“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.