Eyo Ekpo is a member of the editorial Board of Business Day Newspaper, a former attorney general of Cross River State and a governorship aspirant of the Social Demeocratic Party SDP, in this interview with Calabar journalists, he gives insight into the state of affairs in Cross River State.
The indices of underdevelopment did not start today, why have you decided to come in now and does the SDP has the structure to win elections in the state?
What are the efforts you are making now to convince the people of the prospects of the SDP?
The governorship had been zoned to the north so will your administration not disrupt the present zoning formula entrenched by the PDP?
The south and the central have had their turns so will your ambition not be unfair to the people of the north?
You are one of those that drafted the cross river state reserve fund law so was there no lapses in the law?
What could be the worst thing that could happen to cross river state?
The last question is rather a very interesting one, what w=could be the worst thing that could happen to the state. In my conception, I don’t see myself as being the best governor cross river state has never had. First of all I feel the best governor cross river state ever had was Donald duke and I am not saying it because I admire him which I do, I’m saying it because at the very beginning, he laid the foundation that gave us something to actually set up as a state and we did not have to suffer by having to go through a bad governor before we got to him. So in many ways in my own conception he will always be and there will be no first again. He actually set precedence that succeeding administrations have found very hard to follow so that’s not my expectations. I will certainly like to be known as the governor that brought cross river state back to the path of progress because as at today there is no body that has a conscience and is born of a woman that can ever say that we are progressing as of today in cross river. This is not a political statement at all, it is just the stark truth so the question that we all as cross Riverians will have to face is whether we are willing to continue with this or not so the worst thing that can happen to cross river is that we find ourselves in the hands which we are now in a governor who given his current record will definitely handover to someone that will be worse than him and if we think that things are bad now, wait if it was possible until we make the mistake which I pray will never happen or we make the mistake of making the current administration continue.
Every one of us will see how it is possible to keep on setting new records of depravity in governance. Why am I saying it is a bad proposition, maybe there are some states that can actually survive bad governance and have a private sector that can carry most of the citizenry so we have states like Lagos; for as long as the produce crude oil and gas, states like Delta, rivers, Bayelsa, and Akwa Ibom, small states with plenty of money, small population, small size, will survive very well but cross river is not one of them. We depend on governance to actually attract the people that will make us live reasonably well which is what we started doing in 1999 particularly during the second term of that administration where cross river actually became a destination whether for business or for leisure. So it’s just about the worst thing and you know what, we are already seeing it because what this administration has done is to force everybody to be dependent on government and I am sorry but it is really so sad that the 3 or 4 billion that we get every month can go there is really so much they can do particularly when it is abused to pay recurrent bill which is salaries. This is a state whose entire wealth is now being consumed by salaries and we borrow on top of that just to pay salaries, not allowances, not imprest, not pensions and definitely not gratuities. So that mantra that we pay salaries, we have been so deceived by it that if there is any state that our Mumu don do needs to become a slogan is in Cross River, so that’s for the last question.
State reserve fund is a tragedy. I did not just have a hand in it, I drafted it and if I am proud of any work that I had done it is the state reserve fund we actually had a govern wealth fund in Cross River before Nigeria had one. Nigeria set up NSIA I think it was in 2015 and we had ours in 2004 and were a properly set up fund which was backed by law, procedures. This state actually sent me out to go and learn how other countries have done that. I went to Trinidad and Tobago, not for carnival by the way because they have a very well functioning reserve fund, I met with the people who run the Norwegian fund, the Kuwaiti fund and I worked with the central bank of Nigeria, the people who work on the foreign reserve management. The CBN actually gave us people to work with and we went about doing this thing the right way. What we did not have and what no law can have actually is a full proof method that makes it difficult to actually set it aside. Because if you call the legislature, sit them down and persuade them, and please don’t ask me how to persuade them, they will pass a law to set it aside. They will pass a law to set aside another law and so that law that said we will be saving 50 million every month and by the way we actually saved by may 29, 2007 when Donald Duke left, we had saved just about 1.2 billion. The capital value of that fund was almost 5 billion, I remember that very well and we gave the money to a custodian Zenith, it was trusted by first bank and managed by ARM 60% and stanbic IBTC 40% and they were competing with each other on how must returns they could give to cross river and by that day when Donald duke left, we were worth almost 5 billion by that fund, capital appreciation, that’s an appreciation of almost 300%. It was fantastic money management that we had. Not the law said that money will not be touched for 15 years and we will just keep saving it and investing it. If any of us can go and get a calculator and compound 50million a month for 180 months the money we could have get, what we would have had today because we are approaching the end of 15 years which is July next year and what that money could have done for cross river because the presence of that fund would have attracted two kinds of investment. First it would have attracted people that want to focus on