Still On The Cross River Rice City BY AGBA JALINGO

In Breaking News, News, Opinion, Reports

The excellent positive reviews and responses that have flooded the Cross River social media space for the first delivery of seedlings from the Cross River Rice City to Bayelsa, is a testament of the acceptability of the project and citizens appreciation for completed projects. I am simply saying that we will all file out and sing the praise of governor Ayade or any other governor for that matter, if we see more of these. We all mean well for our state and we want our governor to succeed.

But while we praise the governor for this huge investment, we must also be quick to suggest how it will be sustained. Cross River state is not new to this sort of brilliant ideas flourishing while the visioner is still governor and dying immediately they leave, no matter how excellent the ideas are.

My worry is not unfounded as some reader may think. Rather, my worry is very very valid because of where we are coming from. Let me take us down memory lane.

Donald Duke’s $350 million Tinapa Resort, was one of the most celebrated state government projects ever in Nigeria. But all the lofty expectations evaporated with the exit of Donald as governor. At the Leadership Newspaper Awards last year 2018, held at the International Conference Center Abuja, Donald Duke was the guest speaker. In his own words, this is what he said about Tinapa:

“Cross River State is at the end of the country. You don’t pass through Cross River State to anywhere. So, the only way to get people to visit the state is to create a tourist destination that could attract people. If people come to the state for tourism, at least, they will eat. So, they will buy food. When they buy food, the local farmer will sell and the chain will go on and on. Our plan about TINAPA was that by the year 2012, the number of tourists coming to Cross River State would have crossed 30 million per year, then we would have been self-sufficient. We would not need the federal allocation to do anything, then all our federal receipts will go into a savings account called the Future Account. But that dream could not materialize because of the devil called lack of continuity”, he said.

And TINAPA FAILED!!!

Duke’s successor, Imoke also came with a very robust agriculture value chain initiative, just like the one governor Ayade is postulating.

Imoke embarked on a massive 500 million Naira agro-based Songhai Farm program in Itigidi, which was expected to cover about 450 acres of land and make Abi council the food basket of the state and the nation at large. Imoke assured Cross Riverians that the project was going to create jobs, create wealth and stir Cross River away from depending on federal allocation.

An elated Imoke, while speaking to trainees of the farm who returned from a course in Port Novo in 2012, said: “The establishment of the Songhai Cross River Initiative (SCRI), hosted by three communities of Itigidi, Adadama and Annong in Abi Local Government Council, is all about integrated agricultural systems with Songhai in Benin as a model for Itigidi.

“The SCRI, which has trained over 100 youths from the initial nucleus of the farm, is an integrated world class center for agricultural business and entrepreneurship and it is also expected to be a center of excellence for training, production, research, demonstration and development of sustainable agricultural practices in the country. The whole idea is that this becomes the center of activity but in each local government area, we are going to have what we call out sourcing, where these young people who have been trained are able to get the seedlings.

“This is not just a farm; it is an integrated project where you start from the farm, primary production, from planting to processing to the market. The entire value chain can start here at minimal cost. For instance, if you are thinking of plantain, plantain chips could be made here, packaged here and they will be sold from here. The same thing goes for the fruits, and pineapple juice. Here, they do not believe in waste, they also generate their own electricity from water hyacinth and wastes. The process, if we can scale it up from this part, will go a long way to address food insecurity, provide good products at inexpensive prices for our markets and create significant employment for thousands of young men and women.”

But when Imoke lost the power to dispense favors, the Songhai dream remained in the pipeline.

Now, what Governor Ayade is saying in 2019, is not essentially different from what his predecessors said. It is a familiar path. This incumbent must now tilt away from this “curse” and reach for a sustainable management model, that will deny his own lofty ideas the fate of their ancestors, when he leaves power.

Me and you are celebrating the 3 billion Naira order for seeds and seedlings, but if this Rice City is built to depend on public sector patronage, that is short sighted. If this same federal government or the next one comes and change policy and take the steam off the Anchor Borrowers Program, and such bulk public sector orders stop coming, how will the factory survive?

How does the factory take a life of its own and create its own market base that can sustain its profitability outside the public sector?

These and more, are the pertinent questions to which governor Ayade should seek answers, both for the Rice City and the Garment Factory as well as the rest of the factories he is building around the state, to ensure we don’t repeat the policy rigmarole.

God bless the nation’s paradise!

Yours Sincerely,
Citizen Agba Jalingo.

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