By Luqman Openiyi in Lagos and Ushang Ewah in Calabar
Last Saturday was no doubt a big day for the Cross River state governor, Senator Ben Ayade as he received the Vanguard Governor of the Year award in Lagos.
What was even more special was the manner in which almost the entire machinery of Government, including the Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. John Gaul Lebo, Secretary to the State government, Barrister Tina Agbor, Chief of Staff, Hon. Martin Orim, almost the entire members of the State Executive Council, Heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies and tens of other political appointees and contractors, relocated temporarily from Calabar to Lagos to felicitate with the governor.
CrossRiverWatch gathered that the state government chartered a passenger flight, 9J 3339 from Dana Air which flew appointees from Calabar to and from Lagos. With arrangements made for their hotel accommodation for one night in Lagos.
Government sources were reluctant to reveal how much the charter and hotel bills will cost Cross River tax payers but a staff of Dana Air told this reporter that the state paid Dana a subsidized price of N10Million Naira for the return trip.
“The highest capacity of our aircraft is 141 passengers for a full trip. If you multiply that by prevailing fare on the day you want to travel, it is approximately 6M. But I think your state government got a subsidized price of 10M to and fro.” The source who pleaded anonymity told CrossRiverWatch.
In Lagos, the atmosphere in the event hall was completely Cross River. If you were not told, you will believe it was only Cross River that had an event on the day, yet several other dignitaries also came to receive their own awards.
Elated aides of the governor filled the left wing of the convention center of Eko hotel, venue of the event and were heard cheering and screaming at every mention of the governor’s name and achievement.
It was not quite clear whether the governor took note of who and who among his aides was present at the event but most of them struggled to get him to notice that they were around.
Plans by some of the aides to hold an after party could not hold because according to one of those who were putting it together, “The Award ceremony took long and finished late and we had to leave the following morning, so it was late to still keep people late into the night. We had to shelve it.”
The chartered Dana Air flight departed Lagos Sunday evening 3pm with the governor’s aides back to Calabar.