building up our infrastructure right because Cross River would have a fund that could actually provide new guarantees that we could leverage on, that fund in my mind would be worth in my mind, nothing less than 150 billion today and on the back of 150 billion, you can raise at least in today’s market another 200 billion. So this is an opportunity that has been lost. Just go and ask a banker to do a compounded interest, Treasury bill, 50 million a month for 15 years and see the figure that we could have had. That money is what we could have been worth today and would have had enough to focus on some of the things that actually trouble us in Cross River, law and order, infrastructure, entrepreneurship development. So that’s what the reserve fund could do, so you cannot blame me. That happened after Donald duke left office I think it happened during the Liyel Imoke led administration when the whole thing was basically dissipated. How, for me I don’t know how they did it but I can imagine how it happened. So to come to Ekanem’s question, why now when bad governance started much earlier. I don’t understand were you saying that I saw bad governance and did nothing, that’s not true. First of all, if you understand our system under the constitution of this country, a governor or a president is actually a constitutional monarch, right. We have a system that confers on the president and the governor of a state absolute power and that is why this thing of godfatherism will always be. Because I can be humble now, kiss your feet and wash your feet for you, but the day I sign that book that they sign in the stadium and I become the governor, everything changes. For those who blame Donald duke, for them I want to, I’m going to talk about the Donald duke administration but I want to explain why Donald duke never tried to exert any kind of control over his successors, the best you can do is to give advice. It is not seemly for anyone to come to the public and say that I have been advising, it is wrong. What I can say very clearly is that when I was responsible, when I had authority and responsibility, I did my work to the best of my ability and it was good enough for Cross River. When I could I gave advice but the moment you leave, no matter how good your ideas or advice may be, everything depends on who occupies the office of the governor. So again, I also do not want to agree with those who blame Governor Liyel Imoke as the cause of Cross River state problem, I don’t. Because he, Liyel Imoke knows very well that the day he took office, Donald Duke did not control him even Donald duke did not attempt to control him. And the same way, Imoke never expected that the day Ayade takes office, he can control him. If that was the intention, I don’t know. But certainly, the one person that must be held 100% responsible for whatever good or bad happens to Cross River is the governor of the day. It is either you are actively part of the problem or you are passively allowing the problem to fester. I think that I the case of Cross River it is the latter. Our governor had abdicated the responsibility to people that are unelected, but very powerful and there is nothing worse than that in any constitutional arrangement when you give power without responsibility. We elected a governor and a deputy governor along with 25 members of the house of assembly but we also found ourselves saddled with a co-governor that was not on the ballot. And this is something that many people know but for some reasons are afraid of speaking out. So please sir, don’t blame me blame the house of assembly that has the constitutional power to speak up an say why is this happening, blame the house of assembly that has the power to say that a budget that they know will not be funded and cannot be funded should still be passed. Blame the house of assembly that refuses to exercise its constitutional rights to ask penetrating questions that you are asking me now and I hope that when the governor comes to this platform because he will come, you will ask him a similarly tough question.
I will take Ekanem and James’s second question together
PDP and APC today constitute the mainstream. We know that the APC is 60%PDP and they are children of the same father and even the same mother but the SDP in terms of what you call structure and I know you mean this word structure in a very interesting way but let me say something and it is that when it comes to elections, we have been more educated in the last 18 to 20n years particularly in the last three when it has become clear that just saying I will be good or I am fighting corruption is not good enough. We are a lot more aware of where we are and what we want. I started out by saying that Cross Riverians are people who actually have a good experience of what good governance is all about. I also believe that most of us in our own small ways are dissatisfied by the way our state has been governed. What is therefore necessary is not to focus on the structure itself but to focus on how well any political party can sell a credible set of alternative candidates because Cross River the negative side of what happened in the last five terms of office has been that we have kind of had had a particular political name embedded almost in our DNA but three years I think has helped to loosen that connection significantly and so the political challenge to those who wish to go against incumbents in Cross River is to actually present a credible alternative and focus less on the party even though what is going to be on the ballot paper is the party symbol but we are going to make the elections very personal in the sense that, we must now examine, after 20 years everybody has a record and there are no new faces. There is actually something that you can interrogate very closely and I am calling on you guys in the press to rise up to the occasion and help the people of this state interrogate very clearly whether you are in the legislature, what is your record, it’s not about empowerment alone because empowerment is all about taking your money and giving it back to me. That’s not empowerment. The genuine empowerment is that which we give to somebody and enable the person stand on his own two feet properly not to give you five, ten thousand or even a second hand car that I will have to look for money to maintain. Give me training, show me how to use this camera, let me buy a camera, guarantee me a loan so that