Rice Seeds and Seedling Factory, Calabar

We may not have been able to pick every widow from the streets but we have been able to engage some widows across the State, to see how they can still be able to feed their children and also pay school fees. Even if a lot of them are under –employed, it is better to be under-employed than being unemployed. Under-employment is a situation whereby, someone actually has a job but feels that the pay or the position being designated to him/her is not right. For instance, if the person is a university graduate and is placed on a lower Grade level other than that due a graduate, it means that such a person is under-employed but then, it is still better than having nothing to do, and no source of income at all. The present administration has been able to address all of such issues and is still consistent
with doing much more. It is still work in progress and do not forget, we are still going to engage lots more of our people.
Soon, some of our factories will begin to function very well again and we shall employ more people. But for the
COVID-19 pandemic, lots of our people would have been engaged.
MOFINEWS: Given the fact that most of these industries seem to be localized in the metropolitan city of Calabar, do you not think that majority of the rural populace would be looking at migrating to the urban areas? Are there measures being put in place to make them appreciate their environments?

HON. COMMISSIONER: No, the rural dwellers do not need to migrate to urban areas because this administration is committed to policy reforms that are favourable to both the rural and urban populace. For this reason, our visionary Governor came up with the laudable initiative which is the policy of “One Local Government Area, (At least), One Factory” and most of the persons being employed are within the catchment areas where the respective factories are sited. So, you can see that those living in the rural areas would not have any reason for migration. The factories sited at each local government area of the State for the people living in the heart of the communities would go a long way to ensuring their total integration into the Industrialization Agenda of the present administration.
Remember, the focal point of Nigeria’s economy is an Agriculture, so those living in the rural areas stand a better
chance to get involved in agricultural activities because they have the land, raw materials and labour, as well. The
days of oil are gradually going off. Take a look at Boki local government for instance, we are establishing a palm oil
processing plant there. The idea is to bleach the oil, make it colourless, odourless and stabilize it.
MOFINEWS: Are we saying here that it took some needs assessments to know what Boki produces, like palm oil.

HON. COMMISSIONER: Oh! Yes! And all the local government areas have one, two or more factories sited in their respective domains. The palm oil produce from Boki would very well feed the noodles factory which would be using major raw materials from the local communities. This is aside from rice and wheat flour.
MOFINEWS: So what is the situation of other areas attached with Industries as well?


HON. COMMISSIONER: In Yala, we are building yam flour factory. This is to make it easy for our farmers so that they do not have to harvest the yams and rush to sell them at low prices for fear of damages. Yam flour has massive value, both inside and outside of the country.
For Ikom, the Cocoa processing plant is ongoing. With cocoa production, we shall be more economically strong, households’ income would improve and employment as well, would be readily available, thereby, providing options for our small holder farmers.
In Obubra where I am from, we are establishing cassava starch processing plant. The glucose we eat around is gotten
from cassava starch. The common sweets and chewing gums we eat are extracts from the sweetener that is glucose syrup.
MOFINEWS: Oh! I see how rich we are!
HON. COMMISSIONER: Yes, we are really blessed. In Bekwarra, because of the abundance of groundnuts, we shall be establishing groundnut oil processing plant for the extraction of groundnut oil which is richer than the common vegetable oils which are mainly derivatives of chemical processes. and in Ogoja, do not forget, we have the already visible Rice Mill.
At Obudu, we already have the Canadian School, which is a Comprehensive High School that would be using the Canadian curriculum, alongside the British curriculum and that of Nigeria. There is also the Reference Hospital Sited there. The International Cargo Airport has also been sited at Obudu to keep in conveying visitors from Obudu to the Ranch Resort at Obanliku. One major reason for the choice of Obudu as site for the International Cargo Airport is to beat the challenges of the Bebi Airstrip which has been a challenge for smooth and successful flights. This has sadly been the reason for the one and two crashes recorded so far. The real problem is that the mountains by the right side of the Airstrip are very high, as high as the mountains of the Ranch Resort itself. As such, posing threat to smooth and safe flights. That is why Obudu, with a plain ground, has been so chosen.
The Ranch Resort has been drawing a lot of investors who are now planning to start a Diary Farm at the place. You know that was the original idea of the Ranch. To rear animals for milk and yoghurt production because of its favourable climate for rearing cattle. Also, the ornamental flowers up too, are being groomed at the Ranch Resort,
because of its attractive climate. With the help of the airport, we can harvest good flowers in the morning, package and send them out of the country same day, still very fresh. You won’t believe the revenue that accrues from ornamental flowers. This is exactly what drives Kenyan economy today. Some of them are used for perfumes and other cosmetics around the world. I could go on and on but I will quickly add that in Abi, LGA the Soughai Farms is still very much in place. At Biase, we have the State Teachers’ Training Institute.

Akamkpa has the Pylon factory located at Awi. A Reference hospital is also sited at Akpabuyo while Bakassi has the Fish Processing Plant. Calabar South has Carlas Vegas. Calabar Municipality has Garment
Factory, Power plant and the Pharmaceutical plant. Etung is blessed with a Reference hospital and Noodles factory.
Odukpani has the Banana plantation.
MOFINEWS: Advice to Cross Riverians especially the youth.
HON. COMMISSIONER: Everybody should key into government policies and programmes as there is something for everyone who is ready to work.

