For Nigeria, hope is alive in the years ahead

In the 61-year-old history of Nigeria, a lot of water has passed under the bridge, to borrow a popular cliché. But no matter how tough the storms, we have been able to weather it as a people, “though tribe and tongue may differ,” as the words of our former National Anthem reminds us.

On the political field, we have transited severally, welcoming both military and civilian rules and rulers. We have applauded some administrations and been let down, yet some have almost met the desires of the average Nigerian. And we are where we are today, nurturing our democracy and believing that in the long run, all will be well.

Economically, we have reaped the benefits of our God-given endowment – crude oil- and utilized it for the development of our nation. Some may argue as to how well the proceeds from our oil revenue have been judiciously put to use, but there would be no use crying over spilt milk. Our resilience as a people is our main staying power. Nigerians come out of every tough situation smelling even sweeter than the rose flower. This is because we understand the never-say-die mantra and use it well to our advantage. The era of affluence puts a smile on our collective faces, yet the downturn in affluence never takes away from who we are.

Our countrymen, including children, are making us proud in yonder land, winning laurels and wowing the western world. In practically all fields of human endeavor, Nigerians shine like stars and fly the nation’s fly high.

To celebrate our 61″ anniversary, President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged that though “the past 18 months have been some of the most difficult period in the history of Nigeria ,” he noted that “Our resolve for a peaceful, united and one Nigeria remains resolute and unwavering ,” urging Nigerians not to despair over current challenges as government is not resting its oars to address the national malaise.

Similarly, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan indicated that “We may have hiccups along the way and challenging times that might be stretching our resolve and determination to forge ahead, but we should not relent nor succumb to fear, discouraging trials and threats of today,” assuring that Nigeria has what it takes to overcome the threats and trials currently bedeviling the nation.

The Cross River Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, in a similar message to his people, admitted that there are challenging times, but “in spite of those dispiriting moments, however, there have been glittering times… conscious of the fact that no nation has ever berthed on a roller coaster, or fulfilled its destiny without sweat, we cannot therefore, as a country, afford to take our eyes off the ball.”

On the religious front, the Christian Association of Nigeria, the umbrella body of all Christian denominations in the country, in an encouraging goodwill message to the nation titled “Nigeria will experience showers of blessing,” president of the association, Rev Samson Ayokunle, said “The situation of the country appears bleak but knowing that God is not man and with Him all things are possible, this is the right time to believe that there shall be showers of blessings because some people are praying for this country.”

Add to this the assurance of the French President, Emmanuel Macron ; Indian President, Ram Nath Kovind; and the American President, Joe Eiden, that their administrations will support Nigeria in its efforts at combating the numerous challenges it is currently facing, one cannot but see light at the end of our dark tunnel.

We commend Nigerians desirous of and working hard to take the country to higher heights and condemn, in strong terms, agitators of division and secession under whatever guise. It is worth realizing that every country has challenges, even the developed ones. Abandoning a ship is never the way out of a difficult situation because even when it looks impossible, the tide may tum for good.

We beseech citizens to contribute their quota in their little corners, no matter how small, to ensuring that the nation comes out of the woods with sweet stories to tell. From every indication, there is hope for the entity called Nigeria in the years ahead

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ASUQUO EKPENYONG (JNR.) – Leading by Example

The very nature of a crisis is that, it is usually unpredictable. More so, now that the world is full of uncertainties that can disrupt both events and businesses. Bearing in mind that crisis pose a significant threat to the government and citizenry, a leader in charge of a location where there is a crisis of any kind, should take proactive steps to put things right.

This was exactly what Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr, Cross River State Commissioner for Finance did, when the City of
Calabar was brought down by hoodlums who took advantage of the #EndSARS protest to destroy the famous Cross River State Tinapa Business Resort.
The Tinapa Business Resort is hailed as Africa’s most exciting retail opportunity and a World-class business and leisure resort. The Commissioner who doubles as the Managing Director, Tinapa Business Resort, knows that Tinapa has much to live up to and as such, he mobilized the youths of Odukpani Local Government Area, to clean up the mess occasioned by the looting and wanton destruction that took place.
The Commissioner was accompanied by the Chairman of Odukpani local government area, Mrs. Justina Edem, the
Vice Chairman, Hon. Enefiok Inyang and Mr. Eyo Eta, Special Adviser to the Chairman on Public Affairs, alongside
Councilors and Supervisors amongst others.

