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Ayade strains to market his 39 ministries to a disinterested audience

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• I guess Nothing Should Shock Us Anymore — Akpama
The creation of new ministries by the government of Cross River State has generated reactions from groups and persons across the country. Some have described the newly established ministries as meaningless, exotic and laughable.

At the beginning of this dispensation in 1999, different governors had different administrative styles. While Donald Duke started out with 11 commissioners, Liyel Imoke had15.Gov. Ben Ayade decided to up the ante by appointing 28 commissioners, the highest in the history of the state and the entire country at the time. At a time, some of his commissioners did not have offices to operate and function properly. Recently, the governor decided to rename some ministries and increase the number commissioners to 39, including ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Aviation, which are supposed to be in exclusive list of the Federal Government.

Some stakeholders in the state have raised concerns and condemned the creation of what they described as funny ministries, coupled with the lean resources of the state. They are of the opinion that such move is outrageous and unnecessary. Elias Ozikpu, a respondent disclosed that in 2017, the governor, at a retreat in Obudu Ranch Resort, bluntly told his appointees, including commissioners that he did not need more than five percent of them to work, as others were brought in to put food on their tables.Ozikpu added that, “the people have seen more visionary leadership than what they are being served now.”

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Also describing the governor as a man who has too much on his plate, a social critic and a staunch member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Mr. Goddy Akpama said anything that comes from Ayade does not surprise anyone again.He noted that the creation of additional ministries by the governor is as unnecessary as it is outrageous. 

He said, “coming from a government that has over N1trillion budget, where it can barely attain 10 per cent of that, I guess nothing should shock us anymore. With 39 ministries and a huge financial burden worsened by cost of governance, one wonders where this government is headed. At a time when the government should be cutting down the cost of governance and have a more targeted approach towards increasing the dividends of governance, we are just adding unnecessary weight to the system. 

“Cross River State at a time like this needs to be more strategic, in its bid to improve the lives of citizens, and the proliferation of ministries that sometimes overlap in terms of responsibilities, is only the product of confusion.  It would indeed be a pleasant shock if it would be of benefit to state at the end of the day, because all we desire is that the society get better. 

Akpama who is a former governorship candidate of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) Cross River chapter, explained that, “For instance, how can a state government have a foreign affairs ministry? Then you talk of robotics and intelligence in a community where illiteracy is rife, mostly due to the absence of proper education. A greater percentage of the people in the state lack access to electricity and even the internet and here you are talking about flying even before you can crawl just a couple of metres.

“The truth is that, we can’t be floating in our heads in space all the time. We have to get our feet on the ground at some point and face real life and the quicker this administration realised that the better for us. Already, so much time has been lost on frivolities and castle in the air style of governance.” 

In the same vein, national chairman, Coalition of Civil Society Groups in Nigeria, Comrade Bassey Edim said the creation of new ministries would have been a lofty one the ministries were to be directorates and agencies. “ The idea behind creating the ministries is where I have my worries because I don’t see those ministries achieving anything. In his first term that he created a couple of ministries there was nothing tangible to show as achievements.”  

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Speaking on the issue of insecurity and the introduction of a red flag, Edim said, “ it requires some constitutional procedure to change the flag of the state and aside that, the sincerity of the creation of the new flag is not all that traceable. The Governor is just telling us that the new flag has to do with enterprise and sustaining of the industrialization drive of the state and we see high level of deceit in that statement. 

“There is nothing enterprising about the state. There is nothing industrious about Cross River State, no industries, even the small existing ones we have, have all left the state because of over taxation and when you say enterprise, what do you mean by enterprise? He has not been able to put anything in place to achieve industrialization of the state. So when he talks about industrialization, I laugh. When Lagos state talks about industrialization…. About 90% of all the companies we have in Nigeria, their head offices are in Lagos, so the taxes they pay alone, is enough to industrialize Lagos State and in addition, they have a lot of industries, their wharf is working and the maritime sector is working very well. Everybody goes to Lagos state for their maritime business.” He noted.

Recently, Ayade spoke live on a private radio station in Calabar, to defend some of the nine additional ministries he created. He said ministries like Foreign Affairs, Aviation, Robotic Intelligence and others would create opportunities for more investment drive for the state.

The Governor explained thus; “let me begin with a good example of one of the ministries, the Ministry of Aviation, this has never been conceived by any state in Nigeria. Why would a passenger pay over N70, 000 to fly Calabar? The route to Calabar either from Lagos or Abuja is the most expensive in Nigeria. This is occasioned by the fact that there is no corresponding surplus of airlines coming into Calabar. So it is a responsibility of government to respond to the challenge of our people, recognizing that they are being extorted as a result of monopoly. I need to create the ministry of aviation that can bring into realisation Cally Airline. We need to create an airport in Obudu to support the patronage of international tourists coming to Obudu Cattle Ranch; we need to take advantage of the massive climatic condition suitable for the growth of ornamental plants for export in Obudu cattle ranch. So, if you don’t create an independent ministry specifically focused on delivery of proper air traffic and cargo movement, there will be a big problem in your hands.

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“Take Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for instance. The whole world is moving to Africa. Africa is the last frontier. So we need to have a ministry that is focused on the globalization perspective, taking a look at each continent, each nation and its direct relationship with Nigeria with a view to taking advantage of it to advance our economy. The Americans have huge resources and they are coming to Africa. China has set aside billions of dollars for Africa.

We need an aggressive person who can catch on all of those international resources; we need a ministry focused on all of this international connectivity to distill all of that for the benefit of Cross River State. If you leave it in a big umbrella, it will get scuttled, but once you put a specific specialized ministry, taking it with a direct instruction you are going to get value. If every of the 39 ministries achieve only one thing, I would have at the close of 2020 achieved 39 different projects that I would have delivered. It is a systematic division of labour to allow for specialization. That way you get indicators that you can use for budget monitoring and full evaluation of commissioners. Don’t forget that the appointment of commissioners is for an initial period of one year.

“The world today has moved to the first generation which is artificial intelligence and robotics. In this you are dealing with very sophisticated technology, the future where people will just sit down and take a robot to become a farmer. Difficult things that man cannot produce, robots will take over. You take artificial intelligence, people will begin to produce things that otherwise would have been found too cumbersome. So if you don’t go into robotic and artificial intelligence by the time the world is moved, you see a car drive through a tollgate without stopping and yet pays the toll. Those days there was a manual barrier, today artificial intelligence knows the details, and so the world has moved.”

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Ben Ayade
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