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COMMISSIONER FOR INDUSTRY ON PLATFORM

Nigeria is 60 years already as an Independent Nation. Bravo! And to all of us; that we have been able to stay together as one indivisible entity, even with political upheavals and socioeconomic challenges confronting us daily, we remain grateful. It is no longer news that poverty reigns in our country. Neither is it in doubt that the crime rate in Nigeria is on the increase, with its numerous complications. Now, is time again, to reflect on the state of the nation. In doing this, we need to possibly, begin with looking at the remote and immediate causes of the setback syndrome that is fighting so strongly to cripple the country’s development. The major issue to consider here, is unemployment. This is a national issue that should not be thrown out with a mere wave of the hand, either by an individual or government. Unemployment is still an unfinished business. The rate of unemployed people, particularly the youths, is growing in geometric progression. Though, this is not just a Nigerian problem, as it is a world-wide phenomenon that demands global attention. Our concern is Nigeria. The impact is also devastating here, being a developing country. At 60 years, the unemployment rate in the country is even more disturbing, given the fact that thousands of the country’s youths still roam the streets without jobs placement opportunities.
Nigeria’s economic condition still cannot absorb an optimal proportion of its labour force, thus, making the rise in crimes and other social vices, order of the day. It is therefore, reasonable to look at the great concern of the Cross River State Governor, Sen. (Prof.) Ben Ayade, has in redefining growth and development, as he launched an aggressive industrialization drive, upon taking the mantle of leadership in the State. He has been consistent with creating continuous jobs opportunities that can offer numerous Cross Riverians sustainable livelihoods.
In trying to justify his innovative strategies, Ayade said, “I know what I am doing, when I made the choice of going into industrialization. I can build a road from here to Ougadougu and it will not create jobs but when I build a factory, it would create jobs…so why are you a Governor when your people go to bed, hungry…?” It could be recalled that, these factories have indeed, be built in the State, but with zero allocation from the country’s federal account. Not only that, cross River State has been the first and only State in Nigeria that pays salaries, ever since Ayade came into office. “In spite of the fact I have also brought thousands of people into the State government’s payroll through political appointments”, the Governor, stated.
Ayade’s performance keeps lifting Cross River higher and higher as he has stylishly turned the State into a Role Model State worthy of emulation. His style of governance, in terms of the innovative strategies he has put in place is impacting on the generality of the people, clearly defining him as a Governor, making the difference. He is ever ready to demonstrate his passion for industrialization of the State. This is evident in the multi-billion Naira jobs he is creating from the numerous factories spread across the State. Cross River Garment factory with over 2000 sewing machines is the first of its kind in Africa. Deep Sea Port at Bakassi, massive Rice Seeds and Seedlings Factory, Cosmetic Factory, including the 30,000 tones capacity Cocoa Processing Plant and many other of his Signature Projects, are receiving commendation across the nation and beyond.
Worthy too, of mention, is the continuous thump-up Ayade is getting from Farmers, for the political goodwill that has been encouraging them to embrace agriculture. “Anybody who has never believed in farming, now has to believe. It is the future”, he said, as he described it as “an untapped goldmine”.
The visible corresponding industrial growth being fed by Ayade’s passion for enhancing livelihood everywhere in the State is commendable. Considering that Sir Ben Ayade’s Industrial Model is now a reference model that other states in the country are following and that the system has set the pace for the kind of development pattern that prospective partners, donors and investors are now following for future development cooperation, MOFINEWS took a close look at how Cross River State has fared so far, as Nigeria turned 60 years, an Independent Nation and how the present administration has consistently dwelt on large scale industrialization with potentials for continuous jobs creation and significant reduction on unemployment.
On our Prestigious PLATFORM, we had an energetic, young promising leader with so much passion for service, grace our interview for this all-important Edition. Mr. Peter Egba, who heads the Industrialization sector in the State as Commissioner for Industries, will leave no one who interacts closely with him, with no doubt that he is indeed, one of the vibrant young leaders in Cross River that desire to achieve above and beyond expectations.
It was an-on- the spot interview and the Commissioner seized the opportunity to equally prove his capability and competence. He spoke with such amazing authority signifying that he surely knows how to “Count his onions”. His expertise in giving accurate account on the Industrialization journey so far in Cross River left us convinced that, truly he is a man well-vested in the developmental progress of the State.
For those who may not have known Peter Egba before, can now see that he is an astute administrator, a livewire Industrialist with potentials for achieving higher heights through his consistent strong values that depict him as a distinguished leader that can be held accountable for his words, actions and never-giving chances for excuses. Where others might think a task is too difficult, Egba portrays the picture of an enthusiastic leader passionately driving the Ayade Industrialization dream with so much energy and positivity. No wonder, the enabling environment provided for the conduct of the interview took an interesting shape, a drift from the conventional interview that had questionnaires posted ahead of the actual one-on- one chat.
Excepts:

MOFINEWS: Nigeria is sixty now, we have seen that achieving rapid industrialization has been difficult even as the present administration of Sir Ben Ayade has been trying to fix this, to really make it matter; As it concerns rapid industrialization and the technology capacity skills. We wish to know what steps your office has taken so far, to actualize this laudable dream.
HON. COMMISSIONER: Thank you very much. Nigeria is 60 years already and this means that the country has come a long way. The idea behind independence basically, was to emancipate the country from the grip of the Colonial Masters as it were. So that we could be independent politically, economically and otherwise. So far so good, we have been able to liberate ourselves politically and partially, economically too. Partially because our economy is not absolutely depending on us in the sense that we still do not determine the prices of what we produce as our major source of revenue.It is determined by external bodies. So economically, we are not 100% economically free and now to
cascade it down to cross River State, we have a lot to show for, especially in this present administration which started in
2011.
When this government came on board, the Governor Sen. (Prof) Ben Ayade made it clear that he wanted to industrialize the State. Between that time till now, he has not let anyone down in the sense that we have been able to turn Cross River State into an Industrialized State. The idea behind all these is to gradually de-couple ourselves over depending on permission account, to create employment for our youths and population and also, increase our revenue means as a State. That is the idea behind the industrialization drive. So far, we know that some factories are already working and we have been able to engage some persons. We have taken them from the streets, not knowing what they would have been doing now without getting employed into these factories. Some of the women could have gotten into prostitution, and the young men into other vices, who knows? So, because of the industrialization drive, we have been able to employ people and feel very glad that they now feed their families and are able to also, send their children to schools. More so, they feel very glad living well in their houses.
MOFINEWS: Do we have key indicators showing those who have been beneficiaries of the industrialization drive?

