RE-BUILDING CROSS RIVER: ALL HANDS MUST BE ON DECK – KEKONG

 

In connected efforts to re-building Cross River State, all hands must be on deck to support the State Governor Sen. (Prof) Ben Ayade in his passionate pursuit of industrialization Agenda set for the rapid development of the State.
Words came from a renowned Master Mariner and Administrator , Captain Patrick N. Kekong, with over 30 years experience in Personal/Crew planning and sea navigation as Captain of various Vessels.

“ …I have observed with keen interest the way and manner the present administration under Governor Ayade is striving to open avenues for development and growth through rapid industrialization that has brought in wealth-distribution alternatives that are complementing the oil and Gas sector.”

Capt. Kekong while commenting on re-building Cross River State better noted that the State governor has put in passionate and selfless energy to introduce signature projects that have great potential for creating jobs and opportunities for the unemployed people and economy boom in the State.

“ I have observed with keen interest the way and manner the present administration under Governor Ayade is striving to open avenues for development and growth through rapid industrialization that has brought in wealth distribution alternatives that are complementing the oil and Gas sector.”

He therefore called on all Cross Riverians to bring their best to add value to what the Governor is doing instead of dwelling on criticism. Commenting on the role of Maritime transport in development cooperation, the Master Mariner noted that Maritime transport is the backbone of global trade, as well as the global economy and as such, it is proper that the State government’s efforts in trying to open Maritime transport avenues like the Bakassi Deep Sea Port, should be applauded. “we hope to see great things happening in Cross River especially, in the Maritime

“…I urge the State government not to relent efforts in ensuring successful completion of the Bakassi Deep Sea Port project that had been on because I see the jobs and livelihoods of our people improving through this Maritime intervention strategy for development”

transport sector because everybody in the world benefits from shipping food, technology, medicines and almost all that we use and consume our everyday lives, either has been transported by sea, in form of raw materials, components or finished products.

“I urge the State government not to relent efforts in ensuring successful completion of the Bakassi Deep Sea Port project that had been on because I see the jobs and livelihoods of our people improving through this Maritime intervention strategy for development”.

It would be recalled that the State Governor himself, had at the beginning of his administration said that the
hallmark of his administrations is “ The decoupling of then State from over dependence on Federal Allocation” and so, Captain Kekong’s call for support of Ayade’s signature project boosting economy and infrastructure that fit the
dream of an enterprising economy that complements the role of oil and gas which has for long, been the major
revenue in the country, is very timely.

Read more

NIGERIA LACKS SURVEY ON MICRO AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISES – SAYS DR. JOSEPHAT OGAR, STATISTICIAN GENERAL CRS

The National Bureau of Statistics, World Bank and other Stakeholders in the country engaged Enumerators across the nation, towards the end of last year, in a-50-day nation-wide Data Collection Survey on Macro/Micro and Medium Enterprises. The exercise brought out lessons learned, particularly, as it concerns accurate record keeping and proper and continuous data keeping in Nigeria. Cross River State Statistician General, Dr. Josephat Ogar who put it simply that the exercise is for “Development plan purpose”, spoke with MOFINEWS on the importance of survey and data-collection.

