APPEALS: World Bank Assisted Agric Development Program, Cross River At A Cross Road Again? BY INYALI PETER

In Breaking News, Business & Economy, National News, Opinion

Around 2016 or so, I wrote an article which revealed how Cross River State was on the verge of losing $26.5m World Bank assisted agric grant. At the time, because of my article, my name disappeared howbeit, expectedly from the list even though I stood a great chance of being selected.

The said publication caused some unrest in the office located at IBB road, opposite Margaret Ekpo international airport. It also attracted the attention of the World Bank Coordinator in Nigeria who came to Calabar and met relevant Government authority to get the issues sorted out.

Over 600 young Cross Riverians were trained and empowered with over N3,000 000 (three million naira) each to set up businesses. This was what I lost and the funniest thing is that, part of those who benefitted from this program were on social media abusing me and calling me names when I did the publication the later benefitted from.

Because of the smooth implementation of the 2016/2017 batch which was the final phase of the agreement reached by Sen. Liyel Imoke ‘s administration, World Bank renewed the project for another five years.

Cross River is only one of five States chosen by World Bank for the project in Nigeria.

The first phase of the new project kicked started with application around September last year. However, while other States are entering their second and third phases, Cross River is yet to successfully complete even one.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus played some parts in the delay as training for candidates who were selected for the scheme was truncated due to the lockdown and the health authority COVID-19 social distancing advise.

However, four or five month after the lockdown was eased is enough time for relevant authorities to have completed the process. But this is not the case.

Although efforts were made in the aspect of completing training for the selected beneficiaries, releasing and approval of funds already domiciled in World Bank controlled account for the project has become an issue that if not properly handled may result in the State, loosing the huge scheme.

The truth is that the way the project is programmed, if the State fail to utilize the funds provided under strict guidelines of the bank, anything remaining in the account at the expiration of the project will be returned. But if the State smoothly implement the project and the impact felt, it’ll stand a great chance of not only being renewed but the grant increased.

This is two years into the new project and the State is yet to successfully complete a single batch. This is a bad omen as there’s obviously no time.

The rumour making the rounds that World Bank is threatening to suspend the project in the State due to the slow and non-implementation is a thing of great concern. All relevant authorities should please, in the interest of Cross Riverians resolve all the issues to ensure that the poor masses continue to benefit from this great initiative.

My passionate appeal is that whatever is holding the project back should be resolved as it’ll be a great de-service to the good people of Cross River if this scheme is suspended over issues that should easily be resolved.

With the way things are now, we’re behind other States already and may not even exhaust what was allocated to us hence, the need to speedily address all the grey areas to rebuild the increasingly waning World Bank confidence in the State’s ability to manage the project.

Inyali Peter is a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Calabar, UNICAL.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are attributable to the author, Inyali Peter and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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