HON. COMMISSIONER: If you go to the Garment Factory for instance, most of the persons employed there are women and a greater percentage which are widows. One would have taught that if a factory is established, the focal point would be on the revenue generation. But the Governor, goes beyond that. The reason is that, he is looking at the social component of it. When you begin to think about bringing widows into one particular place so that they could earn a living, it has definitely gone beyond economy, it has become social change.So that it would help to ameliorate the sufferings as a result of loss of their husbands who were their bread winners.

 

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ON PLATFORM COMMISSIONER FOR INDUSTRY MR. PETER EGBA

“Ayade’s performance keeps lifting Cross River higher and higher as he has stylishly turned the State into a Role Model State worthy of emulation. His style of governance, in terms of the innovative strategies he has put in place is impacting on the generality of the people, clearly defining him as a Governor, making the difference. He is ever ready to demonstrate his passion for industrialization of the State. This is evident in the multi-billion Naira jobs he is creating from the numerous factories spread across the State.”

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INTERVIEW WITH HON SPEAKER, CRHA, RT HON ETENG JONAH WILLIAMS

Less than one week after Governor Ben Ayade signed the proclamation notice, the 9th Cross River State House of Assembly convened and elected its officers with Rt. Hon. Eteng Jonah William elected as the Honourable Speaker on Platform Interview with MOFINEWS Magazine, Rt. Hon. Eteng bared his mind on his plans for the 9th Assembly. The Excerpts: 

Mr. Speaker, how do you assess your first 100 days in office?

Hon Speaker: Well, it’s refreshing, challenging but we are equal to the task. You know when you start off a project you don’t just look at the beauty of it. You also look at the hurdles you have to cross. Before I ran for the election to be Speaker, I knew there were going to be hurdles to cross (and) to an extent… we are crossing those hurdles. For me it’s okay, it’s something I really expected.

How many bills has the 9th Assembly passed so far?

Hon Speaker: In the 9 Assembly we’ve not passed any bill. They are all in the process. A bill is not passed in one day. At least it goes through a process (for) a law that has to last for a time. Not for a short time… so that posterity (will be better for it). You don’t pass a bill in one day because every day you’ll need to do an amendment. It has to go
through a process. You list a bill which is the notice, after the first stage, it goes into the second stage… which is at the time inputs are made and (go into) debates on the floor. After that, you commit it into a committee. That
committee calls for public hearing when the public will be (invited) to come and make inputs especially professional bodies that have (something) to do with that particular bill. (That is) interested bodies and organizations, persons
that are knowledgeable concerning the bill itself… So a bill is not something (that) you just wake up (and start making a bill); it’s not like a motion that you can write today and take it tomorrow. But so far we have started with
about six or seven bills (that are) in the process. Some have even passed through the second stage.

Sir, how are you faring in terms of your oversight functions?

Hon Speaker: The aim of the 9 Assembly will be to do more of oversight functions which we have already started… The Committee on Agric is interfacing with (the management of) all the (agricultural) estates like PAMOL and the rest. Before now we’ve even visited some of the government projects like the rice seedlings and the Ayade industrial
park. We’ve gone to Biase where the institution… the Teachers (Continuing Education) Institute is located… We are going to do more of oversight functions. The only challenge we’re facing right now is that we are waiting for one
or two vehicles that (would) take us everywhere. That is what has slowed us down. But it has not stopped us from doing our oversight functions. Everything we’re doing in the 9th Assembly…One, the Governor in his second term
inauguration said he is going to be in the field… (and) explained that the theme of his government in this Ayade
Second term Government is putting your hands on the plough which we are going to follow suit. For us, we are
putting a tab on them to ensure we increase our oversight responsibilities.

What is your assessment of the performance of the 2019 budget implementation and your expectation of the 2020 estimates?

Hon Speaker: …You’re coming from the Ministry of Finance where (the) releases are resident. Because I don’t think for the House we have any challenge with releases. Releases have to do with what is available. You don’t
release what you don’t have… It is what you have that you release. And that’s why from your Ministry, the Ministry of Finance; they should be able to tell us what they have (from) the actual so that we know where we should go… But from the 9th Assembly, we are determined… If you say you want to create an industry, and you start the process, you have given us the room to go into it… But when you say you’re creating an industry but the process is not being done, we’ll not start forcing you to start implementation of your budget… That’s where the issue of the current budget lies. If you have a big budget you need to know the philosophy behind that budget. We need to know if it is possible for the implementation of such a …budget of about N1.3 trillion (N1,300,000,000.00). Do we have it? Can we achieve it? But we only know that this budget is not what we have. It is what we expect. So it makes it a little bit more difficult to start putting pressure on the Executive to implement. You only put pressure when you ask oversight of what they are doing, not what they have not started doing… You need to get that right. It is what they are doing (plan to do), if they started doing it… not to start putting pressure on them that you must start doing it… Are you giving them the funds? No. It is only when the funds are available that you can… Like now if they start the construction of a road, you’ve given us the leeway to start doing our oversight function. But when there is nothing like a bridge,
what are you “over-sighting”?

How are you tackling capacity building for members especially to get the first timers acquainted with the workings of the legislature?

Hon Speaker: We have done like two trainings – one at Enugu and we’ve done one here (in Calabar) since we came into office. It’s a continuous process… We’ve just done about four months or so. In my inaugural speech I said it… You cannot cut corners… We must train for people to get to a level that you want them to (perform). So capacity building is one of our cardinal points… If you read my inaugural speech, I said it clearly that training is key to effective legislation.

Until we get our autonomy where things are done from here and by us, we may not be able to make any headway in terms of infrastructure

Why there clamour for an Assembly Commission and what is the situation in Cross River State?

Hon Speaker: It’s a must for us to have autonomy. When I use the word “must”, I mean it. In the 8th Assembly it was not signed into law. But as I speak to you… just on Thursday (9th October, 2019), our last sitting day, it came up; we mentioned it. And that bill, we’ve started the process. You can’t have autonomy without Assembly Commission. And we are clamoring for an Assembly Commission and we hope that this time around it must be assented to

But so far we have started with about six or seven bills (that are) in the process. Some have passed through the second stage

 

One of the first motions taken and moved in the 9th Assembly was the call for enforcement of the ban on commercial motor cycle operations in the state. What prompted this call and why are you not looking at the virtual blanket ban as it affects those operating in the outskirts of Calabar especially the rural areas?

