Is Ayade bit­ing more than he can chew?

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - From Eyo Charles, Cal­abar

More than any other gover­nor in Nige­ria, Pro­fes­sor Ben Ayade of Cross River State stands out as one chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of a state who has reeled out cap­i­tal in­ten­sive projects de­spite mea­ger rev­enue al­lo­ca­tion.

Within his first four months in of­fice, he has high­lighted ma­jor sig­na­ture projects, in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar plan to build 260su­per­high­way road from Cal­abar to the bound­aries of Benue State and the tar­get to con­struct brand new deep seaport near Bakassi. Pro­fes­sor Ayade is also at the verge of es­tab­lish­ing a gar­ment fac­tory for wid­ows as well as a brand new ce­ment fac­tory.

He has also pro­posed the es­tab­lish­ment of Green Po­lice to teach peo­ple about san­i­ta­tion and the need to guard the vast forests. The latest is the plan to build a world class poul­try farm pro­posed to be sited in Ikom, an area lo­cated in the cen­tral part of Cross River State. The gover­nor says it is part of an ini­tia­tive to boost the econ­omy of the state. Hence, he has con­tracted a Span­ish firm, Cavenco, to com­mence with six thou­sand bird pro­duc­tion per day. This will be in­creased later to 100 thou­sand birds per day within five years of its es­tab­lish­ment.

None of these projects has shown any in­di­ca­tion that it would firmly come on stream in the fore­see­able fu­ture. In front of the cam­eras, con­tain­ers, that car­ried pre­fab­ri­cated equip­ment to set up the gar­ment fac­tory, have ar­rived.

A po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, Mr James Ene, noted that the site of the gar­ment fac­tory had just been cleared whereas the world had been told that the ac­tual work had reached a ad­vanced stage.

Pun­dits be­lieve that the gover­nor who has so much in his mouth to chew needs to fo­cus on a par­tic­u­lar pro­ject in or­der to en­sure its com­ple­tion.

Last month, preg­nant women, wid­ows and some youths were in­vited from the three sen­a­to­rial dis­tricts on dif­fer­ent days as part of screen­ing ex­er­cises for those who would be en­gaged at both gar­ment fac­tory and Green Po­lice pro­ject.

Chief press sec­re­tary to the gover­nor, Mr Chris­tian Ita, con­firmed that over 20,000 ap­pli­ca­tion letters were re­ceived from the wid­ows and young peo­ple who wished to be em­ployed.

But the gov­ern­ment stated that it in­tended to em­ploy 1000, but de­cided to add 500 be­cause of the un­prece­dented turn-out of would-be work­ers.

“The Cal­abar Gar­ment Fac­tory is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion and is ex­pected to em­ploy at least 1500 peo­ple, mostly women and wid­ows,” a re­cent state­ment from Mr Ita said, adding that the prom­ise to es­tab­lish the fac­tory was a way of curb­ing the in­creas­ing un­em­ploy­ment in the state.

But Mr Eteng Oden Bassey, a civil so­ci­ety leader, al­leged that many of those screened by gov­ern­ment staff for em­ploy­ment might have been re­placed by rel­a­tives of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Speak­ing on the many Ayade projects, Mr Asuquo Etim Wil­liams, a com­mu­nity leader won­dered if the gover­nor was not bit­ing more than he could chew, con­sid­er­ing the state’s huge debt pro­file.

“There are well-founded fears by peo­ple of the state and con­cerned Nige­ri­ans as to where Gover­nor Ayade in­tends to raise funds to ex­e­cute his long list of cap­i­tal­in­ten­sive projects.

“This state is poor by ev­ery stan­dard. Debts were left be­hind by his two pre­de­ces­sors, Don­ald Duke and Liyel Imoke. We also re­ceive about the least fed­eral al­lo­ca­tion. So, how is he go­ing to wrig­gle him­self out of the fi­nan­cial quag­mire plagu­ing the state,” he quizzed

Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, a hu­man rights lawyer and public com­men­ta­tor as well as Prince Hil­liard Eta, the na­tional vice chair­man of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) had sev­er­ally at dif­fer­ent fora and in state­ments de­scribed the nu­mer­ous projects as big scam, won­der­ing where the gover­nor would get the funds to fi­nance the projects. Both feared that Ayade would fur­ther plunge the state into heav­ier in­debt­ed­ness.

Mean­while, a for­mer sec­re­tary to the old Cross River State gov­ern­ment and mem­ber of the 1994/1995 con­sti­tu­tional con­fer­ence, sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian Chief Wil­fred Oden Inah, has chal­lenged Gover­nor Ayade, not­ing that his name is now at stake. Chief Inah said the gover­nor should en­sure that he ex­e­cuted his sig­na­ture projects de­spite the state’s heavy debts.

“Those who are go­ing to pro­vide the money for deep seaport and 260 kilo­me­tre su­per­high­way projects are not deaf or blind. Be­fore they com­mit their money into projects of such mag­ni­tude, they would cer­tainly ex­am­ine the prof­itabil­ity of the projects and the abil­ity of the gov­ern­ment to re­pay.

“For me, the cur­rent debt should not stop Ayade from go­ing ahead with these sig­na­ture projects. With Ayade’s con­fi­dence over these two projects, I be­lieve with his busi­ness back­ground, he knows what he is talk­ing about. I keep say­ing his name is at stake,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to him, Ayade is quite dif­fer­ent from his two pre­de­ces­sors be­cause of his busi­ness back­ground and acu­men. He may not find fund­ing for his projects dif­fi­cult.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of GoldPride, Mr Giuseppe Gemma, one of the in­vestors in the projects, said his com­pany would bring ex­per­tise to bear in the prod­uct of the gar­ment fac­tory.

Mr Gemma gave an as­sur­ance that stock­ings, tow­els, berets, sweaters, po­lice and mil­i­tary uni­forms among other wears of Ital­ian qual­ity would be pro­duced from the fac­tory.

There is still doubt over Ayade’s projects de­spite re­ports that dif­fer­ent in­vestors met him in Cal­abar in re­sponse to his sev­eral trips abroad af­ter he was sworn in. But will these projects be ex­e­cuted? Only time will tell.

Cross River State Gover­nor Ben Ayade

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