Ayade: Boldly Fighting Cross River Battles For Justice In Nigeria BY SOLOMON ASHA

In Columnists, Opinion, Politics
From L-R: Mr. Solomon Asha and Governor Ben Ayade

From the time of yore to date, experience justifies the irrefutable reality that many are those especially from the so-called majority groups have in an unrighteous manner enjoyed and still enjoy the path of injustices and betrayal against those considered minority groups and the near voiceless of any society, as vicious verbal and physical attacks are often carried out against them.

Right from 1967 when a state that was created for the people was deleted before the announcement by the late Murtala Muhamed’s regime, the entity called Cross River state has suffered the worst neglect, humiliation and outright betrayal from the Nigerian federation.

Chief Obasanjo’s administration callously handed over Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon based on the International Court of Justice ruling of October 10, 2002 without the option of a plebiscite and the approval the National Assembly of Nigeria as required by the Constitution. Cross River lost 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom as a result of the Bakassi ceding without major measures to cushion the effect as recommended by the Supreme Court ruling.

It is based on this premise that the bold and frank comment by Governor Ben Ayade on the shabby manner Bakassi was ceded while the Federal Government looked the other way, 76 oil wells transferred to Akwa Ibom leaving the state in a precarious situation, warranting the Supreme Court to give a clear direction on how to succor Cross River which is yet to be effectively implemented  when the Chairman of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed, Commissioners and members of the Commission paid a courtesy call on him recently must be commended by Cross Riverians.

To this writer, this is the first time any leader of this state in the capacity of a Governor has come out frankly and has spoken with great passion, emphatically that he was not comfortable neither are the people of the state as regards the kind of slave treatment that the state has continue to receive from the federal government, including the near absence of ongoing federal projects as it is seen in other
states of the federation.

Expressing thanks to the Chairman and other Committee members for coming to see things for themselves, he stressed that as a result of the historical perspective presented, “It also behoove on us as a responsibility to do an analytical appraisal to give you an idea of where we are as a state and for which we are making this demand. At the time that our oil wells were ceded, at the peak of oil production activities, at the time excess crude was being shared, in cumulative terms, if you were to compute what Cross River State have lost to that loss of oil revenue, it will amount to some hundreds of billions, and so N38 billion, in relative to the loss is very huge”.

Explaining further, Ayade said that “If you look at the Supreme Court Ruling, the Supreme Court Ruling was very clear that while ceding the oil wells as a result of the ceding of Bakassi, the Federal Government must find a solution to ensure that Cross River state does not suffer any loss as a result of the ceding. It is the spirit and intent of the Supreme Court Judgment which form part of the action plan of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to implement, because it is through your instrumentality that the Federal Government will implement; therefore the Supreme Court Ruling went beyond just ceding the oil wells but went further to say the Federal government must find means to provide alternative for the state.

“Federal Government created a permanent injury and sort a temporary solution, a permanent loss of oil wells but a temporary application of revenue, and in fiscal and financial terms, the philosophy of finding an alternative was to augment our revenue and to provide us most importantly money that was supposed to help us to diversify and have less dependent on the oil wells that we have loss”.

Ayade asserted that in spite of the very lean resources of the state occasioned by the ceding of the 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom, the state embarks on monumental developmental projects right from the previous administration to his own in the areas of roads, tourism, infrastructure, striving to checkmate the devastating/deadly gully erosion confronting the state that has killed many children and had sent a tender for the procurement of a vessel for maritime trade between Cross River, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and all of the Gulf of Guinea, could not keep the vessel, but have sort for ways to curb crimes  among others, undertaken which glaringly the so-called monies given to the state so far could not have taken care of even one of these major projects.

“I take some typical projects we have done here, because Obudu Cattle Ranch, Cross River is a tourist centre; if you take Obudu Cattle Ranch which is our tourist highlight that generate revenue for the state but in the state of atrophy occasioned by the fact that it has no accessible road; we awarded a contract for the construction of Yahe to Obudu Cattle ranch, dualization and construction of the road at N32billion, the construction is going on right now. This is the road that will open the ranch to tourists from the South-East, West, North part of the country and the South-South, and that single project alone takes out all you have given, this is not to talk of the International Conference Centre which was supposed to be epicenter of conference and activities in Nigeria which was given for over N15 billion with a variation covering about N4 billion…

“The Monorail was a part of attraction because you must look at the areas of state core competent. Tourism was our major drive… Today we have NDDC whose projects is a function of a percentage of your production. So look at what we have lost from the perspective of NDDC which treats us as a crying child who is in NDDC by geography and not by production and the sharing formula is by quantum of your production, so calculate the loss occasion by that situation and circumstances, besides the excess crude sharing, besides the loss of the direct crude source and then look at the 13 percent derivation
which we are completely taken out”.

Ayade stated in clear terms that the treatment meted out to Cross River state has placed the state as the crying child of the Niger Delta, receiving so little from the NDDC, not regarded as part of NDDC by geography and also not by production, as a closer look at the NDDC’s budget will reveal the stark reality and precarious situation of Cross River; lamenting  why the state should suffer so much, not allowed to have a say when a part of its territory was ceded, and that not even hundreds of trillions of dollars could in reality assuage the pains and trauma which the people of Cross River and Bakassi people in particular have been made to pass through over the years.