Hon Speaker: We’re maintaining what we have… Before we went on recess, there was a motion to that effect…;
trying to ignite that bite for all the agencies that are saddled with the responsibility of controlling the motorbikes. We cannot afford to go back. Little by little we will give (the law) it a bite. We must remember that there is a law. Of
recent what we are saying; we’re only calling on the implementing agencies to enforce that particular legislation… It was not a blanket ban as such. There were designated areas like 8 Miles and other areas (on the outskirts of Calabar Municipality) that were (allowed) that window to operate. It was not that total that if you’re living in that forest, you should not operate, No! Go back to it (the law) and you’d see that there are designated areas that (they) were allowed to operate.

Hon. Speaker, could you assess the relationship between the Legislature and the other two arms of
government in the state?

Hon Speaker: Cordial relationship. We have a very cordial relationship between the three arms… Like I tell people,
you did not elect us to come here to wear boxing gloves to fight. It is that synergy between the three arms of government that will give us good governance… In Cross River State we are too matured to fight on the streets. Because most people will say if you’re not fighting you’re a rubber stamp. To me, it looks cheap. Because we’ve overused the word “rubber stamp”; because when we were elected you did not tell me, “When you get there start fighting”. We said use the power of the tongue to convince (others); dialogue is the key word. If they are not doing
well in the Executive, we have a way of telling them; by way of motions, by way of writing. It is not only (by) publishing or writing

We are going to do more of oversight functions. The only challenge we’re facing right now is that we are waiting for one or two vehicles that (would) take us everywhere.

on the pages of newspaper that we (get the message across). But when they don’t… I give you a couple of instances. When the issue of RUGA (Rural Urban Gracing Areas, a policy proposed by the Federal Government but suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari because of the controversy it brewed) came up, and there was an outcry, we
invited the (state government’s) Committee on Lands and said no, we don’t understand what the committee was doing when our people were crying (out)… because we work for the people, not for ourselves… We invited them here
for a public explanation which they did and till you can see that you are at home with this committee because the House invited them and they came and explained to the… The Environment too… They said they set up a Committee on Environment… they said Calabar was getting dirty. We invited them here to come and explain to us. Shortly after
that they promised us (the) environmental sanitation (exercise) which was optional but we started seeing an improvement. I give another instance. There was outcry for water… there was no water in CRS especially in Calabar and its environs. We invited the Water Board Managing Director and gave him an ultimatum. And true to his words, as I speak to you, we’re not complaining again. These are all the instances where we have to put the bites on the
relationship with other arms of government. Once you’re not doing the right thing, we call on you too. The same way, even the Judiciary. When the kidnap issue came, we (referred them to) the law, the Anti-Kidnap Law (which) they said they had not seen. We took it to the Chief Judge… So don’t tell us there are no laws to checkmate such (unwholesome) activity (kidnapping in the state). So for us, we don’t just sit down. We want justice for our people and that’s all within Cross River State…

Please Sir, enlighten us on the rationale for including Niger Mills PLC and other private companies in your House’s oversight schedule.

Hon Speaker: It’s not about interest. They are working in CRS. The smell coming out of there, it’s Cross Riverians that suffer. When you pass through that area, you would understand what we’re talking about. We need to monitor
their operations even if it’s a private company when you are working in CRS… The pollution there is not for Imo State indigenes or for Rivers State indigenes… It’s Cross Riverians and the hazards affect Cross Riverians… We’re writing a letter to them (other companies operating in CRS because) when you’re working in CRS, you must conform to) certain rules guiding the operations… The welfare of Cross Riverians (also matters)… They are working there… what are the terms? Don’t just take us for a ride… You come here and take away everything… One of the things that came with PAMOL and the rest,… they are also looking at the employment in the establishments; is it only Cross Riverians who are meant for menial jobs while the managerial jobs are given to outsiders and you are working in
CR? We need to look into this.

How is the state legislature addressing the issue of Cross River State being deprived of its quota in the Federal Public Service and Junior Staff positions in Federal MDAs meant for the state’s indigenes?

Hon Speaker: That is why we have a Committee on Public Petition. If you are hot informed about a particular development, we cannot act. And our brothers in the APC (All Progressives Congress)-led government at the Federal (tier) are controlling it because there is a political angle of it; they need to also put in (their) efforts… We have a Federal Commissioner… I think he is from Akwa Ibom (State)… representing Cross River and Akwa Ibom. Since
it has happened we need a desk office, a Cross River desk office. The desk officer… if he is representing us, we (could) summon him to come and give us information. He (shouldn’t) just sit there without giving us feedback. We need feedback so that we can act; so that we can also use our brothers and sisters at the National Assembly to ask (for our

They (Cross Riverians) should exercise patience. They should show understanding. Let them give us basic information that would help us to work together…

summon him to come and give us information. He (shouldn’t) just sit there without giving us feedback. We need feedback so that we can act; so that we can also use our brothers and sisters at the National Assembly to ask (for our quota). But we must have the correct information about that.

What are the other challenges of your office?

Hon Speaker: As a Speaker, you are first among equals. First, you have to bear with your members who are your colleagues and your mates. Thank God, I have very wonderful colleagues that understand that Mr. Speaker is not
a magician and that the resources available to the state are not allowing us to provide everything we look for; that is due to us. And they must have to understand the way government is being run (and that) we have very little resources that come to us. So the issue of money is a very big challenge because there are things I’ll like to do. I will like to renovate this place but I have to wait… And that takes us back to the autonomy question. Until we get our autonomy where things are done from here and by us, we may not be able to make any headway in terms of
infrastructure… Maybe one day, we’ll wake up and find that we have autonomy, we can then handle the things ourselves… This is the budget for this and the budget for that… because it comes to you direct from the federation
account. So you must work. Then the issue is the expectations. We have a lot of expectations from the people. How do we manage these expectations? These are all challenges. But God on our side, we’ll be able to handle them. So
far so good

We need feedback so that we can act; so that we can also use our brothers and sisters at the National Assembly to ask (for our quota in the Federal public service).

