Ubong Idemudo is an Arab based mechanical engineer. In this interview with PAULINUS NTA, he bared his mind on Governor Udom Emmanuel’s industrialization process, why the process has not yielded the desired impact and the way forward.
Your state is embarking on industrialization in the past four years, yet unemployment is still alarming, what is missing?
Industrialization in this context is simply a term employed to define the process where the government gets or provide the needed service to the governed. Industrialization does not necessarily mean building factories or warehouses, but a process where raw materials are turned into finished products, both for subsistent, use and for export, for today’s use as well as the future use.
Coming to my state, when you want to embark on industrialization process, you must first answer the following questions before committing resources into any investment of that type. One, you should first think of what to produce. Two, where are the raw materials, are they available or close to where the industries would be sited? You should also think of the market; who will buy them? In what quantity can we export or transport them to the target market? Will it stand the taste of time? How long will the buyers value the products or service? What is the distance from the place of raw materials to the factories and to the point of exportation to the target market?
The state government should provide answers to the fundamental economic questions of labour, capital, raw materials and market.
I appreciate our industrial plan, but Akwa Ibom State should consider what is available to us; which industries to establish and what raw materials are available. In my candid opinion, I think Obong Victor Attah had a better template of industrialization for the state. What we have in the state is crude oil and he initiated the project of refinery and a university of service and technology. He also sent a number of Akwa Ibom sons abroad to acquire the skills for technological take off. As If that was not enough, he started the Ibom Science park, which was unfortunately abandoned by his predecessor. This is why I say that Attah had a better template for industrialization.
What happened to the students abroad?
I may not have sufficient information to answer that question but suffice it to say that the government, after his administration, did not have interest in developing the state industrially. For one, the popular Ibom Science Park was abandoned in the bush. The students that were sent abroad were abandoned and some of them were engaged by the foreign countries. The state was not ready to use them, so others resigned and some were employed into state ministry where they remained idle. You see, these students were supposed to come back and train others both in maritime and aviation sectors. Attah also brought the Ibom airport with a hanger, maintenance. The MRO today is not functional. These students who were sent abroad were supposed to return and either teach in the University of Science and Technology or work at the airport, but the few who were patriotic enough to return, were displaced into idle state ministries, where the knowledge they acquired rotted away.
But your state government, under Udom Emmanuel has built over 13 industries, is that not enough for a technological take off?
I said earlier that industrialization can only be impactful and successful after a thorough rigorous market research. I appreciate the state government for the industries but the questions are: what raw materials do we have? What industries do we need? What is the size of the workforce?
The government says it has built an automobile and car assembling industry in Itu Local Government. Don’t you think it is a milestone in the industrial revolution?
I agree it would be a milestone if it is true and practical. But my question is the market. We cannot resist to dance to the tune of change.
Car assembling industry would be good for our economy. It would develop skills, generate employment and boost our depressed economy, but where is the world going in automobile direction? We should wake up to reality and stop living on the island of fantasy. Are we going back to cars that are still using the petrol, or are we prepared to go into industries that will produce, cars powered by solar power? Let us go with the flow and flow with the tide. We should key into the wind of change.
The state has also built a coconut refinery. What’s your take on that?
I must commend my state government, but they must take the project to a meaningful height. The locality is suitable. In fact, the land is very fertile for the production of raw materials.
The acidity level and other analysis favour that type of industry. It is obvious that the product is abundantly available in commercial quantity. But in my opinion, if the state government is sincere about the project, Akwa Ibom youths should occupy management positions in the refinery. But in my opinion, the state government should set up a refinery because we have sufficient raw materials.
What is the way forward?
It is unfortunate that as largest oil producing state, Akwa Ibom cannot boast of a refinery or any petrochemical plant the state. The state government should make pragmatic progress towards the Ibom deep-sea port project. The private sector is still weakened by acute unemployment. Our status as the largest oil producers is ironical.
The only thing that seems to bother the state government is politics, consolidation of power and oppression of opponents. Until the state government separates politics from governance and attract these development indices to the state, we will remain under developed. That’s my take.