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We all have to join hearts and heads together to support Governor Ayade’ s well- conceived industrialization drive that is opening more opportunities for continuous jobs creation

A critical look at the achievements recorded so far by t h e Ay a d e – L e d Administration is a clear indication of the fact that these successes are anchored on deep humanitarian services to the people of the State. It is no wonder therefore that, the budget for the 2021 Fiscal year, tagged ”Budget of Blush and Bliss”, projects the need to lean on the positive with a great shift from the negative. The Governor, while presenting the budget demonstrated that it is best to be open about what has gone wrong and clear about the steps being taken to rectify the

This, of course, has portrayed him as a Game Changer and a pragmatic political leader who can hardly sink or get down in the most turbulent political storms.
Facts are there to see that Ayade is a man who takes responsibility in time. Take for instance, the COVID-19 setback. His proactive approach to ensuring that the State stayed safe remains most commendable. Given that, at the onset of the ”ENDSARS” protest, Ayade acted swiftly and actually tried to fix the problem. Like the pragmatic leader he is, he got the stakeholders (youth) themselves listen to his appeal for calm and was authentic in reiterating his passionate concern for the plight of the youths. He admitted the fault of leaders, of course stating obviously that the reason for
the protest had nothing to do with one administration or the other and further made In order not to prolong our
reputation damage, the Governor has once again proved his genuine love for

“In order not to prolong our reputation damage, the Governor has once again proved his genuine love for the people of Cross River State by shifting the space from unacceptable policies to making the correct timing vital through the adoption of fast action which is essential now.” sure that the problem got fixed with assurances of raised standards for the generality of Cross Riverians.

The people of Cross River State by shifting the space from unacceptable policies to making the correct timing
vital through the adoption of fast action which is essential now.
With the stylish presentation of the budget of 2021 Fiscal year and its perceived attendant positive results, indications are rife that Cross River State has again, started on the right footing. The rebuilding process, having sudden catastrophic unprecedented crisis that has left great lessons learned. This indeed, is the time to re-build back better.
We all have to join hearts and heads together to support Ayade’s well conceived Industrialization drive that is opening more opportunities for continuous jobs creation.
Cross River State has a great resource for future prosperity with an enviable advantage that makes it a Star Location in Nigeria, considering its rich natural resources.
Taking cognizance of these, and also recognizing that people are the most important assets in the world, Ayade brings the reality to bear through his consistent job creation. He is not relenting efforts in the interest to create jobs for unemployed people to have opportunity to smile and be happy that government is prioritizing the primary option of feeding the people.
It therefore, behooves on all Cross Riverians to ensure that we do not have to fail to act decisively, if not, we would still be facing new paths of “consumptic primitivistic efforts, just to reflect on the mood of the times.”

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…the fiscal appropriation is expected to stimulate new initiative for expansion as well as provide a basic structure for the state’s economic growth

Budgeting the world over is the structural allocation of fiscal estimates to various sectors with a view to attaining overall development. In most cases, the fiscal allocation does not reflect the actual sum available, but rather projected estimates that would come from laid out economic plans and actions. In some cases, the budgetary allocations are tailored strictly on the available resources or projected income which therefore gives rise to what is referred to as envelope size budgeting. There is however, the other pattern which merely expresses the wish or dream or the expected realistic target of the establishment. Analytically, these two budgeting patterns have their advantages and disadvantages. For the envelope size budgeting, the operators are limited to performing within the confines of the available resources. It does not create room for creativity.

On the other hand, the free estimate budgeting allows for robust planning beyond the confines of available resources. The advantage is that creativity is stimulated and results achieved. For a state like Cross River which is warming up to blaze the trail for rapid industrialization, the free pattern budgeting which does not restrict it to available resources becomes imperative. That is why it did not come as a surprise when Governor Ben Ayade recently announced a budget of one trillion, one hundred billion, one hundred and seven million, five hundred and seven thousand naira, nine kobo (N1,100,107,507.09) as 2020 Estimates for Cross River State. Christened “Budget of Olimpotic Meristamesis”, the fiscal appropriation is expected to stimulate new initiative for expansion as well as provide a basic structure for the state’s economic growth. The emphasis on capital expenditure of 82 per cent of the budget is an indication of the resolve of government to change the economic drive towards industrialization. Frankly speaking, if the budget is properly implemented, it will catalyze into existence great opportunities for citizens of the state to have a fill of democratic dividends.

