Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State is likely to create a reserve fund to take care of unforeseen challenges as well as an economic advisory council in the state soon.
These are part of the recommendations of a post-COVID-19 Economic Reconstruction Committee that was set up by the governor last month.
The panel that was headed by the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, an economist has already submitted a142-page report to Governor Udom at the Government House, Uyo, the state capital.
The Akpan Ekpo panel is also seeking the creation of a state bureau of statistics; investment in the agriculture value chain; full autonomy for the state internal revenue service; social reorientation for the people and a no tolerance for cultism.
To reduce the cost of governance, the panel recommends that the governor should reduce his number of advisers and aides and that the state should activate quick revenue sources including a carbon tax, levy on telecommunication masts, and automated vehicle.
The panel equally wants the completion of Ibom Science Park, a project that was initiated by the Victor Attah administration (1999-2007). More than 90 percent of the funds had been released according to government white paper but it was later abandoned.
The Udom administration has relaunched the project with significant modifications and contract awarded to a Chinese firm. When it finally comes alive, it will be known as Ibom Science and Technology Park.
The panel notes that crude oil which is currently the state’s highest source of revenue will not sustain the state economy in future, hence its recommended investment in agriculture, industries and services, pointing out, “the future of the state economy is without oil. Agriculture, industries and services should form the cornerstone of the state economy going forward. The government should be commended for her efforts so far.”
According to the panel, “we can industrialise and diversify the state economy, create jobs, reduce poverty, have shared prosperity through the identified sectors. The real opportunities exist in expanding the value chain in agriculture. In this regard, we have suggested and made contacts with investors interested in the agricultural sector of the state.”
To reduce the cost of governance, the panel says, ‘’there is need to streamline the number of special advisers, special assistants, and personal assistants to allow for efficiency and efficacy as well as eliminate duplication with the main ministries, agencies, and departments. In the same vein, it is necessary to streamline the number of boards.
“There is a paucity of relevant data on the state. It is important to establish a State Bureau of Statics to ensure that policy pronouncement is evidence-based. The state needs an Economic Advisory Council to assist in the conceptualisation, formulation, and implementation of government policies. Such an exercise would be evidence-based. It would not only advice the government but would also serve as a think tank.
“The state should have a reserve fund – an agreed percentage from federal allocation should be deposited into the fund to meet unforeseen circumstances as well as save for a rainy day. The fund should be invested and should have strict conditions for withdrawal.
“Efforts must be made to complete the Science and Technology Park. It will create jobs, increase government revenue and would become the Silicon Valley for the nation. The government must continue to fight cultism. The law against cultism is in order. The government must ensure that cultism is made unattractive for everyone in the state.
“Specifically, the government should wield the big stick by prosecuting cultists, government should not appoint any known cultist into any office in the state, government officials who are known members of a cult group should be given opportunity to openly denounce or be removed from office and the reason for their removal made public.
“The government must continue to fight cultism. The law against cultism is in order. Government must ensure that cultism is made unattractive for everyone in the state. Specifically, government should wield the big stick by prosecuting cultists, government should not appoint any known cultist into any office in the state, government officials who are known members of a cult group should be given opportunity to openly denounce or be removed from office and the reason for their removal made public.’’
While receiving the report, Governor Udom said his administration will implement the recommendations made by the panel and thanked its members for sharing their wealth of knowledge for the service of the state.