From Olanrewaju Arotimi, Calabar
The few words of an American motivational speaker, Frank Ocean, which says “Work hard in silence; let your success be your noise”, cannot be more appropriate as shown in the performances of governor Benedict Ayade of Cross River State, two years after taking over the mantle of leadership in the peoples’ paradise.
Over the past one year in office, the governor has not only served, and he is still serving his people by proffering a better way of life for them through evolving policies that have direct bearing on the lives of the common man, but has lived it through unprecedented achievements that cut across industrialization, job creation, award of scholarships, as well as infrastructural development.
Upon assumption of office as the state governor in May 29, 2015, Prof. Ayade did not leave anyone in doubt on his mission in the state. In his inaugural address, the governor was emphatic about his quest to transform the state through industrialization, massive infrastructural and human developments.
Two years down the line, critics may say the governor had not been able to complete some of his signature projects, including the 260 kilometer super highway and the Bakassi deep sea port construction.
This, according to the governor’s Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Christian Ita, does not in any way stop his principal from actualizing other aspects of his administration’s policy thrust. He said, but for the delay of the Federal Ministry of Environment release of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval for the road, the project would have gone far, considering the governor’s passion for it. Although, he said the design work for the project had been completed.
Ita, who attributed the delay in the release of the required document to politics, said despite this initial hiccup, quite a lot of civil engineering works including site clearing had already taken place. This, he noted was enough to let the masses know that the governor remains committed to the project. He said the Bakassi deep sea port project, just like the super highway, is dear to the governor’s heart, and no stone will be left unturned to execute both projects. He disclosed that the Environmental Impact Assessment approval for the port project had been secured, with preliminary works ongoing.
“The designs for the road project have been completed. We have secured EIA approval for the deep sea port, and preliminary works ongoing. Advisory and implementation committee for the seaport in place, even as we search for transaction advisor”, Ita said during a tour of some projects sites with newsmen, on Monday, in Calabar.
Ita, however, said the Ayade’s led administration was not resting on its oars towards meeting the yearnings and aspirations of the masses.
He noted that it was in realization of the governor’s vision to transform the state’s economy, which was initially civil service driven, that the current administration had quietly, but rigorously and aggressively, pursued its industrialization policy over the past one year.
The CPS explained how the administration, despite all manner of criticisms, and paucity of funds, had remained focused in its determination to create sustainable job opportunities for the masses, especially the female folk, through its industrialization policy. He disclosed that so far, apart from the job opportunities created in other sectors, the state government has been able to create over three thousand jobs for the masses through the Cross River Garment factory, alone.
He said the garment factory, though yet to be commissioned, had started producing fabrics in commercial quantity since it was inaugurated in 2016. LEADERSHIP can authoritatively report that several industrial sewing machines and the operators were sighed in the factory, during a tour of the facility, penultimate week in Calabar.
While on the tour, the Special Assistant to the governor on Commerce and Industry, Mr. Ben Egba, told LEADERSHIP that the factory had undertaken quite a number of contracts since its inauguration by the governor. He revealed that the factory recently secured a contract from the Akwa State ministry of transport, to sew over one thousand pieces of uniform for its taskforce members, shortly after executing similar contracts for two private schools based in Abuja, and Lagos state, respectively.
He boasted that the factory has the capacity to undertake any quantity of production with specifications, adding that they were still expecting more jobs from within and outside the state.
“We have handled quite a number of projects here from different schools, both within the state and outside the state. Some came from Abuja, Lagos and Akwa Ibom states. We have completed and delivered the contract to sew uniform, gotten from Akwa Ibom. We did one for an agency with the ministry of transportation in Akwa state, just like the DOPT in Cross River.
“We do not have any challenge with our production at the moment; everything is in order. Just like the governor would say, we don’t want to do something that would not benefit the poor masses. What we are now looking for is: the work load. We are ready to take on any work that comes”, he said.
The governor’s aide also said in order to boost and sustain production in the factory, a cotton farm had been sited in Yala, the northern senatorial district of the state. According to him, the farm will service the factory with the needed raw materials for production.
Egba said: “To complement the garment factory, the state government has started a cotton farm in Yala, so that we don’t buy raw materials again. In no distant time, we would start producing the fabrics.”
Driven further by his uncommon passion to industrialize the state, while putting finishing touches on the garment factory, governor Ayade simultaneously embarked on several other industry based projects in the state. These projects are; the Calabar Pharmaceutical company (CalaPharm), Rice city, Rice Mill, Cocoa processing plant, Biotech among others.
CalaPharm; a pharmaceutical company, according to the governor’s CPS, Christian Ita, would be producing assorted drugs upon its completion in three months’ time. The company is expected to create two thousand direct jobs immediately it comes on stream. The hi-tech company would also produce drugs to cure Lassa fever, even as plans had been concluded to site two laboratories, in partnership with NAFDAC, and UNICAL’s school of pharmacy, within the precinct of the facility, Ita added.
