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Opposition queries Ayade’s bullish drive for industrialisation


Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade

• Says Basic Infrastructure To Support An Industrial Park Does Not Exist
Working with lean resources and what he termed intellectual money, the governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade has within four years, put in place the Ayade Industrial Park, which plays host to the Cross River Garment Factory, the Cross River Pharmaceutical Company (Calipharm), Calavita Noodles, Cross River Feed Mills, the Cross River Rice Seeds and Seedlings Factory and other agro value chain projects in Calabar, the state capital.

With what he has put in place so far, Ayade believes that within a short period, the state would be on the verge of replicating the 1876 agro-industrial revolution in Europe, targeted at achieving self-sustenance in the entire agricultural value chain.

Other factories are Cross River Piles and Pylon Factory, Akamkpa; Cocoa Processing Factory, Ikom; Rice Processing Factory, Ogoja; Cross River Poultry Farm (Calachika) Calabar Municipal Council; Cross River Toothpick Factory, Ekori, Yakurr Local Council.

Of the number of factories that are outside the park, only the toothpick factory has started production, while the cocoa processing, rice mill, and piles and pylon outfit are nearing commencement of production.

At the industrial park, located along the Goodluck Bypass in Calabar Municipality, the garment factory has commenced production, so also the rice seedling factory, while the feed mill was test-run a couple of weeks ago by the governor, in preparation for commencement of production. However, the pharmaceutical factory and a few others in the park are still undergoing construction.

When all these industries become operational, many believe that this bullish approach to the industrialisation can turn the state into a business hub for Nigeria and Africa in the near future if sustained.

In one of his recent remarks, Ayade said: “Agro-industrial revolution is the first step to take. It is indeed, an only agro-industrial revolution that allows you to industrialise, revolutionise your economy and yet carry the people along because the essence of industrialisation is to create social harmony. The problem with Africa is the extemporaneous excitement of attitude to catch up with the Western world. In the process we miss the strategic steps that are required towards growth,” he said.

While also admitting that the need to industrialise Africa has become pertinent and urgent, he said; “The continent must make sure that the right steps are taken if the objective must be achieved.”

Indeed, it was against that background that his administration embarked on the agro-industrial revolution through value-chain addition to agricultural processes.

Speaking as the chief host of the 2019 Africa Industrialisation Day (AID), organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, in Calabar recently, Ayade said: “Today we have the garment factory employing over 3, 000 people with women constituting 85 per cent of the workforce. We have a philosophy of going from farm to fabric. So, our cotton farm in Yala Local Council, in partnership with Arewa Textile, is helping to create the raw materials that we require to have our knitting and our fabrics that can turn into garments. That is the agro-industrial revolution. We have the Cross River State Noodles Factory, which depends mostly on rice because the use of wheat has been found to have a high level of gluten. Today, in Cross River State, we have a feed mill.

“Today, Cross River State has a factory that will be producing 24, 000 frozen chicken per day. As such, we need a huge quantity of maize and soya beans for feed production. This will create an agricultural value chain that will create an enabling environment for you to massively cultivate new farmlands to support the cultivation of maize and soya beans; in the process creating jobs, linking people to farm, linking the farms and products to agriculture, and linking them ultimately to the industries. That is the connectivity, and that is why the agro-industrial revolution is always the first.

“Today in Ogoja, we have the first vitaminised rice mill in Africa. Here in Calabar; we have the first seedling rice factory in Africa, we also have a cocoa processing and the first cocoa processing plant that goes from cocoa beans to chocolate bars- the very first in Africa.”

According to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Christian Ita, barely few months of commencement of production, the state rice seeds and seedlings factory has made over N5. 5b from sales of rice seedlings, as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) for South South states, and some corporate rice farmers from Kano State recently purchased seedlings worth N3b for farmers.

Ita said that recently, the Abia State government and the IRS Group placed an order worth N2.5b, during a tour of the rice seeds and seedlings facility in Calabar, by the Abia state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, and Chairman of the IRS Group, Rabiu Isiaku Rabiu.

Already the Bayelsa and Delta state governments have taken delivery of rice seedlings, while other South South states will soon follow.

Whether within or outside the country, Ayade has continued to use every available opportunity to invite investors to the state. That was what he did last November in South Africa, during the Africa Investment Forum (AIF).

Ayade, who was at the Summit on the invitation of the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumni Adesina, alongside the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, his Kwara and Abia states counterparts, Dr. Abdulrasaq Abdulraman and Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu among others, while speaking at the cluster session on opportunities investors can find in the state said there can never be a better time to invest in the state than now when his administration has established an industrial city with all-round infrastructure and tax-free regime.

“There are lots of opportunities in my state, Cross River State, a state that flows with milk and honey; inhabited by very warm people. It is home to the remaining largest tropical rainforest in West Africa, where natural wildlife still exists. It is blessed with a huge arable landmass that is good for agriculture; my state has a large deposit of gas as the end-point of the oil-rich Niger Delta region with international boundaries with Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Sào Tome and Principe on both lands and waterway corridors.

“What’s more, Cross River State is unarguably the tourism destination of Nigeria with Carnival Calabar as the apex annual event in Nigeria, every December. As a government, we have invested in the rice value chain, seeds, and seedlings, milling, as well as ultra-modern cocoa factory just to mention, but a few of our agricultural projects of action. Come and invest in Cross River State because our land, though in the Niger Delta region, is very safe and secure,” he said.

