The Cross River Super Highway And Other Stories BY AGBA JALINGO

In Breaking News, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Politics

super highway2

There are so many stories surrounding the Superhighway project of the Cross River State Government that, at the moment, if the road were to be a guy or a babe for instance, he/she will sure be one of the trending topics on Twitter, Facebook or make headlines on Linda Ikeji.

The 260km Superhighway estimated to cost 700 Billion Naira is expected to serve as the evacuation corridor for the proposed Deep Sea Port in Esighi, Bakassi local government area also estimated to cost another 500 Billion Naira, and terminate at Katsina-Ala, a small boundary town between Cross River and Benue states.

However, there are concerns from some quarters about the propriety of the project and adherence to due process. These concerns have essentially emanated from two groups of critics.

The first is a group who are genuinely concerned that there are some steps that the government is missing in their enthusiasm to construct a superhighway and are sincerely wishing that those concerns are quickly addressed so that the project can proceed to completion,

The second, is a group of people who have announced the project dead on arrival. This group has adduced variegated reasons why the project should not and/or must not be allowed to see the light of day whether the concerns raised by the first group are addressed or not.

They insist that rather than a superhighway, the government should just rehabilitate the existing Federal highway and so be it. This group is currently cranking glasses and basking in the euphoria of their temporary victory following reports that work on the project has been suspended.

I stand with the first group. I give my total support to the construction of the 260km superhighway from Calabar to Katsina-Ala. I can only imagine what revolution such a project will bring to the entire state, from the foot of the Sea Port to the lingering mirages of the road ends.

However, the government must move swiftly and address germane issues concerning the speculations that the EIA has not been done, about whether or not the set back of the road is 90m or 10km (on either side), the order of revocation of community lands, concerns about compensation for communities bestriding the superhighway route and several others in the interest of everyone.

There is no way a project of such magnitude can be executed without addressing such critical components. Any attempt to undermine such essential components will be tantamount to under minding the project itself.

I am also very confident that well meaning Cross Riverians who believe in the future of the state can appreciate the essence of that project.

Even the most respected critic of successive governments in the state, an activist I hold in very high esteem and consider as the Primus inter pares of activists in Cross River state, Barrister Okoi Obono-Obla, contrary to what the public is made to believe, is in support of the superhighway.

It will be recalled that Barrister Obla after arriving Calabar with President Muhammadu Buhari on October 20, 2015 for the ground breaking ceremony of the project by President, eulogized Ayade and described the road as a revolutionary project which is ‘borne out of ingenious foresightedness’ by the Governor.

In a post on his Facebook timeline the following day, October 21, 2015, Chief Obla said: “Great and exceedingly remarkable things are happening to Cross River State under the leadership of Governor Ben Ayade in a Federal Government under the leadership of the dogged and indefatigable President Muhammadu Buhari!

“Yesterday, the President was in Obun Village in Netim Clan, Akamkpa Local Government Area to flag off construction of a Super Highway that will connect the South East, North Central and North East from the Atlantic Ocean.

“Since the feared incursion into the Cross River National Park has been addressed, I totally support it. It is a revolutionary project which is borne out of ingenious foresightedness!”

Also, Obla commended the President for reaffirming his bond with Cross River State and called on Cross Riverians to continue to support his administration’s effort in rebuilding the country.

“I call on our people to continue to support the President and the Governor. Yesterday, President Buhari again reaffirmed his bond with us when he pledged support for the super highway project.

“As a young officer in the Army during the civil war, Captain Buhari fought in Gakem, Obudu, Ogoja and Ikom. He became close to one of our greatest leaders, Chief I. I. Murphy of blessed memory. President Buhari loves us.” He wrote.

Other concerns that I will christen peripheral are concerns about how heavily indebted the state is and will become because of the superhighway.

My thoughts on that align completely with the thinking of the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun.

In her article titled “Financing Our Future” and published by several newspapers in March 2016, Adeosun postulated a lot of things that will serve as fine answers to that concern.

Her prescriptions about why the 2016 federal budget was debt funded, targeted at infrastructural development, industrialization and all of that, tallies with what the governor has proposed for the super highway and the deep sea port.

I specifically decided to quote Adeosun elaborately here for two reasons. Firstly, I am not an economist and secondly because I am a staunch supporter of the policies of President Buhari and if I agree that Adeosun’s mathematics is good for Nigeria at the federal level, then I should also have the courage to applaud similar applications by Ayade.

Adeosun said: “The debate about whether Nigeria should borrow is well intentioned and cannot be dismissed without careful analysis, given our antecedents as a nation.

“The 2016 Budget is being debt funded and the borrowings are targeted at the financing of capital projects to address the infrastructure deficit, create jobs and build the platform for optimization of the non-oil economy that will see Nigeria prosper.

“It’s important to note that capital spending creates an asset, and this gives a return over time in the form of growth…..

“Infrastructural projects such as rail and roads create jobs, generate taxes and stimulate further spending. This is the economic multiplier effect that capital spending brings…..

“Therefore, while an increase in public spending may create a deficit in the short term, the resultant increase in productivity will lead to a higher rate of economic growth and greater tax revenues.

“According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), for every one billion US dollars invested in infrastructure in developing economies, between 49,000 and 110,000 jobs are created.” (Unquote)

Similarly, the 350 Billion Naira 2016 budget of the Cross River state government is debt funded and most of the debts in the budget are also tied to these projects that the governor has christened Signature Projects.

I am in agreement with the Finance Minister that States should not borrow simply because there are funds available somewhere to access.

There must be a clear business case backed by justifiable benefits. I believe that Cross Rive state has such a case at the present time.

Simply put, we need capital investment to grow the economy of our state and it is only ambitious projects like the Super Highway and the Deep Sea Port that can inject such funds into the economy of the state to open up the state.

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