Budget: Now that Lagos has joined Cross River State in the trillion naira league

Budget: Now that Lagos has joined Cross River State in the trillion naira league

Gov. Ayade

By Christian Ita

Only a few weeks ago the Cross River State governor, Prof. BEN Ayade presented what was considered unprecedented in the history of budget making with a whooping N1.3trillion to the state house of assembly.

The size of the budget no doubt triggered a healthy debate across a broad spectrum of the society. For those well versed in the art of budgeting, it was a bold and audacious statement both in intent and purposes.

While those who are long native to envelope budgeting were quick to derisively dismiss it as unrealistic and unachievable, serious states like Lagos went back to the drawing board X-raying every detail of the proposed statement of income and expenditure of Cross River State.

Today Lagos State has not only inducted itself into the trillion naira league but has also tacitly affirmed the feasibility and viability of Cross River State's N1.3 trillion appropriation bill with the presentation of its own 2018 appropriation bill of N1.04trillion.

No doubt, Cross River has set a benchmark in budget making. While presenting the budget before the state House of Assembly, Governor Ayade had clearly noted that the size of the budget may be surprising to those who would only gloss over it rather than appreciate the deep thoughts and vision that is behind the proposal.

In a critical environment such as ours, it appears quite convenient to easily scoof at an idea which you have neither laboured to conceive nor had the intellectual capacity to comprehend. But what was apparently demonstrated by Governor Ayade was a clear statement of ambition and aggression, particularly with regards to his industrialisation drive.

Indeed, the Ayade-led administration has a long history of confounding it's critics, particular with its consistency regarding salary payments, most often ahead of time.This is in spite of getting the second lowest allocation from the federation account in the country.

It is this zeal and commitment that gave filip to the ambitious budget which is already galvanizing interest from such reputable institutions like the NEXIM Bank, among others, expressing their determination to help the state get the funds to actualise its 2018 budget.

The reason many Third World countries today have remained stunted and mired in economic doldrums is their obvious lack of audacity to dream and think out of the box.

Others may have chosen to see the glass as half empty, but for the Managing Director of NEXIM bank, Mr. Abba Bello, the glass can only be half full. Voicing his confidence in the achievability of the Cross River State's N1.3 trillion budget, this is what Bello had to say: “This is the first time a state government in Nigeria will present a budget of N1.3 trillion. It therefore, becomes very important that the state will be able to achieve the revenue that will support the expenditure.

“I was taught earlier in my career that to achieve dreams you have to be audacious and I believe that you start with having a target and for you the target today is the budget. I must stand behind you sir to ensure that budget is achieved.”

There are presently many projects and constructions going on in the state, most of which are clearly worked out as a public private partnership with equity adequately captured in the budget.

For an administration whose history flows from a fountain of deep vision and intellectual acuity, the focus of the Ayade-led government has always been how to decouple the state from its continuous dependence on federal allocation. And the way to go? Adoption of the Japanese model. Commoditise government and drive it as a business.

Among projects currently going on and needing a PPP model is the 275km superhighway, the Bakassi Deep sea Port, the proposed new city project called Calas Vegas, the Calabar Garment factory, the Calabar Pharmaceutical company (CalaPharm), among others.

These are lofty and juicy projects that investors are already falling over themselves for a piece of the pie.

This is where the ambitious budget intends to derive its sinews from. The state may not have the money looking at its envelopes, but its thinking and vision is deep and its programmes are achievable.

Ayade inspects construction of cocoa processing plant, assures of full value chain

Ayade inspects construction of cocoa processing plant, assures of full value chain

Cocoa plantation

Cross River State Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, weekend,  assured the people of the state that his administration was focused on  exploring the entire value chain for cocoa in order to diversify the economy of the state from its dependence on federal allocation.

Ayade gave the assurance when he embarked on a project evaluation tour of the ultramodern cocoa processing factory being built in Ikom, in the Central Senatorial District of the state.

"At this critical point when oil is almost  becoming a thing of the past, Cross River must construct a direction for the Federal Government to follow.We understand the ideological focus of this government to ensure that there is a shift from the continuous dependence on oil to the agricultural sector. So, by the time we are done, we will explore the entire value chain for cocoa and help produce all the end products out of Ikom, making the place the right city to belong," Ayade said.