Dr. Josephat Ogar

MOFINEWS: Sir, your office is conducting a census of small and medium scale businesses across the state. What was it all about?
DR. JOSEPHAT OGAR:
Well, I am Dr. Josephat Ogar, the Cross River State Statistician-General. Concerning the project you are talking about, you may recall that for over 22 years, we have never had any survey on the issue of Macro, Micro and Medium Enterprises in the country. And of course, you know these are the drivers of the economy. They are not really government. There is a data gap. There is this serious challenge of inadequacies and existing gaps of data related to Commercial and Industrial businesses in the country. With that, we cannot take decisions nor come up with policies that are very realistic. To come up with policies you need statistical data, Statistical Information and Research. We cannot do without data. Whatever we are doing, must be tied to data and statistical information. If our policies are faulty, also the implementations will be faulty too.
Therefore, we need to get things right. It is based on this that the World Bank in collaboration with National Bureau of Statistics, State Bureau of Statistics and other stakeholders decided to come up with this national census sample survey of industries and commercial, businesses. The Central Bank is doing it under the auspices of “Physical Governance and Institutional Project”. The main objective of this census is to enable us to determine the growth of businesses in Nigeria because without the statistics, we cannot talk about the growth of businesses in Nigeria.
It is not possible at all. The second objective is that it is going to help us to come up with a National Directory on
Enterprises, Businesses and Industries in Nigeria. And thirdly, it is going to help us to determine the structure of the Nigerian economy. This exercise is taking place in the 36 states and Abuja concurrently. It is going to form the basis of intervention to macro, micro and medium enterprises as far as World Bank is concerned.
MOFINEWS: What is going to be the benefit to these categories of businesses at the end of the exercise?
DR. JOSEPHAT OGAR:: There is going to be very serious benefits because no decision can be taken that will achieve the right results without statistics. That is why the World Bank is spending so much money on this project. This will form the basis for taking decision.
MOFINEWS: Sir, how has the State keyed into this laudable project?
DR. JOSEPHAT OGAR:: The State has already keyed into it because statistics is in the concurrent list in our Constitution. It is not in the exclusive list that is why when such exercise or project is being carried out, the Statistician-General of the State is involved. I am the Chief Monitor and Coordinator of the project in the State.
The law empowers me to monitor exercises such as this. The law of Cross River State No.14 of 2011 empowers me. Statistics supplied to any quarter without my authority or approval is not genuine. Anybody doing that is not representing Cross River State. That is the law. It is a Constitutional issue.
MOFINEWS: Sir is this exercise limited or restricted to the State capital alone?
DR. JOSEPHAT OGAR:: The Census is across the 18 local government areas of the State. There is a difference between census and survey. In survey, you pick local government areas and leave some but in survey it is a census. Every business is a census. We have 68 Enumerators and three monitors. The Zonal Controller of Statistics in the
South South is one of the monitors. The MDA officer is one of them and me as the State Host. We also have Independent Monitors from the World Bank and the National Bureau of Statistics that are coming to the State. This is a very serious exercise which is going to last for 50 days. So what we have done, we discovered that Ogoja, Ikom, Calabar, Municipality and Calabar South (most especially Calabar South and Municipality) have the largest enterprises in the State. We have tinkered with the design of the exercise. The enumerators were to have gone out straight to the 18 LGAs but I said no, but all the 68 Enumerators would first of all work in Calabar Municipality and Calabar South for two days so that by the time we look at the segment that is left, we leave few persons here and then move to other local government areas. Every business must be captured. The census is going to form the basis for intervention. There will be a Directory that would capture all businesses. I have sent letters to the Chief Security
Adviser to the Governor and Department of Chieftaincy. I have also sent letters to Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba communities. We have sensitized them. There are posters and flyers everywhere. I have addressed the 18 local government Chairmen, Revenue Mobilization, Commissioners and other stakeholders in the State. It is a very thorough and well planned census. We had training for retainers. Here in the State from 6th – 8th of October we had a training for all the Enumerators. It is a nationwide exercise. The Census is so scientific because as they are discussing with you, they would be recording your voice at the same time. The GPS of the location your business is would be taken simultaneously. So, it is not business as usual. It can recall any information you give at any time if need be. The experience is not for taxation but purely for development plan. We want to know your name, the business you are doing, whether you are employing people or not. Those are the information needed during the census.

