Gov Emmanuel Is Building Aviation IndustryAs Alternative To Oil Investment – Etteh



Rt. Hon Okpolupm Etteh, former three term legislator and leader AKHA, presently the honorable commissioner for Special Duties and Aviation matters in Akwa Ibom state took time off his busy schedule to eulogies Governor Udom Emmanuel’s extra-ordinary feat in five years of his administration in Akwa Ibom State Etteh a well-known loyal party man threw more light on the Governor’s vision through his Ministry, describing the governor as a team player and man of integrity in this interview with Crystal Express

Can you x-ray the last one year of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s second term in office as Governor of Akwa Ibom State?

He has demonstrated a focused, purpose-driven and result-oriented leadership in the last one year. As an insider I can tell you that Governor Emmanuel is a very meticulous leader. In summary, Governor Emmanuel is a result-oriented leader, team player and very listening governor who seeks others’ opinion and contribution in managing the statecraft. He works with a well articulated document of action which he follows rigorously to a conclusion.

How has your ministry fared under Governor Emmanuel?

My ministry which is Special Duties and Aviation, as I always tell my staff, is the quick-response unit of the Governor’s Office. Our business here is primarily to give policy direction on the implementation of the special projects. Special projects are a critical aspect of the Completion Agenda. In the Ministry of Special Duties, all the projects are dear to the governor. The 21-storey building presently at the completion stage has no issue with funding. The Four Points By Sheraton is also getting finishing touches with government providing funding. We are working round the clock to meet the critical requirements of Marriot Group who are the new owners of the Starwood Brand. As a ministry, we are carrying out every dream of the governor, providing policy direction for the implementation of every special project of the governor.

What is the situation at the aviation sector which is also supervised by your ministry?

Governor Emmanuel is an economist of no mean repute. He is one person who knows his direction with ease. When COVID-19 pandemic started in China, the governor took time to explain to us the wreckage the pandemic will foist on the economy. He is one leader who sees ahead. Before the oil prices crashed, he told us everything in clear terms. His vision in the aviation sector is to make Akwa Ibom the regional hub in Africa and another investment away from crude oil. The governor sees investment in the aviation sector as a way of diversifying the economy. He is also investing so much in agriculture for food sufficiency and for export, it takes gradual processes. When the pandemic struck and palliatives were given out, the rice, garri were all made in Akwa Ibom. In the aviation sector, Governor Emmanuel is building an alternative to oil investment. Oil will not last forever but the state and our people will remain. Through the aviation industry, the government is also creating jobs. Today we have Ibom Air, the MRO, and in the near future, the training school will join the growing list. Our airport will be by 2023 a regional hub for the African sub-region. People going to various parts of Africa will need to take off from Uyo Airport. To justify his commitment, the governor recently gave a contract for the completion of the MRO which will provide employment to the indigenes and take some people off the labour market. Recall that Obong Victor Attah during his tenure sent some indigenes abroad to train on aviation matters and they will soon come handy to work at the airport. In Ethiopia, their national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, is what is sustaining their economy. Ibom Air in the same vein will sustain the economy of the state. It will be a major source of internally generated revenue (IGR) to augment the dwindling resources from Abuja.

In the next five years, 80 per cent of the indigenes of the state will be working and paying their taxes to Akwa Ibom State via Ibom Air, and the multiple effects will help boost the state’s economy which is the idea of government. Today, you can come to Akwa Ibom in the morning, do your transaction and depart in the afternoon. That is what makes a state a destination, which is the governor’s dream.

How would you rate the performance of the governor in containing the COVID-19 pandemic in the state?

I believe strongly that all the strategies he has employed to contain the disease in the state are perfect. Even the isolation centre which will be commissioned in the next few days will ever be there in the next 50 years. All we can do then may be mere renovations. But for the other states of the federation using tents, the structures may begin to have issues even by December this year. When the governor started the isolation centre project, critics went to work. However, few weeks ago, the Federal Government has directed states to have at least a 300-bed isolation centre and Governor Emmanuel remains the initiator of that lofty project. So, today the model for replicating the 300-bed isolation centre in Nigeria is the brainchild of the governor. Again, the Covid-19 Committee of the state briefs the governor daily on the development across the state regarding their funding and efforts. The meetings usually last between 9am and 2pm daily. So Akwa Ibom is on top of the situation, particularly in contact-tracing. I am in charge of the airport and I know that anytime the helicopters want to land with oil workers who are on essential duties, we go with the medical team to screen and profile all of them in case there are any issues. The strategies and tactics the governor has deployed to manage Covid-19 in Akwa Ibom State are perfect. Anybody who disputes the strategy is a blind critic. There is nobody who tested positive that has not given list of those he/she has contact with and were traced. The governor has followed all the stipulated guidelines in the management of COVID-19.

Some people said the governor was ill advised on banning of livestock from the North into the state. What is your take?

I think it is only dealers in the business that will make such assertion. Of course, we have local goats and even cows. Any state in the world can come up with any policy they dream good for their people anytime. If you cannot attest to the health status of the people giving you a particular thing, are you not free to ask them to tarry awhile? The people usually enter the state in the night in the same vehicle with animals. They usually enter unnoticed without any checks medically. We are serious about containing the pandemic and the ban is not for live. But in the interim, we want to manage what we have here, flatten the curve before opening borders for livestock. For now we are trying to control the spread of coronavirus and the governor will take the decision which protects the interest of Akwa Ibom people.

