By CrossRiverWatch admin
The Association of Cross River Online Journalists, ACROJ has written to the governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. John Gaul, requesting them to commission an enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the 2.4Billion Naira loan which the Cross River State government guaranteed for EbonyLife to build a Calabar Media City.
The association urged the government to commence the investigation as soon as possible to enable the people of Cross River, from whose money the loan will be repaid, know how the money was disbursed and if the projected benefits are already accruing to the state.
In the letter signed by the Chairman of the Association, Mr. Iwara Iwara and Secretary, Emmanuel Unah, the group doubted the existence of a media city anywhere in Calabar, which would have been an ideal place to enhance the capacity of local journalists in the state.
Portions of the letter reads: “Incorporated on July 10, 2014 (CAC/IT/NO 70863), the Association of Cross River Online Journalists, ACROJ is a body of journalists committed to creating and dissemination of web based Cross River news content. The union seeks to institutionalize and moderate along professional lines, the practice of Cross River-centered online journalism.
“Your Excellency, as a group of practitioners who are striving to build the capacity of the budding online media in the state, there is a related issue of grave concern to us that we wish to draw Your Excellency’s attention to and kindly request you Sir, to you open an inquiry into, both in our interest as journalists and the interest of the generality of the state.
“In June 2012, the Cross River State House of Assembly authorized the granting of a N2.4billion loan to the state government for the Calabar Media City-Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) between the government and Ebony Life, operators of Ebonylife TV on DSTV.
“In a letter to the Assembly dated 31st May, 2012, former Governor Liyel Imoke had said the essence of the facility is to set up an entertainment channel, which would serve as the hub of African Private Television Entertainment in Calabar Media City.
“He said EbonyLife, the partner, is highly experienced and will handle the operation; while Ministry of Finance Incorporated, MOFI, another partner, will assist in overseeing the business. He assured the House that the revenue prospects of the business were high; and that it is envisaged that the government guarantee will never be called-in for failure of the business to meet its obligation.
“The former governor further informed the House that, Calabar Media City, through EbonyLife, has secured the patronage of Multi-Choice Company and a total fee of N2 billion is expected from Multi–Choice in the first year of operation. Imoke also stated that other revenue services include several projects that will yield income from professionals, institutions, and tourists, as the projects will also include Calabar Film Academy, Calabar Film Festival, Calabar Music Festival and Calabar Festival Week.
“According to him, the business revenue plan shows that by the third year of operation, the revenue will be N3.8 billion and by the seventh year, the total income expected will be N33.3 billion. Highlight of the First Bank offer showed the borrower and therefore, the obligator is Calabar Media City with tenor of 48 months and 16 per cent interest rate, with other fees granting at a total of 1 per cent flat.
“Your Excellency, more than two years on, it is doubtful whether there is a Calabar Media City anywhere or whether the projected revenue from the loan facility is accruing to the state. Our expectation that the capacity of struggling home grown media organizations with total commitment to the coverage of Cross River State, will be developed has also remained illusory due to the opacity surrounding the whole deal.
“It is in the light of all these that we in the Association of Cross River Online Journalists, ACROJ are asking His Excellency to commission an enquiry into the loan deal to determine whether it has met the terms of reference. Specifically Sir,
*What has become of the loan?
*Who have been the players in its disbursement and management?
*What has become of the Calabar Media City?
*What has been the impact of the deal on the development of the media in Cross River State particularly with struggling home grown media platforms that are being starved of support?
*What employment opportunities, and other infrastructural development has it brought to Cross River State?
*What is the percentage Cross River content in Ebonylife TV production?
“It is our fervent hope that His Excellency will see the imperative need for this inquiry and commission it as soon as possible so that Cross Riverians can say with accuracy where their 2.4billion Naira loan was spent.” The statement said.
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