10 lanes ring road III in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, named after Late Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga and Late Dr Clement Using, construction by an indigenous construction company, HENSEK Integrated Services Limited.

Itoro Bassey

For every 10 roads Governor Udom Emmanuel administration has constructed, completed and commissioned in Akwa Ibom State in the past seven years plus, at least six were handled by local/indigenous contractors from the state. The huge patronage these construction companies have gotten from the state government has helped them break new grounds, enrich their project portfolios, enhance their manpower capacity, add more equipment to their inventory and create thousands of medium term and hundreds of long term employment within the construction sector.

When Governor Udom Emmanuel announced during his broadcast to mark the 2018 democracy day celebration, that his administration has constructed about 1,701 kilometres of roads and built 35 bridges across the urban and rural areas of Akwa Ibom State, not many understood the volume of work and the percentage in value of government projects handled by indigenous contractors. Many people did not possibly envisage the high level involvement of indigenous contractors in all of these.

The spotlight on how much capacity local/indigenous contractors in the state has built through the economically strategic patronage they have got under the Governor Emmanuel’s administration became glaring when HENSEK Integrated Services Limited completed the third Ring road in Uyo metropolis last year. The 9.5 km (10 lanes) Idongesit Nkanga/Clement Isong avenues was completed with a 5.4km underground drainage tunnel, three roundabouts (two of which have rainbow water fountains), two mini plazas, solar-powered street lights, well paved pedestrian tracks, standard road markings and other appurtenances. Through the Governor’s thoughtful patronage, HENSEK and other indigenous construction companies have proven their mettle and capacity, putting to rest stereotypes which undermined their capacity and expertise.

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Government at federal and sub-national level have often given preferences to foreign contractors during procurement even for the least of jobs. The complaints always being that indigenous companies often mismanage project funds; and do not stick to bill of quantity, design specifications, environmental impact management and project deadlines. Governor Emmanuel has successfully bypassed and diffused the explosive landmines that rocked former Governor Victor Attah’s good intentions when his administration prioritized the use of local/indigenous companies for road construction projects.

Attah’s administration patronised many indigenous contractors of that time and awarded contracts to them. Some of the companies abandoned the projects. Jobs awarded to some companies that did not show sufficient capacity to handle them were terminated and re-awarded. The administration after Attah’s rarely patronised indigenous road construction companies despite how much the state lost due to capital flight. When Governor Udom Emmanuel assumed office in 2015 and started patronising indigenous construction companies, the public had asked “is he (Emmanuel) repeating Attah’s mistake?” However, with the number of road projects completed in the state by local/indigenous construction companies in seven years plus, the answer to that question is rightly, NO.

Mr Emmanuel is not making a mistake working with local/indigenous construction companies. Under his administration, every kilometer of road constructed comes with concrete gutter on both sides, the gutters are properly linked to a drainage system. This is the global standard for road construction in heavy rain belt such as Akwa Ibom state. This is Governor Emmanuel’s standard. The contractors have met this standard and have learnt a new approach to project funding.

The Governor introduced what is called the Alternative Project Funding Approach (APFA) when he assumed office to ensure that “portfolio” companies that do not have the capacity to handle projects do not swindle the state of scarce funds. Under APFA, contractors had the task to raise money and do their projects while the government supervises and approves payment per milestone completed. This clever strategy and the quality control role played early in the administration by the Bureau of Technical Matters and Due Process helped the state avert loss of funds to project abandonment and kept un-serious contractors away, giving more opportunities to the serious ones.

Udom Emmanuel: Building roads, bridges with indigenous manpower 6.4Km Nto Edino-Ekwereazu road with 300m span bridge in Obot Akara local government area constructed by Seyang Ltd.

Now, the old chapter where indigenous contractors recorded low patronage or were side-lined in big construction jobs has been flipped. Local/indigenous construction companies in Akwa Ibom are delivering trunk A roads and other categories of road complete with all appurtenances. Each of them given the opportunity has mainstreamed itself in project standardization. Construction companies which were in category C sub-contractors because they did not have large portfolios, have been given an opportunity to grow. They have grown, moved up on the rating board and are well positioned to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with the big names, the CCECCs and JBs of the this world, the RCC, MCC, name them.

