By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has described the Cross River State Rice City project constructed by Governor Ben Ayade as the best ingredient for President Mohammadu Buhari’s rice revolution.
Governor Ikpeazu while inspecting the automated facilities at the Rice City currently undergoing a test run, during his courtesy visit to Ayade commended him for creating a value chain in rice production in the country.
Ikpeazu who voiced his amazement at the size of the plant, added: “It is the best ingredient to the rice revolution effort of the Federal Government. This rice seedling multiplication plant is one that will definitely turn around the economy of this country as well change our attitude and behaviour towards agriculture because every step of production is motorized, thereby making agriculture pleasurable.”
Governor Ikpeazu while offering a hint of his two years experience in rice production said: “I personally went into rice production for two years to discourage importation of all kinds of things in the name of rice in this country because I had faith and strong belief in our capacity, but today, I have seen someone that has gone a step further and already producing seedlings that can give high yield per hectare and I must commend Ayade for this giant stride.”
Commending Governor Ayade for the rice seedling initiative, the Abia governor noted: “For me, as far as rice value chain is concerned, this is simply the best way to go to drive the desired revolution in this sector and make the country self-sufficient in rice production.
“In fact, this will actually stir me into rice cultivation because I now have a high yield seedling in our environment. Like I said, what Ayade is doing here is just the way to go, starting from the origin of the value chain which is seedling production.”
Speaking about possible areas of partnership, Ikpeazu disclosed that he will soon return to Cross River with his Agriculture, Commerce and Industry Commissioners to sign a workable pact with the state to cement the economic ties.
“I am so excited that the plant offers extension services and advice on soil texture, preparation, cultivation, harvesting and packaging. It is an end to end services, which is what is motivating my return to rice production and going into strong partnership because when you talk about rice production and the desired technology to drive it, Cross River is where to go in Nigeria today,” Ikpeazu added.
Earlier, at the executive chambers of the governor’s office where he called on the federal government to lend its support for the actualization of the 274km superhighway and the Bakassi Deep Seaport projects embarked by the Cross River Government.
Ikpeazu who maintained that the projects were of huge economic benefits not only to Cross River, but the entire country, particularly, the South East, also expressed excitement at the multi-billion dollars twin projects which he said: “It is only a man of courage and vision that can embark on such monumental projects. It is not about Cross River but about Nigeria.”
While urging the Federal Government’s support for Ayade’s signature project, Ikpeazu Aberdeen that: “If we all support the governor to bring the projects to fruition, they will ramp up the economy of not only Cross River, but also that of the North East as it will allow access to the sea in a few hours and the potentials of that opportunity will add value to other states.”
Insisting that the Bakassi deep seaport and the superhighway have the capacity to diversify the nation’s economy, Governor Ikpeazu also maintained: “If we are serious about diversification and giving equal opportunities to all parts of Nigeria, serious about combating crime and all those things that have held us down economically, the best thing to do is to encourage the realisation of these signature projects. So we are appealing to the good reasons and logic of our leaders everywhere to lend their voice and support.”
Ikpeazu said it is ironic “for a country that is so blessed with many opportunities from its geography through the sea, rivers, oceans to the people to stick to strict restrictions created by them, instead of placing their fingers on those things that God has given to them freely.”
He maintained that his state which shares borders with Cross River will be privileged to benefit from the abundant natural endowment that God has blessed the state with, adding that “the time for us to tap the full potentials of the seaport in Cross River is now and so, it is not proper to restrict the entrepreneurial spirit and energy of our people to just one or two seaports in the midst of many opportunities around us.”
The Abia governor who described Governor Ayade as a visionary leader who is opening vistas of economic growth through the natural endowments, advocated for the marketing of Nigeria through the perspective of Cross River.
“A peep into Nigeria through the Cross River perspective will present a country of peace, great cultural heritage, a people who are hospitable and prepared to accept the world.
“If we market our foreign direct investment efforts through the perspective of Cross River, I think we will achieve greater strides than we are doing now.”
He stressed the need for leaders to move away from what he termed ‘election politicians’ to visionary leaders of tomorrow who will peep into the future to see what the people need, while urging Cross Riverians to hold fast to Ayade whom God has placed in their hands to position the state where it rightly belongs in the scheme and map of things going forward.
Responding, Governor Ben Ayade thanked his guest for urging the federal government to give all institutional support for the realisation of the superhighway and deep seaport so that every region of the nation has a feel of self worth and value.
While admitting that marketing Nigeria from the Cross River perspective remained the best way to go, Ayade quipped: “But how can you market a state without opening the maritime corridor for huge commercial trade?”
He maintained that as a state that still feels the pains of the loss of its land and the 76 oil wells, which has exposed its people to communal clashes everyday because of hunger, poverty and struggle for land and survival, Governor Ayade said it behoved on the federal government to wipe the tears of the people of the state. One of the ways to do that is by giving institutional support for the realisation of the deep seaport and superhighway, he stated.
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