On October 20, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to Cross River State, flagged off the construction of a super highway initiated by that state’s governor, Professor Ben Ayade that is meant to link the South South state to the northern states. The highway is expected to give these northern states access to the Atlantic Ocean through the multi-billion naira Bakassi deep sea port.
These two projects are envisaged, on completion, to open up the economic potential of that axis of the nation and, in the process, expose them to international trade. The highway was designed as an inter-state corridor which means that the federal government is expected to participate financially to facilitate its early completion.
At the moment, some of these states in the northern part of the country are subjected to hassles brought about by the congestion at the Lagos port. It is noteworthy that the project will also provide alternative sources to the government to generate more income through a speedy and enhanced export and import business. The bedlam that the Apapa, Lagos port has become brings some level of urgency needed to expedite action in the plan to build a seaport in the state. Already, it is reported that the Calabar port is not serving its purpose. There are reports also that the facilities at the port have since expired making it imperative that Lagos port is decongested through the completion of the Bakassi deep sea port.
This was the thrust of the argument of the Cross River State governor who is making a case for the federal government to be more actively involved in the project which he describes as a Northern Nigeria project because it will enhance the ease of doing business not only between the North and Cross River but also businessmen in the South East and their foreign counterparts.
Professor Ayade is convinced that the projects, in particular the highway, has the capacity to create jobs and activate other businesses that will provide answers to some of the rot plaguing the nation such as banditry, insurgency and also rein in the irritating nuisance that boko haram has constituted itself into. The governor is worried that going by the financial limitations his state is exposed to, the projects will lag in their execution schedules. And to that extent, we insist that the projects deserve a federal government intervention funding.
However, in an optimistic note, Ayade vowed to continue with the project in spite of the frustrations generated by the federal government’s lack of sufficient attention. The project, were persuaded to argue, is, by its sheer size, beyond the resources of a state like Cross River State that draws comparatively low revenue from the federal purse.
It is from this perspective that this newspaper shares the anxieties of the governor, his passion and sincerity in embarking on the road which, on the surface, may appear ambitious but which, indeed, is proof of his foresight in that he is striving to create opportunities for integration for peoples along that geographical stretch.
We also appreciate the challenging fact that Cross River is by no means an affluent state even as it has been able to summon the audacity to handle that strategic infrastructure. It is from this standpoint that we urge the federal government to do the needful to ensure an early completion of the project.
In our opinion, it is for projects like these that the Federal Stabilisation Fund was put in place to enable the government to assess the peculiar circumstances of a given state and draw money from that Fund to facilitate the construction of such important structures.
We also note the optimism of the state government and its conviction that the two projects, when completed and put to effective use, will enhance the economic and business activities of parts of the northern states making then unquestioningly buoyant and prosperous.
We also point to the abundance of solid minerals, in the north which, if harvested and shipped through the highway and the seaport, will in no small way meaningfully boost the economic wellbeing of the people. At the moment the solid minerals if not wasting, are at the mercy of illegal miners.
We urge the Buhari administration to, as a matter of national interest, send a fact-finding team to do a study on this project which, in our view, is an opportunity to bring the North East, the North Central and South East states closer to the sea. We are convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that its economic benefits are far-ranging enough to erase any doubts as to its viability.