By Osondu Ahirika
On Friday, May 13, 2022, His Excellency, Senator Gabriel Suswam, former governor of Benue State, commended Governor Emmanuel for being visionary and farsighted in his governance. It wasn’t flattering or praise-singing his friend. Actually, he had the historic honour that day of cutting the tape to inaugurate St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factory, which has opened for business in Akwa Ibom State as promised by Governor Udom Emmanuel.
Located in Mkpat Enin, this is the first of such a refinery in Nigeria. The august visitor rightly observed that Governor Emmanuel has all along been taking the right steps towards diversifying the economy through industrialization. Truth be told, St. Gabriel Coconut Oil factory will not only boost the economy of the State, it will create job opportunities for the teeming people of Akwa Ibom as well as attract more ancillary investors and investment to energise the local economy. The value chain of this multi-billion naira factory cannot be overemphasized.
A coconut oil factory with the capacity to process one million nuts a day, an obviously satisfied Governor Emmanuel said the landmark project which is the first of its kind in Africa is a combination of Asian and European technology, built to transfer skills and develop the youths. He said it will earn the state high revenue as virgin coconut oil costs higher in the international market than crude oil.
In generating employment, Governor Emmanuel made a disclosure. “Today you are going to witness the first of its kind, you cannot find this kind of factory in Africa that is refining virgin coconut oil with the capacity to process one million nuts a day in three shifts,” he revealed.
Further explaining the significance of the investment, Governor Emmanuel again stated, “Today we are aware that in the international market, virgin coconut oil goes for $6 per liter and 221 liters makes one barrel, and if the much talked about crude oil is about $110 per barrel, it means that virgin coconut oil is $1326 per barrel, which is higher than crude oil. Soon everyone is projecting that the demand for crude oil will dwindle in future and we would have been prepared for the future”.
To the host communities, Governor Emmanuel gave a solemn pledge, “Let me allay the fears of the host community, this week we will draw up an agreement for training and we are taking cognizance of all the three Local Governments that have given us land”.
I absolutely agree with Senator Gabriel Suswam that the historic event has projected Akwa Ibom State in good light and equally scored Governor Udom Emmanuel high for his ingenuity in creating wealth for the people of the state.
For those who wonder why we celebrate this milestone, here are 10 things revealed about the factory, which are worth noting.
1. St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factory is owned by Akwa Ibom State government.
2. The factory has the capacity to process 1,000,000 nuts, 300,000 per shift and 66 tons of oil in one single day!
3. St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factory is expected to generate about 1,300 direct and more than 3,000 indirect jobs.
4. The multi-billion naira value-chain facility is located in the serene environment of Ikot Akpan Okop village, along the East West Road in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area.
5. The groundbreaking ceremony of the Coconut Oil Factory project was performed by Governor Udom Emmanuel on May 24th, 2017.
6. A 2million fast-yielding hybrid coconut trees have been planted on an 11,000 hectare of land at the St Gabriel plantation, Mkpat Enin, Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo Local Government Areas.
8. St Gabriel plantation is the largest coconut plantation in Africa, and it is being complemented by other new coconut farms in Okobo, Eket and other parts of the State.
9. The St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factory project was executed by a Turkish firm, VKS.
10. St. Gabriel Coconut Oil Factory is a conscious effort by the visionary leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel to prepare Akwa Ibom, Nigeria’s highest crude oil producing State from over reliance on petroleum.
In summary, this project is one of its kind. It will produce crude virgin coconut oil and coconut has 360 uses. The factory has the capacity to process one million coconuts in three shifts. It can produce 22,000 tonnes per shift.
The good thing is that this refinery has a line that can produce palm kernel oil. The wider plan is to heed Governor Emmanuel’s clarion call on all to join the target to plant 3 million seedlings of coconut. This is possible if we put all our hands on the deck. It has become an integral part of the Completion Agenda.