By Franklyn Isong
“We stand ready and committed to provide jobs for people of Akwa Ibom State. The site will represent first chapter in the book of industrialization we have opened today. Already, we have acquired 20 hectares of land for the Automobile Assembling Plant; which is one of the fruits of the Foreign Direct Investment, is an Israeli company name MIMSHAC Merkavim Transportation Technologies Plant,” Governor Udom Emmanuel said during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Automobile Assembling Plant on July 13, 2015.
On November 12, 2018, I did an investigation into the Akwa Ibom State Government proposed Automobile Manufacturing and Assembling Plant with a visit to the project site located in Ikot Ukap, Itam, Itu local government area of the State.
During the visit, I reported that the site was overgrown by weeds. Nothing was happening at the site 3 years after groundbreaking. Farmers in the host communities were seen planting and cultivating crops on the site amongst other findings.
The details of my findings were published on Radar Newspaper online see link:
Today, Monday, June 22, 2020, (2 years after my first report) I did another investigative visit to the project site. During the visit which was unscheduled, I noticed that construction works have started on the project site. Currently, more than 60 workers are engaged for the civil construction works on the site. 60 percent of the workers are the indigenes from the host communities.
The project is on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. The State government provided land and other agreed facilities to facilitate the project.
I had interactions with some of the workers who pleaded anonymity since they do not have the company’s mandate to speak on the project, who expressed believe that with the rate at which they are going, the construction works will be completed before the end of the year.
The workers said that more than 7 containers of materials meant for the project have arrived the country and would soon be transported to the project site.
The workers blamed the slow pace of work to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
In spite of the delay in commencement and execution of the project, yours truly is extremely excited that, at last, the project has kicked off in earnest. Buildings like the administrative block and the site clinic have been constructed and put to use. The entrance to the site have been completed. Part of the perimeter fence had been done.
The lighting system have been done while, the landscaping covering car park, office area and the site clinic area have been done. The construction of the Factory was ongoing and at the foundation level during my investigative visit.
As a journalist, I will continue to hold government accountable to the people. Government officials should live up to their responsibilities of delivering dividends of democracy and good governance to the people.
~Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator and conscience of the society