REBRANDING CROSS RIVER DIGITALLY

Imani Odey
Snr. Special Assistant to the Governor
on Electronic Media

Media is one of the powerful agents of democratic accountability and good governance. The role of media in sustainable development can simply be seen as connections between a free press and good governance, including the association between access to balanced, independent programming and political participation. It is towards realizing this dream that Cross River State Governor, Sen. (Prof) Ben Ayade is devoting increasing attention to re-branding the State by improving service delivery, State responsiveness and State-Citizen relations-support, for more decision-making and especially, for the grassroots people to assert their voice.
Ayade quest to rebrand the State is evident, with the opportunities of a quintessential media practitioner, Imani Odey, the State’s Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, on Electronic Media. In fast-changing media and communication environment, Ayade is leading Cross Riverians to be more connected than ever, to global trends digitally. Young educated and info-empowered Odey has the potential to lead Cross River State to be democratically,
socially and economically transformative.
MOFINEWS has a chat with the young Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, on Electronic Media.
Excerpts:
MOFINEWS: As Senior Special Assistant on electronic media to the Governor, what is your office all
about?
Imani Odey: My name is Imani Odey and I am the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ben Ayade on Electronic Media. Prior to the appointment, I was the Cross River State correspondent for Channels Television. The office of the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on electronic Media is more or less the audio -visual component of the Governor Ben Ayade’s administration. I coordinate the Governor’s coverage on all electronic media outfits both for radio and tv. The Office is also responsible for the dissemination and promotion of contents to the outside world.
MOFINEWS: Why is your office necessary at this age of social media?
Imani Odey:
It’s a digital era and everyone is going digital in their craft as well as businesses.
Today, you find very few advertisements on billboards and even Television. Most people are glued to their phones all day, so aside pushing out rich and verified contents to TV stations both within and outside the state, we choose to meet the social media enthusiast through the grafting of short video messages which are shared on all platforms both Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as YouTube. We all know that not all messages on social media is correct or proven with all 100% accuracy so we took the challenge to instill trust back in the minds of people showing the numerous projects and activities of the Senator Ben Ayade led Government.
MOFINEWS: What is the State of electronic media in Cross River State before and now, can it be made more competitive?
Imani Odey:
Well, the world is evolving every day we learn and improve on our laurels, so it’s not just a Cross River State thing, it’s a global phenomenon and by the quality of people and professional I have met and worked with in the state, am sure that there’s huge progress though everyone should be ready to create room for improvement. Electronic media in Cross River is on a rapid rise and with the advent of many new radio stations in the state and reports of some private tv stations planning on coming in soon it can only get better. The state’s station, CRBC and Radio is gradually being rebranded and is already dishing out quality programming to the populace.
MOFINEWS: Digitalization is crucial, what effort has Cross River State Government done to digitalize it’s broadcast stations E.g. CRBC TV/Radio to meet increasing competition?
Imani Odey: My office in particular provides the state television station with content daily, and there are many good content on our TV these days that have brought attention to CRBC and am sure it’s gradually meeting the demands of the people.

“…I don’t want to sound like I am blowing my own trumpet but I can boldly say that, I have added a lot of value since I came on board. And those who follow our activities on the electronic media platforms can attest to that.”

I may have very limited access to the station because even though we all serve under the ministry of Information to some extent, there is a General Manager for the station, there is a special Adviser who reports directly to the Governor and am happy that the powers are being decentralized to allow for expertise advise whose capabilities His Excellency Senator Ben Ayade considered before appointing them to the various offices.
MOFINEWS: Any effort to receive CRBC in Cross River North?
Imani Odey: Surely, one thing I like about this Government is that it is very open to advise and suggestions. If the
right suggestions are made to the management of the Station, am sure it will become a reality sooner than later.