The CPS, who disclosed that drugs manufactured in CalaPharm would essentially be for the mothers and children, described the rice city as a research center, from where improved seedlings would be sold to the public. He said the facility has the capacity to service both local and foreign demands.
In the course of the tour, Ita said “In CalaPharm, we would be producing different kinds of drugs. We are also working on a lab that NAFDAC would be using; since they don’t have a lab in the south-south. Another lab in consideration is for the UNICAL school of pharmacy. All of that had been structured in the project. Most of the drugs would be for mother and children, in order to prevent maternal mortality rate.
“The facility will also produce drugs for lasser fever, because currently, there is no pharmaceutical company in Nigeria that produces such. So, this one should be up and running in about 3 month’s time, and it would create about 200 direct jobs. We would have sales reps across Nigeria.”
The governor, had in a recent public forum said “The philosophy behind the setting up of this factory was that, with AyadeCare, the Cross River state health insurance scheme aimed at providing cheap and affordable medical support services to our people, it was pertinent that we have uncontrollable quantum of drugs available to us at all times to sustain the programme.”
While expressing confidence in the Ayade’s led administration to also transform the agricultural sector, and make it a viable income earner for the state, Ita said a rice mill, expected to be served by the research center, had been established in Ogoja local government area. As he emphasized the need for value chain addition in the agribusiness, the
CPS further revealed that seedlings from the research center would also service the CBN Anchor Borrowers Scheme.
Shedding more light on the rice city project, Ita said “It is a seedling center for research; done in collaboration with Thai Africa rice. The seedlings we are going to have here will produce the best grains; not the local rice. In the four storey building behind is the hostel and lab. The other side is the main nursery. From here, the seedlings would be sold to the general public. The idea why it is kept in Calabar is the proximity to the airport. We expect that people would come from all over the world, especially from West Africa, to buy the seedlings. It is meant for local use and export. In our analysis, we thought of servicing the CBN anchor borrowers’ programme. We are also cultivating rice in the north. We are also now doing the value chain addition. They just finished fabricating the rice mill. They have also completed fabrication of the cocoa processing plant in Ikom.”
Significantly, having realized that no meaningful development can be achieved without a steady power supply, and in a deliberate move to sustain its industrialization drive, the incumbent administration of governor Ben Ayade has also ventured into a 21.3 megawatts independent power plant project, sited along the parliamentary road extension, in Calabar.
When completed, the plant, which is a partnership venture, will service the electricity need of residents in the Calabar metropolis, according to the governor’s Special Adviser on Public Utilities, Hon. Iyadim Iyadim.
The governor’s aide assured that the plant will also service the industrial line in Calabar, as well as power streets light in the metropolis, inorder to beef up the security of lives and property. While recalling how a similar project was sited in Obudu, he said plans were in the offing to replicate the same project in Calabar south local government area, as well as other senatorial districts in the state.
Addressing Journalists shortly after a tour of the power plant, the project manager, Mr. Charles Parker, expressed optimism that the project will be completed on its scheduled date, and in line with specifications. He noted that the entire project was 80% completed, while the civil works component had reached 95% completion level.
The American, with vast experience in power plant production, said the facility will be powered by Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) or diesel. He disclosed that a generation license had been obtained to operate the plant, with a current installation capacity of 13.1 megawatt.
Parker, who described the project as the first of its kind in Nigeria, gave an assurance that the plant will be at it full capacity on May 29, 2017, and ready for commissioning, if all the equipments required to execute the project were in place.
“This is a 21.3 megawatt power plant. The entire project is 80% completed. The civil works are about 95% completed. So far, we have installed 13.1 megawatt, and the remaining 8 megawatt should be arriving in a couple of weeks. It will be connected to the local grid, and it will provide sustainable power for Calabar metropolis”, he said.
Other life transforming projects embarked upon simultaneously by the government are; the approximately 148 kilometers road network construction project, cutting across the six local government areas in the northern senatorial district in Cross River State. Worthy of note is the road project linking Boki and western Boki, that were previously separated by nature.
It is also pertinent to note that within the past one year in office, despite the calculated attempts to distract the administration’s focus, quite a number of projects not mentioned earlier, had been completed. These include the water works projects sited in Ikom, and Itigidi, in Abi local government areas, respectively.
Instructively, and in a rare display of statesmanship in piloting the affairs of the state, governor Ben Ayade, over the past one year, had ensured continuity in governance. This, he exhibited through the timely completion of the Calabar Monorail, Calabar International Convention Centre (CICC), among other projects he inherited from his predecessor in office.
As the Ayade’s led administration marks her second year anniversary in office today, and as the state eagerly await the arrival of the acting president, Mr. Yemi Osinbajo, in Calabar, to formally inaugurate some of these life touching projects, it is crucial to let the citizenry know that the governor, has indeed, kept his promises of changing their economic fortunes, not only with the prompt payment of workers salary, but also with the gradual, and steady industrialization of the state.