Evidence-based Governance: Cross River State Needs To Raise The Bar

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Cross River State was Created: 27 May, 1967 as part of the 12 state structure designed by General Gowon to avert the secession of Eastern Region from Nigeria. The Capital is Calabar and the land area of the state is 20,156 km2 (7,782 sq mi) ranking number 19 after Jigawa and slightly bigger than Kano which ranks 20th. Major Languages in the state are Boki, Efik, Ejagham and Bekwarra. The state is located in South-South Geo – Political Zone.

The Population of the state is 2,892,988 (2006 Census) and projected 3,344,410 (Nigeria Bureau of Statistics’ 2011 Projection) placing it number 27 amongst the 36 states. Cross River State ranks number 12 by gross domestic product (GDP) at about $9.29 billion. A study at academia.edu reveals that 25 percent of the state residents work in hotel jobs, 21 percent work in transportation and 16 percent work in trading, schools or as civil servants.

Since 1999 the state has been ruled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) including the current Governor Benedict Bengioushuye Ayade. The state has 18 Local Governments, namely; Abi, Akamkpa, Akpabuyo, Bakassi, Bekwarra, Biase, Boki, Calabar Municipal, Calabar South, Etung, Ikom, Obanliku, Obubra, Obudu, Odukpani, Ogoja, Yakuur, and Yala.

The 2016 Budget is N 350 Billion (National Planning Commission) while 2015 Internally Generated Revenue stands at N 13,567,122,507.38 (Ranked 11th in Nigeria). Total Gross Amount of Monthly Federal Allocations in 2015 stood at N 40,339,489,036.76 while in 2016 (January – August) monthly allocation reduced by about half to N 21,507,524,381.10 compared to 2015(Federal Ministry of Finance, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation)

The state is renowned for its focus on tourism particularly the annual Calabar Carnival. Key to our analysis today is the pathfinder role Cross River State played in enacting a Cross River State Reserve Fund Law in 2004.  The law established a Fund into which shall accrue all moneys that shall be saved and employed strictly in the circumstances provided for herein. The Fund shall be known as the CROSS RIVER STATE RESERVE FUND. The sole objective of the Fund shall be to provide an assured inheritance for future generations of citizens of the State, for use in the circumstances provided for herein.

The Fund shall consist of capital contribution of no more than ten per cent of monthly net total revenue but not less than fifty million Naira (=N=50,000,000) paid monthly by the State Government from its said monthly net total revenue; such sum as may be paid voluntarily by any person whether by way of gift, bequest or such other voluntary donation made from time to time; revenue accruing periodically from approved investments made out of the capital in the Fund; other revenue legitimately accruing to the Fund by means not herein provided for; and such other sums as may accrue to the capital in the Fund from time to time. This was a revolutionary governance approach that showcased Cross River State as a model in strategic planning.

The idea of Tinapa, a business and leisure resort just north of Calabar, associated with the Calabar Free Trade Zone was another signpost of the breadth and depth of the dreams of the Cross River state government. Though, not in optimal use, it represents a giant effort at economic diversification that was bold in conception and grand in execution. The Calabar carnival became a benchmark for innovation and focused execution while Obudu resort showed promise as a key holiday location. With this background it is difficult to understand why the state is not a leader in the State Transparency Index considering the educational attainment and experience of its past and present Governors.

Under the state Planning capacity, we see the state has a website www.crossriverstate.gov.ng which has good ambience and design but in need of management, links to most of the state MDAs are obsolete. Links to the local government redirect you to the home page and we do not see any local government online presence.

A search for the state strategic plan, programmes and outputs showed that the Cross River State Ministry of Health had presented the strategic health plan for 2016 – 2020 to stakeholders and partners in the health sector to provide leadership and direction, and to secure collaboration and buy-in towards ensuring the health system deliver quality services that are safe and responsive. A wider search also threw up a document titled United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. On both documents we do not see information on status, timelines and expected output.

Budgets of the state and local government areas are not available on the state website. We do not see the state procurement process or budget performance monitoring tool online. A search for the Auditor General report online was negative. Interestingly, back in 2011, the Cross River state government became the first state government in Nigeria to deploy Smartgov, an Interswitch-powered identity management and e-payment platform, in a move to improve governance, accountability and access to social services for citizens and residents. Since then, the platform has enabled the state government to create a state-wide Identity Management System for residents and corporates in the state.

Through its biometric-based Identity Cards project called MySmartCityCard, citizens and residents have had access to healthcare, pension, transportation, educational bursaries, social amenities and social benefits. On the state website we find no information on the smartgov project, status of implementation and percentage performance. We also observed that the State House of Assembly has no website and information about its activities are mainly from third party sites.

Online search did not reveal a state employee accountability system. We do not see a performance management system and if it exists is not reported on the website. There are no clear responsibilities, timelines, outputs and sanctions publicly available to measure the public sector. A report of plans by the state planning commission to kick start the state cluster monitoring system – a peer review process that groups similar MDAs into clusters to enable performance monitoring was seen but no document showing the review is available.

Stakeholder engagement strategy is not shown on the website. There is no call centre phone number for citizen reporting or feedback. There are no documents shared on the site for citizen input and no evidence of stakeholder meetings reported like the Health strategic plan. We also notice the absence of data and key indicators noting that Cross River state ranks number 18 on the national poverty index with incidence recorded at 33.1 percent, above the national average of 46 percent.

We did not find evidence of state evaluation mechanism. Measuring outcomes against stated goals is a critical pillar of successful and world-class cities. Capital budget performance is not shared publicly. Information on capital contracts detailing cost, delivery status and contractor information are not readily available.

In all, Cross River state has a legacy of pathfinding innovation and needs to urgently raise the bar on state transparency. Revamping the state planning commission, appointing a chief information officer and providing a citizen’s based interactive tool for performing basic state functions would be a step in the right direction. A Facebook page with 4,481 likes and twitter handle with 3,385 followers does not reflect the state’s ambition as the ultimate tourist destination in West Africa.


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