By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Ostentatious lifestyle of politicians and the inability on the part of government to address corruption through effective mechanism have been identified as reasons for high unemployment rates in Akwa Ibom State.
Chief Ekpenyong Bassey, a community leader and public affairs analysts, who spoke to journalists in Uyo, on Wednesday, alleged that monies stolen from the system by politicians are not properly utilized to create private jobs for the people.
“In highbrow areas of Uyo, especially Ewet Housing, Osongama and Shelter Afrique, you cannot count the number of palatial and imposing buildings built by politicians.
“Most of these homes are fallow with only security guards keeping vigil, while their owners live in other mansions elsewhere in Abuja, Lagos and abroad.
“If these monies used in erecting such marvelous structures are invested in businesses especially housing, cottage industries, oil and gas and export and import businesses, the government would only have the burden of creating the right environment for businesses to thrive”, he noted.
Besides, Mr. Gabriel Umoh, a Professor of Agricultural and Development Economics at the University of Uyo (UNIUYO), observed that the private sector has become so disconnected from government to the point where only hotels owned by politicians in government thrive.
Umoh who noted that Akwa Ibon has no strong private sector to compliment government’s policies and programmes, urged the government to bolster the private sector for more private sector jobs.
Also, successive administrations since the return of democracy in 1999, according to Comrade Saviour Akpan, Executive Director-in Charge of COMPART Foundation for equity, peace and justice, Non Governmental Organization (NGO), have not been able to build on the template laid by their predecessors.
“If you check out abandoned projects of the Obong Victor Attah and Godswill Akpabio, you would discover that if such projects like the Ibom Science Park, the Ibom Tropicana and other mega projects were to be completed, a lot of unemployed youths would have been taken off the streets”, he noted.
Findings revealed that the Ibom Tropicana, which was conceived to by former governor Godswill Akpabio in 2008, was supposed to generate over 5,000 jobs, but such dream could not be realized given the fact that the project the administration of Governor Emmanuel, according to sources, could not continue with the project “because of huge cash committed into it by Akpabio”.
It was gathered that the project had initial cost of N33billion but was later revalued to the tune of N120billion, forcing the administration of Emmanuel, to halt funding to complete the facility.
Meanwhile, the State Information and Strategy Commissioner, Mr. Ini Ememobong has disputed the NBS claim, describing it as outrageous statistics in view of the landmark projects put in place by Governor Udom Emmanuel administration to generate employment in the state.
Ememobong, pointed at the industrialization policy of the administration that has given rise to the establishment of no fewer than 18 firms including the coconut refinery, metering solution, plywood, flour mill, fertilizer plant and various allied businesses.
According to him, the number of employees in the firms and others absorbed into the state civil service, coupled with government supports for the Small Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) could not have placed the state so ridiculously low on the unemployment ladder.
He, therefore, queried the methods deployed in arriving at such outrageous statistics, adding that the administration had been in the business of job creation, social empowerment and funding small business through interests-free loan in agriculture.
Again, the Media Aide to Governor Emmanuel, Mr. Aniefiok Macaulay, has given hint of the administrations intervention in the project.
Macaulay in an interview said, “the administration has entered into Public Private Partnership (PPP) to revamp the shopping malls section of the facility”, pointing out that the intervention would generate more private sector jobs as people scramble for shops for various businesses in the complex.
Besides, it was learnt that the Science Park conceived by Obong Attah (1999-2007), and contracted to a South African firm, SBT JUUL, to the tune of over $5billion Dollars, had been re-awarded to a Chinese firm and renamed Ibom Blue Sea Science Park.
But the rising hopes that the project, when completed would generate several Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – related jobs, has again been stalled as the Chinese contractors could not return to site because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.