May 14, (THEWILL) – It was a huge disappointment as the Vice President of the Federal Republic, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, practically shunned the inauguration of St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Refinery, at Mkpat Enin LGA of Akwa Ibom State on Friday.
THEWILL reports that social media was saturated with press statements issued, announcing the coming of the Vice President for the purpose of the project inauguration, but it was a surprise to notice that Osinbajo, who did not show up for any reason, did not send apologies nor a representative.
More surprising was the fact that the Vice President, who had planned a consultative visit to Akwa Ibom State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), for his Presidential Aspiration before being conscripted for the hurriedly packaged inauguration, was in the state on the same date, but shunned Governor Emmanuel’s assignment.
To show that Vice President Osinbajo was scheduled to Commission the project and was highly expected, item 10 on the event program was his address and subsequent commissioning of the project.
Speaking at the event, the former governor of Benue State and chairman of Udom Emmanuel’s Presidential Campaign Council, Sen. Gabriel Suswam, shocked, said that the vice president should be excused, as his absence might be deliberate or to avoid giving more shine to Udom Emmanuel, who is also a presidential aspirant like him.
Inaugurating the project, the state governor, who was assisted by his wife, Martha, Senator Suswam and other dignitaries, said he is a visionary leader that was why he foresaw that virgin coconut oil would bring more revenue to the state.
“Now even if they take away crude oil, we cannot be caught napping. Everybody will be coming here for virgin coconut oil.
“What we are doing today is to say that coconut cannot just end in coconut rice or being eaten with bread, but to turn it into a money making venture. In the next 99 years, the coconut planted this year would still be yielding.”
Emmanuel said the factory, the first in Africa, was most modern and ICT-compliant, which could process both coconut and palm kernels without changing it, even the plate, saying that the project came through his desire to open more windows for direct foreign investments.
Governor Emmanuel, who mentioned that coconut oil price is as high as $1,326 per barrel, said the dwindling crude oil fortunes moved him to explore other economic possibilities, using the available resources. He said coconut oil has become a major economic driver in the international market.
He said plans were at top gear to commence training of indigenous hands to man the refinery, disclosing that the facility has daily capacity to crack 1,000,000 coconuts, and will employ no fewer than 3,000 direct and indirect staff.
He said large expanses of land have been acquired in four communities in the state, to plant two million more stands of coconut before the end of his tenure in 2023.
“Coconut oil goes for $1,326 per barrel. The demand for crude would not be as it used to be, but as a visionary leader, we are prepared for the future, even if you take away the crude oil. What we are doing is to turn what God has given us into money. When I saw coconut everywhere, I thought of turning it into money. It has 365 uses.
“The factory is modern, smart and adaptive to also process palm kernel oil. if we can do this at the sub-national level when we don’t control the policy, only God knows what we would do when we can control the policy”, the governor stated.
Flagged off on May 24, 2017, St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factory Project, a major industrial investment by Akwa Ibom State Government, commenced with the cultivation of two million stands of hybrid coconut seedlings on an 11 hectare expanse of land.
The refinery comprises a factory complex complete with administrative offices, production areas, technical spaces, industrial firefighting systems.
Other facilities within the complex include water treatment plants, effluent treatment plants and residential quarters for technical and managerial staff, as well as parking areas for several raw materials bearing vehicles.
Emmanuel urged the citizens of the state to rise up and plant coconut and palm trees, as the factory was capable of processing one million coconuts a day at three shifts, and the state had so far planted more than one million stands, even as it is targeting two million more stands before the end of the present administration.