By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has lamented the skewed perception people have of his administration as one focused on only the Calabar metropolis.
Ayade bared his mind to newsmen while inspecting ongoing projects in the central and northern senatorial districts of the state.
He said that: “For those who don’t know, they just think we are only working in Calabar so there is this impression that I am Calabarising the projects in the state with so many projects densified in Calabar.
“But, as you come through from the north and the central as we have done today, you can see huge projects in the state of recession; with the lowest income in the country; factories springing up here and there, all intended to create jobs for young people.”
The governor, alongside his deputy, Professor Ivara Esu and several others had visited the ultramodern rice mill in Ogoja, a specialist hospital and a stone crushing facility which will provide the stone base for the northern superhighway in Obudu, the Cocoa processing plant in Ikom as well as the Yellow maize and integrated feed mill in Obubra local government areas.
At Ikom, Ayade said he was impressed with the work done so far and disclosed more details about the facility.
“For me, for what I have seen the contractor done here, he deserves an excellent pat on the back,” Ayade said and explained that the project is, “a story of a great ambition driven only by emotion, passion without logic, no money; intellectual money at play.”
Explaining further, Ayade averred that: “Our traditional income in the central senatorial district of Cross River State is cocoa. All the rich names we have ever heard of in Ikom, Boki and Etung are of cocoa.
“For all these years Cross River has continuously produce cocoa for other states to bear the name because they didn’t have an off take mechanism, there was no government program to buy off the cocoa at good rates so outsiders come in and just buy it from them and grade it as their own state cocoa.
“Today they have an opportunity and a platform, an industry to process the cocoa, giving them premium value for money.
“A cocoa house is going to be built here. Once you have a cocoa farm, you just come here, collect money during harvest, we take your cocoa so you have money for your products; you don’t have to go to bank to get a loan.”
The project which will see cocoa bean processed directly into chocolate bars is expected to be delivered before the end of the year with equipment being sourced from Buhler; a company which the governor posited was the best food processing equipment manufacturer in the world.
The contractor for the project, Mr. Chris Agara, on his part said twork was almost completed even as he hoped that: “Between now and September, the first cocoa bean will be processed here.”
Continuing, he said cocoa farmers in the state will be more experienced and have better value for their commodity. He said: “My people are going to be the greatest beneficiaries of the project. The people are excited because before now, the value chain, that aspect of it that has to do with processing; that is where more of value was been deprived from them.
“But now, they will have better value for what they have, they will have more experience, they will have more exposure. So, above all they will now know that the cocoa they produce is used in different ways.”
Meanwhile, on the rice mill in Ogoja, Ayade said that about 40 containers of equipment had arrived the country and will be on site next week which according to him is in line with the “spirit of intellectual enterprise.”
“It will be the first time in Nigeria that people will be eating in the form of instant noodles. They will be eating rice and mistaking the rice to be fish flavor, chicken flavor or suya flavored (instant noodles).
“The rice is coming in a different tone to show that we are changing with the world because wheat dependent instant noodles have high level of gluten which is not good for the body.
“That is why we have decided to process our rice and take out all those that are harmful to the body and give you final product that will be nutritious, very healthy, vitaminised and as some growing magic for young children who will like to grow tall and become footballers and basketballers in the future,” Ayade added.
The governor who said an agro focused microfinance is been set up by the state, disclosed that a groundnut processing plant will be set up in Bekwarra that will process the raw material into vegetable oil.
Also, on how the projects are being financed, Ayade said that: “This is display of intellectual money and Cross River State will be proud that I knew where I was going from the beginning.”
At, Obubra he addressed some staff at the site and commended their hospitality and reception which he said were good attributes that promotes investment, growth and development.
The governor who also attended the empowerment program of Senator Rose Oko and the funeral of late Honorable Stephen Ukpukpen in Obudu has since returned to Calabar.
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