What is your advice to Cross Riverians:

Hon Speaker: They should exercise patience. They should show understanding. Let them give us basic information that would help us to work together, let them collaborate with us. As a Cross Riverians, we must cooperate, work as a team to make progress. >>>

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PLATFORM

“Government policy today is built on nine-pillar platform that is expected to sustain and drive the Industrialization vision of the state…”

 

Mofi news: You are the D.G. of BPPP in Cross River State, how are you coping with the duties of your office?

DG: Certainly well, the demands of the duty of my office are well within my understanding and I think I am totally focused on it, and ensuring to the best of my ability it is done by going the extra mile to getting them done.

Mofi news: Would you say you have achieved on the mandate of your office?

DG: Yes of course, for us, basically the BPPP is the bureau that is set up by the State Law no. 6 of 2010 with the focus to ensure that we attract private sector investment and expertise as well as ensuring that world class infrastructure is established in the state. If you look at what is happening now particularly with regards to economic policies and of course the industrialization policy as well, you would certainly say yes that the state government for once is thinking outside the box. This is why BPPP is in place to enable government actualize its dreams. It would not have been at a better time than now because the public sector itself is really bedeviled with lean resources which has adversely affected the economy of Cross River State. For instance, the federal allocation which is the main revenue base of the state is nothing to write home about. That is basically because most of the infrastructure that were established before now, were procured mainly through asset backed transactions.

These where transactions that where based on payment from the resources of the state and which enabled deductions to be made at source. Banks that funded such projects through Irrevocable Standing Payment Order[ISPO] were allowed to take their money at source. Because of that it has been so tight for the state government that is operating with very lean purse due to deductions at source for payment of outstanding loans. That is where the BPPP comes in to bring private investment into the state. To bring private investment into the state requires an enabling environment that will attract investment, so if you look at what His Excellency the governor is doing now, it is to push for asset backed transactions that have the capacity to generate its own cash flow and then pay on that investment. For any investor to be attracted to the state, the first thing that comes to mind is how to secure return on investment. Again too, the government thinking is very deep, and that is particularly why it started with a budget of deep vision in 2015.

The deep vision entails change in attitude and mind set of the people to accept the new policy agenda of the present government that is aimed at driving the state to an industrialized destination. As a matter of fact, we are still having issues on the thinking of the people. Most people are still living within the era where government used to award contracts and stuff like that but that is not the vision of the present government. The Ayade –led government prefers to create enabling environment and window of opportunities for investment to thrive. Government policy today is built on nine pillar platform that is expected to sustain and drive the industrialization vision of the state. These pillars include agriculture, manufacturing, hydrocarbon exploration, industrialization, education, health, power sector development, water supply, and tourism. that framework is the only framework that has enabled Ayade to thrive and that’s what people don’t know even till today so for us it is to continuously try to ensure that there is a buy- in into that. We want to create the spirit of enterprise among Cross Riverians and get our people to be entrepreneurs, to be able to determine their faith, work for themselves, create employ employment for themselves. That was why the concept of that signature projects of Deep-sea Port and Super Highway came to be.

Why is Lagos state almost self-dependent? Lagos state is self-dependent because the internally generated revenue alone of Lagos state is N45 billion and another six billion from the federal allocation, so when they take six billion and add to N45 billion every month, Lagos State has about fifty-one billion naira to do the business of government. So it means that Lagos State can do any project, it can do roads and other social services. But if Ayade comes with the small private sector’s money it becomes difficult for him to run government as he would otherwise have wished to. I read the other day in social media that Ayade got and wasted N800 billion from the federation account, in fact I was just laughing because people don’t have accurate information. Now let’s talk statistics, in 2017 the state got N23.4 billion from the centre. Out of this amount, deductions at source alone gulped as high as N18.4 billion. If you remove N18 billion from N23 billion what is left is paltry five billion. And if you add the N14.1 billion of IGR for that year you will see that the state was left with less than N20 billion to build infrastructure, construct roads, provide healthcare facility and pay salaries of both civil servants and political  appointees. So you can see that the idea to think outside the box and seek an alternative platform to support governance is in itself a very commendable reasoning.

Do you now see where Ayade is different? If he was a mere ordinary politician he would have been satisfied with regular payment of salaries alone, but this man is a businessman and he wants to leave his footprint in the sands of time. One very important information is that His Excellency should not be the only person that has the duty of wooing investors either foreign or domestic, every Cross Riverian, every Nigerian has that duty to perform. This is because the framework is very clear if you bring an investor with capacity to invest then be rest assured that the state government through BPPP will facilitate the speedy take-off of such project. We will ensure an enabling environment for you and then provide security to compliment the status of the state as the investment destination. If you look at the program of government now you would see the take-off of some companies like the garment factory, the Calabar Pharmaceutical [CALAPHARM], you would also see the rice seed and seedling company as well as the organo- fertilizer company some of which have been commissioned while others would soon be commissioned. The independent power plant is another project that needs to be mentioned. The state is currently driving electricity project that would generate up to 57 megawatt of electricity to power the industrial park and drive it.

For the rice seedling project, there is currently paid- up sum on that factory. In fact, as I’m talking, the  First set of rice seedling has already geminated. It takes just fourteen days for the rice seedling to germinate. What it means now is that you can go to market and start attracting investment to the state. The next one is the CALAPHARM, which of course is currently running adverts for managerial positions. I am begging our people to have faith in the company and take advantage of the opportunity to reduce unemployment in the state. Who are the off – takes?

