By; VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
Cross River state government has appealed to the Federal government to, as a matter of urgency, fast track processes that will bring about the immediate commencement of actual construction work on its signature projects,
They are the proposed Bakassi Deep Seaport and the 275 kilometers superhighway.
The state governor, Senator Ben Ayade made the call in Calabar when he received in audience the Chairman and members of the Bakassi Deep Seaport Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee in company of the project Transaction Financial Advisor prior to their 3-Day fact finding mission to the state.
Ayade who also used the occasion to inaugurate the Project Delivery Team pleaded with the Federal Government “to please give us the necessary approvals to fast track the execution of these dream projects that will not only enhance our economic status but also attract foreign earnings for the country because as a matter of fact, what we face today was orchestrated by them, occasioned by the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun and they must support us to fine our bearing, given our comparative advantage as a coastal state”.
Continuing Ayade appealed, “so, we found ourselves before you supplicating for clemency and understanding that we are not seeking as investors but what to us are fundamental issues of existentialism. Unfortunately, I find myself in a macabre dance where anyhow I twist; I am going to have a pain. The only way out therefore, is to turn back to you”.
He further stressed that “there is an urgency, as all the traditional rulers including the Obong of Calabar had gathered to lead a protest that these projects were going to die. And you know if I did not get my nomination back as a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the project would have been dead by now. I plead with you to rescue the state from this economic woes by taking the assignment as a service to humanity and God. Please use your expertise to do the needful for the actualization of the projects.”
Urging the group to live up to the expectations in delivery on the task,
he said: “Please let us not allow that child (deep Seaport) to die. The journey started officially in 2015, though I had conceived it two years before then with the dream that Cross River State had lost her oil wells and the Bakassi Peninsular and became a weeping child in the comity of states.
“As a result, the state has been reduced to want in body, spirit and in soul as no amount of tourism without an under pinning industry will allow Cross River survive, particularly in the post-restructured Nigeria”.
According to the governor, “so, it was clear to me that as a maritime state, the only way forward was to create a sustainable economy, knowing the international trading history that Nigeria is the eleventh trading partner with China and as estimated, by 2025 to 2030 Nigeria will be the top three trading partner with China”.
Rationalizing his assertion, Ayade noted “the implication is that, imports into the country will go up as Nigeria industrializes. Obviously, this country cannot afford to operate only one maritime gateway which is Lagos. As we continue our desperate search for an alternative to Bakassi and subsequent loss oil wells, we came to this crystallized position that with the deep seaport and 275 kilometers superhighway as an evacuation corridor to northern part of Nigeria, we would have an anchor solution”.
Lamenting the ill treatment the state receives from the Federal Governor, the governor decried that “A state whose allocation cannot pay its monthly wages being number 35 out of 36 in the allocation table and the third most indebted state in the country, those statistics confront any governor, no matter how smart or intelligent or how rich you are. The issues therefore, are such that I cannot continue to watch and wait on the federal allocation hence I initiated the process to decouple the state from its over dependency on the federal government.
“There is no way we can progress under the current structured federal republic, which allows you to do any other thing that is domestic but any thing that has to do with maritime, you must refer to the federal government because we are truly not federated as it were. It is obvious that we have to be handheld by the federal government if we must make progress,” he stressed.
The governor disclosed that “while we were waiting for the outcome of the interface of the transaction adviser, we showed our desperation and commitment to the project by starting the design process of the sea port, de-bushing and mapping out the route for the superhighway, completed and legally acquired 100 percent approval for the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) because the two are twin projects. You cannot do the deep seaport without an evacuation corridor else we will find ourselves where Lagos is today”.
Continuing, he said “in order to wet the appetite of the investors, we decided that the lest we could do is that anytime the investors come, having gotten the necessary approvals they will arrive at the sites surprise that they are not meeting a green project but one that has taken off already.
“So, as we speak, these projects are already in action, the superhighway route design, including opening it up from Bakassi to northern Nigeria has been completed. We did that over a year ago. Today, the key wall and the entire over 175 hectares of land for the seaport logistics have been fully cleared and completely opened up,” the governor hinted.
While enumerating some of the benefits of the two projects and how it will transform the socio-economic landscape of the country, Ayade stated: “These projects are not a Cross River’s, not even Nigeria’s but African projects. Our brothers in northern Africa are land locked and hemmed in. our brothers in Niger and Chad Republic have officially written to us seeking access to the proposed sea port to invest but waiting for Federal Government approval”.
Charging the inter ministerial team, Ayade intoned: “You are here to perform a task that is anointed by God himself because if Allah does not will it, we won’t come this far. If it was not the power of God, every thing that has come together to frustrate us, we would not be talking about it today. However, It took the President to personally call every one involved to order and commanded that the project starts.
Mr. President has given the project his full support but resources have held us down”.
Earlier, Chairman of the team and Chairman Bakassi Deep Seaport Steering Committee, Alhaji Galadanchi, said the team was in the state to review the report of the recently acquired Financial Advisor to the project with the view to taking the necessary step for its smooth take off.
He assured the government and people of the state that the committee would be very professional in the discharge of its assigned duties and solicited the full cooperation of all relevant agencies to deliver on the task that will see to the speedy execution of the project.