There is outrage in Cross River following the disclosure of federal allocation to the state in the first quarter of 2017 by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.
As disclosed by the Finance Minister and reported by most media outlets across the country, Cross River State got N4.28 billion in three months. Only Osun State got something lower.
A breakdown of the allocation translates to N1.4 billion monthly, an amount that cannot pay salaries of local government workers, talk less of paying the entire state workforce, which wage bill is put at over N5 billion.
No doubt, the figure is an improvement from the previous allocations where the state consistently received zero allocations in the last three quarters of 2016. That is the reality facing Cross River, reality that is made more difficult to accept given that some of its sister states got close to N40 billion in the same period.
It is amazing how in spite of such poor federal allocation, the Ben Ayade led government is not behind in payment of salaries. If anything, the governor has commonized payment of salaries.
Apart from payment of salaries, the Ayade administration has gone about diligently executing projects aimed at not only providing jobs to the teeming mass, but also expanding and improving the state’s revenue base.
The Calabar Garment Factory, Ikom and Itigidi water projects, Calabar Monorail, the Calabar International Convention Center are among some of the projects already completed by the Ayade led administration.
Other projects at various stages of completion include: the 21megawatts of power plant, the Calabar Pharmaceutical Company (Calapharm), the Ogoja Rice Mill, Cocoa Processing Plant in Ikom, 145 kilometre-dual carriage highway that cuts across the five local governments in northern part of the state.
There is also an ongoing road project being constructed to, for the first time, (to) link Eastern and Western Boki, the Mbobui road in Akamkpa amongst others.
Several schools across the state have been given complete rehabilitation through SUBEB, Primary Healthcare Centers have also been rehabilitated. He also expanded government with a view to putting food on the table for a greater number of people.
All these achievements and others too numerous to mention, have been recorded in just two years in spite of the poor and lean revenue allocation to the state by the Federal Government. As we speak, the design for the Bakassi Deep Seaport and the superhighway is completed, even as the government still awaits the EIA approval from the federal authorities.
How Ayade has been able to achieve so much with very little resources at his disposal remains a mystery. It is no wonder that some sections of the state call him a magician.
Instructively, it is not what he is called or described in the state that is significant here. What is rather worthy of note is his diehard resilience to bring about a difference in governance architecture by adopting a paradigm shift.
Part of these dynamics is the governor’s call for a collective sacrifice from Cross Riverians, particularly his appointees. Much as it is difficult to swallow, virtually every of his appointee has come to appreciate the direction he is navigating the state and its economy towards.
For instance, while his colleagues in other states travel with a large retinue of aides whenever they are outside their states, Ayade hops into the aircraft alone with his luggage in his hand. This is part of the cut saving measures he has introduced, in addition to the collective understanding by his appointees and himself for their salaries to be halved. How much sacrifice can a leader make in order to appease his people?
In addition to sustaining the momentum of ramping up the revenue base of the state, Ayade has looked inward to ensure that Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is improved upon. Those who should pay tax are made to pay their taxes with the strengthening of state’s revenue generation agency, Cross River Internal Revenue Service.
In the same vein, the administration has exempted low income earners and the vulnerable in the society from paying taxes.
His drive to enhance the state’s revenue base has however, often met with stubborn and belligerent resistance from some segments of the business public.
The current withdrawal of services by Petroleum Tank Farm Owners, the Petroleum Tankers Drivers Association and others is one clear example.
UNICEM has over the years been paying road maintenance levy, which assists the state to maintain its road infrastructure. However, efforts to get operators of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry to act responsibly in similar manner, is what has led to the withdrawal of services by the group.
The question that is begging for an answer is: is it no longer worthy that what is sauce for the goose no longer sauce for the gander? If UNICEM and other such entities are paying this levy to help the state stay afloat, what is wrong with the operators in the petroleum sub-sector doing same?
Every day, thousands of trucks enter Calabar to lift petroleum products to several states. The damage done on the roads is incalculable. It is, rather ironic that elsewhere, such levies are compliantly being paid to state governments where tank farms are sited. So, why the outrage from operators in Cross River?
No doubt, this systemic institutional shortchange has become a matter of deliberate effort to stifle our collective drive to grow our local economy. So, paying a levy to ensure the state keeps the road motorable should not induce a call to arms. Rather, it is a time for all to pull together in one direction. Failing to do this, the fate that has befallen Apapa in Lagos, awaits us.
Christian Ita is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ben Ayade
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