In the course of duty

MOFINEWS: What have been your achievements since your appointment?
Imani Odey: I am a moving train trying to gain speed each and everyday. I don’t want to sound like I am blowing my own trumpet but I can boldly say that, I have added a lot of value since I came on board. And those who follow
our activities on the electronic media platforms can attest to that. Today, we have shown that the contents which should be sent to the public domain should be well packaged with realistic points.
The short videos produced by me are now the highlight people look out for after each event in the government house and my colleagues in the New Media have been so happy about those videos. We have also been able to create synergy with all the electronic media houses in calabar and we now work as a team of course with support from the
Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita. I have received several calls from people who watch the videos. We have
also tried to project some young young people especially in line with the vision of His Excellency on some National
platforms. My office also runs a program every week day on CRBC “FOCUS CROSS RIVER” by 10-11am showcasing
achievements of the state government. We’re also working on updating the program with more contents….so, Cross riverians should expect a lot more from my office in the coming weeks.
MOFINEWS: Any challenges?
Imani Odey: Every job has it’s unique challenges and mine is no different but based on my experiences working for
major broadcast outfits in the country, those challenges are surmountable while also determined to improve on our services day after day. May I also use this opportunity to appreciate His Excellency the Governor for finding me worthy to serve his administration in this capacity. Indeed it is a great opportunity and an upliftment in my career as a journalist to serve as SSA Electronic Media and I hope in the remaining three years of this administration we can achieve even more in the department.

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AGRICULTURE IS THE FUTURE Dr. Tony Wemton

Nigeria proudly turned 60 years this October. As an independent Nation, the Diamond celebration came with a powerful message inserted in the Logo bearing, “60 Years Together”. In actual sense of it, the country has been together, as an entity, despite political and ethnic centrifugal forces pulling her from different angles. But in the midst of all these challenges, we still see a silver lining that makes this great Nation hold sway. That is. Agriculture.
Agriculture has always played an important role in the economic growth of the country. It is the key area that, has also united the people of Nigeria, as they plant, harvest and trade together, even in the midst of all kinds of challenges.
Amidst the independent celebrations that came with mixed feelings due to the COVID-19 pandemic set-back, MOFI NEWS took a chance to have a chat with a renowned Lagos-based Agriculture Engineer, Dr. Tony Owatemi Wemton, Programme Director, Wemton Agricultural Development and Advisory Services(WADAS).
Excepts:
MOFINEWS: Sir, Nigeria has just celebrated its 60th Independence Anniversary and Nigerians were agog with diamond Celebration, even with the set-back from the Covid-19 attack that made the celebration very much a far cry from the kind of grand style celebration we had all looked forward
to, even though the federal government added some colour the celebration with mind blowing
message in the Logo; “60 years Together” How well do you think that agriculture fits into this message given the fact that agriculture plays major role in the economic growth and development of
the country?
DR. TONY WEMTON:
Hmmm! It is definitely difficult for a nation to survive without agriculture activities. This is not just because agriculture is a source of food, but because it is connected to the production of all the basic human needs. It is agriculture that enables a nation’s production of export crops. For example, in the 1960s, agriculture was
the main foreign exchange earner for Nigeria, though export crops such as palm oil, cocoa, rubber, groundnut, to
mention but a few, have always played important roles. However, this status declined, as crude oil took over as the
nation’s main export. But nonetheless, agriculture is currently still thriving by producing export crops; the last quarter of 2018, the total value of exported agricultural produce was 85.9 billion. In the previous quarter, indicators
reveal that agriculture contributed 73.25 billion, so we saw that, there was a quarter growth of 17.3%. Also, looking at the important role agriculture places in boosting tourism in Nigeria, we consider that Agro Tourism development in Nigeria has had significant impact in the growth of this nation. Nigeria is blessed with Agro-Tourism locations that are increasingly boosting the nation’s economy, as well as promoting its ecosystem. Take a look at the beautiful sites
at the Yankari national Park, Obudu Mountain Resort, kainji National Park, Lekki Conservation Centre, Gurara
Waterfalls and many other breathetaking hotspots too numerous to mention. All these are blessings that have made Nigeria this great and they are still adding more value in the development of the nation. This has been helping the local people in these places to eke livelihoods from these spots and this of course, is a plus to Agriculture.


