By Iboro Otongaran
Let’s talk about the Obong Nsima Ekere Manifesto, herein known and addressed as ONE CONTRACT WITH AKWA IBOM. The concern of this review is not the aesthetics of the document, much as it is so visually pleasing; nor is the immediate focus its internal coherence, its architectonics, even though it is a most finely wrought tapestry of commonsense, wisdom, patriotism, practical ideas and passion for honest and lasting development.
My concern here is that this is a JOBS document. ONE Contract with Akwa Ibom is a manual for JOB CREATION, to put it tersely. Right from the intro (p.11), Ekere intones: “Our policies and programmes will aim to create jobs and opportunities, and promote private enterprises who will build industries and businesses that transcend the boundaries of our State and Country. In the short term, we will focus on reflating the economy. Job creation will be an essential consideration in all policies, projects and programmes of my administration” (see nsimaekere.com/manifesto.) Yes, the stress is necessary: ONE Contract promises job-sensitive implementation of all government policies and programmes.
The APC government under Nsima Ekere would create 400,000 jobs annually. The overall job target in four years is 1,600,000. This is no guesswork. The jobs will come from the massive investment in public works, rebuilding of broken public infrastructure, renovating and expanding of school buildings, collection and management of trash, restarting of stalled and abandoned projects. One of the specific engines of job creation in public works is the N30 billion intervention fund projection to rescue, rebuild and reposition the education sector, where the goal will be to rejig school libraries, labs, workshops, acquisition of computers for schools, renovation of existing schools and building of new school blocks to expand available space and decongest the classrooms—to achieve quality without undermining inclusion.
Equally in line to drive job creation is the planned Quick Economic Empowerment Programme (QUEEP) to be used to raise a critical mass of 24,000 Transformative Entrepreneurs (TE) in four years, who would be expected to in turn stimulate the economy and create a further 120,000 jobs using creativity and innovation for which best-run private sector enterprises are known. The sum of N20 billion is expected to be earmarked for the QUEEP to be managed by AKICORP to be restructured and reformed into Akwa Ibom Investment Company Limited, which will also have the mandate to leverage the state huge natural resource base to promote and attract investments in oil and gas of which the state leads all other states in the federation; agriculture, tourism, aviation, manufacturing and ICT. The restructured investment company will be recapitalized at N50 billion to create the potential for leveraging N500 billion in private sector funds for investment in the major sectors of the state economy.
Further direct and indirect jobs will be created through a N5 billion-Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) that will be mandated to support small and medium scale enterprises. The EDF will be managed through the Bank of Industry and the Development Bank of Nigeria.
Another engine for job creation will be the various community farming initiatives and cooperatives, including the graduate farming scheme, by which government will work with target communities to aggregate land resource and create large farmlands to be owned and managed by farmers within their respective enclaves.
Compliance with local content requirements will be strictly enforced in all government projects and programmes to ensure that Akwa Ibom people truly benefit from the wealth of their beloved state. With the strict enforcement of local content requirements, the massive investment in public works is expected to help generate 450,000 direct and indirect jobs in the first two years. This number is expected to further rise to 750,000 jobs in four years.
The saliency of the job promise is best appreciated given the fact that unemployment and poverty have reached a crisis point in the state. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), cited in the ONE Manifesto, shows that more than half of the population of the state ready and willing to work (1.8m out of 3.3m) cannot find work. The ONE Manifesto also shows that 92.4% or an estimated 4.6 million people out of the 5.5 million population of the state live in poverty. This is a crisis!
Obong Nsima Ekere is on a mission to end this crisis, by creating jobs and banishing absolute poverty in Akwa Ibom State. The youths of the state, who make up 70% of the population, have a huge role to play in the mission to create jobs and end poverty. They have to get on board, they need to embrace all the job creation initiatives, roll up their sleeves and work with ONE accord to make a difference, to turn the tanker.