrastructure has become a bigger problem than not having the infrastructure”.
Yes, like many other public infrastructures, vandalism is responsible for most of the non-functional streetlights in Uyo. The streetlights are solar-powered and for whatever reasons, people find it convenient to steal the solar panels and render the lights useless. Even the government replaces the panels, the vandals never get tired. However, it seems, the government has found a possible solution with new manually wired streetlights which are currently being installed along Oron Road.
“The old ones were solar powered with overhead solar panels that were perpetually vandalized but the new ones are manual; will be wired to and powered from a central location. This reduces the incidence of vandalism as the solar panels were the primary target of vandals”, Mr. Charles Udoh, the commissioner for Information and Strategy, said.
Security is another ace the city has. Thanks to Governor Udom Emmanuel. It can be recalled that only a few years ago, especially in the heat of the 2011 governorship election, Uyo was the capital political violence with kidnappings, assassinations and mindless bloodletting. Akwa Ibom ranked among states with high insecurity, but by May 2017, the then state Police Commissioner, Mr. Don Awunah revealed that the state was ranked the lowest in terms of crime index in the country with the state government providing over 70 percent of the patrol vehicles and other logistics.
Governor Udom Emmanuel is not resting on his oars as far as the security of the entire state is concerned. He is tackling insecurity head-on through deep collaborations with security agencies. The state recently hosted the South-South Security Summit that had governors from the South South region, the Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, and many other security chiefs in attendance. That was an overwhelming vote of confidence on the state and Uyo, which was the host city.
As the chief executive officer, Governor Udom has kept watch over the state these past three years with special attention to the capital city. Under his watch, indigenous entrepreneurs are rising to embrace and even create opportunities. Uyo as the state capital has become a choice destination for both business and leisure.
Edidiong Udobia is a journalist and writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.