MOFI NEWS: Interestingly, too, the Federal Government, in order to give Nigerians a memorable 60th Anniversary launched the creative challenge to mark the Diamond Jubilee with the intention of using the opportunity to show the Nation’s strength as an indivisible Country: the challenge dwell on selecting the best photography that embodies the theme, “Together As One”. keying into this properly from the agricultural space, what strategies would you have Nigerians adopt as API, to boost the agriculture sector?
DR. TONY WEMTON:
Oh! Yes, thank you very much for this question. I have already mentioned above that the
beautiful tourist sites we have all over the country, are indeed, a great blessing to Nigeria. The tourist destination
should be properly managed and sustained. If properly managed, they can be of immense benefit to the status And national economy. It is necessary for injecting cash into the agriculture sector, as a matter of priority. The resultant reward comes from the Tourists contribution to the sale, profits, tax and income of the States’ Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the Country, through hotel lodging, feeding, and transportation, or other depending micro-businesses springing up. Aside from contributing to the economy, Agro-Tourism also leads to global recognition, creation of employment opportunities, preservation of local culture, promotion and sales of local products, both locally and internationally, thereby, attracting potential investors to the local markets and communities.

Dr. Wemton with Cross River State APPEALS participants

Job creation should not be over looked. Production, harvesting, transportation, processing, distributing, packaging and retail marketing activities need a raised. They all make up the agriculture value chain. You see! It is human labour that supervises all these stages to ensure a smooth flow and that is how agriculture creates job opportunities.
Agriculture sector is the largest sector in the Nigerian economy, employing about 2/3 of the nation’s labour force. About 70% of the Nigerian population engages in agriculture, at a subsistence level. Hence, state governments’ focus must be in this sector, bearing in mind that agriculture significantly increase their local IGR, if well organized and properly managed. Consider the pests and diseases infestations, post-harvest loss, poor road networks, and other challenges. The revenue generated from agriculture, remains the benefit of agriculture to these currently challenged sectors, if properly addressed, and shall in no doubt, return support and assistance needed for global competitiveness.
Source for raw materials for other industries. One of the most important benefits of agriculture is that, it serves as a pillar for many other industries. Agriculture supplies the major work- in progress, raw materials industries require to put their machineries in constant velocity. Without agriculture, they would not survive. This is because, agriculture products serve as raw materials for the products of many finished foods and goods items. There is also basic needs for human survival; food, shelter and clothing. All of these, are dependent on agriculture for their production. Raw materials such as crops for food, silk for cloth, and wood for shelter, all came from agriculture.
I can go on and on to list them. There are many opportunities for agriculture investments, such as, crop and animal production, to intangible ones such as, stocks, futures and bonds. Economic diversification cannot be overlooked. With the income from oil declining in Nigeria, the nation is seeking economic diversification and the agriculture sector is a mine substitute untapped to the fullest. So, we have to look at the different ways that agriculture aids economic diversification. And this is through production of export products.
Today, agriculture remains the leading non-oil sector of the nation’s economy providing nearly 70% nonpetroleum exports.
MOFINEWS: Early in the year, you were in Cross River State. Can you talk briefly on the visit, please?
DR. TONY WEMTON: Oh! Yes, I was in Calabar. My mission was simply to train women and youths who are involved in the Agro-processing productivity. The training was really very impactful. Digital Agric business
development is the in-thing now. Digital Agricultural platforms and e-commerce are also using variety of tools to improve the livelihood of small-scale farmers, helping to provide direct market access, and consumers, reducing
wastage, and post- harvest losses on many farmers. So is necessary to also prioritize this.
I commend the State Government for the good steps being taken to boost agriculture in the state, particularly as the Governor, has demonstrated through his agriculture policies. I personally, can’t wait for the Digital Governor to
establish e-commerce websites and other platforms for the benefit of farmers in the state.

“Agriculture sector is the largest sector in the Nigerian economy, employing about 2/3 of the nation’s labour force. About 70% of the Nigerian population engages in agriculture, at a subsistence level. Hence, state governments’ focus must be in this sector, bearing in mind that agriculture significantly increase their local IGR, if well organized and properly managed”.

