By Jonathan Ugbal; Government House Correspondent
A United Nation’s envoy in Nigeria, Mr. Samuel Bwalya has described as visionary, the leadership style of Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade which has placed the state at the front row in championing developmental sustainability as well as transcending governance beyond politics.
Mr. Bwalya, a Zambian and the country director of the United Nation’s Development Program (UNDP) stated this Thursday in Calabar, the state capital during a courtesy visit on the governor in his office where he also sued for improved areas of partnership beyond the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (UN – REDD) program.
Bwalya who said that he has been a follower of happenings in the state stressed that there is need to have “a broad vision to drive the transformation of any state in any country,” which according to him has been exemplified in the state as, “Cross River State is far ahead of African countries in terms of broad vision, and your vision is very bold.”
“There is a lot of transformation and whenever I talk about transformation, we are talking about technology, and about the means of moving the economy forward. The use of technology and innovation to drive development is what we have seen in Cross River State and from what we are seeing Cross River State is succeeding in that direction which we have come to add value to what you are doing to enable you succeed.
“What you are currently doing is what we are implementing in Ethiopia already and we are making effort to invite the Nigerian government over to (Ethiopia) understudy what they are doing but I can tell you, Cross River is already far ahead,” Bwalya said, adding that, “your policies transcends the borders of politics.”
Furthermore, he averred that: “Cross River State is already succeeding in the area of industrialization which is extremely important to development, for poverty reduction and create job opportunities.”
On the governor Ayade’s leadership prowess, he said that: “We have seen your leadership role from when you were a senator but most importantly, your leadership and global role in terms of championing environmental sustainability of Nigeria.”
The country director said that the UN agency is ready to step up its partnership with the state from only the UN-REDD+ program to including the promotion of sustainable development, inclusive governance and growth that is beneficial to the poorest of the poor, agriculture and job creation.
Also, Bwalya who disclosed that the UNDP was already working with the Lagos State government in the training of youths to improve their employability and entrepreneurship averred that, “if Cross River State moves forward, other States will move forward.” To ensure this, he pledged the agency’s readiness to support governance and democratic institutions for peace building in line with the state’s goals.
In his remarks, Ayade commended Mr. Bwalya’s bold moves in exploiting the core mandate of the UNDP which is in forest management, and expanding it to include areas that will directly impact on the people; a philosophy, which he said was lacking in Africa.
The governor said that when zeroed down, doing business with environmentall sustainability needs dealing with governance and sustainability; a trio the governor said was captured in the UNDP thematic areas and captured in the signature projects of the state.
Ayade who said the most important was inclusiveness, as the UNDP’s primary purpose is to take those below the poverty line and giving them a source of livelihood, disclosed that more than 80 percent of Cross Riverians resided in the forests but cannot benefit from the resources available to them due to a ban imposed by the State in line with UNDP regulations.
He sued for a review in the implementation strategies of funds and grants which he said usually ends up been spent on boards and logistics in order to promote inclusiveness, which alongside the happiness of the people and sustainability, are the key indices for measuring a government’s performance.
“The real development which is what United Nations has said today is the people. The indices of measurement for the performance of government are the happiness of the people; it is the sustainability, the inclusiveness of your policies and programs, otherwise you would have failed. And any program that is not people centered has failed,” he said.
He continued: “In Cross River, we have placed an absolute ban on deforestation and 80 percent of our citizens are forest dependent… they live in those forests but we have dislocated them from their dependence of those forest resources without providing for an equilibrating calculum for them to be able to sustain their growth and survival.
“So, the issue of inclusiveness becomes a serious one. How can you therefore deny somebody the luxury of benefitting from the natural resources abound to the person yet not providing an adequate bypass mechanism for survivability? Therefore, his children, his social dynamics and anthropology gets completely disjointed. You create a social distortion in society and now you have new wave of youth criminality, youth misadventure and you don’t know that it has a link to the poverty you have orchestrated on the family.
“So United Nations, focusing on these three thematic areas particularly in sluggish and development economy like Nigeria gives you a clear understanding that understood the concept of UNDP,” Ayade said.
According to the governor, when accentuated, the signature projects encapsulate all Mr. Bwalya had said because, “if you look at institutional governance, Cross River State needs support to be able to build the superhighway which creates 65,000 jobs during construction and because it is a tolled road, it creates permanent jobs, creates new apertures for new businesses like motels, restaurants and fuelling stations to exist along the corridors of the superhighway.
“It creates ambulatory services and provides steady 25,000 jobs because it is a superhighway fully digital and requires sustainable maintenance. Looking at it from the point of inclusive growth, it then means that there is an adequate provision in this super project of ours, our major signature projects to create temporary and permanent jobs.”
Soliciting the agency’s partnership in the signature projects, Ayade expressed optimism that despite the basic objective seeming far from the concept of the projects, they fit into the UNDP’s thematic areas especially as the reforestation and jobs to be created form part of inclusiveness and sustainability; areas the United Nations prioritizes. Also, he announced the donation of a building to house the UNDP office in the state.
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