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.