By Jonathan Ugbal
Cross River Governor, Benedict Ayade on Monday announced plans by the State to purchase seagoing vessels to export products from agro industries he plans to privatize.
The announcement came three days after he extended a strange referendum on privatization for 34 assets of the State and years after a shady deal saw the procurement, arrival and later disappearance from the Calabar channel of a multi purpose vessel marked PetroCross (short for the special purpose vehicle, Petroleum Company of Cross River State).
“This presentation enables us to decide on our merchant vessel as proposed in our budget so that we can start exporting our noodles, start exporting our frozen chicken, start exporting our rice, and indeed start exporting all that we produce from our agro factories,” Ayade said after listening to a presentation by the state chapter of the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME).
Ayade who sought that the State be designated as an export corridor, so as to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) disclosed that exporting from the Calabar Port, products from Cross River’s industries will find a ready market in at least 15 countries in the West and Central African coast.
“We must take advantage of our industries and push our products beyond Cross River, beyond Nigeria and take advantage of the AfCTA to expand the horizon of our market. That is why we have the Ministry of Commerce, that is why we have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to focus on how we can export.
“And I remain committed and dedicated on the need for Cross River State to have a very robust maritime trade activity to enable us develop our business environment where young men and women will migrate out of politics into business,” said Ayade.
The presentation was made by James Alicha who is the president of NASME in Cross River who expressed hope that “AfCTA is here to market the products from all His Excellency’s factories.”
Mr. Ayade assumed office with a mantra of decoupling the State from dependence on federal allocation and proceeded to build several factories with a few completed while some are functional. He insisted that Government has business in doing business and that it was Governments responsibility to expand the social net and get involved when times are hard.
But, he made a turnaround and announced plans to privatize all the factories constructed by him, under construction and other assets constructed by past administrations.
He then directed for a referendum on the privatization and when the report was presented to him last week Thursday, he extended it by two months, “in a bid to ensure greater participation.”
“I charged the council to return to the streets, local government areas, creeks and riverine communities, our people must be properly carried along. If we truly need their contributions, then we must do it with all sincerity and professionalism. We could not take a decision based on what was given to me because the opinion is based on that of a few people, more Cross Riverians must be given the opportunity, more field responses must be taken, more people must participate in the referendum exercise,” Ayade had said.
Today I met with the Cross River State Privatization Council
In a bid to ensure greater participation by Cross…
The governor who said the 2001 privatisation law gives him the “authority to call up private investors,” said, he decided that, “we do the right thing which is to actively involve the people and get their opinion. That is what we must do.”
One of the assets listed for privatization is CallyAir which exists as Aero Cally, a contraption between Aero Contractors, an existing airline and the proposed Cally Air. Two Boeing 737s were procured and are operated by Aero.
The airline deal first began with Dana Airlines but is currently implemented by Aero and has been fraught with challenges despite been a low cost airline.
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