However, the issue boils down to total support and commitment of the citizens towards the policy thrust of the Governor Ben Ayade administration. The aggressive industrialization by government attests to the recent Taiwan Cooperation Mission to CRS. The trade mission will among other benefits, initiate tremendous opportunities for our enterprising youth to attain technological breakthrough and better their lot as well as support the economic development of the state. In this regard, the state government has concluded plans to sponsor 50 Cross River-based business people to Taiwan for business-to-business linkages. This initiative is to concertize the road-map for the
industrialization of the state and to support the economic dreams of the present administration

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Matters Arising from the Nation’s Polity

“The electorate should participate fully in all the elections both at the state and national levels and ensure they vote wisely.”

It is often said that when two elephants are fighting, it is the grass that suffers. In the case of Nigeria’s political scenario where the elephants have multiplied in numbers, your guess is as good as mine. Ever since the political fever gripped the country few months ago, every other sector has been largely affected in one form or the other. While some sectors are favored, others have not really fared well. For instance, the socio-economic sector appears better favored as this period seems to be a bumper harvest season for
the players.

On daily basis, drummers throng the streets in numbers singing and dancing with placards and banners to drum up support for one party or the other and at the end of the day, the cash balances improve; food is placed on the table and some bills are settled. However, it is not so rosy for other areas like the financial and investment sectors where promises of better investment opportunities rent the air. Yet, no matter the circumstance, the bottom-line is a better future for all sectors in the country – economic, social, religious or political sphere. What this implies is that all hands must be involved in the collective effort to bring about a better government.

In Cross River State, with the track record of achievement of the Prof. Ayade-led administration, there is no doubt that his second term bid will be actualized. The advice however is that the second coming should focus on the completion of most of the projects that have been started or about to start. the Super Highway and the Deep Seaport projects that hold the key to the industrial development of the state should be given adequate attention. Cross Riverians from all walks of life and of all shades of opinion should be involved in the efforts to midwife the second term ambition of Prof, Ayade as his success promises hope of economic emancipation for the state. the electorate should participate fully in all the elections both at the state and national levels and ensure they vote wisely.

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Ayade: Taking Governance to Another Level

The 2018 budget in Cross River is a deceit budget. This has a classical advantage! It enables robust planning as opposed to cash based budgeting. That is why Governor Ayade says, “when the spirit aims high, the body will move to actualize the dream.’’

Sometimes it is difficult to predict the policy drive and governance style of the present administration in Cross River State. This is even more complex as the Governor; Prof. Ben Ayade is shooting from an angle that is very much at variance with the erstwhile state administration’s pattern. To that extent, a floodgate of diverse opinions and criticisms has splashed on the various policy initiatives of the Ayade-led government.

First was the issue of increasing the ministerial portfolio from 18 ministries to a staggering 28 in the face of dwindling financial resources of the state. The next was the appointment of more than 2,000 politicians into various positions, then followed the administration’s “signature projects”  the 141-kilometer Bakassi-Obudu Super Highway and the Bakassi deep sea port.  The industrialization of the state with a view to changing the socio-economic face of the state from a predominantly civil service status to an industrialized one, and not forgetting the N1.3 trillion budget of “Kinetic Crystallization” also loom large as potential legacies of the Ayade-led administration.  A scrutiny of the various policy initiatives clearly shows the directions they are headed – whether they are succeeding or failing. First, expanding the ministerial portfolio has created a robust administrative capacity that has enabled government to delve into areas that otherwise would have been neglected.

Recently, Cross River State Government through the instrumentality of the ministries of Petroleum and Gas, has discovered large gas deposits in the state and had written to the Federal government for a right to mine the resources. The same goes to the Ministry of Infrastructure as well as Bureau for Public Private Partnership (BPPP) that have successfully midwifed four good and promising companies to change the fortunes of the state.  These companies include, the Garment Factory, Rice Seedling Company – one of the best in Africa, The CalaPharm Pharmaceutical Company and the Independent power station.

