The First day of March 2018 will go down as a very momentous day in the lives of the market men and women operating under the auspices of the Market Men and Women Cooperative Association in Akwa Ibom State.
It was the day all the market men and women unanimously congregated at the Etaha Itam Market, but popularly known as, Udua Itam to officially endorse the Akwa Ibom State governor, His Excellency Deacon Udom Emmanuel for a second term in office as governor of the state. They went further to indicate and announced that they will contribute money and purchase the PDP nomination form for the Governor.
It was unprecedented. And a testimonial to the cordiality that has come to define the relationship between the governor and both the market traders and all artisans in the state. It is the trader’s proclamation that Gov. Udom Emmanuel is the most traders-friendly governor in the country, partly for fulfilling his promises made during the 2015 electioneering campaigns and for creating a market friendly atmosphere for them in the state.
During the run up to the 2015 general elections, the then PDP governorship candidate in the elections, Deacon Udom Emmanuel made few promises to traders in the state. He promised that he will appoint a trader as his SA on Trade and Market Matters if voted into government. He also promised the market men and women that his administration will give out interest free loans to traders in the state. It wasn’t hard for the traders to believe him because his pedigree, honesty and professional background had singled him out as a man who would do what he says and say only what he will do.
Of course it didn’t take long for the confidence reposed to be justified. Shortly after his resumption of office as the Governor of the state, the governor, HE Deacon Udom Emmanuel appointed a trader, Mr Idorenyin Raphael as his Senior Assistant on Trade and Market Matters. This was a milestone. It was the first of its kind. In making this appointment, the governor was simply keeping his word with the traders. But beyond that, he was creating a link between the traders and artisans in the state and his administration. This has brought the traders closer to the government.
Funding has always been a major impediment to the growth of SMEs subsector in the state. It is worthy of note that SMEs have been acknowledged the world over as the driver of economic growth and development. SMEs possess great potential for employment generation, economic empowerment, poverty alleviation, improvement of standard of living, achievement of high level of productivity and capacity and means of achieving industrial diversification. Before he made that promise to the traders, and with a private sector background, the governor understood the imperative of a vibrant small business environment as catalyst for economic growth.
In November 2015, few months after taking office, the state government disbursed interest free soft loans ranging between N100,000 to N300,000 to traders in the state. Beneficiaries, numbering up to one thousand were told to make good use of the revolving loans and repay on time so that others can benefit from the scheme. It was the beginning of better days for traders in the state and an exciting rapprochement with the state governor. Beyond keeping a promise made during the campaigns, it was equally a pragmatic step by the government to stimulate entrepreneurship in order to boost productive activities in the state. These loans are channeled through the Akwa Ibom State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund.
This drive to nurture and activate the entrepreneurial juice resident in the blood of every Akwa Ibom son and daughter underscores the governor’s philosophical leanings as aptly articulated in the Dakkada philosophy. In a nutshell, the Dakkada creed is a philosophical charge/call to the people of Akwa Ibom, reminding them of their potential and challenging the people to choose to excel in all endeavours, embracing the virtues of integrity, hardwork and entrepreneurship. The philosophy dwell on arousing, promoting, celebrating the creativity, innovativeness, excellence, integrity and hard work of the people.
This philosophy has been hailed as the catalyst for a new Akwa Ibom State. An Akwa Ibom where creativity, entrepreneurship rules. Deacon Udom Emmanuel is a firm believer in the capacity of the man to change his situation in life through the application of the mind and the hands to create wealth. But he also knows that in most situations, a critical factor like funding has been the albatross to that drive. Till today, the call he made at his inauguration when he charged the people with these words, ‘I place a demand on all Akwa Ibom people, at home and abroad, to come with hoes and shovels..’ still rang around the state and has led to the massive investment and involvement in activating entrepreneurial engagements by the people of the state.
In the midst of an unfriendly economic climate occasioned by the recent recession, the governor, HE Deacon Udom Emmanuel expertly and progressively masterminded the sustainable socioeconomic and infrastructural development of the state, engineering an entrepreneurial reorientation of the people, building capacity and stimulating business productivity and profitability.
Does the foregoing deserve an endorsement from the market men and women in Akwa Ibom state? You bet! The answer is a unanimous and cacophonous ‘Yes’ chorus.
In 2018 alone, about 5000 traders benefited from a N300 Million floating interest free loan. Beneficiaries of the loan received between One hundred thousand(N100,000) and five hundred thousand naira(N500,000) depending on capacity. Cooperative societies and organizations were given as much as One Million naira(N1,000,000).
There is a plan to float a Microfinance Bank for traders in the state. Arrangements have reached advance stage in this regard. A first step towards actualizing this project was the formation of the Akwa Ibom Traders Cooperative Association Limited. Do traders need a microfinance bank? Of course they do. The purpose is to create financial possibilities for doing business in the state for the traders and create wealth in the process. The purpose too is to give traders easy access to loans and other fiduciary facilities and services so as to stimulate business growth and economic prosperity. The traders cooperative association limited will work with other relevant agencies of government to develop trade related policies and establish responsible framework for the utmost coordination of trading activities in the state.
There is also an initiative of government to create small business clusters in the state and disburse a refundable One Million naira( N1,000,000) seed capital to those clusters by government.
The government of HE Deacon Udom Emmanuel has created a conducive and enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the state. This is seen in the massive infrastructural investment in building new roads culminating in an impressive road network in the state. The last few years have also seen tremendous improvement in the power supply situation of the state.
The drainage system at the Etaha Itam market at Itam has been a thing of concern to stakeholders. But this is going to end soon. During his visit to the market and after listening to the market traders, the governor directed the works ministry to immediately fix the drainage problem of the market. Indeed better days are here for the traders.
In Aya Obio Akpa Village, Oruk Anam Local Government Area, an ultramodern Market and Processing Mill factory has been built, commissioned and handed over to the people through a collaboration between the office of the SA to governor on Trade and FEYREP, the pet project of the wife of the governor, Her Excellency Mrs. Martha Emmanuel. This is a laudable initiative as it saves the traders there from the vagaries of weather that militated against their business pursuits and afford them the opportunity to have market stalls without having to pay exorbitant fees for the stalls.
Every Thursday is a ticket free day at all markets in the state. This is a big relief for traders in the state. In the last one year, the governor has donated brand new Toyota Hiace bus to the state traders association and another bus to the Market Women Association to aid the running of the associations.
It is incontrovertible that traders are having a good time since the coming onboard of the Deacon Udom Emmanuel administration in the state. They have never had it so good. This explains the rationale and motive behind the recent endorsement of the governor and support for a second term in office.
In Akwa Ibom, the slogan among market men and women goes like this:
All Traders! Udom Ayama! Udom Ayama! Eti Mkpo Udua!
Indeed Gov. Udom is the light for them. He has totally eradicated financial darkness from their lives and businesses. He is a good product. He is marketable.
Who else will know a good product better than market men and women!