MOFINEWS: Are you faced with challenges in the course of executing this assignment?
DR. JOSEPHAT OGAR: Yes, the challenge we have in the 36 States is in the area of “working tools”. In Cross
River State, we have been able to surmount the challenge. We were very lucky that Spotlight made some donations to the National Bureau of Statistics and we were handy to benefit from the tools. I was able to get more from YESSO
Department and added to the ones we had. All our Enumerators have the tools to work with. This has been our
greatest challenge but we have surmounted it for now. All of them are properly equipped for the job. So we are set to go to the field we don’t have any challenge for now.
MOFINEWS: Do you have any advice for these categories of businesses in the state?
DR. JOSEPHAT OGAR: Yes, my advice to them is that they should cooperate. I have gone out to sensitise and to mobilize the people. One of the things I was told by the Bureau and World Bank is to make sure I sensitised and mobilized people enough before the commencement of the census All they need do is to cooperate with the Enumerators and oblige them with necessary information. I have gone to see the market women at Watt and Marian
markets to sensitize them. We have gone round the town with posters and flyers creating awareness amongst the
people.To give information. It is not for taxation . It is for development plan and whatever the World Bank wants to do under the intervention, if your name is not captured in the Directory you will not have anybody to blame.

 

This is something that the Federal government had obtained loan to do. It is a very serious exercise and it is going to last for 50 days. The Enumerators are well paid to do their job. There are Radio jingles all over the place Hit FM and Radio Nigeria and so don’t say “I am not aware “. Every business establishments must be captured and we guarantee them confidentiality. We just need the required information and it is not for taxation . “And if you don’t want to be captured fine and good. It is not mandatory. Other states and zones in this country are always taken advantage of exercises such as this to grow their economies. The challenges we also have here is that people are always asking questions “what is going to be my benefit ” and so on and so forth. They don’t think about the long lasting benefits. If we shy away from the exercise, we end up short changing ourselves from the long lasting benefits. I have also contacted both the Federal and State Orientation Agencies on this issue to assist in the sensitization and mobilization exercise. I think it is something all of us should key into so that at the end of the day all of us will be better off”.

 

 

Read more

“FOOD FOR THOUGHT” Complications In 2nd Term

“Considering the questions and issues raised above, is it not expedient that the Ayade Administration be given a second chance (term)?”

While growing up as a young man m Lagos, I got dedicated to watching a popular comedy program titled: “Second Chance”. the program was aired every Wednesday at 7:30 pm by Nigerian Television Authority, NT A Channel 2, Lagos. the comedy programme was composed of a cast made up of about 15 “Elderly” people (since the makeup artiste ensured they looked like elderly people, though they were actually young men and women) with a relatively younger man as their teacher. the teacher in question was Tunde Alabi, one of Nigeria’s foremost actors. they were all very talented actors and actresses, most of whom have made their mark in the movie industry in the movie industry in Nigeria and beyond our shores. the setting was a classroom and the “pupils” were the elderly who took advantage of government’s adult education program to have a second chance of acquiring education, since they could not attend school while in their youth. As expected, they were hard at learning. they offered literary interpretation to every word the teacher uttered. For instance, if the teacher made a statement like,“ is
world is full of sins”, one of them would jump up, scream in a loud voice, and while rubbing the walls
of the classroom, ask,“Small teacher, you say this wall weh I dey touch don full with sin?”  e teacher then had the onerous task of making them understand what he was talking about. And there were several instances like that.

However, beyond the laughter and the fun that the comedy generated, there was an underlining message which the program was trying to put across, namely, that it was never too late to learn. Additionally, and more importantly, the program strive to underscore the popular opinion held by many that everyone deserves a second chance to actualize one’s dreams. It is always said that opportunity comes but once; but most people believe that this is no longer the case, stressing that there is always need for a second chance. As plausible as this argument may sound, I would prefer to tilt to the opinion of the old school which holds that opportunity comes once… To my heart, “second chance” should be earned and not made automatic or a matter of right. What I meant here is that when the first opportunity comes, it behooves one to make the best of it and if need be, circumstances would naturally pave way for a second one. this is what 1 term the complication of second chance (term). In this part of the world, it has become customary among our politicians to seek a second term. From the President to National Assembly members, State Governors, State Assembly members, etc, the wishes and aspirations are the same.

