Joe Agi SAN, in the run up to the 2019 elections, told Cross Riverians that the reason he is arrogant to his friends within the political class in Cross River State, is because “you are all thieves.” The learned SAN, premised his conclusion on a previous privatization program of Cross River State assets where these his friends, who were in Government, turned around and sold Government properties to themselves at ridiculously cheap prices, in the name of privatization.
“As a young lawyer … some of you were quite young; they sold Obudu Ranch, they sold rubber estate in Akamkpa, sold all those things, sold bulldozers and in fact they sold bulldozers for N100 at that time and I said God forbid. I formed what’s called Cross River Redemption Movement and took Federal Government to Court. I went to Court, made trouble, I was arrested, detained but I said they were stealing the commonwealth of the people. Today, all those estates, I won, and all returned to Cross River State … I couldn’t just understand how, even a tyre of bulldozer should not be more than N100. That’s why I’m arrogant to them to say look, you are all thieves.” Agi said.
It is important to resurrect that hindsight because events playing out could repeat history if we do not precipitate a different approach. I will persistently point out that, if anyone understands how tightly woven the coterie of political elites in Cross River State have been since 1999; within the almost one party system and how they have also symetrically dispensed socio-economic favors within themselves, it is almost unthinkable for the political class to call themselves to account, regardless of the party they belong.
It is obvious, Governor Ayade is very confused about governance. But the opposition that should provide an alternative or shadow Government, appears to even be more confused and hesitant because they are all in the same cauldron. Rather than working to stop the Governor or get him to do the right thing, they will instead, kowtow with him and corner some of the assets to be bazaar-ed.
Having proceeded against good Counsel to build industries that have best remained as tourists venues, and now flying the plan to sell them, Governor Ayade and his friends are waiting by the side lines to take over these assets for another plate of porridge like Agi said. I make bold to say that some of the Governor’s close friends (names withheld), are already claiming the Governor owes them billions of Naira for the construction of some of the non-functional factories, particularly the Cocoa Processing Factory in Ikom and the Ultra-Modern Rice Mill in Ogoja. They have vowed to take over those factories unless the Governor repays their monies. I don’t know whether they gave loans to the Governor directly or whether the Governor used them to collect loans from banks, but that is what they are claiming and I am not speculating. I am saying the fact.
But in the main time, to enable ordinary Cross Riverians to interrogate the process and participate in the decision making as it relates to the privatization of our assets, we need to get certain information first before a referendum. And for emphasis, let me say again that the procedure for the privatization of State assets is clearly spelt out in the Cross River State privatization law. There is no where in that law where a “referendum” is provided for as a legal pre-requisite.
But even if in, His Excellency’s benevolence, he wants to dispose these assets to, “We the people of Cross River” alone sef, it is trite that most of these assets to be privatized were registered as Special Purpose Vehicles, SPVs, and Government was only part equity owner.
Who are the private partners and what is their share holding?
What is the legal status of these assets?
Do these assets have statements of annual returns or are they ran like parastatals of Government?
What is the valuation of each of these assets as ascertained by any reputable institution?
We need these answers before filling the referendum form, if we must.
These answers will help anyone who wants to invest in our State in answering the referendum more precisely. They will enable us make better and more informed decisions about where we want to put our money.
And this opinion is strictly mine!
Part 1 and 2.
Citizen Agba Jalingo, a journalist and rights activist is a Cross Riverian and writes in from Lagos.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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