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HON. SUNDAY ACHUNEKANG, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND APPROPRIATION

What is your experience so far compared to previous public offices you have held as two-time Chairman of Obanliku Local Government and Commissioner for Rural Infrastructure, Management and Training? Yeah, thank you very much, first of all welcome to my humble office, it’s been interesting so far. Being here, what came to my mind on assumption of office was that legislative work was something similar to councillorship (which is where I cut my first political teeth)… As God may have it, I have grown in confidence (from being elected a two-time Chairman of Obanliku Local Government Council to being appointed) a commissioner under this dispensation by His Excellency,
Senator Prof. Ben Ayade… for two years… These two arms of government, the Legislature and Executive, the difference is far apart. It contrasts… the fact that policies and goals of the dispensation (are applicable) in overseeing
the affairs of governance in the state. Our primary aim or function or goal of the Legislature is that of representation, that of making laws and oversight while that of the Executive is jurisdiction. I acted the other (side) as commissioner. I am (now) here about three months down the line, I can assure you that I am learning the roles and luckily too
(laughs)…

I’m privileged to have a Speaker who is down-to-earth… and my other noble colleagues. And as you know, majority of the members of the House are those who have served in the 7th Assembly; this is the 9th Assembly. Some served in the 8th Assembly and they are here again. So, in fact they have laboured, they are privileged to (be involved again). It is already three months, so it won’t take long to know the rules (and) what to do… So I agree with you that what we (have experienced) is not wasted and I am happy, I’m here to participate in my own little way to ensure we
better the state and down here, we are blessed with one who is passionate and determined to drive the process… who
happens to be His Excellency, the Governor. I just loved him as commissioner, and saw his passion and that alone left me with courage and optimism. We are going to plead for patience to achieve before second

Our primary aim or function or goal of the Legislature is that of representation, that of making laws and oversight, while that of the Executive is jurisdictional

term of office. So like I said, set goals, like the policies we have agreed to engineer together to better the lives of the Cross River State (people) otherwise, the-day-to-day functions of government are different… are really different.
What do you perceive to be the state of the state’s finances? Recovering the state or serving the state, my brother, I can assure you by acceptance at this point in time, that CRS, as a state could have been bankrupt, CRS as a state could have been insolvent if not managed by the kind of person that we have as Governor considering his wisdom. He has been able to come up with (several initiatives to source money for the state to move forward) … He thinks and
reasons outside (the box). Most times (hearing him) in the EXCO,… I got consoled by the fact that he is chosen of God. As a committee, given some powers to encourage us on this (issue of the state of the state’s finances…) We intend to know the debt profile; we need to study all of those things and come out with modalities we can use… to make laws with over sighting (and) whatever we can do to encourage the Executive (led by the governor) that will help (to) boost our strength to enable us carry the projects we have already embarked (on) in the state. We are in partnership… How do you assess the performance of the state’s 2019 Budget and what are your expectations of that of 2020?

Yeah, like I say we put side by side what is urgent, it is a projection of what is going to achieve that takes the leading of your finances, but if you put side by side the things; the infrastructures, projects so far that has been put on ground… I think the governor has (tremendous support)… I don’t know how anybody could have done better… in terms of percentage, yeah percentage, if you insist… but (I) think this governor got credit which is far above 60 percent… he did well because you won’t appreciate (it) until you are right inside to (understand) the system, work
inside to see the way things are. (Operating a budget is like giving you five thousand naira (N5,000.00) (and you are)
expected to achieve a job of twenty thousand naira (N20,000.00). (Go) to work, (let’s see how) it works… Cross River State is working, he’s working and you know that he is paying salaries on or before the end of the month, each month
he pays salaries and (we) take this for granted.