they want a second chance (term). But do they really deserve it? Have they earned it? Your opinion counts or at least you can make it count. As Cross Riverians, it may be easier for us to decide. Across the state, are numerous uncompleted projects started by Governor Ayade. We can list some of them; Garment Factory Calabar, Cocoa processing facilities, Ikom, ‘the Pharmaceutical Company and Rice Seedlings project all in Calabar, Deep Sea Port, Super Highway among others. these are long term projects, requiring huge funds for completion. Most of them would require more than four years for construction and take off. this explains why some of these projects could not be completed in the first tenure of the incumbent administration. I am sure that most of us would love to see that these projects are completed, commissioned and put to use. I am sure also, that most of us are aware that every new administration assumes office with its set out agenda, which may not necessarily include completion of projects started by the preceding administration. Of course, this accounts for the numerous abandoned
projects in the country. Considering the questions and issues raised above, is it not expedient that the Ayade Administration be given a second chance (term)? Your opinion counts and this is food for thought for all eligible voters. I rest my case

Read more

AYADEISM: Keeping to the Original Mantra

Nature they say has an interesting but mysterious way of arranging the affairs of men such that the paths they tread in their earthly sojourn will often conclusively point to a predestination, so it is for Senator Professor Ben Ayade, whose path was clearly charted towards a visible leadership role in the Cross River State as a subnational entity and country.

Governor Ayade did not mince words upon his ascendency and assumption to the highest office in the state when he vowed to establish and effectively consolidate the state as a dependable and solid socio economic power base in the region. The state chief executive surmised that the emerging new branded Cross River shall be a place of great hope for all, with job opportunities for youths and prosperity for the working class. The Ayade led administration set the ball rolling and positioned government in a privileged position to achieve predetermined objectives. The Cross River State Project was redefined and brought to the front burner.

This government realized by ensuring that appointments reflect all shades of opinion, diverse groups and aggrieved interests as well as members of contending political persuasions in the state, Analysts say such proactive measure was to avert any political brouhaha and douse social tension to enable government  effectively concentrate on achieving its mandate, while also sustaining the oneness and indivisibility of the Cross River family. As part of his policy thrust objective; the governor expanded access to and affordability of qualitative education and social services to empower the youths with the relevant skills to compete in the prevailing highly competitive global order. He has also institutionalized basic healthcare, by evolving an Agency mandated to provide a primary healthcare delivery system that meets the need of both urban and rural communities. For the foregoing reasons, the governor equally developed a strong private sector driven economy by creating an enabling environment for foreign and local investments to thrive, as well as conceptualized a manufacturing economy for the state.

At the Ayade Industrial Park alone, the Governor midwived the establishment of a Garment factory, a Pharmaceutical Company and a Rice City among others all second to none in the continent with capacities to employ hundreds of persons and create indirect labour for thousands; while also growing the purchasing power of Cross Riverians, He is solidly encouraging private enterprises and strengthening the real sector of the state economy, building, upgrading, and maintaining infrastructure, as roads, electricity, water supply, as well as communication, housing in urban center and the hinterland communities. As part of his policy thrust, the governor is currently preoccupied with the business of wealth creation for the people of Cross River State, by providing unlimited opportunities for growth in the Agriculture and Agro-allied sectors and encourages the people to identify and take ownership. To ensure mothers never lacked access to Medicare for their children and loved ones, Ayade is formally building additional healthcare institutions across the state, and is harnessing new ideas and technology to reconstruct the state, He is also reforming schools and guaranteeing First class education for the youth. As part of its key policy objectives, the state administration has so far accelerated investment in new infrastructure and ensured that existing arrangements are upgraded to satisfactory standard that meets the needs and aspirations of the people. For social expediency, government had equally ensured that all investment projects provide value for money and that the cost of government service efforts is affordable and accessible. Effort have also been made to increase the capacity and diversity of the private sector

