Cross River State government through its signature projects is believed to make the state an industrial hub in the West Coast of Africa, so said Bassey Ndem, a special repertoire. This is against the backdrop of persons that have expressed fears that the projects could put the state into huge and endless debts and liabilities even for unborn children in the state.
Reacting in Calabar, the Special Repertoire on Bakassi Militancy to the State Government, Bassey Ndem, said with the signature and quick-win projects Governor Ben Ayade has commenced an industrial revolution in Cross River state.
He said, “for the signature projects, there is the deep seaport and the superhighway and these are huge, visionary and long term projects that have the potential to change the economic trajectory of the state permanently.
“The superhighway we are told will cost approximately a billion dollars to build. The allocation the state receives from federal government and state internally generated revenue (IGR) simply cannot build it. It has to be financed by other people’s money and foreign direct investment. If the investors carry out their due diligence and are satisfied with the study done and believe that from traffic and other things they are going to get their one billion dollar back including interest, what is your problem?’
Ndem who was a one time Commissioner for Lands in the state, said, “10 years of our total allocation as a state cannot build it; he is using investors’ money which he calls intellectual money. If the foreign investors finish these projects can they come and carry it away?
“Apart from the huge cost of these projects it is also unrealistic to expect a deep sea port or super highway to be built from scratch and completed in a few years. So I think people should tailor their expectations to reality and give the government the benefit of doubt”.
On insinuation that these signature projects would leave behind huge debts for Cross River, he said, “Well, as far as I know, there is the Debt Management Office (DMO) that very closely monitors and regulates issues on state government debts. This government cannot borrow recklessly from commercial banks so these projects are not tied to un-payable loans.
“So what will you use to tie Cross River state? Is it a sovereign debt guarantee by Nigeria on behalf of Cross River state for any foreign investor for one billion dollars? Its very highly improbable if not impossible. What the Federal government has given is an approval and not a guarantee. If the federal government gives final approval for the project it is not a guarantee for a loan but just an approval. There is no way that the government of Ben Ayade can sign away or mortgage the future of Cross Riverians.
On the smaller quick –win projects, he noted that “The entrepreneurs and industrialists who would have ventured into building factories cannot do so because they are handicapped by the lack of an enabling environment (fiscal and otherwise) at a national level. So the governor took the bold step to put something on ground by building these industries and laying the foundation for industrialization. He has successfully built a few factories like the garment factory, and the rice seedling multiplication factory etc.
“For the rice seeding factory I believe the idea is to look at the rice value chain and focus on the highest yielding aspect. He is thinking a step ahead. Nigeria is taking giant strides in rice production but its not all about joining the bandwagon of just planting rice, harvesting it then bagging it. People in other states that have comparative advantage over you will out do you in the business and take more of the market space but if you go into getting seedlings for everyone on a commercial scale, you will be turning over tens of millions of dollars because throughout the country, whether it is from Kebbi to Borno, anybody that wants to plant rice, will come here to buy seedlings.
“Note as well that the gestation period for rice seedlings is about one week while the time for planting a rice crop to maturity is about six months. So while other states’ rice planters will harvest rice crops two times a year the Cross River seedling factory will be harvesting and selling at least 54 times a year”.
He said the government was doing the right thing by carefully selecting the right value added industries and taking the plunge by building them. “It will encourage other entrepreneurs and industrialists to come in either to buy or build new factories in the purpose built industrial parks that will employ Cross Riverians”.