RELATED: Four Points By Sheraton Ready for Business By April 2020- Rt. Hon Okpolump Etteh


The governor promised the people industrialization in 2015. Today are you impressed with what we have on ground?

I had been in the previous government too as chief whip and later leader for the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly. Within the period show me what we were producing in the state? But today as I am speaking with you, factories are working and their goods exported daily. Is that not part of the industrialization? Kings Flour was handy during the lockdown as palliatives, so were the metering factory, syringe factory and rice mill. Government has gone beyond road infrastructure to bringing industries and the multiple impacts on the lives of our people will be gradual but determined.

The governor has done so well in this regard and anybody that faults him on this is also a blind critic. The industrialization policy of Governor Emmanuel is already bringing lots of benefits to Akwa Ibom people.

With the impact of Covid-19 on the economy of the state, do you still see the governor achieving his programme for the people?

You are aware that the governor has set up Covid-19 post-reconstruction committees. Yes.

That is the roadmap. We are aware of the fact that Covid-19 will affect a lot of things and the governor set up a committee and charged it to come up with ideas to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic with our economy in shambles. The governor has also reviewed his budget proposal and downsized it to suit the realities of our time. It was slashed by over 38 per cent, the budget was passed based on the reigning oil bench mark then but with the current situation, it was no longer feasible. Remember also that Governor Emmanuel was the first governor to embark on this initiative in Nigeria. We are waiting for the reconstruction committee to come up with their report which will be presented to the executive council who will look at what is realistic and unrealistic. We will let the people know that in view of the situation what will be achievable and what will have to wait. For those that will be achievable, they will be rigorously pursued and results achieved. The government is on course.

What is the hope of Four Points by Sheraton Hotel coming into operation this year?

There is hope, 100 per cent hope. The place was commissioned without the full paraphernalia of a hotel. There are several changes to what the hotel used to be. There are now roads linking the premises of the hotel. As at the time the hotel was inaugurated, the parking lot was at stone base level, there was indebtedness to Starwood and there was no way the hotel would have been open for business. There was nothing in the kitchen, even small operating equipment and facilities were not there. Moreso, Marriot, upon buying over Starwood, came up with innovations to meet their standard. They came with various demands which completely altered the former structures. As I’m talking to you, some of the equipment needed in the hotel are still coming in from abroad. Several things including the water running pipes were changed for galvanized pipes. Each time Marriot came for inspection, there must be something new to introduce to upgrade the hotel. We recently took delivery of ABB transformers, took a dedicated line from the Port Harcourt Electicity Distribution Company sub-station straight to the hotel as part of the requirements. We are doing everything possible to complete the hotel and by the grace of God, the hotel will be opened this year.

There are already subtle jostling and consultations by politicians for 2023 elections. Could this be a distraction considering the timing?

No. It is no distraction. The people playing 2023 politics now are not too busy and more so they don’t have the mandate of the people. The governor who has the people’s mandate to carry out services within a limited time is very busy working round the clock with his aides. The politicians playing 2023 politics now have no social contract with the people, unlike the governor who must deliver on his mandate and manifestoes. He must deliver on his promises and we are solidly behind him to ensure that he fulfils all his promises to the people. 2023 is in the hands of God while my job is to diligently serve the governor and Akwa Ibom people in the capacity the governor has assigned to me.

A chieftain of the APC in the state and former House of Representatives member said 2023 governorship is open to all, not just Uyo Senatorial District. What’s your reaction to it?

That may be the position of his party, the APC. Maybe the party doesn’t believe in laid down principles. But in the PDP we believe in zoning even when people from other senatorial districts come out to contest, the PDP zoning arrangement will always have its way. The governorship of Akwa Ibom State in 2023 is going to PDP in the agenda of the PDP. But I don’t want to join issues with the said APC chieftain. He is entitled to his opinion. I don’t know what is going on in their party but for the PDP to which I belong, the governorship returns to Uyo Senatorial District in 2023 after Govenor Emmnuel’s second term.

How would you describe the last conventions of your party at the grass roots?

It was seamless and devoid of bitterness and acrimony. PDP is synonymous with peace. The party is well organized and always follows due process in all its undertakings.

Twenty years after, Akwa Ibom new PDP secretariat is now a reality under Governor Emmanuel. How would you describe that feat?

Today we have a governor whose words are his bond. He never reneges on his promises. Once he gives you his words on anything, take it as a concluded matter. His pedigree, integrity and character are never called to question. That is why he has the confidence of reputable business concerns and men around the globe. He is also a very focused and purposeful leader.

Having served in the legislature and now the executive, we gather that you are planning to go to the National Assembly in 2023, is that true?

(Long laughter) this is 2020 and by the grace of God and benevolence of Governor Emamnuel I am in charge of the Ministry of Special Duties and I have my ministerial responsibilities to deliver to the government and people of Akwa Ibom State. Some of them include ensuring the commissioning of the 21-storey smart building and completion and inauguration of the Four Points Sheraton. Again, all the ongoing projects domiciled in the Ministry of Special Duties must be ready for the governor to commission within a reasonable time. Therefore, I am not cut out for 2023 politics now. If the governor says ‘Etteh, come. I want to send you somewhere’, fine. But if he says ‘Etteh, remain here. Let’s deliver on this completion agenda’, fine too. My major job now is ensuring that the governor succeeds in his programme and policies for the good people of Akwa Ibom State between now and May 29, 2023.

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