As part of his policy thrust, the governor is currently preoccupied with the business of wealth creation for the people of Cross River State,

in the provision of public infrastructure. The Ayade-led government has encouraged efficiency, flexibility and innovation to ensure infrastructural projects and programs are planned, prioritized and managed to maximize returns in a manner that Cross Riverians would be the better for it. This administration is optimistic that the tenets of separation of powers amongst the three arms of government are expedient to check arbitrary use of power and promote checks and balances, adopted deliberate and proactive measures to engender harmonious relations among various arms of government, to safeguard the onerous objectives of ensuring the tripartite nature of government guarantees the common goal of advancing the state’s project. Political observers believe the Cross River State under Senator Ayade’s leadership is still by far at the forefront of this advocacy and also one of the few states in the Nigerian Union to enjoy such high level cordiality in intergovernmental relations, critical to the sustainable growth as well as effective conduct of all government business

Read more

Restructuring! Which Way Cross River?

“The answer rests entirely with the administrators and economic managers of the State… For one thing, God Almighty has blessed the State with fertile, arable land suitable for agriculture; water, untapped mineral resources, undeveloped natural tourist attractions and a sizeable population with purposeful youths… For the State to survive without federal allocation, internal restructuring is a sine quanon..”

The word restructuring has become a household word in the country. The social media, television channels and radio stations are inundated with the word “restructuring”. The television Evangelist and Pastors have equally joined the band-wagon by preaching restructuring of the country as the only panacea for the country’s unlimited and indescribable problems.

The school children are not left out, for them, restructuring means dividing the country. One day, as I was going to buy akara and ogi for my breakfast, I met a group of secondary school boys at the akara woman buying akara and bread, and what were they discussing? … restructuring of the country. Some said, this country must be divided because according to them, “our suffering is too much”. Some said, “they must restructure this country, the cheating is too much”. But one of the five boys said, Cross River State would suffer seriously, if the country was restructured or divided.

I stylishly joined them in their topical discussion and asked the small boy why he said Cross River would suffer, if the country was restructured? He said, “Sir, you know that we have no oil, no companies to work, in fact we have nothing in this State. Only the federal allocation is what they are using.” When I told him that we have land, cocoa, limestone, slate and many tourist attractions, he simply said, “OK oh!” Is it true that Cross River State would suffer if the country was restructured?

My answer is no. But what is restructuring? Can this State survive without federal allocation? How can Cross River State restructure itself? What should the State Government do to increase revenue generation in the State?

To the first question, to restructure is to put in place a new arrangement, change a system of doing things, to change or reorganize or better still restructure an organization. Thus, to restructure this country, is to simply change or reorganize or adjust the way things are done administratively, economically, politically and financially. I vividly recall that, before the military took over power in 1966 coup, there were no general public holidays. We in the entire eastern Nigeria did not observe the Muslim holidays. There was no national school curriculum. The Federal Minister of Education had no control over regional schools. The mineral resources in the regions were not under the control of the Federal government. The Regional Prime Ministers and their Governors did not go to Lagos for monthly allocation. The regions rather sent “something” to the central government. The regions were completely independent of the central government in many areas.

So, should we simply go back to those good old days by way of restructuring? Is this what all Nigerians are agitating and clamouring for? My subconscious mind tells me both “yes” and “no”. Yes for the oil-rich Niger Delta states excluding Cross River that had lost her status as an oil producing State. Yes for the industrialized states such as Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Kaduna and Anambra, Abia and Plateau. No for some non-oil producing states. This group of states may likely want to hold tightly to the feeding bottle federal system to their own detriment. This system inhibits economic growth, breeds complacency and painlessness’ sake.

Let us consider the second question. Can the Cross River State survive without the monthly federal allocation? The answer rests entirely with the administrators and economic managers of the State. For one thing, God Almighty has blessed the State with fertile, arable land suitable for agriculture; water, untapped mineral resources, undeveloped natural tourist attractions and a sizeable population with purposeful youths.

