AKS economy bigger than what we see now
How IGR stimulates economic growth in Akwa Ibom, despite Covid-19
Akwa Ibom State has continued to show strong signs of speedy economic development that will soon make the state an investor’s haven. For now, Lagos State still dominates the internally generated revenue space. But from the repositioning of the Akwa Ibom’s economy by the administration of Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the coast is clearer: the tide will soon turn and hopes beam brighter that Akwa Ibom State, which took 18th position four years ago, would soon dominate the IGR turf.
In 2019, it moved up the state-by-state economic vibrancy’s curve as reflected by IGR measured by the National Board of Statistics (NBS), to the impressive sixth position. As we were all celebrating this shift and gearing up for more successes in IGR, COVID 19 broke out, pummeling the general earning abilities of the Nigerian states, Akwa Ibom was not spared, as its economy suffered some contractions, causing a slight drop in the NBS’s IGR scale for 2020. It took the seventh position, excluding the FCT.
To put it another way, although the state’s IGR posted a slight drop from N33.3 bn to N30.7bn, a difference of N1.6bn or 5 percent compared to 2019, hope is high that Akwa Ibom will have a rebound, as it still performs far better than 29 other states, including established states with bigger sub-economy.
The contributions of IGR to the annual budget of Akwa Ibom is a strong factor in the economic recovery. AKIRS positive showing is reflective of the success of Udom Emmanuel’s repositioning of the state as investment-driven hub.
GAINS OF AUTONOMY TO AKIRS
Just as the biblical precept notes that, “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” To ensure the vision is run on a foundation that will support speed and actualization of set goals, the visionary Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, initiated a process of granting full autonomy to the agency. That initiative culminated into what is now known as the Akwa Ibom State Revenue Administration Law of 2016. The law empowers the governor to appoint qualified persons outside the civil service into the Board.
The advantages are varied, autonomy gives the Board powers to plan and execute her strategies in the most professional way possible, such that the buck-passing syndrome in the civil service is completely eliminated. Independence gives it power to hire best hands in the industry for her operations.
AKIRS has since made incredible feats in the IGR trajectory of the nation. With a Board that is proactive, dynamic and committed to the DAKKADA philosophy of Udom Emmanuel’s administration, the best days of IGR is in the offing, even as it recorded landmark achievements in four years through it’s strategic approach to revenue issues under REVITA – Revenue and Institutional Transformation Agenda. This strategy has helped AKIRS grows its IGR from 14.79 billion naira in 2016, before it was inaugurated in 2017, to 16 billion naira in its first year of operations. Pushing further, it raised the IGR to 32.2 billion naira in 2019. That was a record-breaking height. QuestNews24 is yet to access NBS’s dashboard of nationwide IGR performance this year.
REVITA, according to the Executive Chairman, was the game changer that enabled AKIRS achieve success. The strategy helped the organization to define clearly what the objective was, the structure put in place to enable the achievement of the objective. It also defines the strategies deployed in the process and what resources needed.
Besides increased tax revenue, the Board has also driven total transformation of the organization’s work culture. It has deepened team spirit among personnel, a factor that has immensely contributed to increased performance by management and staff. The Board has built a better corporate and transparent outlook in tax administration, as this has elicited favourable response from taxpayers to AKIRS programmes. Perhaps the most strategic to its programme is the automation of operations, with a well-furnished corporate headquarters infrastructure.
RUNNING THE VISION
It is one thing to dream and another thing to have a Joseph to interpret your dreams. When His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel dreamed of rejuvenating internally generated revenue, as global oil prices fell, affecting the nation’s revenue capacity, he was looking for a Joseph who could harness potential and leverage the DAKKADA philosophy to bolster the internally generated revenue. He found the answer in Okon Okon, a thoroughbred professional in private-sector financial and tax administration. The Governor, who has a knack for discovering for enterprise-oriented citizens, said this about the IGR boss: “This is a thoroughbred professional and a round peg in a round hole. Expectations of Akwa Ibom people are high.” Four years now, the expectations from the AKIRS are not only met, given the statistics available, they have been surpassed.
The Governor was clearly right about Okon Okon’s capacity to energize the once sloppy agency to a model and innovative-driven institution that is at the nexus of economic development of the state.
And in spite of the disturbing winds of recession and insecurity that greeted this administration in 2016 when it assumed power, tangible economic milestones with sustainable impact have been erected. IGR has since been experiencing exciting increase, even in the COVID economy, Akwa Ibom has continued to receive global acknowledgements for doing a lot to improve on internally generated revenue, besides oil and gas.
IN THE LEAGUE OF SUCCESSFUL STATES
In the national assessment of internally generated revenue by states, Akwa Ibom State has made a giant leap into the edge of states considered by Joint Tax Board and the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, to be economically viable as a result of their performances in the IGR. These states are Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Ogun, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom. The state’s performance is a clear pointer to the efficacy of the rejuvenation doses injected into the economy by the Okon Okon led Board.
For Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Ogun and Kaduna, their performances could be traced to huge commercial activities, tax revenues from the many oil operating and servicing companies in their domains but Akwa Ibom, which until recently, has managed with the toga of a sleepy civil service state, pulled a surprising impressive stir, rising above states like Kano, noted for commerce and industry.
Credits go to the Governor whose fertile imagination, has helped in repositioning IGR as a major contributor to the development of the state, besides oil and gas.
AKIRS has reinvented itself through the sagacity and innovation brought to bear in modern tax administration by Okon Okon. He is one creative Akwa Ibom public service top-notch that history will document, to have energized the IGR and changing the economic development map of the state.
THE STRATEGY THAT WORKS
Okon Okon is a creature thinker who sees opportunities and converts them to gold. This is the summary of his success story at AKIRS in four years. Says he: “For me, I always take every work opportunity as a growth or turnaround opportunity. Work opportunity is a test of capacity, experience and how much of grace of God you carry. So, this was an opportunity to put in my best and you can see the result,” he said.
To work the dream, this finance expert who started building his brilliant career in banking industry, was a reporter with the Guardian newspapers in late eighties. He brought his journalistic skill of creative thinking to play, as he came up with REVITA, a five point strategy that has given his proud team an edge in the IGR league of the nation.
The five point strategy defines the goals, objectives, the organogram to support the delivery of the objectives within a period and the resources, both human and finance, available to push towards the attainment of objectives. His words: “From my training as a management executive and business leader, once you are given a responsibility, the first thing you do is to clearly define your goals and objectives, and communicate them to the system, so that everyone in the team knows and buys into the clearly spelt-out objectives. Next is to carry out a thorough situation analysis to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. It is based on the outcome of the situation evaluation that you will be able to determine the strategies you need to deploy to achieve the objectives, what resources are required to achieve the objectives and what organizational structure will support the delivery of the objectives within a given time frame.”
BETWEEN THE PEN AND PUBLIC FINANCE
Not many know that Okon E. Okon started as a journalist until lately when he was honoured with an award by his first employer’s alumni of the Guardian newspapers, Lagos, where he had a brief stint as a financial reporter in late 80s. Journalism to him was an opportunity too good to miss. He had wanted to serve in the investment banking establishment but the Guardian Newspaper’s economic desk found his reports and analysis on public finance so accurate that they offered him an appointment. Passionate about his dream, he later moved into the financial industry, where he spent over 30 years before joining public service as the pioneer Executive Chairman of AKIRS.
The Guardian Newspapers alumni, conversant of his track records, honoured him with an award of distinction for his years of his service in the economic and financial sector of the nation. In his response to the recognition, Mr. Okon Okon said: “This honour is cherished. “I thank God for this milestone. I never knew my contributions were being observed and preserved. As a journalist, I worked with high level of professionalism and I am excited that today, with the benefit of hindsight there is every reason to be happy and celebrate this honour. It provides a powerful tonic for more hard work especially in my present public assignment in Akwa Ibom State.”
Okon Okon is a graduate of University of Uyo (Second Class Upper in Economics) earned a Masters Degree in Economics and an MBA, both from the University of Lagos. He attended executive courses and continuing professional training in Harvard Business School – Boston, Wharton Business School – Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School – New York, Euromoney – London, IDI – Dublin and Lagos Business School – Lagos. The training cuts across Business Leadership, Executive Management, Administration, Financial Management, Negotiation, Contemporary Business Development Strategy, Change Management and Sustainable Governance.
He has broad career expertise in Banking and Finance, especially in Corporate Finance and Investment, Treasury, Mortgage, Trade, Retail and MSME banking.
He is a member of The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, an associate of The Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) and a Fellow of the Institute of Credit Administration and has recently been appointed as a Council member, representing the Joint Tax Board in the CITN.
HIS GLIMPSE INTO AKWA IBOM FUTURE
He sees Akwa Ibom State as the economically viable state to be reckoned with in Nigeria, based on the investment in relevant economic growth-driven infrastructure of the Udom Emmanuel administration. He said in a conversation with this reporter last week: “Akwa Ibom State now has a brighter future than we had envisaged before the Udom Emmanuel administration. Given the huge investments in human capital development, industrialization, agriculture and food sufficiency, aviation and tourism, education, world-class health facilities, entrepreneurship and job creation, not to even talk of the expansion of road network, security and institutional development, among many others, in which this administration has carried out, in few years from now, you will see the huge gains of these multiple investments. The Governor’s vision for the state is bigger than we can see now.”
On the anxiety of Akwa Ibomites about who succeeds Governor Udom Emmanuel, Mr. Okon Okon, a firm believer in Christ Jesus, wants the citizens to turn to God in prayers and wait till God reveals the person to the Governor. In a gentle tone, he added, “What we need now is a leader with the fear of God whom God will use to further sustain the peace, development and prosperity of the state.”
He acknowledged that God’s choice of a leader will be best in sustaining the peace and industrialization legacy of this government, and asserted that, in spite of whatever economic or administrative backgrounds anybody has, God will choose someone who will yield himself or herself to furthering the strides recorded by the Udom Emmanuel administration.