Stakeholders and residents of Cross River State, particularly where Governor Ben Ayade has sited some of his 33 industrial projects, have challenged him to prove himself and make at least few of them come on before he leaves office.
Few months after assuming office, Governor Ben Ayade said he came with the mentality of a businessman as he was not a professional politician.
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To liberate the state from total dependence on federal allocations, the governor announced that he would develop the state through industrialisation.
In an attempt to make good his promise, during the major part of his first term, he visited economic giants in Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, etc to sign memoranda of understanding for partnership with the state on industrial projects.
The Governor Ayade administration has so far established 33 industries in different parts of the state, ranging from textile, cocoa and rice processing plants, medical and aviation, gas, to the proposed superhighway and the Bakassi deep sea port. There is also the proposed Calachika (chicken) poultry, Calapharm, a drug manufacturing firm. Among the endless list of industralisation-oriented projects is the cocoa processing plant in Ikom.
Daily Trust learnt that already, two aircraft have been purchased for the proposed Cally Air, even as construction work is said to be ongoing at the Obudu cargo and passenger airport for the takeoff the airline.
Recently, it was announced that the governor proposed to establish a hydroelectric power project, estimated to cost over N8.5 billion, not minding that he had started the Calabar power station, which was to supply power to most parts of Calabar.
But like many of his projects, the Calabar power plant is ‘stillborn’ even though staggering sums of money in foreign and local currencies have been expended. No part of the state enjoys power supply from it, according to a resident, Peter Etekamba of the Aka Efa axis of Calabar Municipality.
Daily Trust learnt that 95 per cent of these projects are in the pipeline. However, the Cross River garment factory is reported to be functioning. The Vitaminised Rice and Multiplication Laboratory located in the Ayade Industrial Park has all the equipment but has not commenced production in commercial quantity. According to Ayade, few states in the North have placed order for the rice. For example, the Cross River State Government disclosed that Bauchi State had placed an order for the supply of rice from the factory, saying it was a huge booster and encouragement. However, it has not been confirmed if the state supplied the rice.
The cost of the rice multiplication laboratory, like all other projects, is wrapped in secrecy as the state House Assembly is reported not to have deliberated on the project. The public is, therefore, at sea regarding the overall cost of the factory.
It was also learnt that the Calachika Poultry hurriedly sold some live chickens last December.
To mark last year’s Christmas, the state government distributed live chickens to its workers at reduced rate from the poultry. These were allegedly supplied by some other poultries to Calachika to enable government meet its promise. Thereafter, nothing seems to be happening there. However, work is ongoing at the poultry farm but at a snail speed.
Presently, nothing is happening at the poultry project, located on the way out of Calabar. The structure meant to house the birds is partially completed.
An official at the poultry who pleaded not to be named asked our correspondent to formally apply to the commissioner for agriculture before he would speak on how much has been appropriated for the project.
The question on the lips of many residents of the state is whether the Ayade administration would be able to complete these 33 industrial projects before he completes his second term in May 2023.
Many residents of the state have said that by embarking on too many projects simultaneously without clear sources of funding, the governor was biting more than he could chew, knowing the financial situation of the state, especially the huge indebtedness left behind by his two predecessors.
Another analyst, Anderson Enang Ikpi, urged the people of the state to be fervent in prayer so that all or many of the projects would not become white elephants or abandoned by the time the governor would leave office in the next two years.
He said the projects were draining the hard-earned resources of the state, which would have been used for other pressing matters.
Speaking on a local radio, Ikpi said, “I am not a politician but a critical and concerned stakeholder. Our governor should have concentrated his energy on few and realisable projects instead of all these capital-consuming giant ones, which only richer states and federal governments could handle. I see them as drain pipes. Forgive me if I say that our governor may not commission one that is fully ready by the time his second term ends.”
On the viability and necessity of the proposed N8.5 billion hydroelectric power project, the chairman of the State Renewable Energy Commission, Ogar Justin Iduku, said that it is very viable and could resurrect many local businesses.
Speaking during a workshop recently, the governor said the project, which is to be located at the popular Obudu Ranch Resort, would provide an alternative electricity source to the state and other surrounding states.
He lamented the inability of the federal government to utilise the billions of cubit water available in the country to provide steady power supply.
Speaking few days ago at his industrialisation rally in Calabar, organised by the 18 local government chairmen in the state, the governor assured that his two signature projects, Bakassi Deep Seaport and the superhighway would work in the next two years.
He said, “We have found investors for the Bakassi Deep Seaport and the superhighway. And I can assure you that all these will be working in the next two years.
“The rice seedling factory, garment factory, Calachika, cocoa processing plant and rice mill are all going to provide thousands of jobs.”
He said that funding would not be a problem as his famous ‘intellectual money’ would come to play.
Residents express mixed feelings
Many residents of Calabar and environs, as well as other indigenes of the state, said the governor meant well by initiating several industries in some local government councils.
But a handful also argued that the governor was playing on the intelligence of the people by pretending to establish factories that are yet to be completed, after several years.
A public commentator, Agba Jalingo, alleged that after 2,233 days in office, the governor had only displayed samples of towels, face caps, shirts, under-wears etc from the state-owned garment factory and sold at local markets in the state. The factory was commissioned by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo. He also noted that residents desired to see things like noodles produced in the state and sold in Calabar markets.
“We want to see Akamkpa poles, piles and pylon on construction sites in Cross River. We want to see chocolates from the Ikom Cocoa Processing Factory sold at SPAR and other local supermarkets,” he said.
Jalingo also said the people of the state looked forward to seeing how much the Cross River rice seeds and seedlings factory is contributing to the state’s revenue.
“We want to take our rice to the Ogoja Ultra Modern Rice Mill and clean up. We want to fabricate simple farm equipment from the fabrication and construction academy. We want to fly our Cally Air and drive on the superhighway, which our state resources have been massively sunk into,” he added.
Also, Peter Edem, a youth leader in Calabar South, said the power plant in the Calabar municipal area, where huge resources was spent, had not supplied light to the two local government areas in Calabar, more than two years of the governor’s assurance.
“I am sick and tired of hearing that Governor Ayade came with industrialisation when all the industries he is building are rather gulping money from the state instead of adding a dime to our revenue,” he said.
A 32-year-old businessman, Michael Jimmy said, “I think the governor means well for the people. Even though many of the industries have not commenced business, we should be patient with him. I am sure that in the remaining two years of his tenure, a good number of the industries will be commissioned. Governance is not a child’s play.”
Madam Rita Edem, a mother of four who sells vegetables, fruits and peanuts, also commended the governor, but said he shouldn’t have embarked on too many projects at the same time.
“Apart from the garment factory, I am not sure they have commissioned any other one. The governor had talked highly of the superhighway and Cally Air, but can he complete them before he leaves power?” she asked.
Also, an elderly man, Bessong Ekppang, who lost his farmland in a community where the Obudu cargo airport has claimed vast hectares of land said, “Ayade is our son but I am not happy with him. He has claimed my ancestral land for a project he cannot complete. And when he leaves office his successor might not continue with the project.”
Another resident, Monica Job said, “Leave Ayade alone. I don’t think he is sincere with all these so-called projects we read in the papers and hear over the state radio. He speaks too much grammar.”
Christian ita, chief press secretary to Gov Ayade said that the government is bent on completing the projects they have started, even as they still have collaboration with partners in some instances.
Garment factory and rice seedling factory, for instance, are functioning, he said.
Ita maintained that government is a continuum, but that Ayade has the wherewithal to push all to 90 per cent completion.