The 6,000 hectares of banana plantation in Odukpani as well as the cocoa processing factory in Ikom cannot be over looked. It is on record that the economy of Nigeria today is passing through a phase that makes life uncomfortable. With the poor exchange rate of our currency and high cost of prices of goods and services, it is obvious that survival is a thorny issue in the country. However, this situation is not the same in Cross River State. For instance, while in some states, the civil servants are left to determine their  fate with a backlog of arrears of salaries owed them, the same cannot be said of Cross River State where issues of salaries are given priority attention. the fortunes of over 2,000 political appointees have been changed from depending on ‘handouts’ from ‘big’ politicians for survival to being key  participants in the administrative process of the state with a reward of monthly stipends. The state’s citizens could begin to imagine what  will happen when all companies mentioned start to fire all cylinders of their economic production. First, the unemployment problem in the state will reduce; secondly, the socioeconomic face of the state will change to a promising one.

The 2018 budget of N1.3 trillion is another area in which the economic intelligence of the present administration has come to play. One wonders how a state with known poor revenue base can operate such a gargantuan budget size!  The truth is that the 2018 budget in Cross River is a deficit budget. This has a classical advantage! It enables robust planning as opposed to cash-based budgeting. That is why Governor Ayade says, “When the spirit aims high, the body will move to actualize the dream.’’ The spirit of the present administration is aiming high; therefore, the body, which includes the Policy Implementation Department, must rise to actualize the dream of the present government.

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President Buhari’s Commendation And The Gov. Ayade Rice Revolution

On October 1, 2017, in his Independence Day broadcast to the Nigerian nation, President Muhammadu Buhari minced no words when he specially commended the Cross River State Government for supporting the Presidential agriculture initiative seeking to revolutionize the cultivation of crops like rice, cocoa, palm oil, cassava and others.

Agreeably, what the President has done is acknowledge that Governor Ben Ayade’s driven investment in rice farming and the revitalization of the state’s cocoa producing capacity, (just to mention a few) are key components that can prosper the state and her people. What this investment in local rice production will also do in the long run is simple; the gap between demand for rice and local production nationally, currently standing at 6.4 million metric tons annually, will be bridged.

For a nation currently spending around N356 billion importing this staple and not adequately utilizing vast acreages of land, Cross River State looks set to positively alter the rice production landscape as she strengthens her production capabilities. But how can all of this be achieved?

As a visible first step, the governor has acquired and began the cultivation of high yielding rice. He has also set in motion processes that will connect and strengthen the capacity of actors along the rice value chain as well as facilitate access to equipment and proper storage after harvest. Because in times past, strategic food security initiatives did not assess the trends in local rice production to gage yield potentials, harvest was poor. It is a situation the governor thoroughly understands and has taken into serious consideration as he pushes through with this novel initiative.  Those who worry about the compounding lack of small scale processing plants for excess perishable farm produce and the near absence of all year round farming cannot immediately point to Cross River State. The reason is simple; this administration’s improved decision making capability has already been put to test and the governor has interfaced adequately with a select group of organized people who will make meaningful investments in this direction.

Post-harvest losses remain a major constraint in the agricultural policy framework of any nation. The problem is made worse when you consider that extreme weather conditions in most parts of the state make most down-line farmers unable to store excess farm produce. It is a serious challenge to the Ayade administration’s food security initiative and the fulfillment of this policy objective. He plans to go around this challenge by encouraging and providing the commercial sector in the state with technical support in grain handling and storage capacity. Off-takers have even been targeted for the close to 60,000 metric tones of local rice that will hopefully be produced.

Across the rice value chain, as the Ayade rice revolution rolls forward, human capacity is being built because several individuals across the state are being trained and exposed to modern rice farming techniques.  The domino effect will manifest in the accompanying propagation of these techniques across several other farms within the state and beyond. Finally, the best that can be done is lending the governor the kind of support and partnership that will in turn make life easier for the Cross River State farmer and other citizens.

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