Commendations, knocks for Ayade’s ‘self-sufficiency’ projects in Cross River
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State prides himself as a “performing governor” owing to the self-professed “laudable projects and or industries” he claims his administration has commissioned or is putting up in the state. At the last count, the projects/industries number up to 38 across the state.
According to Ayade, the primary aim of investing in the numerous projects was to basically create employment, and make the state self-sufficient and less dependent on the handout that comes as federal allocation.
While Ayade and his cronies shout to the heavens about the boost the industries have brought to the state economy, dissenting members of the public who think otherwise, say the projects in question are mere “window dressing projects that are mostly non-functional.” The dissenters stressed that the few that are functional are contributing nothing to the state coffers as revenue.
For instance, a businessman in Calabar, John Agakem, while speaking about the garment factory, described it as “a glorified tailoring shop,” adding that, “Ayade has not done even a kilometre of road successfully. The toothpick factory, Pyle and pylon, Noodles factory, Calapharm, power plants and many others are either not working or have so much left undone. The rice seedling factory is just there, no work is going on.”
An activist and social critic, Agba Jalingo, in a reaction to the governor’s comment in a recent interview with Arise television, said with less than 400 days to the end of the administration, none of the 38 industries Governor Ayade purportedly built has a product in the market.
He cited an example of the Cross River Pharmaceutical Company (Calapharm), registered and intended to manufacture drugs for the country. “It’s a one warehouse facility built along the Goodluck Jonathan by-pass in Calabar. It’s just by the roadside and visible to anyone driving by. The warehouse was completed and some machines were brought in since 2020. Some of the machines were installed while others are still in their cartons. Announcements were made from governor’s office for applications for employment into the factory, which never happened after people submitted applications. Till date, that place has remained under locks. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is going on there,” Jalingo said.
The Obudu German Hospital is one other project with rave reviews. But in Jalingo’s view, “There is no sophisticated hospital in Obudu yet. The government guest house was demolished by Ayade to build a hospital. Construction work is still ongoing at the site and not a single medical machine has been installed. But we all wish and pray that it will be completed and also be sophisticated. Until then, the most sophisticated hospital in Nigeria is not yet in Obudu.”
Rising in defence of the governor, the Secretary of the Northern Elders Forum, Mr. Leonard Ayogu said, Ayade has done so much in terms of projects. He cited the work done in Okpoma, the headquarters of Yala, where the road was in state before the governor’s intervention. “I can’t remember the last time any government touched this road. The governor did not just open up the road beyond our headquarters, he also dualised it.”
A governorship aspirant and business mogul, Mr. Ben Akak also contended that contrary to some opinions, Ayade has done quite impressively in terms of projects. He promised to complete all the uncompleted industries and projects of Governor Ayade if elected as the next governor come 2023.
To achieve this, Akak, with a campaign slogan of “Ben2Ben,” recently embarked on a massive two-day project assessment tour of some of the project sites at the Ayade Industrial Park in Calabar and in other locations.
The industries visited include the garment factory, Cross River pharmaceutical company (CalaPharm), Kisimie instant noodles plant, Calachika, and the rice seedling factory, all at the Ayade Industrial park, Calabar. Others projects visited included the 10 megawatts power plant in Calabar, Teachers Training Institute, Ibogo in Biase local council, the Canadian International School, the international cargo and passenger airport, the Specialist General Hospital all in Obudu, the rice factory in Yala, 147 km Mfum-Yahe-Abucheche-Obudu-ranch road and others.
After the visits, Akak said, “I think governor Ayade’s programme on industrialisation is under reported. I am shocked with what I have seen. These are just few projects we’ve seen. We need to encourage residents to applaud him more, for taking the bold step to lead the state from a civil service state to being an industrial base.
“These factories would crystallise the entire economy of the state and make Cross River state self sufficient. Having laid this foundation, let me make this point also that Ayade has created the enabling environment to make my job very easy if elected governor.”
Akak, who was accompanied by some top government officials like Eric Akpo, some members of the state House of Assembly, vice chairmen of councils and some of his supporters, noted that “Ayade has laid the foundation that would make Cross River the destination in Africa in few years to come.”
Commenting on the power plant, said to have been completed long ago without corresponding impact on power supply in the state, Akak said, “The state independent power plant is working; as we speak it’s currently powering the street lights. The only stop gap is the legislation that has stopped it from being linked to the national grid. We know that it is in the exclusive list. That’s why I said we are going to do a lot. Number one, within the Governors Forum, which is very powerful. We will do a lot to lobby members of the National Assembly to change that legislation with a view to putting it on concurrent list for the state to begin to generate power and use.”
Akak, who is also the Chairman, Ben Akak Foundation, stated that medical tourism has been a major issue with Nigeria, “but with the Special General Hospital built by Ayade, when completed, most of trips abroad for medical treatment would be cut. If you go through the hospital, you will see that everything is completely digitalised. It is based on smart mode and you don’t need to have interface with the next person because with the card you can get all the points.”
The aspirants stressed that he would harness the projects for more impact if he gets elected as governor come 2023, which explains the assessment he has done. “I have been in the private sector for all my life. I know what it means to grow a business and a venture. We will connect the projects and bring in new initiatives. We are currently discussing with private investors who are ready to invest not only in infrastructure but also in our medical tourism. As we speak, a company has already expressed interest in the Calapharm. Nigeria spends up to $30b importing drugs but with the Calapharm, we will cut that by half. This is why this project is necessary. And we, as a consortium, are partnering with them. The governor has been asking the indigenes of Cross River State to play less politics and do more investment. This tour has really helped us a lot because we now have first hand information, we have seen the facilities and we know it is workable. Those doubting governor Ben Ayade must think twice,” Akak said.