The off-takers for the Calabar Pharmaceutical is the Ayade Healthcare project. Of course in a month or two from now the Ayade health insurance scheme would be  offcially launched. Every family or person that pays N45,000 naira a year would be entitled to be part of the scheme. Once this forty- five thousand is paid, the family of the registered beneficiary will be treated free of whatever ailment and the drugs would come from the pharmaceutical company. Then for the rice seedling project, the off-taker is the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria [RIFAN]. The Association is showing much interest in the project. They have approached the state for permission to be major partaker in the project. Cross River government has also guaranteed to buy-off whatever quantity of rice produced by members of the association as an incentive for the farmers to bring out more yield. the condition is simple, First of all you’ll buy our seedlings, then let your members go and plant. When the harvesting season comes, we will buy off all produce. That is the wisdom in the construction of the rice processing factory that is ongoing now in Ogoja and Yala. The rice will be processed there as opposed to the earlier practice where rice from the area were transported to Abakaliki in Ebonyi State to be milled and called Abakaliki rice. Apart from having the advantage of being milled in Ogoja, the rice processing factory would also allow Cross River State to be positioned properly as one of the rice producing states in the country. Same goes for cocoa production. Today if I ask who are the prime producers of cocoa in Nigeria, the answer would simply be Ondo state. But you also know that Ikom,Boki, Etung axis produces large quantity of cocoa and because there was no focused policy on the production of cocoa in Cross River, most of the products were taken to Ondo to be processed. So with the state of the art processing plant being put in place in Ikom, cocoa production would be enhanced and the valued addition would be achieved.

Mofi  news: the local content problem that discriminates against the local labour in favour of expatriates, how do you contain the with the situation?

DG: Well, the local content issue is taken very seriously. As I am talking, the Calabar pharmaceutical company, CALAPHARM is running adverts for employment of managerial manpower, but Cross Riverians are not showing sufficient interest to apply for jobs. I think it is wrong for our people to position themselves to be employed as drivers, factory workers, securities and other low levelled employment. So what we are doing now is hunting for our people and advising them to go and apply for jobs in this company because it has a closing date. It is open for everybody, it is in the national dailies and the advertisements are running for positions such as pharmacist, microbiologist, accountants and other Fields of managerial positions. the truth is most of the technologies that are coming into the state are being domesticated because we want to positioned our people to acquire the technology. For the training, about 18 people in partnership with Skyrun are to be sent to China for training. Another number will also be sent for off shore training to position them for the fabrication academy to support the deep sea port when it finally takes off . You see, the believe of his Excellency the governor as a person in the human capital development is to ensure that our people partake in the high level technological transfer so that we can truly domesticate the technology and domesticate the industry spent. Let me tell you, when you pay the expatriate, the money would go, but if our people have the capacity to do that same job, when you pay them they would spend it within the economy here so those are our primary focus. Apart from that, in the development of agreement, we ensure that we do not toy with the local content and that’s why in the chain there is a framework that has been created that lay strong emphasis on Local Private Party and the Strategic Equity Partner, and of course, the Strategic Equity Partner[SEP] would be liaising with whoever is the owner of the fund who is called the Senior Debt Funder but that there must be local private party, is part of the way to create that local content.

Mofi news: How many companies has your agency been able to partner and bring into the state and what is the scope of their performance?

DG: It is not a hidden thing that you are seeing what is happening in the state at the moment, it has come to maturity. When this administration started, everybody came wanting to pull out something or sign MoU with government because they thought that there will be contracts for execution and so several MoUs where signed. the truth is that, only the person with the capacity to perform and has the Financial backup, are the people that this government can do business with. In terms of talking to several people we have talked to several thousands and we have entered MoU. MoU is an ordinary relationship establishing responsibility. I meet you now and we want to manufacture maybe table water.  the negotiation will be, what would be your responsibility and what would be my responsibility, so we just put that paper and call it MoU. the ability to now produce the table water will be the function of you being able to bring the money. So when you are now able to bring the money it means that the MoU has crystallized. That’s why the budget of this year is called the budget of kinetic crystallization. Kinetic means motion, that it will continue, that we will not rest, we will not sleep and we will continue to push for those MoUs that we have signed to come to reality.

Coming to terms with reality is the crystallization, which means let’s see how we can push the investors both domestic and foreign that have signed the MoU to have a relationship with us. Of course few have crystallized. For example, the plantation in Odukpani has crystallized, the CALAPHARM has crystallized, the rice seed and seedlings company has crystallized, the power plant has crystallized, the Ikom cocoa processing factory has crystallized and the rice mill in Ogoja has crystallized. All these are happening because this is a year of implementation and a year that we must push everybody to succeed. So when people don’t understand, they criticize government that they are only signing MoU without any thing to show. The truth is that you should not reject anybody that comes with business proposal. that’s the law. In fact, that is why Cross River is a friendly state. Sometimes people ask why government does not complete one project before entering another one? The fact is that government is constantly playing host to several investors who come to do one form of business or the other on daily bases. So if a particular investor comes with the intention of investing say, in power sector and another comes to invest in agro-allied venture, the question is would you now wait for the investor in power sector to complete his project before you embark the agro-allied investment?

The simple answer is no because that will delay the vision of government. The advantage in this approach is that several infrastructures would be established in the state. the important thing is for the investor to have the finnancial muscle to execute his project. Another advantage is that the law of the state allows the investor maximum 25 years recover the cost of investment. But however, if the cost of the investment could not be recovered after 25 years, then additional five years could be negotiated. So after 30 years, the property automatically reverts to the state. That is the partnership with BPPP in Cross River State. BPPP council is an agency that is headed by His Excellency, the Deputy Governor just like an economic council with membership drawn from the commissioner of Justice, commissioner of finance, commissioner responsible for investment, D.G., Due Process and of course, myself as the Secretary as the D.G., BPPP. we have the singular responsibility to ensure that we continue to go to the private sector and woo investors into the state.

Mofi  news: About the Deepsea Port and the Super highway, what role is your agency playing?

