By Our Correspondent
Stanley Okon Bassey Nsemo-Livingstone, the new Director General of the Cross River State Signage and Advertisement Agency (CRISSAA) is a native of, Calabar Municipality from Ikot Ishie, married to Mrs. Diana Stanley Nsemo-Livingstone. Before his recent appointment by Governor Ayade as the DG of CRISSAA, the young, and articulate Nsemo-Livingstone, a graduate of Economics with specialty in International Business from the University of Pittsburg, USA, and later the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), say he owned a company with offices in Lagos, Calabar, Abuja and Ikot Ekpene and had worked in several reputable organizations including banks, telecommunication industries, Microsoft, Vitafoam etc.
He has also been involved in the organization of two National Sports Festivals among others. Nsemo-Livingstone, who says he is a strong believer in hard work, discipline and capacity development especially for the young people, is the fourth and last male child of his parents and was raised in a family with rich Catholic tradition and proud conservative background.
In this interview with CrossRiverWatch, the DG spoke on several issues including the objectives of the agency, Governor Ayade’s leadership, the vision of the agency under his leadership, the plan to make Cross River a hub for the fabrication of advertisement platforms in Nigeria, among others.
CrossRiverWatch: What are the main objectives of CRISSA?
DG: CRISSAA objectives are essentially two fold, regulating outdoor signage, and advertisement in Cross River State, second collection of tariff for outdoor asset and media in Cross River State. The First of it is the very important aspect of our job, regulation, meaning that we are charged to regulate all outdoor media in the state to ensure that it is not just done in an orderly manner but that it meets global standard having aesthetics values that will add to the beauty of the state to ensure Cross River remains clean and green. We make sure that our outdoor products are well arranged to add value to the state and its people.
CrossRiverWatch: Before you came was there any adequate structure on ground for you to build upon?
DG: Yes, I came and met a proper and adequate structure in place. My predecessor did a very wonderful job by laying a solid foundation for us to come and build upon. My predecessor laid a solid foundation by creating different departments, outlets, creating revenue generation points and recruited staff and made sure that there was a balanced system in place; in fact, they laid the foundation on which we are building upon. What my leadership is striving to do is to build the first and probably the second floor, the organizational policies that will create prosperous revenue generation for the state and also create a more regulated agency. Whereas they had the task of bringing about policies to regulate, we have to build and expand on them.
CrossRiverWatch: What are some of your challenges?
DG: there are so many challenges, one of which is the issue of the Local Government Councils of the state saying that they have the right to collect revenue in their domain. The truth is that they are not in this industry so they don’t have what it takes to operate and collect revenue in the aspect and area under discussion. As a body, we are part of the outdoor advertising of Nigeria, so we understand what the standards and practices are; we are specialists in that segment of business and revenue collection. CRISSAA is not just a tax collector or a revenue collector but regulators, tariff and policy makers in that area. We think about not just to collect tariff but how do we add value to what we generate, how do we add value to our services and to our clients. We recognize that we are all partners with the Local Governments and the state; we are not fighting them but working with them in a round table to discuss on how to source for the resources and manage them and to make sure that the operators and the regulators add value to the system. Chairmen of Councils are Board members of the Agency and are part of the decision making body. We have done the revenue aspect for a long time, now we are adding value by providing free professional advice to our clients. We have a table, a customer service table where we advise our clients what they should do whether it is outdoor service and others.
CrossRiverWatch: How do you go about creating awareness about your activities?
DG: I have discussed a lot of the ideas that I have with His Excellency and he has improved upon the ideas and made them bigger about the issue of fabrication and has advised on how we can go about the fabrication. You know our governor is a man of a very deep ideas and thinking. We are having an investors’ forum in February 2016, and we will seat down and discuss on how we can make Cross River State a fabrication center of outdoor equipment in Nigeria. We are also trying to bring Association of Outdoor Advertising of Nigeria’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) to the state. We must deliberately make ourselves more attractive for advertisement and for practitioners and it’s a long term project.
CrossRiverWatch: What is the level of patronage from your clients as well as the challenges you face from them?
DG: The awareness in terms of understanding and patronage is encouraging and we hope it will continue to improve with time. The challenge however is the complaint from clients on the problem of multiple taxes. As part of the mechanism to solve the problem, we have met with the Chairman of Cross River State Internal Revenue Service and a committee was set up to work out modalities to harmonize tariff and revenue collection so as to avoid the situation where clients/operators of businesses will continue to face the problem of multiple taxation.
CrossRiverWatch: How do you intend to bring your vast private sector experience to bear on those working under you so the objectives of the agency can be realized?
DG: I have a strong belief in building capacity. While in private business, I always believed in training and capacity building for my staff. Identifying of areas of strengths and weaknesses among your staff is key. I find out and recognize the abilities of each of my staff and place them where they are best fitted, while those who cannot fit into the can of business we are doing shall be encouraged to transfer to areas they are best fitted or where their talents will be best suited. I strongly believe in a square pegs in square holes.
CrossRiverWatch: How do you intend to inspire other young Cross Riverians in this capacity?
DG: When you look at the governor he is somebody who radiates courage and inspiration. He is a perfect role model which I will advise every young Cross Riverian to look unto as a standard. Young Cross Riverians should count themselves lucky to be alive at a time when such an industrious and enterprising young man is leading the state with all vigour and inspiration and they should learn very fast from him. The things our governor has set out to achieve are enormous and he will achieve them one by one. Ayade is such an inspirational leader and a role model to me. Whatever you have set your mind at, keep at it and you will succeed. Ayade is a man that has given young people the opportunity to be enterprising and express themselves and achieve their full potentials.
We have identified areas where we have competitive advantage having links to the North, South and South East, coupled with the fact that we are building a super highway. We are using these advantages to attract outdoor signages to the state and by so doing set up a training school that will train youths of the state in various aspects of signage and advertising businesses; and the initiative will be funded purely by the private sector. A lot of practitioners have already indicated interest, while the Governor has also given his blessing to the initiative.
CrossRiverWatch: At the end of the first tenure of this administration, what is the vision you are seeing of this Agency?
DG: I am seeing a vision of added value chain along the different sectors where it will not just be a collection of revenue and tariff, but also entrepreneurship development, skills development and technological transfer and breakthrough. When you come to Cross River State, you should be able to see aesthetics and classic outdoor service system that is valuable, and doing something that other states can emulate us; adverts that add color and glamor to the beauty of the state; where services that add value would be provided and the state will become an example, just as it will help boost the revenue profile of the state.
CrossRiverWatch: Do you have the required expertise to drive this process?
DG: Yes we have. I have inherited a lot of such expertise from the former DG and of course we will build upon this. The governor has given us the authority to do that which will bring the best for the Agency and the state in general and he is giving us his full support. All we need is an enabling environment and that, the governor has provided and promised to sustain.
CrossRiverWatch: What is your message to Cross Riverians?
DG: My message to Cross Riverians especially the youths is for them to key into governor Ayade visionary leadership, find a way to plug into that vision. Find where your skills and talents are best utilized and make yourself available for service.