Ex Federal Lawmaker and APC Chieftain Lauds Gov Emmanuel on Akwa Palms

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Ex Federal Lawmaker & APC Chieftain Lauds Gov Emmanuel on Akwa Palms

… Says ibom air now national carrier

By Mfonobong Ukpong,

A former member of the National Assembly and APC Chieftain in Akwa Ibom State, Hon. Eseme Eyibo has lauded moves by Governor Udom Emmanuel to reactivate the moribund Akwa Palm Oil Plantation in the state.

He has commended the services of the state owned Airline,Ibom Air, describing it a national carrier.

Reacting to the recent announcement by Akwa Ibom state government on its intention to reactivate the industry, Mr. Eyiboh, who represented Eket/Esit-Eket/Onna/Ibeno Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2012, described the moves as well thought out, noting that the investment would not only enhance the economic fortunes of the state, but would also add the much needed value to the national drive for non oil exports.

He reasoned that “just as Ibom Air has almost assumed the status of a national carrier, Akwa palm plantation scheme, if well implemented, will equally become the cynosure of all eyes, attracting international recognition and generate income to many households”.

According to Eyiboh, “If states must survive in the post COVID era, they should be a healthy competition among them, in investments in productive ventures that will diversify the economy away from crude oil”.

The APC chieftain in a commentary read on Radio Nigeria, called on the host communities and indeed, Akwa Ibom people to support Governor Emmanuel with necessary cooperation that would bring about the actualization of the project to the benefit of all.

“The reactivation of Akwa Palm Oil Plantation in Akwa Ibom state is one of such investments expected not only to enhance the economic fortunes of the state, but also add the much needed value to the national drive for non oil exports.

“What is required now is for the indigenes of the state, especially the host communities, to cooperate with the government to enable the successful implementation and take off of this lofty programme”.

Analysing the economic benefits of the multi-billion naira investment, the former lawmaker who once served as a Director at the Akwa Palm Industries Ltd, maintained that the reactivation of Akwa Palm will create job opportunities for Akwa Ibom people and also boost the state’s IGR, among other huge benefits.

“The move is in response to repeated calls by the Federal Government on states to identify one specific dominant crop in their locality and cultivate it in commercial quantity for local consumption and for export.

“The 3000- hectare Akwa Palm Plantation was established by the government of the then South- Eastern state in 1962. It stretches across three local government areas namely, Esit Eket, Mbo and Uruefong Oruko.

‘Akwa Palm Plantation had 500 staff in its workforce and contributed an estimated 34 percent of Nigeria’s crude palm oil export in the 1970s and 80s”.

“With 200,000 stands of palm trees and a 300,000 capacity nursery for oil palm seedlings, the plantation is capable of producing thousands of tons of palm oil annually worth billions of Naira.

‘The plan by the Akwa  state government to reactivate the plantation comes at a time when the average price of a tonne of crude palm oil has reached a decade high of 1,241 US dollars.

“Current price of palm oil in Nigeria is about 100,000 naira{ US758) per metric ton, while current international price is USD 438(57,816) per metric ton. Also, the COVID-19 restrictions have further increased global demand for palm oil.

“The fact that the local price of the commodity is skyrocketing every day, is a clear demonstration that any investment in the sector is futuristic and worthwhile.

“Modern palm plantations, as seen in Southern Asian countries, are designed as a fully integrated agro industrial establishment, equipped with oil palm trees, palm oil mills, palm kernel extraction plant and vegetable oil refining and fractionation plants. Akwa Palm should not fall short of this standard”.

He advised those handling the project to adopt strategies that would enable the company to obtain international certification as Member of the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, RSPO. He held that this will enable its products to compete favourably in the international market.

“When fully reactivated, the economic benefits of the Akwa Palm Plantation to Akwa Ibom state in particular and the Nation are enormous. The plantation will work in partnership with small scale oil palm farmers to address the current fluctuating trends in the production and marketing of palm oil in the state”. 

“Furthermore, this investment will boost the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, thereby reducing dependence on Federation Allocation. In economic terms, oil palm has a long shelf life span and it is used in more than 50 percent of all the products sold in supermarkets.  The diverse use of oil palm makes it very versatile and capable of lifting millions of people out of poverty”.

“In Asian countries, oil palm plantations have created millions of well-paying jobs, and enabled tens of thousands of smallholder farmers to acquire their own land. With enough political will, the same feat can be done in Akwa Ibom state and in Nigeria as a whole. If palm oil is produced in commercial quantity in the state, it will encourage the springing up of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs, where the commodity will be used to produce many body care products such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo and other household cleaning agents”.

“In the area of foreign exchange earnings, a steady increase in local production of palm oil will promote export and reduce the amount of revenue used to import the item. Available records show that Nigeria spent about 500 million dollars to import 600,000 tons of palm oil in 2016 alone. The amount doubled in 2017. This is a reverse of what obtains in Indonesia where oil palm industry accounts for 1.6 percent of the GDP, employs 4.5 million people and brings in more than 18 billion dollars a year in foreign exchange”, he asserted.