Governor Ayade on the second day of the three-day event led participants at an investment cluster meeting to a wider panel discussion, with global investors to discuss opportunities, all in a bid to secure the nod of the (AfDB) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) to partner the state in its agro-industrial sector.

Ayade who expressed his desire to get youths of the state gainfully employed through agro-industrialisation, said that 90 per cent of the industries he has established in the state were agro-based, “obviously, there is no way that all the industries that I have set up, 90 per cent of them agro-based, will function without the appropriate industrial farms. For example, the garment factory will require cotton; the instant noodles factory, which is rice-based will require rice; the poultry farm requires maize and soya beans; the cocoa processing factory requires cocoa; the toothpick factory requires organic bamboo and the list goes on.”

Marveled at what he saw after a tour of the park, former governor of the state Mr. Donald Duke said Ayade deserves a Nobel Prize for his industrialisation exploits wondering how the governor was able to record such feat in spite of the state’s huge debt profile.

He said, “I know the debt profile of the state; the income and investment that are required here. Actually, I am very impressed and I want to encourage him (Ayade) because if he succeeds, all of us will succeed, and if he doesn’t succeed, all of us have not succeeded. But we must ensure that our leaders succeed because we will be beneficiaries of that success.”

On the rice seeds and seedlings factory, the former governor remarked: “This rice facility, from what I have been told, and what I have seen here, it can enable the entire West Africa sub-region to be self-sufficient in rice. If that was all Ayade did, he has every right to beat his chest. If all he did was to ensure that the entire sub-region of West Africa is self-sustaining in rice production, he will deserve a Nobel Prize for that.”

Describing the industrial park as amazing, Duke said: “There is a pharmaceutical company, noodles factory, and a power plant, among others with a lot of work put in place, which has brought spread. So, Ayade deserves kudos for these. There is always cynicism and criticism of government, but let’s call a spade a spade, there is no amount of money that a state generates that can sustain what you (Ayade) have done here.”

With all these agro-based industries sprouting up, a commissioner designate in the state, Mrs. Stella Odey, said she would encourage women to key into the agro-industrialisation drive of the Ayade-led administration by going into rice farming, poultry farms, maize, and others to compliment the governor’s effort.

Odey, who is one of the 39 persons nominated by the governor for commissionership said on her second coming,
“one of her key agenda is to emancipate women of the state, by empowering them through agriculture to key into the governor’s agricultural revolution programme. The strategy is to partner with some relevant organisations in Nigeria and outside Nigeria to key into the governor’s vision of agricultural revolution and industrialisation.”

The state Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Cletus Obun said: “I will take a holistic view of the Ayadenomics. Maybe he is planning for his successor to come and implement, that is trying to take the Lagos model where Tinibu handed over and later came around to supervise the implementation of the master plan. If that is the context that Ayade should be viewed, then that is great. But if it is about him and projects, he has no intention of completing any project. The industrial park is almost like the kind of thing that Donald Duke did in Tinapa. You cannot be wearing the most expensive dress, or the most expensive necklace on a dirty, soiled and torn dress. The metaphor here is to deal with the fact that you cannot have an industrial park, where there is no security. Who will come and build an industry, where there is no security, no roads, where there is only one flight plying the state daily?

“So the basic infrastructure to support an industrial park does not exist, and we don’t need to pretend about it. We do not have the basic infrastructure to run an industrial park. How safe is the place and the people? Calabar as it is now, is in tatters, so who are you putting a park inside there for? I do think that we must have some level of honesty in advising, admonishing and cautioning this government about its pronouncements, which must match with action and performance, but to pretend is not the best. In the next three years, his tenure will come to an end, but he cannot even construct a culvert on the superhighway. Are you going to repair the roads within Calabar in the next three years? Just how can these industries function? We cannot see N20b in a year, yet we are busy talking about N1.3t as a budget in a year and making a huge joke of our economic policy. We don’t intend to implement anything, but just to create fanfare like the carnival,” Obun, a former lawmaker stated.

Even when some states are keying into the park, Obun said, “the industrial park is just equal to the garment factory and that garment factory by all intents and purposes is a private factory. Going to privatise or commercialise it is a different matter altogether, but I can tell you that the industrial park does not have support facilities and that is the point I am making. Therefore, as an experienced policy analyst and lawmaker, I will tell you that it is not possible to get an industrial park kick-off under the present situation in the state.

“So, the government should propose it, fix it and maybe engage those, who are coming to engage in it, and create an enabling environment by beginning to fix roads in Calabar first, address the security situation, and then proceed to hand over to the next person, who will build on it because there is no continuity in government.”

The three-man Debt Review and Project Development Commission of the state, headed by Chief Chris Agara with Chief Higgins Peters as vice chairman, and Etubom Bassey Eyo-Ndem as Secretary, said for sustainability, it will recommend the privatisation of industries at the park and those located outside the park. “This is what we will recommend as a commission so that the state House of Assembly can pass legislation that government projects should not be left abandoned because another government has come into office.”

Agara added: “We have a mandate to determine what the state is worth so that we will be able to let the world know, and also for the world to be attracted to us. Some projects are not doing very well, and some projects are about taking off, so we are accessing those projects, we are looking at them very professionally as you well know that those of us from this side are from the business and private sector. So, the government deemed it necessary to bring us from the private sector to see how these projects can be run or can survive because we all know that if we allow government projects to be run by the government itself, those projects will never survive. So, it is part of our duty and responsibility to make sure that we position all government projects so that they will succeed, serve their purpose, and be of better benefits to the people.”

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