Go to our neighboring state, salaries are being owed…just pay one for them to survive, parents are paying school fees… For each budgeting year that passes, he only sets and moves from level to level, and I assure you (at) the expiration of 2020 (and by) 2023, hopefully when he leaves office as Governor, things can only get better, we can only advance, attain highlife, you can be sure that the state has achieved things that are (sustainable), that can better
our lives (more) than when he assumed office. So I think 2020 will bring (a lot of) good to Cross River State much better than what 2019 gave us. What kind of laws would your House be making to ensure the survival and sustainability of the industries and projects that finances. (Finance) is the strength… of everybody, (and any administration). (With funds) you will be able to work… We realized it in that vein when we as (an) Assembly we try to look (at) the issue of Bakassi. Was what happened there right? We are looking at the oil wells (that the FG handed over) to Akwa-Ibom… If there is any way Cross River (could mitigate this) fundamental challenge, (we could muster) the strength (and of course) the intellectual (capacity to).

Thank you for this opportunity (to discuss) the issue that has to do with the state and to some extent my constituency. Through their votes, what they have put in place is not a wasted effort. All that is required is some form of patience (and) support and we are contributing ideas, prayers and encouragement… Persons put in place to drive the process are working and this is a very emotional matter and we are surely getting there. So one day, very, very soon, I can assure you that (before) the expiration of 2019, Cross River State will be better for us and to my constituency. I know how young I was (in) my first term as a chairman. I was 32 and so age has started adding wisdom… So if I think well when I first came and that (earned) me becoming chairman after being Councillor. (My predecessor

But I can assure you that this administration under the leadership of (both) Senator Ben Ayade and the Honorable Speaker will be diligent…

 

chairman. I was 32 and so age has started adding wisdom… So if I think well when I first came and that (earned) me becoming chairman after being Councillor. (My predecessor Rt. Hon. Moses Ucheche) was the leader of the house, and until I came to the Assembly, I did not know that the leader of the house (was such a big thing…) I’m just a floor member, but that notwithstanding, I’m connected to my people. To a larger extent, I know what they are expecting
to see, I make myself available, I do make myself very, very accessible and so we can interface at times and so
therefore there is no (need) telling lies… (as) every month we see ourselves (and assess our performance). So far (we are interacting well) with the people one-on-one on a daily basis. It will interest you to (know that through) my
being in the Assembly (I will explore my knowledge of the provisions) of the budget to ensure that certain things that we need as projects are) really put in place… So it is… expected back

We are looking at the oil wells (that the FG handed over) to Akwa Ibom State… If there is any way Cross River (could mitigate this) fundamental challenge, we have the strength (and of course) the intellectual (capacity to) do so.

home that when there’s a primary school that is no longer functioning, the (outdated) health facility and the bad road
that needs to be accessible to all the other (parts of the) community and connected to the outside world… (As a) systems man, I will let you know what’s going on in Calabar and… make sure that you can access me… I still have to ask my people to appreciate this whole time we share together. Whatever my abilities should also be assessed (with objectivity.) For me, I’m not relenting. I’m going to justify my mandate to the best of my ability. Thank you very
much.>>>

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Chat with Commissioner for Social Housing Hon. Edem Okokon Effiom

Could you please take us through the vision of the Ministry of Social Housing in Cross River State?

The vision of Ministry of Social Housing can be divided into three platforms; one is the platform on the part of government intervention in meeting the social needs particularly houses for the core poor;  second is working with the NGOs and nongovernmental agencies to provide housing for the core poor; thirdly, also working with the private investors to provide housing facilities for those who can truly afford. Those are the three platforms that the vision of Ministry of Social Housing works upon.

Which one are you working on at  the moment?

We are working with the vision of His Excellency, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade in a form of intervention that seeks to meet the needs of the internally displaced people of Bakassi

What brought about the displacement of the internally displaced people in Bakassi?

This was brought about by the ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula through the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgement from which we saw a lot of injustice, we saw a lot of fraud for which we think our people were largely short-changed; shortchanged (to the extent that) our hair was being shaved behind us because we were not part of the player. We were not United Nations neither were we Nigerians or Cameroonians. Our people in Cross River State, in Bakassi just had their heads shaved behind them without their consent. This is the injustice we are talking about.

