History was made in Abia State a few days ago when the Governor, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti, performed the ground breaking ceremony for the establishment of the first ever Abia Industrial and Innovation Park (AIIP) in the strategic oil-producing town of Owaza in Ukwa West Local Government Area.
This is a welcome development which has the potential of positively altering the economic fortunes of the State when this wonderful initiative is fully consummated.
The initiative which is the first of its kind in the State is intended to put Abia on the path of irreversible industrial and economic development with a view to improving the lives of not only the people of the much neglected Ukwa axis of the State but the entire Abia population, including foreigners residing and doing business in the State.
The AIIP which is conceived as a free trade and export processing zone (EPZ) is to host a cluster of industries with interests in manufacturing, energy, and oil and gas which are found in commercial quantity in Owaza and other parts of Ukwa.
This initiative by the Government of Dr. Otti is ingenious and deserves serious commendation because of the immense promise it holds in transforming the economic fortunes of Abia State and her people. Apart from the prospects of opening up Ukwa for investment opportunities, the AIIP is certain to create a new corridor of industrial development after Aba. The unique location of the AIIP between the two industrial cities of Aba and Port Harcourt is a very thoughtful and imaginative decision.
It clearly shows that Governor Alex Otti is thinking ahead. And he appears to be very deliberate in his plans to take Abia to the top of industrial development.
For many close watchers of events in Abia, this AIIP initiative is seen as a game changer in terms of addressing the issues of poverty, unemployment and insecurity. When the AIIP comes on board, it is going to create a lot of employment opportunities which would lead to economic empowerment of the people, including the youths and women.
Speaking at the ground breaking, Governor Otti stated as follows: “The Abia Industrial and Innovation Park (AIIP) is conceived to serve as a launch pad for our economic rejuvenation, leveraging the many advantages of this location, including but not limited to the oil and gas deposits, nearness to Aba and Port Harcourt cities, abundance of skilled labour and a secure environment for smooth and uninterrupted production and other industrial activities”.
The Governor thanked the communities in Owaza and particularly the traditional rulers for the generous acres of land donated for the project and assured them of the commitment of the Government of Abia State to ensuring that the people of Ukwa are carried along at all phases of the implementation of the project and that they also partake in the derivable benefits.
The Governor deserves all the accolades he has been receiving since the ground breaking ceremony was performed, considering the vision and foresight in coming up with this project at the Owaza location and the huge potential in boosting industry, trade, commerce and maritime activities in not only Abia State but the whole the South East region.
He said: “The location of AIIP is attractive because it has access to the Atlantic Ocean. At about 30 nautical miles from the Ocean, we shall set up a sea port here giving impetus to trading of goods from here. All necessary approvals will also be sought for the designation of the Park as an export processing and free trade zone”.
He further noted: “AIIP is poised to make history as the first cluster in Nigeria where LPG, CNG, Jet fuel, PMS and Diesel production tank farms will be co-located with other supporting infrastructure for more efficient and commercial production of our own made-in Nigeria liquid fuel. This will help eliminate the liquid fuel scarcity problems in the country and in line with President Tinubu`s policy thrust on domestic utilization of the country`s abundant natural gas resources, we have advanced discussions with major players in the gas value chain for the establishment of CNG production facilities here in AIIP”.
It is important to note that this revolutionary initiative has the buy-in of many key players in the industrial, manufacturing, oil and gas sectors of Nigeria. At the ground breaking ceremony, all the major players in the oil and gas sectors in Nigeria were duly represented. And they included the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. Simbi Wabote; Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Mr. Osagie Okunbor and representative of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited. Also present was the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Benjamin Kalu who led several federal lawmakers from Abuja to the occasion.
This singular effort by Governor Alex Otti is a giant step forward which will go a long way in repositioning Abia State for greatness as envisioned by the founding fathers of the State. It is gladdening to note that this revolution is taking place just within four months of Labour Party administration in the State. For the people of Abia, help has finally come.
Dr. Nwosu, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Umuahia.