The governor also enjoined the citizenry to take advantage of the over two million hectares of arable land for Cocoa farming and become millionaires, pointing out that "for every success to be successfully successful, the source of your successful success must be successfully secured and that starts today."

Continuing, Ayade disclosed that his administration will make available 100 thousand hectares of land as well as provide a cocoa microfinance bank to be sited in Ikom so as to provide direct funding for every young man or woman that chooses to go into cocoa farming, adding that "the factory remains an architecture that is driven by a high level of intellectualism, even as all equipment needed for the cocoa factory have been paid for."

National President, Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Sayina Riman, described the project as wonderful and monumental which will further showcase Cross River's position in the first international cocoa summit as the leading state in terms of packaging, production and moving forward.

Riman who is also the Vice President, World Cocoa producing Organization said: "In 2017, we are seeing a transformation that has never before in South- South, Southeast of the Niger. This is the first ever cocoa producing factory in this country and this will not only complement employment but will add value to what we have."

For Executive Director, Nexim Bank, Hon Stella Okotete, "we are here as financial advisors to ensure that the project comes to fruition and the farmers have enough stock to feed the project," adding that "we will do our best to ensure that the project is commissioned in due course, support cocoa farmers in Cross River so that the project comes to a successful end."

Contractor for the project and CEO, AA Agro Industry Universal Services Ltd, Mr. Chris Agara, informed that "when the facility is completed, it will produce about 30,000 metric tonnes of cocoa per year and draw a million dollars of foreign exchange inflow to Cross River."

Earlier, Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Prof Anthony Eneji, said that "the journey which begins this day through the establishment of the facility will liberate CrossRiverians from economic difficulties."

Meanwhile, Ayade also inspected the ultramodern Rice processing plant in Ogoja where he was welcomed by a jubilant crowd of youths, market women, traditional rulers and non indigenes of the state who urged him not to relent in his array of laudable projects.

The governor reaffirmed his desire "to put an end to when our own rice will be transported to other states and be milled and called a different name," adding that, "today we are in the process of producing our own rice, Ogoja Rice, and that is our heritage, "

Immigration repatriates 730 foreigners from Cross River State, 39 refused entry

Nigeria Immigration serviceThe Comptroller of Nigeria Immigration Service, Cross River State command Comptroller Funke Adeuyi has disclosed that between January of this year 2016 till date, over 730 and illegal immigrants have been repatriated from her command due to various offences.

Speaking from her office during an interaction with some newsmen, she decried the recent adoption of expatriates by yet to be known gun men and assured that safety of all foreigners residing in the state and country as a whole is important to the service and all other relevant agencies of government.

She said that 730 foreigners have been repatriated specifically between January and April and also within the same period, 39 foreigners’ application to come into the country through the state have been refused entry.

On activities of young foreign girls who come in and prostitute, she noted that such has tremendously reduced because of the interface of her office with their consulates. “Our role is to educate them and those that we need to send them away we send them away.” Some before they enter Nigeria, we turn them back and those that come in illegally are repatriated because they don’t valid travel document or resident permit. Anyone that is involved in criminal matters are referred to other agencies and the ones that are required to go to jail we send them to jail and after their jail term we send them out. Most those involved as illegal immigrants are ECOWAS nationals that are involved, she further disclosed.

The comptroller said their officers are across the length and breadth of the state and at border points and in the inter lands to ensure that nobody comes in illegally adding that because of the proactive nature of the new administration, they have had very low immigrant related offences this year.

She said they have embarked on constant public awareness, education, information sharing and tightening up of activities at the border end in line with the change mantra of present administration.

She debunked some allegations against her command officers saying, “Immigration officers do not aid illegal immigrants, it is not true. Our duty is that when we see them, we profile them. Before they come in we ensure that they have valid travel document. People that do not have valid travel document are denied entry. Between January and April this year, we have repatriated 730 illegal immigrants and we have refused 39 entry.”

Cross River: Empowerment exercise begins for 600 women and youths trained under CADP

Cross River: Empowerment exercise begins for 600 women and youths trained under CADP

Cross Sec of beneficiries of CADP in CRS Six hundred beneficiaries comprising women and youths trained under the World Bank/Federal Government assisted Commercial Agricultural Development Programme CADP in Cross River State are to be empowered to become entrepreneurs in the various trade.