Why has it taken so long for a project of this nature to take effect considering when the ceding of Bakassi took place and now?

I think we should thank His Excellency, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade because the question you have asked shows the degree of our inhumanity against our fellow human, because a man of this nature who has shown so much care for his people not because he has so much but because he cares so much. Subsequent administrations, mind you most of these people called internally displaced people of Bakassi are not just Cross River only. We have some of them in Bayelsa, people from Ilaje and people in Akwa Ibom. If past governments with so much money at their disposal did not think about the welfare of their people and Cross River State government under the able leadership of Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade is thinking about them, then I think he is a man who has taken so much Nations and Nigeria that drew this first blood but today we are being made to cater for that blood which they drew.

Sir, can we know the partners that have helped your Ministry deliver on this mandate and how effective the partnership has been?

I can truly tell you that the only partner we have is that of God and Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade. No international donor, no partnership with any agency apart from Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade. He is the driver, the dreamer, the visioner of this project. From the conceptual level, he has been the one behind it and all we do as a ministry is to key into his vision to make sure that his vision comes to fruition. He is the originator, the visioner, the dreamer. It is a Cross River State project and so the Federal Government has no hand in it.

What do you consider your biggest challenges and how do you intend to tackle them?

We started overcoming these challenges. One of our biggest challenges is “perception” of this area. It was an area infested by militants. It was infested because people lacked what to do and since we brought this project, a lot of people have been engaged. We have seen a lot of life changing activities. People’s lives have been transformed immensely. You can see it through the number of people working, so when an idle man is engaged, they don’t think about any other evil vices, so what you see is that we have put them to productive use, that is one challenge. Even though we have had a teeming number of them joining us, we still have a small pocket of them who still believe in old ways. Like I earlier said, we have lost a lot of our materials out of theft and this is a very big challenge, we also have the community that are not used to seeing such things and are yet to come to terms with the magnitude of this kind of project. So psychologically and socially, getting them in line to orientate to the vision that is here takes a lot of time; it’s a very huge challenge; and don’t forget another great challenge is the paucity of funds. Prof. Ben Ayade in his prudent nature has ensured that the project gets all that it needs, but sometimes all that it needs might just not be enough.  that is why on the part of the staff of the Ministry of Social Housing, we are about to tighten our belts; we about to devise all sorts of means to ensure that the project comes to fruition.

How many housing units are in the project? Altogether 52 housing units How do you intend to share these houses? Basically, 52 housing units will take care of 52 households and as at the last count, we had about 935 (nine hundred and thirty- five) households of internally displaced people. When you multiply that by an average number of households, that is 935 (nine hundred and thirty- five) multiply by four which my assumption is an average household; but often in rural areas, going by the national population rate of 2.6% for rural, 2.3 for urban, it therefore means that most of these households are far larger than four, plus the wife and husband making it six. But they are far larger than six households; so looking at that perception, 52 (fifty-two) of the 935, it therefore means that there is still amount of space for intervention and goodwill either from United Nations or for Nigeria. All we are appealing to them is that Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade , Governor of Cross River State has set the pace, let them come and follow suit.

Without using our forum, what is the effort you have done so far at the moment in trying to reach out for further intervention on the left over numbers that you are likely to have?

If you move just five minutes’ drive or less than a kilometer to Ikpa Nkanyang, you will see a large space that has been created. African Nations Development Program were supposed to intervene by creating a city in remote places. We are supposed to have about 5,000 ( five thousand) housing units. But then, I also feel there are being encumbered by funding and if you go there, 250 ( two hundred and fifty) hectares have been allocated and cleared for this purpose. So it shows you the depth … we have gone. We have interfaced with several other NGOs. We have spoken with them and we are still talking more. His Excellency is also reaching out. Every time he steps out to woo investors, he also on the sidelines puts some degree of humanitarian services on them. These services can come in form of providing houses for the internally displaced people.

What is the role of the Federal Government on this project?

