The vision statement of our dear state reads “Cross River State aspires by 2020 to be a leading Nigerian state with prosperous, healthy and well educated citizens living in harmony with people and nature and pursuing their legitimate interests in freedom moderated by good governance.”
While this is a wonderful vision, Sen. Prof. Benedict Ayade with his vision for the state has given us the inspiration to dream anew; a dream of sound economic growth and shared prosperity for our state and the citizens.
Sen. Prof Ben Ayade in his inaugural speech said “In the new Cross River of our DREAM, there is a place and hope for everyone. There will be jobs for the youth and prosperity for the working class. The resurgent middle class shall find anchor for their roots and everyone shall find independence and pride in their work. The wages of honest labor shall liberate families from the jaws of hardship and no child shall go to bed with an empty stomach neither shall any mother be depressed by lack of access to Medicare for her children and loved ones”.
This is the new dream for Cross River State and this new dream is built on an inclusive economic blueprint that will see to the development of key economic sectors in Cross River State, building of social and economic infrastructure, attracting Foreign Direct Investment, promoting Human Capital Development, Conserving our environment, providing social security, maintaining law and order etc. The blueprint is designed to harness the full potentials of Cross River State, a state blessed with abundant human and natural resources, for the development of the state.
The new dream is bold and audacious and the moment requires our capacity to dream collectively. As we pledge to the land of our birth, our love and toil through the years to be, we are required to give our heads, hearts and hands to be part of the fulfillment of this dream.
By ensuring that every foot is on the pedal, we can harness new ideas, opportunities and technology to reconstruct our state. This dream is to help free our state of poverty and more importantly promote shared prosperity among its citizens.
The blueprint for inclusive economic growth seeks to improve living standards for all citizens of the state, reduce climate change through the conservation of the environment, provide access to affordable quality healthcare and education, create jobs for millions of unemployed youth in the state, improve public transportation system, generate and distribute power for improved economic activities, build roads and bridges for safe transportation, provide decent affordable housing and establish social safety nets for the socially disadvantaged demographic.
In the new blueprint, the state is paying increased attention to key economic sectors that the state has competitive advantage. These sectors include Culture and Tourism, Agriculture, Mineral Resources including solid mineral and petroleum resources, the Creative Industry, Information and Communication Technology and the Industrial sectors. The development of these key sectors will bring about fast track economic development of Cross River State which is the goal of this administration.
The state government is also making it a deliberate policy to close the gap between low and high income earners through government social and economic infrastructure programmes like social housing, abolishing taxes for low income earners and the social safety net programmes.
This policy is to promote equality and shared prosperity for Cross Riverians and to ensure a more balanced society and a state fit for all citizens. This government’s commitment to ending poverty and hunger and promoting equality is total and will not be compromised.
I will attempt to highlight the state’s economic blueprint though the space available may not permit me to go into details. The blueprint is in line with the global commitment to sustainable development.
Cross River State is committed to not just sustainable, inclusive economic growth and ending poverty and hunger but also shared prosperity for its citizens, protection of the environment, conservation of our forest and action to combat climate change and its impacts. Below are some key areas of the sustainable development agenda of the present administration.
Infrastructure development will include economic (power and electricity, roads and transportation, information and communication technology) and social (education, health care and housing).
Power and Electricity:
The state government has elevated the state electrification agency to a full ministry to cope with the enormous task before the state. The vision is to improve quality and access to power for the citizenry. 3 megawatt power generation facilities are to be established in each Federal Constituency in the state to ensure that the state meets the electricity needs of its citizens which is about a third of the total of what will be achieved and the remaining two third will be commercialized through the national power infrastructure. The state will utilize gas, hydro and solar power to generate power partnering with the private sector.
Roads and Transportation:
This administration will vigorously pursue the construction of roads and bridges in the three senatorial districts of the state. Major road infrastructure include the 260km Bakassi – Katsina -Ala Superhighway, the Itu – Calabar – Akamkpa bypass, the dualisation of Abakaliki – Yala – Ogoja – Bekwarra – Obudu Ranch road.
Highways will also be constructed from the Super highway to the city center in each Local government area where the super highway does not pass the city center. Road networks will be created in the 18 New Cities to be created in 18 Local Government Areas. In addition, repairs of damaged state and federal roads will continue to receive support.
Information and Communication Technology:
Information and Communications Technology offers a world of opportunities to Cross Riverians in all facets of the economy. The Cross River State Government will continue its commitment to the development of Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure in the state.
The state will develop unlimited internet bandwidth/Wifi in the 18 New Cities in all the Local Government Areas and in Cross River University of Technology CRUTECH, in addition to ensuring the Calabar Digital City Project is completed and activated. The entire length of the super highway will also be provided with internet facility.
