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Post COVID-19: Akwa Ibom prepares to embrace the new normal

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Akwa Ibom
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel Udom
A 20-member committee put together by the Akwa Ibom State government to reposition the state for the post COVID-19 economy has submitted its report to Governor Udom Emmanuel.

The report was submitted on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at an event which had in attendance the governor and members of the State Executive Council.

The committee which had Prof. Akpan H. Ekpo, a former Director General of the West African Institute for Financial & Economic Management (WAIFEM) as Chairman and Prof Emmanuel Onwioduokit, HOD, Economic, University of Uyo as Secretary; also boasts a number of prominent entrepreneurs including Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman, Zinox Group; Udom Inoyo former Executive Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil as well as other eggheads from the corporate and academic circles as well as seasoned administrators in its fold.

The 142-page report was divided into nine chapters, each of which addressed specific areas of interventions or terms of reference on what should be done in rejigging and restructuring Akwa Ibom state to navigate the post COVID-19 world.

Equally important, the report was classified into three different time frames, namely the immediate, short term and long term interventions.

They include mental orientation of the people, especially the youths; focus on agriculture, industry and service as potential mainstay of the Akwa Ibom economy in a post COVID-19 world without oil; massive efforts to continue the industrialization process in the state, increased participation of the youth in the economy and stamping out of cultism/other criminal activities in the state; completion of the Science Park to serve as a Silicon Valley of sorts for Akwa Ibom state as well as for job creation and improvement of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR); massive investment in infrastructure; re-visitation of the state’s waterways transportation; full autonomy for the state’s internal revenue board by disengaging it from the public service and the establishment of clear targets for it; recapitalization of state-owned financial institutions such as the Akwa Saving & Loans Ltd. and provision of credit facilities for low-income housing for residents; set-up of an independent data generation institution to aid the state’s planning purposes; inauguration of an Economic Advisory Council to assist in the conceptualization, formulation and implementation of government policies; establishment of a Reserve Fund to see the state through lean periods; recommendation of an exit plan for the state’s commercial ventures; identification of low-hanging fruits that the state can immediately take advantage of and the creation of a 30-year strategic development plan to be passed into law in the state.

Receiving the committee’s report, Governor Udom heaped praises on the members of the committee for completing its work within the one-month time frame outlined. Specifically, he singled out two non-indigene members of the committee – the Zinox Chairman, Dr. Ekeh and Prof. Vincent Anigbogu, Director-General, Institute for National Transformation –   for special praise.

‘‘On behalf of the good people of Akwa Ibom State and the Executive Council, I want to appreciate the members of this committee, beginning from the Chairman, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, the Secretary, Prof Emmanuel Onwioduokit and most especially those our brothers, Prof. Anigbogu, Leo Stan Ekeh and our sister Mary of the Securities and Exchange Commission, as busy as she’s been who still created time to serve her state irrespective of her busy schedule.

‘‘I really want to appreciate all of them specifically and convey the gratitude of our own people. I want to say we are grateful to Prof. Anigbogu, to Leo Stan Ekeh and all the Akwa Ibomites who have served on this committee.’’

Reacting to the recommendations of the committee, the Akwa Ibom Governor disclosed that his administration will implement every single one to the letter.

He also commended the innovative ideas for repositioning the state and empowering the youths through ICT, even as he welcomed the idea of mental re-orientation.

‘‘The only way forward and the fastest approach; I believe when I read your report, I will see as one of the low-hanging fruits, is to drive our youths through ICT. For this, we have to work with our brother, Leo Stan Ekeh, a friend of the state, who in fact, we must give a local government which he will adopt as the one he hails from in Akwa Ibom; so that he can help us drive the aspect of youths and ICT.’’

Leo Stan-Ekeh

Leo Stan-Ekeh

Referencing the growth of platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Netflix, the governor affirmed that COVID-19 had created a number of business opportunities for people through ICT, noting that a lot more are coming.

‘‘I wouldn’t want Akwa Ibom to be left behind,’’ he declared.

On the 20-year strategic development plan for the state, Udom expressed excitement with the recommendation. Also, he stated that the Executive Council was working on a similar proposal, noting that the proposal had undergone two reviews. Subsequently, he assured of his commitment to conclude the economic plan as quickly as possible.

Equally important, he revealed the immediate set-up of a five-member implementation committee headed by the committee Chairman, Prof. Ekpo to see to the immediate execution of the report submitted by the committee. Others include the Secretary, Prof. Emmanuel Onwioduokit; former Executive Vice Chairman, ExxonMobil, Mr. Udom Inoyo; Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr. Glory Edet and Hon. Eno Uwan.