By Aplefe Ojong
The dust raised by the memo issued by the Director General, of Cross River State Bureau of Public Private Partnership, Francis Ntamu requesting key stakeholders to a meeting with the bureau and the prospective investor interested in the Cross River State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of the Nigerian and Weekend Chronicle today Tuesday, March 24, 2015 has refused to settle even when the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Christian Ita has told Cross Riverians that Senator Liyel Imoke never directed that CRSNC should be sold.
This is because most Cross Riverians still strongly hold the view that Senator Imoke’s rebuttal as regards the said plan to give out the state newspaper house on concession was a mere political gimmick and smokescreen deployed to weather the tsunami that emanated following publication of his planned concession of the place, and that the volumes of reactions by the people of the state both at home and abroad came as a rude shock to the governor who never expected such bashing.
Some politicians, civil servants and other Cross Riverians who spoke with CrossRiverWatch said that Imoke and his cronies want to buy over the entire Cross River State before they rest, and challenged the governor to tell Cross Riverians who authorized the memo that was written by the BPPPP boss, Francis Ntamu.
A top civil servant with the State House of Assembly who did not want to be named for fear of victimization, told CrossRiverWatch that he was still skeptical with the governor’s rebuttal, stressing that “it is when the proposed meeting fixed for Today March 24, 2015 does not hold again then it will reasonably convince Cross Riverians that Imoke is sincere in his rebuttal.”
A member of the State House of Assembly who is also a lawyer said he had 10 questions he will want the press to ask the person who wrote Imoke’s rebuttal.
The Hon. Member who said, “I will for now not want to be seen to be the first to oppose the motion until the matter is brought before the House, so will not want my name in the report”, added that if Imoke can answer his 10 questions, it will go a long way to douse the brewing tension.
His 10 questions include:
1. If Imoke claims that he has never had any intention or directed anybody to put out the CRSNC for concession, why is it that his administration did not provide for, either part or all the N161 million the CRSNC requested for, to complete the renovation project in the corporation, in the 2015 budget?
2. If the government of Senator Imoke has no ill intention towards the newspaper corporation, why is it that even in those years that the corporation was captured in the budget, the monies were hardly released?
3. Why is it that Imoke closed his eyes when even the small amount that was released to the contractor was still being partly taken away by some officials in some ministries in the name of cuts and percentage?
4. Why did Imoke, just like his predecessor, Donald Duke, wait until the eve of his administration before contemplating selling the newspaper house?
5. Is Imoke afraid that his successor may meet some mess and may want to tell Cross Riverians and he wants to preempt him by taking out control of a strategic instrument like Chronicle from his successor? If not why contemplating the sale with barely 65 days to the end of his tenure?
6. Since Imoke has insisted in all the party campaign tours that what is happening is Cross River is not handing over but transition and continuity, why will he not leave the concession in the hand over notes for his successor?
7. If Imoke claims that he has no intention to give the CRSNC on concession to private investor or investors, who then directed the Director General of BPPP, Francis Ntamu to write such a letter inviting stakeholders to a meeting with the bureau and the so-called investor, and if the D/G of BPPP did not receive any directive from the governor before writing such letter which equally copied the governor, what punitive measure has the governor taken against the BPPP boss?
8. If Imoke did not have a predetermined crony in mind who they want to hand over the assets of Chronicle to, what happened to the law that says if you want to concession public property, you will advertise for tenders from which government will then pre qualify the bidders? Has this planned concession passed through the legally prescribed process?
9. If there is sincerely no plan to hand over Chronicle assets to a crony, which smart investor who knows the worth of his money will bring in hundreds of millions to buy a dying Chronicle when the investor can buy plots of land and start a new and thriving media organization with much less than we are hearing from sources that the investor is willing to put down?
10. Finally, can Imoke tell Cross Riverians how much has been realized from the various public enterprises given out; particularly the Studio Tinapa and the 2.4billion Naira Loan the state guaranteed for EbonyLife TV to build the Calabar Media City?
Another senior civil servant in the ministry of information who spoke with our reporter said: “The governor should not have even entertained that sort of idea particularly at this time when he is not only about to leave but in the midst of a very crucial election. It is bad advice and they must find a way to nip it in the bud.”
Th Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ Cross River chapter, Pastor Ndoma Akpet, also told CrossRiverWatch that the union has not been able to confirm the information about the planned concession and promised that if the information is eventually confirmed, the Union will not hesitate to resist it.
“Well at the moment, the union is not able to confirm the information but I can assure you that if we confirm the information to be true, we will definitely resist the action. When Donald also tried it at the eve of his tenure, he could not succeed so I don’t think we will react differently to such attempt this time around.” he said.
CrossRiverWatch also gathered that some high profile indigenes of the state were not happy with Imoke’s plot to give out CRSNC on concession after they have read stories of the planned concession, and that they had called the governor to dissuade him from the action which they argue may affect the fortunes of the ruling party in the forthcoming elections.
It could be recalled that since last Friday evening when CrossRiverWatch broke the news of the planned concession of the newspaper house built and commissioned by the first military Governor of the former Southeastern state, later Cross River State which is the present Cross River state and Akwa Ibom state in 1974, Cross Riverians at home and in the Diaspora have with one tone denounced the governor’s plot to concession the state owned newspaper in questionable circumstances.
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