For the State to survive without federal allocation, internal restructuring is a sine qua non hence our third question. How can the State be restructured? The State Government should begin restructuring by settling all land disputes in all parts of the State especially in ABI and OBUBRA Local Government Areas. The communities fanning the embers of war should be ruthlessly dealt with. The State Government should direct the office of the Surveyor General to carry out boundary demarcation in all the disputed land. As the State Government is well aware, in some parts of ABI and OBUBRA, the story is that of the people living in the animal kingdom, where the strong kills the weak or drives the other from the kingdom. The Government should employ its constitutional right and God-given authority and might to return all refugees to their ancestral homes. The State Government should stop pretending to be powerless.

The State Government should do everything possible to put an end to communal clashes in Abi and Obubra. We need peace in all parts of the State for social and economic development. Without peace election cannot be conducted in those areas and the State Government cannot generate any revenue from those warring communities.

To survive without federal allocation, the State Government should expand its urban renewal programme to more villages in central and northern senatorial districts. The State should build standard rural markets and improve the rural community roads. Gradual infrastructural facilities should be provided for the people to enhance payment of rates and taxes. Our final question is, what should the State Government do to increase revenue generation in the State? Evaluation of Tax Policies

There is an urgent need for the State Government to evaluate its tax policies with a view to doing the right thing. The borrowed tax system from Lagos where there are thousands of industries, high population with unlimited opportunities for economic growth should be dropped. Cross River State cannot be compared to Lagos in any way, but can learn simple ways of revenue generation from that State.

The unprecedented rate of tax regime had sent so many organizations and entrepreneurs away from Cross River State to our neighbouring States. Multiple demands for taxes, levies and permits should be checked for the good of the State. For instance, a situation where the State Internal Revenue Service or its Agents simply slammed heavy taxes on the few organizations and small businesses operating in the State, does not augur well for the development of our State.

Parking Lot

It is a truism that every tarred road in the State has become a car park for vehicle owners. To generate revenue, the State Government should map out some major tarred roads for parking of vehicles. Furthermore, car parks should be created in all the urban development centres. (However, the Government should not use political touts for this business.)

Suggested Parking Fees

Car parks in Calabar                                                                             –               N100

Car parks in Ugep, Ikom, Obudu, Ogoja                                           –               N50

Parking of vehicles on some designated roads                              –               N100 a day

Those who use the road as their permanent car park                  –               N1000 a week

The modalities can be worked out by a special small committee.

Pedestrian Crossing

Much revenue can be generated from violators of pedestrian crossing/ foot bridges. There are pedestrian crossing/foot bridges at 8 miles, Calabar, Marian and Eta Agbor roads. Pedestrians prefer to run across the road instead of using those bridges. The State Government can collect just N500 as penalty from violators. Bridge traders should pay N100 trading permit a day.

Establishment of Insurance Broking Firm

The State Government can generate a substantial amount of revenue through the establishment of an insurance broking firm more so, as insurance brokers do not carry any risk. Payment of insurance claim is never the business of brokers. An Insurance Broking Firm is incorporated by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and licensed by the National Insurance Commission (NICOM) to market all insurance products and serve as corporate intermediary between the insuring public and the insurance companies. They earn a fixed percentage of commission from premium as their revenue. The minimum required capital base is five million naira. The State Government can conveniently afford to incorporate a brokerage firm.

Conclusion: The formation of an insurance broking firm is very essential for the economic growth of the State. Just imagine the number of projects that the State Government is currently executing, the Super Highway, the Deep

Seaport, the Calabar Pharmaceutical, the Garment Factory which is already in operation, just to mention but a few. Imagine the number of investors and contractors that will be engaged in these projects. Just imagine the size and volume of insurable risk and the corresponding premium payable. There will be plenty of performance bonds, contractors’ all-risk, employers’ liability, vehicle insurance, group life, etc. You can then imagine the total capital flight from the State, if the State does not have a brokerage firm within the shortest possible time.

Read more