DG: (cuts in excitedly) Very big one! To start with, the D.G. seated here., Udiba Effiong Udiba, I am a member of the project steering committee [PSC]. I am also a member of the project delivery team. The deep sea port in itself is a deep vision from His Excellency the governor but you see, if you are going to build a deep sea port, the government agency that has the over-sight responsibility of that project is the Nigeria Port Authority. That’s because its water and anything that has to do with water is the federal government concern So if the project was strictly within the control of the state, I can assure you by now that project would have been completed. But since it is mandatory that we have to go through the due process compliance of the federal government and the MDA that is responsible is the federal ministry of transport, the starting point was the International Competitive Bid [IBC]. that is why the bid for the deepsea port was published in the Economist and international companies bided for the project. the project steering committee that was set up by the federal government, not the state government, looked through and was able to come to terms by appointing the transaction adviser. The transaction adviser is a feedback infrastructure. I can tell you that till the process of appointing that feedback infrastructure was done the governor did not know which company was involved. Bakassi deep-sea port is a classic example of a fully compliant transaction in Nigeria and the processes are ongoing.

The transaction adviser has been appointed to create a document called Outline Business Case [OBC] to enable a business case to be established for the sitting of the deep-sea port and sensitize the feasibility studies so as to come out with internal rate of returns for that project. So if the very First document is so pure, then the consultant that would come to do FBC would just pass it. But do you know what, His Excellency the governor is already undergoing the preliminary framework for the deep-sea port. So if you go to the deep-sea port site today, preliminary dredging has already started to underscore the importance of that project to the state.  The truth is because we are here in Calabar we don’t know what is happening at the Bakassi project site. When we recently took the NLC to the Ayade industrial park, they were shocked to see what is on ground, like the Garment factory they have been hearing of the pharmaceutical company and of course the rice seed and seedling company. That’s why seeing is believing. I can say it loud and clear that the luck we have in this state is that we elected a businessman that knows how to run business as the governor. If he was not a businessman maybe some of us would not been receiving salaries by now. Prof. Ben Ayade is doing what is called sustainable development to create alternative employment and relief the civil service. I can assure you that few people will be seeking employment in the civil service when the deep-sea port project is completed. The deep-sea port is set up to be a hub, the deep-sea port is a deep vision, the deep vision is one of the most compliant project of government, the deep-sea port the preliminary projects are ongoing as we grab the documents and the federal executive council node, it is Finished the transaction adviser has said, don’t bother about the money cause there is money in Nigeria they are people keeping their money even waiting for that project and that would be done and Then there is the superhighway. the deep-sea port makes a very big business case for the superhighway because it is called the evacuation corridor. Before now, these two projects where conceived as separate projects but right now they cannot be separated that’s why it is called an integrated project.

Integrated because the two of them work hand in hand. When goods are cleared via the port, they will need to be transported through the Super Highway which makes it an evacuation corridor. The long term plan is that there would be a rail line network to link up with other parts of the country but in the First instance emphasis is placed on road. This road is going to run from Bakassi through Kastina-Ala to Maiduguri where a Federal road contract under the Suku facility has already been awarded.  This road would open up the eastern flank of the country and link up the Chad Republic. Meanwhile, the government of Niger has given Letter of Intent [LOI] to government of Cross River state to the effect that if the construction of the deep-sea port is successful, they would come and have a bounding warehouse because it is easier to evacuate goods from Calabar than clearing from Lagos. Again for the superhighway project, it is obvious that our people are the ones even trying to stop the project but to God be the glory, in all the  fights, the state government has been winning, let me not just say the government rather it is you and I that have won the fight. this is because the only way to release our people from perpetual backwardness is to ensure that we open up the space for the future. Look if you know His Excellency mind on these two projects, then there is no day you would go to sleep without praying for him that let this project should come in our lifetime. I can tell you that the economic activities that would be stimulated by these two projects would be enough to create economic independence among Cross Riverians and indeed all Nigerians.

Mofi news: What are some of  the challenges your bureau is facing?

DG: As a state, one of the major problems is Financial. In 1999,  it was easy to lay hands on money to run government because you can easily borrow funds with the support of the federal government. Same thing happened in 2005, which of course witnessed the era of rural road construction through the RAMP [(Rural Access and Mobility Programme) ADB-assisted] project. And to shock you, Cross River State today is the number two most indebted state in Nigeria and that means that the state is not eligible to borrow. This status is attained due to deductions from the backlog of indebtedness over the years. That is why Ayade is using alternative platform to run the government through PPP, other people’s money [OPM] and that is why it is tight. Let me tell you since Ayade came to power he has not borrowed one naira anywhere. He is facing assetsbacked transactions as opposed to assets-based transactions. Assets -based transaction is when you have the money to support your transactions and that means you can give contracts and of course the money is paid. Now the cash is not there and it is difficult to embark on some major projects like rural road construction and so on. Those are part of the challenges which has now forced us to adopt assets backed transactions as a strategy to engage in projects that can generate their own funding and be able to fund themselves though it takes a long time. Another challenge is having to attain what is known as the “Financial close”.

Financial close happens at the point that the financial documents are tidied and executed. That’s when you attain financial close and that is where crystallization takes place. Attaining crystallization implies that it is kinetic, it continues to move and we continue to pursue it. You see, I work for somebody who doesn’t see any challenge. If you go and ask the Governor what his challenges are, he would simply tell you there is no problem because of the level of his intellect. He normally says that when you put your spirit above your troubles and problems, that your body would naturally follow. So since my Governor is not seeing any challenge, it is therefore difficult for me to see any challenge. There are people that if elected would have been calling the previous government to complain about one problem or another, but has my Governor ever complain to anybody about any previous government? No, he has not even from day one because according to him the resources are there and once you have this knowledge on how to tackle issues then you don’t see a problem. So since my principal is not seeing a problem I am not seeing a problem too, because he has created a platform and we have the intellectual capacity to handle the platform, so no problems

Mofi news: What are your expectations in the state in the next three years?

