THE Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, launched the Completion Agenda on assumption of office for his second term to achieve two objectives. One, to unite the people after an election that was preceded by rancourous and bitter campaigns that threatened the fabric of the peace and unity that hold the people together. Two, to signpost the direction he is taking the state in his last term in office. It should be considered quite strategic the governor’s choice of agriculture as a critical component of his Completion Agenda. There couldn’t be a better avenue through which to bring together people whose main occupation has been farming from days of yore. It is one area that does not recognize dialect, ethnicity or political affiliations. Agriculture is an area for which the state is well known and in which it has both comparative and competitive advantage over many states in the country. In pre and post-independence Nigeria when agriculture was the nation’s economic mainstay, what is today Akwa Ibom State was one of the areas that gave the then Eastern Region the edge over other regions in palm produce, one of the country’s major exports then. After oil displaced agriculture as the nation’s number one revenue earner, and despite the fact that Akwa Ibom receives the highest revenue allocation in derivation (which actually goes into the state government coffers), agriculture has remained the main source of livelihood for the people. Notable cash crops for which the state is well known include cassava, yam, cocoyam, maize and plantain.
Fishing is basically the economic mainstay of people in the riverine areas, while Oron and Eket serve as major fish markets for traders from neighbouring states like Abia and Imo. Governor Emmanuel tried in his first term to take agriculture from the subsistence level it has been to a level at which it can be a source of livelihood for farmers, feed the people of the state and also be a foreign exchange earner. He has a string of achievements to show for his effort. Those that stand out as testimonies are cultivation of 2, 100 hectares of cassava plantation in 15 local government areas under the FADAMA project; cultivation of 1, 200 hectares of rice; registration of 40, 000 rice farmers for the Central Bank of Nigeria Anchor Borrowers Programme; training of 450 youths on cocoa maintenance and distribution of 500, 000 improved cocoa seedlings to farmers across 28 cocoa producing local government areas at highly subsidised rates. The government set up the Akwa Prime Hatchery that produces 10, 000 birds weekly; constructed the Vegetable Greenhouse and constructed cassava micro-processing mills across the state. It also planted 500 citrus seedlings, 600 hybrid plantain suckers and 1, 000 pineapple suckers, among many others. Governor Emmanuel has promised that in the Completion Agenda of his second term, he would boost the agricultural sector with a new policy framework that would make the state self-sufficient in food production, generate employment in the sector and also create wealth in the entire agricultural value chain.
Top on his agricultural agenda is establishment of agro processing and allied industries before he bows out on May, 29, 2023. Among industries that are under consideration are fruit and vegetable juice production; cassava and potato production; edible oil production; salt refinery; animal feed production, sanitary wares; water treatment plant and ice making. Others are bottling line for water, juice and oil, as well as establishment of an Akwa Ibom integrated cassava programme to be known as Dakkada Cassava Task Force. The governor has promised to tap the full potential of the rich coastline of Akwa Ibom that is home to some of the world’s best species of fish to promote establishment of viable industries in shrimping, fishing and canning, fish meal production, and fish oil.
“I intend to encourage fish production in the riverine areas of the state by providing facilities to assist both local fish farmers and large scale investors, in addition to the facilities for dry docking, berthing and discharging of fishing trawlers, sorting, processing and packaging of fish for export which are all available at the Federal Government established Fishing Terminal at Ebughu in Mbo Local Government Area”, the governor said in his second term campaign manifesto. He listed some of the projects on which his government’s attention will be focused under the Completion Agenda to include the Tilapia Aquaculture Project; development of marine fisheries and fish farm estate projects; procurement and establishment of seafood processing facilities with domestic and foreign markets as targets, as well as fish production.
The Completion Agenda in agriculture has attracted the interest of a large number of people who have demonstrated their readiness to take their destiny in their hands. These include hitherto idle youths who probably saw crime as a means of livelihood, but who have since repented and became active participants in the government’s peace process, which accounts for the peace the state enjoys today. With adequate incentives like agricultural seedlings, fertilizer, simplification of access to credit facilities under favourable terms and the right infrastructure, people are not going to require any prodding to see agriculture as the business that it is, not just a vocation for providing food for the family. The goal of achieving self-sufficiency in food production for local consumption and export is within sight in Akwa Ibom. Suffice it to say that this is going to impact very positively on the quality of life of the people of the state as food is the first basic need of man before any other. It would also serve as the bedrock for sustainable development which the Completion Agenda is all about.
- Isibor writes in from Benin, Edo State