By Ismaila Chafe
Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia says 700,000 new jobs will be created in the state in the next 10 years as part of deliberate efforts to address the challenges of insecurity and socio-economic unrest.
Ikpeazu revealed this when he fielded questions from State House correspondents on Sunday in Abuja bordering on President Muhammadu Buhari’s inaugural speech at the National Economic Council (NEC).
Buhari had on Thursday in his inaugural speech at the 2019 – 2023 NEC challenged state governors to pay more attention on education and infrastructural development; security, agriculture and health.
However, the governor identified the decay in education as well as the increasing rate of unemployment across the country as a time bomb that must be addressed by all tiers of government and the private sector.
According to him, Abia State government on its part has keyed into the Federal Government’s wider plan to address the problem of youth unemployment through its Enyimba Economic City project.
“I want to say this to all of us – by 2030 the population of Nigeria would double. So the ticking timing bomb is not the decay in infrastructure. The time bomb is education and unemployment and it speaks to everything including crime.
“So, in Abia we are planning to create 700,000 jobs in 10 years. Certainly I will not be governor in the next 10 years but we are planning ahead for the whole good people of Abia State that will come tomorrow or after us.
“And until we continue to plan or begin to plan ahead not for the next election but for the next generation we will not be able to do anything futuristic in our socio-economic development in Nigeria.
“So, the Enyimba Economic City is doing very well. We are happy and glad that the enthusiasm of investors outside Nigeria is overwhelming.
“So, our target is to create 700,000 jobs in 10 years and to also create a centre from where people can manufacture and export without paying anything,” he said.
The governor disclosed that the Abia Shoe Factories were being upgraded and modernised with latest shoe making equipment and facilities to meet international specifications.
“We want our shoemakers to begin to compete with the best shoemakers in the world and it will happen – there is a Brazilian Shoe Factory already that has taken stock of the quantity of shoes that we bought through Alaba (market) into Nigeria on monthly basis and they are prepared to reach MoU with importers to supply all those shoes.
“So, we are going to give the Chinese a good run for their money because the option we are providing includes shoes from Brazil,” he added.
According to the governor, the state government has embarked on massive construction and rehabilitation of network of roads as the economy of the state largely depends on influx of over 25 million people into the state, annually.
“We have a catchment business population of about 25 million that come to do business within Abia state – 60 per cent (of the people) come from the Port Harcourt axis; 30 per cent from Calabar – Akwa Ibom axis and the remaining 10 per cent from everywhere including Cameroun and other parts of Nigeria,” he said.