Like I said, the Federal Government is yet to show that kind of leadership, that role that we expect of them. We are truly believing that when they see what we have done, they will be compelled and agitated to queue in line with this noble and positive venture.

As a follow up, you talked about 52 housing units, what are the facilities in each of them?

Without much ado, the you can see the Braitwaithe tank provides about 10,000 liters of water, our assumption is that going by the United Nations standard that no house should go with less than 100 litres of water; we are providing 200 (two hundred) litres of water… per day for every household. So you have the two 5,000 capacity Braitwaithe tank that comes with a borehole that will definitely provide clean water for the Estate. Then the road network and the culverts and soakaway; it therefore means that in terms of all that, we are providing toiletsystem, drainage facilities, sewage system altogether that will support this estate. There is also the solar panel lights in the estate and when we are done, we will step down the lights and every house will have electricity; what else do we want, we have space for (a) skills acquisition center, space for school, health center and even a space for (a) market.

What will you do to safeguard the green areas which must have been designed?

If you had seen the layout, you will have known that there are specific areas left for green areas. Let me give you a classical example which is the drainage also known as the artificial pond. It is a seasonal stream that Throws into the Akpayefe which is a pond, so what we do is to collect the water into a place where children can play and marvel with the family. There is also a football field and every dot of space has its own green area. We have created a palatial abode for the people who will live in the houses.

What measures have you made to safeguard the estate?

For us, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade has a clear-cut vision. As we finish, the Social Housing Agency will be here the place and look to ensure that things are being run for the next couple of years. they will be around to check that the habitats are living in conformity with the laid out rules of guiding the estate, that is why we have the Chairman of Social Housing Board whose duty and responsibility is to ensure that the original standard is not distorted in any way.

You talked about engaging the former militants and community people, can you give us more details on their engagements?

Basically, the place is surrounded by the Afayafe (River), and the Afayafe divides the Bakassi that was ceded to Cameroon and Nigeria.  the distance apart is less than a kilometre; that gives you a clear idea and it is also within the Gulf of Guinea, and if you are saying that militancy is striving in the Gulf of Guinea then that means that Bakassi is not left out and because it is not left out, it means that the youths have actually been engaged in all those unwholesome crises, so what we are doing with this job is taking them out from that. We are now re-energizing them and reconfiguring them and allowing them to find their true self and that truly they can actually do something that is worthwhile and which has a divine value, without getting into those negative vices and that is what we have achieved. Also, that is why a lot of them are engaged in one way or the other. We have done so much in ensuring that the lives of people are transformed economically by ensuring that they take active part in the construction of the estate.

Are you saying that the standard of the facilities are same for the 52 housing units?

Definitely How many bedrooms? We have two bedrooms each, and each room is ensuite with visitors’ toilet, a kitchen, large dining area and a store. As Commissioner for Social Housing, what kind of

Ministry of Social Housing do you intend to hand over in the next three years?

As the days go by, one begins to understand the concept of social housing. The concept of social housing started with Western Europe. But for the standard we have set, they will have to come and copy the standard that we have set. A standard that if you go to Germany, Europe or England where their social housing programs are fixed or standard but don’t meet standard or class. So for us we are leaving something that (is) truly and indeed (the) international community can come and copy from Nigeria An Israeli engineer was around sometime ago and saw what we were building. He asked where we got this idea. He said he had the idea that Africans were going to build all thatch (houses) but what he saw far surpassed the social housing program in Israel. that was an Israeli man saying it. A German and Ghanaian visited the place also and have given us high encomiums; so for me as a Commissioner, the Permanent Secretary and all of us working together, have seen a clear-cut vision that we have bestowed to Nigeria, Cross River State and to the international community; a new paradigm and new standard in social housing programs.

Finally sir, what is your advice to Cross Riverians?

My advice to Cross Riverians in respect to what we are having here is that they must protect it (the estate) and that Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade has another four years they must encourage him to get another four years so that we can have more of this (type of projects). We need to have brand new communities (as) new pole centers or growth centers.

Thank you, Sir

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