DG: I want to tell you that I call it economic miracle, economic miracle would happen. You would see things you have never seen before and that is why re-electing Ayade should be a number one priority. I can assure you of that because this man has a plan for this state. He didn’t come to politics to make money, he came to politics to make a mark, to leave his footprint very bold in the sands of time, I can assure you that. So the expectations are that, in this state people would not be hungry, nobody will go to sleep hungry and that is why salaries are paid as and when due. Aside from salaries, all government investment will start maturing and then people will have a choice in the kind of job to do. I can assure you by 2023 when the governor will be signing out, people will marvel at the level of achievement in the state. You see many people don’t understand what he did when he established the garment factory with the heterodox strategy.

that is the strategy that South Korea adopted in creating Samsung, creating LG, in creating Hyundai and heavy industries. The first stage of the strategy is that it must be state-driven and that is what is happening at the Garment Factory. the second level of that strategy is divestment, because government in itself cannot run business. It is the private sector that have the expertise to run the business. So what is happening about the garment factory project is first of all create the investment and then divest the state of the investment and when you do that, you would earn premium. That is what is currently going on at the garment factory. Once the divestment takes place whatever funding that has been expended comes back plus the energy that was expended in the supervision. That is when you get your premium. So you will see an economic miracle. The opening of the superhighway would trigger serious exploration of abundant natural resources in the state, so that is part of why the superhighway has to come. As matter of fact, the big cargo vessels to leave Europe and come to a hub there must be something for the return voyage otherwise it will not make for good economic judgement for, the mother vessel to leave Europe and return empty. There must be something to return with. That is why you see the cultivation of about 6,000 hectare-banana plantation in Odukpani Local Government Area.

The reason is that those bananas would become ready goods to be loaded in the vessels that would be going back to Europe. Because it’s a deepsea port, it means that larger vessels would be attracted and other ports in Nigeria would do transshipment and so a hub would be created. These are part of the things you are expected to see in the next three years. The deep-sea port may not be completed within that period I am talking about but you would see economic activities that would push value chain associated with the project. For instance, employment will be created, new cities will spring up to accommodate the influx of people that would come to work there. The people living in Ikom -Etung axis of the state will get land to build warehouses. Those are some the opportunities that the construction of the deep sea port and the super highway will bring to the state. There will be opportunities in transportation as well as massive retail outlets because all those factory workers will want to eat, drink and relax after a hard day’s job. In fact, the opportunities will be endless. And because everybody will be engaged, crime rate will reduce drastically. The fact is this, if you know that going to work in the sea port will earn you some amount of money, then there will be no need to stand on the road looking for people to rub knowing that if you are caught, you’ll be killed you and then the crime rate will automatically reduce. these are the kinds of things that would happen in the state in the next three years.

Mofi  news: What’s your message for Cross Riverians?

DG: A message of hope, to tell Cross Riverians that deep vision, that infinite transposition, that has culminated into the kinetic crystallization which is set to totally… totally liberate Cross River (through the) eradication of poverty and to tell them that look, there is nothing as big as having hope; that there is light at the end of tunnel.

Mofi  news: Thanks.

 

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Southern Leaders Advocate Industrial Framework to Grow

Regional integration, investments and security issues as well as infrastructure were incorporated as elements of discourse and development agenda, at the meeting which brought together six governors and four deputies at the day-long confab held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. The commitment of the governors of South-South and South-East geo-political regions of Nigeria to effectively promote economic cooperation and integration, raise the standard of living of the people of the zone; maintain and enhance economic stability, foster closer relations amongst the progress, prosperity, and development of Nigeria, received unprecedented support and acclamation at the early recent discussions of states’ chief executives.

The governors, who dwelled on the need for deliberate e orts at developing an industrial framework that will help catalyze socio-economic activities within the region, described the meeting as a new beginning for the two geo-political zones. In the communiqué at the end of the early meeting, the leaders subscribed to the destiny and greatness of Nigeria, agreeing to promote the unity of the country, but urged the federal government to encourage investors in the oil and gas industry to attract more investments in the sector. They promised to work together politically, align and realign as a people that share common heritage, culture and affinity. They condemned hate speech featuring in the national discourse, whether in individual communication or utterances of political actors or parties and charged security agencies to set up joint border patrols to combat crime and criminality.

The regional leaders who further called for greater regional and economic integration of the zone to enhance the development of the area, stressed the urgent need to establish and link cities within the zone’s railways and super highways; to provide viable and affordable flight services as a veritable means of stimulating growth in the area.

On the sordid state of the roads, the summit of governors urged the federal government to evolve a clear policy on concession of federal roads and to fast track the process in order to reduce the sufferings of people in the regions. Shortly after the convention of governors, the state deputy governor, Professor Ivara Esu who stood in for Governor Ben Ayade, posited that most of the issues raised at the meeting of regional leaders are in consonance with the policy direction of the Senator Ben Ayade-led administration in Cross River State, adding that the establishment of an industrial framework has already gathered momentum and started yielding dividends in the state. Observers had extolled the vision of the assembly of political game changers, stating that such initiative would effectively provide for the achievement of predetermined objectives.

On the perennial issue of national security, observers opined that security challenges and youth unemployment would also reduce to the barest minimum if the scope of influence of regions was given a boost through regional autonomy. They reiterated the call on the federal government to as a matter of urgency review its tourism policy regime if the business of tourism is to flourish in the country. Analysts believe that disposition of the governors towards attaining regional autonomy and self-sufficiency is contagious and a precursor to the enthronement of the much-awaited and controversial issue of national restructuring, which will entitle regions and sub-nationals fiscal jurisdiction of resources produced in their areas of control.

It is hoped that the conference of South-South and South-East governors will work assiduously with all stakeholders in the project to give flesh to the resolutions reached at the Sunday long meeting. Who knows it might be the much-awaited vision severally said to hold solution to the seemingly daunting and intractable problems of the region and country. The meeting which was presided by the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Udom Emmanuel had in attendance seven governors and four deputy  governors.

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