The significance of a deep sea port in economic development of the state and the country cannot be over emphasized. Deep sea ports play an important role facilitating Nigeria’s external trade. It is common knowledge that the existing ports in Nigeria, especially Apapa and Tin Can Ports in the Lagos axis, are overstretched with the attendant inordinate delays in cargo handling and processing.
The Cross River State Government thus has commenced the design and construction of the Bakassi Deep Sea Port in Bakassi Local Government Area. The sea port is expected to serve the northern states in Nigeria and countries North of Nigeria.
The State Government will continue to maintain high standard of construction, refurbishment and provision of facilities in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the state. The state will construct world class pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in the three senatorial districts in the state. The state is in the process of reforming and streamlining the course content of the Institute of Technology and Management in Ugep. Other tertiary institutions in the state will also be given support to meet the necessary standards to provide quality education for the citizens.
Providing access to quality and affordable health care for the citizens is paramount in the mind of this administration. The dream is that any mother shall not be depressed by lack of access to health care for herself, her children or her loved ones. The state government will thus continue to invest in the development of primary, secondary and tertiary health care facilities in the state and capacity development for personnel and provide drugs and equipment to help the health sector function optimally.
Housing is one of the basic needs of citizens and this administration will ensure that most of the citizens have access to decent shelter. The state government at the first instance has proposed to develop 5000 social housing units across the 18 local government areas in the state. The state government will be constructing 18 New Cities in the different local government areas in the state to improve living standards across the state.
ECONOMIC SECTOR DEVELOPMENT
Cross River State over the years has consistently invested in the development of tourism and the state has become one of the leading tourism destinations in Africa, with millions of tourists visiting the state annually. Our reputation as the premiere destination for leisure in Nigeria is fully established. The state shall continue to initiate reforms that will allow the private sector take the lead in the tourism industry. This administration will also further develop tourism infrastructure in the state in partnership with private sector players and increase efforts aimed at improving on service delivery in the sector.
In the agriculture sector, the state government will continue partnering with the private sector to increase investment in production, processing and marketing of agriculture products in the state. The state government through Public Private Partnership will set up a rice processing mill in Ogoja, a cocoa processing plant in Etung, Banana Plantation in Boki, Maize farm and feed mill in Yala and rubber processing plant in Odukpani. In a bid to promote mechanized farming in the state, the government will also set up Agro mechanization center for 3 senatorial districts in Bekwarra, Obubra and Akamkpa and agro industrial processing centers in Yakurr. The future of the sector in the state is bright.
The state is endowed with numerous solid minerals. In trying to harness this important sector of the state economy, the government has created a Ministry of Solid Mineral. The state will carry out a comprehensive mineral mapping and scanning for gold and tantalite deposits. The expectation is to diversify the economy of the state by tapping into the resources which hitherto were unexplored. The state will partner the private sector to construct a tile/granite processing plant in Obudu, a ceramic processing plant in Bekwarra, Cement Plant in Akamkpa, Salt Processing plant in Yala and Quarries in Ogoja, Obubra and Akamkpa.
Preliminary studies show that the state is impregnated with hydrocarbon deposits and this administration is set to partner private investors to explore and exploit oil and gas in the state. The state shall reactivate the long abandoned PETROCROSS NIG LTD to pursue standardization and compliance process with the Department of Petroleum Resources to operate marginal field. The state will carry out hydro carbon asset appraisal and optimization. A 50,000 metric tons tank farms shall be built with twenty three Mega filling stations built and opened across the state.
It has been asserted that the future of Cross River State is in its creative industry. Paying attention to our intellectual property and seeking ways to develop it could be a way to achieve the quantum leap the state desires to move its economy ahead. The state will support the industry to grow in order to reap the benefits therein. Some of the areas of focus will include the film and music industry and visual and entertainment arts.
PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT:
Cross River State is dedicated to protecting the environment through the efficient use of natural resources and the reduction of our environmental impact. Having one of the largest existing rainforest in Africa and biodiversity hotspots, the government has redoubled effort geared at conservation, protection and rejuvenation of our forests and other natural resources promoting sustainable use of resources and contribution to the global carbon credit. The government recently established the green police in line with this vision.
Social security covers the programmes of government intended to promote the welfare of the population through assistance measures guaranteeing access to sufficient resources for food and shelter and to promote health and well-being for the potentially vulnerable segments such as children, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed. The government will continue to provide social safety nets for its vulnerable citizens and has started a social housing programme for the poor in the state.
This administration is committed to the development of the economy of Cross River State and improving the living standards for the citizens. It is thus unveiling a blueprint for inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity for the citizens.
With all these laudable programmes of this administration, it is surely the beginning of a new dawn for Cross River state. It is time for Cross Riverians to be part of this new dream and partner with this administration to make it a reality.
Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria. (email@example.com)