The State coordinator of the Programme, Mr. Nyambi Inyang disclosed that the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade has already “graciously granted approval for the empowerment of all 600 beneficiaries under this programme”

Speaking at a workshop in Calabar, the state capital the state coordinator of the programme noted that “we are by this workshop initiating an interface between the service providers and beneficiaries in cocoa, oil palm, rice, poultry and aquaculture value chains. It is intended to facilitate the commencement of empowerment process for our 600 young and energetic Women and Youths who have been trained to become entrepreneurs with the capacity to be employers of labour, rather than job seekers.”

He revealed that “It is hoped that this intervention will go a long way to achieve its intended purpose as we galvanize resources to implement all investment plans of beneficiaries between now and May 31st 2017.”

Giving a brief history of the programme, the state coordinator said the Cross River CADP Women and Youth Empowerment Programme began with the training and empowerment of the first batch of 100 Women and Youths in the value chains of Oil palm, Rice, Aquaculture and Poultry. The current batch is the second and the third.

He added that, “As you aware, the Commercial Agriculture Development Project (CADP) was developed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in collaboration with the World Bank and other stakeholders in response to Federal Government of Nigeria’s quest for private sector intervention to develop agricultural value chains and accelerate agricultural growth “

He maintained that “the project was approved by the World Bank on January 15, 2009 but became effective on July 30, 2009 and was expected to close on December 31, 2014. However, following the request by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the World Bank approved the restructuring of the project to better align it with the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) and to speed up project implementation and disbursements with strategic focus on supporting the commodity marketing corporations, sharpening of focus on the most profitable value chains for new investors, supporting the establishment of aggregation centres, address post-harvest management issues and most significantly, Youth and Women Empowerment in terms of capacity building in entrepreneurship and support to initiate businesses along the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development’s Youth Employment in Agriculture Program (YEAP).”

Also speaking at the workshop, the Commissioner for Agriculture Cross River State Prof. Anthony Eneji enjoined all participants to take advantage of the workshop particularly the technical session and make it as interactive as possible, so that they can get full benefits and be a testimony for the success story of the programme.

CADP workshop in Calabar The Agric Commissioner expressed happiness that by the performance indictor reports of the programme so far there is a “30% increase in total sales of agricultural products under the targeted value chains of cocoa, oil palm and rice among participating small and medium scale commercial farmers (Cocoa, Oil palms and Rice). He pledged the state government’s continuous support for the programme.

Obong of Calabar decries infrastructural deficits hindering CFTZ

Obong of CalabarThe Obong of Calabar and natural ruler of the Efiks His Eminence Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V has expressed his concern over the federal infrastructural deficits in Cross River State which has contributed in hampering the smooth functioning of investments like the Calabar Free Trade Zone.

Speaking why granting audience to the management team of the Calabar Free Trade Zone led by Godwin Okimba Ekpe head of the Zone, he urge the federal government to pay attention to infrastructure within Cross River State which is hampering investments.

The natural king who was represented by Etubom Bassey Duke the Chairman of Traditional Rulers Council acknowledged that the state lacked the necessary infrastructure to boast activities at the CFTZ, in spite of the huge federal government investment. He noted that attracting investors and investments requires both the federal and the state government to put the necessary indices in place and not necessarily to go abroad to bring investors.

In his words, “investors are not Father Christmas when we provide the needed infrastructure that will attract investors rather than going abroad. Investors are not Father Christmas who go anywhere and dash people money,” he reiterated.

The Obong identified the infrastructural decay in Cross River state as the major factor militating against the speedy growth of the Calabar (CFTC) in the state appealed to the Federal government to take a second look at the infrastructural needs of the state noting that the only road linking Calabar and other parts of the country were in total disrepair. As he puts it “with good road, regular water and power supply, couple with assured security, investors will come and invest. Once the investors are okay with investment environment, they will come in with their money to invest and make their needed profit.

Speaking earlier head of the Calabar Free Trade Zone, Godwin. Okimba Ekpe said, he and his team were in the palace of the Obong to seek the natural rulers support and blessings to move the Zone forward. He commended the Efiks’ Monarch for the peaceful nature of the state that informed the choice of the Federal government to site the CFTZ in Calabar adding that it was on record that "Since the establishment of the zone up to date, no criminal activity has been recorded and such record can be attributed to the Obong and his Council.

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