Amid numerous precautionary measures canvassed to contain the dreaded corona virus, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources in Akwa Ibom State, Dr. (Barr.) Ekong Sampson, has called on the people of the state to pay serious attention to personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, even as the state government is set to clamp down on illegal felling of trees in city centres.
Many states in the federation have, as a matter of urgency, taken steps to cushion the economic threats posed by the outbreak of the corona virus, otherwise known as Covid-19. It was on this basis that the Akwa Ibom State Government under leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel, has recently inaugurated an economic committee to design a road map for economic growth and sustainability, amidst the pandemic.
There is no doubt that the drop in crude oil price in a country where oil accounts for over 60% of government revenue and about 80% of foreign exchange, have caused government at all levels to slash their 2020 budget downward to reflect the economic realities in the land. As it stands, state’s economies will most likely rely on loan from financial institutions to fund their budgets, as a result of the drop in demands for crude oil at the international market.
The multiplier effect of the Covid-19 economic threat, with the nation’s economy on lockdown, states in the federation that rely on revenues from the federal allocation will no doubt be economically devastated. It is on this basis, that this special report is considered to redirect government attention to other economic sectors that were hitherto abandoned as a result of its dependence on crude oil revenue.
Proffering solution on the matter, a renowned finance expert and former Commissioner for Finance, Sir Sunday Udoh Akpan said the state government should go beyond slashing salaries of political office holders, and should firstly and perhaps, most importantly, adopt inward looking strategies to form the main pillar of the foundation of post-Covid-19 economic reconstruction.
He said the state government, while thinking globally, should also consider the need to develop and use local potentials. “This advocacy may sound trite in the ears of some experts, but if you remember that none of our universities and polytechnics running faculties of agriculture are known to be inward looking and self sufficient in the production of stable foods for their students, then you will agree that common sense is not so common in Nigeria’s economic management,” Sir Sunday Akpan said.
While stressing the need for youths in the country to be encouraged to patronize made in Nigeria products, he equally stressed the need for serious commitment and mass attitudinal reorientation towards sharpening individual and institutional capacities for inward looking solutions for life challenges, focusing on using what you have to get what we want.
“Thankfully, a very significant lesson of Covid-19, especially for those who took the concept of True Federalism for granted, is that when the plaque struck, each state was forced to lean inwardly to use her health facilities and other resources in taking care of her citizens. State borders were closed,” Sir Akpan further noted.
The message, according to him, is that post Covid-19 economic reconstruction should prioritize on empowering capacity of Akwa Ibomites to be able to fend for themselves within the context of the Nigerian federation.
On the other hand, Sir Akpan said consolidating capacity for resilience in agricultural production and processing, should be regarded as another critical foundation of post Covid-19 economic reconstruction. “Here, we cannot but boldly acknowledge and celebrate Governor Udom Emmanuel for demonstrating remarkable leadership commitment which ensured the establishment of cassava, rice, poultry, fertilizer, flour, tomatoes, cocoa and coconut production projects in the state before now,” he said.
Speaking further, the financial expert and President of the International Management and Finance Institute, (I.M.F.I.), Uyo, advocated that similar initiatives in the areas of oil palm, fishing, and plantain production be patriotically pursued and supported by serious minded members of the farming communities. He added that with the support of economic managers toward the success of the projects, the state will be able to feed itself and perhaps, export surpluses to outsiders and “we would have constructed an important pillar for our prosperity”.
Also speaking on measures to survive the post Covid-19 economic recovery, the Honorary Special Adviser to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Grassroots Mobilization, Elder Enefiok Ekefre, said the state was blessed with the gift of a leader like Governor Udom Emmanuel, who prior to the outbreak of the Corona Virus, had already attracted Foreign Direct Investments in the aviation sector of the state’s economy, with four aircrafts in the fleet of Ibom Air.
While expressing optimism that more aircrafts are coming, he expressed confidence in the Prof. Akpan Ekpo-led Economic Reconstruction Committee recently inaugurated by the State Chief Executive with the mandate to explore avenues on how to rejig the state`s economy. The former PDP Chapter Chairman in Uyo expressed confidence that the committee, in line with its terms of reference, will provide the needed framework to protect the fragile economy from going into recession.
While applauding the proactive steps so far taken by the present administration, the political leader advocated for diversification of the economy as well as strategic investments in the area of agriculture. He noted further that the Governor’s investment in Ibom Deep Seaport, of which he said is currently delayed by bureaucratic bottlenecks, will in due time take the state to the expected destination.
He applauded both Federal and State Government in the management of the global pandemic which has wrecked havoc in many advanced countries like the U.S.A. and Germany. He therefore sued for the support of the citizens in adhering strictly to all precautionary measures.
Baring his mind on measures to recover fully from alarming threats posed on the education sub-sector of the state economy, a renowned teacher and former Vice Chairman of Etim Ekpo Local Government Area, Sir Luke Udom, said steps should be taken to revamp the moribund technical colleges in the state. He also called for investments in science and technology to forestall the numerous challenges faced by the citizenry during the period of the pandemic.
While applauding the school on Radio Initiative of the state government, he noted that critical investments in agriculture, education, science and technology will help to promote Akwa Ibom among the comity of states in the federation, while commending the effort of the state chief executive in the completion of the Covid-19 Isolation Centre at Ituk Mbang, in Uruan Local Government Area.
Speaking in the same vein, a frontline politician from Abak and former aide to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Project Monitoring, Hon. Godwin Dan, maintained that with the pedigree of Governor Udom, a renowned banker in the saddle in the state, the hope of better economic fortunes is not in doubt.
Dan who is a renowned business man explained that the quality of industries initiated by the Governor, are indications that the state is prepared to launch itself into the global community, especially with the coming on stream of the coconut refinery at Mkpat Enin Local Government Area.
He therefore solicited the support and cooperation of the citizens to enable the Governor realise his completion agenda in line with the administrations drive for industrialization. He insisted that the Governor’s effort in the area of food security and by extension, security of lives and property, are clear indications that the state’s economy will succeed beyond the post Covid-19 era.
He advised the Prof. Akpan Ekpo-led Covid-19 Reconstruction Committee to dig deep to uncover other sources of income to enable the state to remain stable economically.