HENSEK Integrated Services Limited has come up strong as a leading indigenous construction giant courtesy of the patronage of the Akwa Ibom State Government. Benest Technical Services Limited, Seyang Limited, Verini Construction Company Limited, U&K Limited are some of the names you will find today as contractors for roads, bridges, and drainage projects in the State.

From the 9.5km (10 lanes) Ring Road lll; 2.6km Abak Urban Road, 3.3km Ring Road ll, ongoing expansion of the airport road, 5.0km Mkpok-Okat road in ONNA, 4.6km Nung Ukim-Ikono road, and the 17.8km Ikot Ukpo-Ikot Etenge Ndon-Atan Eka Iko-Ikot Akpabio-Ikot Okpok-Ikot Efere-Atan Ikpe Road all constructed by HENSEK Integrated Services Limited; the 6.41km Nto Edino-Ekwereazu Road with 350 metres twin bridges in Obot Akara constructed by Seyang Limited; the 19.31 Anua-Mbak-Ishet Road in Uruan constructed by Verini Construction Company Limited, and the 5.0km Ikot Usop-Ikot Edeghe-Ikot Ekpuk road with 30 meters span bridge in Mkpat Enin, 9.5 km Ikot Ebekpo-Ikot Ebidang Road, 13.13km Akpambiet Edo-Edida Edo-Ebeekpe Road and 1.05km Information Drive, Uyo, done by Benest Technical Services Limited, they are excellent signatures of indigenous companies.

Mr Emmanuel holds many excellent records for his outstanding performance as Governor. He stands tall as one of the Governors who believes in building local contents and making global champions out of them. The preference, trust and huge patronage he has given to indigenous contractors has reduced capital flights, expand the pool of indigenous skilled labour, and make local companies grow their capacity.

Dr. Abasiono Okon, Chief Executive Officer of Abaringo Nigeria Limited, an indigenous civil engineering company, said the Governor Emmanuel administration has helped indigenous construction companies to grow. “We are taking the front seat”, gaining better expertise and building capacity on the job.

“It is obvious that this administration, led by His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, has done well to develop our indigenous companies. Under the previous administration, a few foreign companies were handling all the major contracts, and that caused serious capital flights. That has changed under this administration and I think the governor is very intelligent to take such wise decisions.

“Patronage by the State government has enhanced the growth of indigenous companies. Use HENSEK as an instance. The company used to hire some of the equipment it did not have, but now that government has given it major contracts, it has been able to procure its own equipment.”

“Now, some companies are hiring equipment from HENSEK. That’s growth. That’s capacity building. The owner of the company is focused; the company has built capacity and what that means is that it can deliver projects of any magnitude. And so, it will get more patronage”, Okon said while interacting with journalists recently.

The Managing Director of HENSEK Integrated Services, the company handling the ongoing expansion of airport road, a six kilometer underground drainage at Mbiabong/Nung Ette, Engr. Uwem Okoko, said Governor Emmanuel, is intentional about building the capacity of local/indigenous construction companies. While taking journalists to see the completed 10-lane ring roads in Uyo before its inauguration in September 2022, Okoko said, among other things, that many people had discouraged the Governor from trusting his company with such big job.

“I remember in June 2019 when there was flood problem that His Excellency (Governor Emmanuel) came here, and that time, this road didn’t have a form or shape. And he said: ‘HENSEK, there is a lot of pressure that I should terminate this contract, but I believe in your ability to deliver this job’.

“The Governor saw what many people did not see by awarding this contract to HENSEK Integrated Services Limited. And I want to sincerely say a big thank you to His Excellency for this opportunity and for the support”.

Akwa Ibom State is a new destination for investments in agriculture, aviation, oil and gas, maritime, sports and tourism in Nigeria. Governor Udom Emmanuel has demonstrated and shown good thinking in choosing to work with indigenous contractors. He has shown enormous faith in trusting them and demonstrated statesmanship in committing to helping them grow.

In few years, the investment portfolios coming into the state will spike above nine digits. Indigenous companies have just this chance to grow, build up their finances, expertise and equipment, and wait for the new economy.