“Let’s take another part which has more value because I’m going to play the financial value. Cross River State did not in any way participate in the ceding of Bakassi. The Federal Government of Nigeria as the law provided did not participate in the ceding of Bakassi. The constitution has made it very clear that there are processes through which you can cede Bakassi or any part of the territory of Nigeria. It is the ceding of Bakassi that gave the legal argument that we cease to be a littoral state and that we are more than 200 nautical miles of the oil wells therefore does not belong to Cross River state, so the loss of the oil wells was occasioned by the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula. If that analysis and analogy is correct, it means that whatsoever we suffer today is as a result of the loss of those oil wells is incidental on
the loss of Bakassi.

“I want you to do emotional calculus on the quantum effect on the emotional pains, trauma and agony of a people who have been completely taken away from their homeland. The torture, the pain, how many trillions of dollars can assuage you from that shameful exposure by your own people. How can you pay for the illegality of the ceding of Bakassi without a plebiscite, without a National Assembly accepting and approving or domesticating, the pain is incalculable.

“I wish you take a look at the NDDC budget and you see what Cross River gets you will shed tears. Is this how this country was structured to run where one state in a particular month when Cross River was getting zero allocation another state was given N12billion in the same country in the same economy, what is the crime of Cross River that we are giving N500million as stabilization fund?, what will it do?, our refuse management alone takes that. This meeting is a God sent meeting and we are not in a position to accept N500million a month, take it, we don’t need it.

“You gave us a permanent injury and provided a temporary solution, how does that work. That was not the spirit of the judgment. Justice Oputa said that Supreme Court is final not because it is infallible, but infallible because it is final. It prepares a legal basis for the reversibility of Supreme Court ruling. That is an admittance that Supreme Court can make mistake, and that is why there are different structures and apertures for government to do intervention programs, so it can assuage pains and agony of people. That is why the commission is here physically to physically feel the pains of the people of Cross River”.

“It is also shameful that the federal allocation does not consider the land mass of the state while sharing allocation, hence Cross River with a land mass of over 20,000square kilometers benefits absolutely nothing in that regards, In spite of the fact that these resources are extracted right in the state’s frontier, coupled with the painful reality that Cross River has spent 11,000 dollar per a square kilometers  covering the over 20, 000square kilometers of the state land mass for exploration and nothing has been reasonably done to correct the injustices meted to the state, including monies spent on exploration activities.

“Cross River is not only treated shabbily in the above stated areas but also in the numbers of Local Government Areas for a state with such great landmass most of which is inaccessible and scattered settlements and also in the numbers of political wards/polling units, just as it has equally been grossly shortchanged in the area of population census.

“Many times there have been growing plans by Cross Riverians to protest their frustration to Abuja to say enough is enough. I will give you a coordinate of a report that shows huge gas deposit untouched, unexploited in Cross River, I will show you hydrocarbon deposit we can’t touch. So you don’t treat people and keep them as captives, we don’t even have access, meanwhile we were charged 11,000 dollars per square kilometer, convert that to 20,000 square kilometers. You can see how much Cross River Government has committed to exploration activities and you see how it makes nonsense of N38billion.

“Here we are at your mercy as a friend, as a brother, as a Nigerian and African, Cross River is in desperate need for a permanent solution to the pains and agony. So we come to you once more because we are a captured people by the federal government, we have no voice we have no say because it doesn’t really matter how the people of Bakassi are in pains and want, so we are not in a position to argue with law, to use logic because we know emotions works better, we plead in the spirit of emotions that circumstances of our state does not call for an analytical appraisal of income so far to our state, it is relative to over N30 billion, this state would have been gone and buried”.

The Governor also argued, “If oil was the issue then you should know also that you have not given a kobo for frontier exploration of our oil and hydrocarbon resources. We have huge oil deposit and I can give you the report including the coordinates where we have hydrocarbon, gas resources untapped and Federal government is not even looking at this. So you tie a people’s hands and tie their legs. This is not about your commission, it is about Federal Government. Take the super highway for instances where we are trying to taking the shortest cut and it is 275 kilometers, and you drive for seven hours and you are still in one state. There is no other state in the Niger Delta that is like that. You take a flight from Calabar and land in Bebi airstrip for 35 minutes you are still in one state, so I don’t know how you calculated and factored the revenue that is allocated to Cross River and landmass was not a factor.

“It is an unfair world.  The law of taxation, the philosophy behind taxation is the egalitarian redistribution of wealth, so those who have so much  gives to those with little, so there is a balance, but here we are a state that get so much, gets much more, so we get little or nothing. Check your records, sadly, most of the times we get zero allocation, most of the times we are getting N200million, N300million, while our  monthly wage bill is N5.1 billion, Local government and state put together”.

Governor Ayade explained that he had considered the option of a legal action against the federal government for N3 trillion for damage, but is only asking for the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment on the 76 oil wells, stressing that the federal government must come to the aid of the state to keep the state afloat, lamenting, he added, “I came in as a vibrant young governor, now every day is agony, sorrow just like I am going crazy. It is not the intention of this office to age me and reduce me to melancholy. I love God, no matter who you are one day you will die and leave this world because you can’t keep people in such pains and you reduce everything to Naira and Kobo without measuring the essence and dignity of man. If not for President Buhari, I’m sure the super highway and the deep sea port would have been killed by now, so how can people feel a sense of captivity in a nation they call their own?” Ayade quarreled.

It is an unselfish position of this writer that we all stand by Governor Ayade in his determined fight to get justice for the state from the federal government and the International community that reduced the people of Bakassi in particular to refuges in their own country and Cross Riverians to a weeping child of the Nigerian federation.

Solomon Asha is the Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River.

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