Gov. Emmanuel: Fulfilling Electioneering Promises through AKEES- Elder Ebong

Tony Okoh ||  For many politicians, making promises is easy but fulfilling such promises have always been a herculean task. The need to walk-the-talk must have informed a professional banker turned politician, Governor Udom Emmanuel to set up some committees in some key areas to enable him achieve his promises to the people of the state.

The governor during his campaigns told Akwa Ibom people that, outside his cardinal programme of industrialization and politics of inclusion, he would strive to ensure that youths in the state are made to look inward and think of themselves as partners in positive thinking, which would take them off the street and make them owners of cottage industries, entrepreneurs, employers of labour and not political jobbers
It would not be out of place to observe that, despite biting economic recession occasioned by spiraling inflation, high exchange rates and downward trend in oil prices, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel has continued to keep faith to his electioneering promises.

These promises which were enunciated in his five-point development agenda of industrialization, wealth creation, employment generation, food sufficiency and sustainable infrastructural development have been on track.

Elder Ufot Ebong

To achieve these laudable ventures, the governor in his wisdom immediately after his inauguration set up AkwaIbom Enterprise and Empowerment Scheme [AKEES] with the mandate to realise the dreams. AKEES was mandated to reawaken the spirit of enterprise in the youths, look at ways of getting the people of the state [not only youths] off the street to work, create employment opportunities so that people can have hope and above all create wealth.

AKEES is a franchise scheme designed to incorporate technical and vocational skill acquisition and entrepreneurial training for unemployed youths, hence in line with the governors policy of putting a square peg in a square hole, set up a five man team with Elder Ufot Ebong a renowned technocrat that has traversed the oil and gas industries within and outside the country as the chief driver and saddled him with the responsibility of achieving this goal.

The scheme which is in line with the Dakada Philosophy of Udom administration designed to reinvigorate the spirit of enterprise had empowered youths to produce goods and services that can compete favourably with those in other climes.

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According to Elder Ebong, outside creating wealth for the people of the state, the governor was disturbed that his commitment and determination of making the state an industrial hub would be an exercise in futility as key positions may be taken over by outsiders, so the issue of reawakening the spirit of enterprise in the lives of the people of the state was very paramount to AKEES as such would cause them to look inward and catch up with the envisaged industrialization evolution the state will soon experienced.

“Look at the building industry, people from Togo have taken over that industry while our young people are roaming the street waiting for government to give them money”.

With these mandate, AKEES team went into research on how to make the people of the state look inward and rediscovered their past glories especially in the area of entrepreneurship which before now, the state was known for in people like, Utuks Enterprises, Inyangette Motors, Etetis and a host of others.

Taking after the South-East Asia model, Engr. Ebong explained that what they did differently which has sustained their drive towards making everybody productive to themselves was the Common Facilities model to take care of some artisans. With this model today, AKEES has three Common Facilities in the three senatorial districts of the
state, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket respectively; where youths go in to use the facility and pay peanuts as charges. These common facilities are for welders, tailoring, carpentry, shoe making and others.

The common facility has a long hall that can accommodate more than 300 machines; people will go in, use the machines as long as they want because individually, they cannot afford those machines.

Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Empowerment Scheme(AKEES)

“In AKEES we try to put government behind and see this thing as business, so you can make money on your own. AKEES apart from the common facilities which has taken a lot of people off the streets mostly artisans and those interested in tailoring, there is also wood-work facilities in Ikot Ekpene where raffia is used for making clothes”.

The working of AKEES is entirely independent of government, to qualify for all the opportunities in the scheme, go through its website and apply, politicians do not nominate anybody to participate in the scheme unlike previous skill acquisition programmes where politicians will take over and at the end, no tangible result would be achieved.

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“That is why in AKEES we do not allow politicians to nominate people, you go through the website to apply, if somebody sends me a name and that person comes and think he will be given money every month, such people should forget. That was the belief of some persons when we started”.

Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Empowerment Scheme today has created 85 small and medium scale industries, where the people are paying themselves salaries every month.

These industries are spread across manufacturing, ICT agriculture and Public works. AKEES has made the people of the state realized that it can grow tomatoes, onions, garbage, carrot, rice, garden egg, cucumber, watermelon. All these common vegetable are grown and owned
by those youths who have decided to key into this scheme and make a living out of it.

“Our people used to say that we cannot plant all these vegetables, we have the soil and climate, we would have been supplying the whole country instead of being an importer, not only in farming, I told you of a youth who makes N40million for making baskets for the farmers.
These were young men who used to beg for money, now counting in millions either through common facilities or from the small and medium scale industries”.

It is worthy of mention that, through AKEES the state has begun to count the blessing of the scheme with the establishment of the Pencil, toothpick, chalk factories and managed by the Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Empowerment Scheme. The scheme has taken a lot of ‘professional
beggars’ off the street, young men who used to keep vigil at
politicians homes are now engaged in profitable ventures that would make employers of labours. Most of them today are owners of farms where hybrid tomatoes, carrot, cucumber, garbage and other vegetables are grown and they have a readymade market to dispose these products for liquid cash.

According to Elder Ufot Ebong, “The mandate was to create jobs and move people out of the street and we are doing just that”.