I can go and but a garri milling machine, take my idea that I have for something or the other that can be built. Give me training on human resource management, accounting, small business management, marketing and sales, put me through that school and then give me a loan that I will not have to repay for the next six months, give me a moratorium on it, three, four or five million by that you have empowered me. But what do you call empowerment today, total insult. So interrogate our records well and make us answer deep questions. SDP is actually setting up a structure. It has a structure that goes into the states into local government areas, into wards, it’s a strong name. I just came back from a tour to take my form, I did not follow in the standard of giving my coordinators to get me 50 signatures and all that, I took my form myself across the states to go and meet people and say sign my form for me after listening to me first and I spoke. And what is resonating, SDP is actually saying something here, SDP is talking to us and maybe we should actually give some trial too but it does not take that long to see the truth. So the challenge is whether some of our structures because I am aware that by the time the elections come, the credible alternative will be presented to people across this state and they will know. The question is whether we can actually hold that attention enough to overcome what we know the mainstream will do which it to throw money at them. They have nothing else to present other than money so the challenge is whether we have people who are willing to take the money and still retain their common sense because you know something, if your vote was not valuable, nobody will offer to buy it, it will be disregarded completely and people will still win elections. So the message to our people is that if somebody is foolish enough to offer you money for you vote, also remember that that person will have to amortize that money and you think about it assuming you get the money say 5,000, at 1250 per year is that really what your vote is worth. So I don’t think it’s so much about structure as it is about delivering a credible set of candidates.
Is my aspiration fair to northern Cross River?
By 2012, James, that day in 2012 when Liyel Imoke stood up in Ogoja and said that he believes that the next governor of cross river should come from the north, he wasn’t talking about zoning, he was talking about fairness, two very different things. right, let us understand the difference here, it’s not a mere semantic difference, this state has had governors from across the state except for one part which is the north, some of them have gone twice, clement Ebri once, Donald once, Liyel from the central so a certain sense of fairness demanded that lets look for a candidate from the north and let them present one. If I remember correctly, no other part of the state presented candidates in 2015 it was just the north at least in the PDP and let us remember that we are discussing PDP thinking. But that thinking of Liyel Imoke in 2015. We then had someone from the northern part of the state contest an election and won resoundingly. Ok, having done that let us now go back to history because we have now had governors from all parts of the state. The first time Donald Duke contested elections in 1999, there was no discussion about zoning, we had people from across the state oppose them both in the primaries of his party and in the general elections. The next time he came back in 2003, the same thing happened, right, internal and external opposition, so what point am I making here? He had to fight for his second term. It was not automatic, inspite of the fact that he actually did things that this state had not seen before, for the people not for himself as we have today. Liyel Imoke came and he was opposed both internally and externally and second term was probably the most graphic. He was knocked out of his seat twice, do you remember? The first person to knock him out was it not somebody from the north, Mark Ukpo from Yala in the North? So the only person in this state that has taken office by common consent on a regional basis is the current governor of this state. By common consent across the state, let us not have another person but a northerner.
The best that the North has given to us is Governor Ben Ayade. And I am saying, it’s not me alone saying it by the way, it is the north that has been saying it the loudest that Ben Ayade is not good enough. This is not about where you come from now. If we are to speak on the basis of fairness, then nobody in his right mind should tell me that somebody that we all agreed with common consent particularly his own people should remain in office. Fairness means that Ben Ayade should be opposed by anybody that thinks right and means well for the state. If I come close to loosing it and getting very angry it is this question, let me make a further point and please listen to me very carefully. The first governor of Cross River State from the north is Governor Donald Duke. Who amongst us in the current Nigeria that we live in comes from one part of the state wins an election with a very small number of votes from another part of the state that he did in 1999 with 7800 votes from the north, takes his oath of office and goes back there to go and start working? Please answer my question with truth. Nobody, Donald Duke still has to explain to people in the south why he went back to develop the north as if the north was not part of Cross River at the end of the day. As if the people in the north and the problems of the state were only zoned to one part of the state which is the south and central and the north does not have similar problems. How far do we take this issue of zoning to a point that we actually look foolish and stupid and I am asking this question very seriously. In 1999, APP was the opposition to the PDP; a stronghold was in the north and central part of the state. Those people from there without any inducement, of their own free will after four years of governance largely came over to the party of Donald Duke not because of him but the things that he did as governor of the state. Which of those things he did at that time as a governor from the south has been replicated by this governor who comes from the north? Ben Ayade does not come from the North but from Ben and Frank local government area. Because he exists as governor only for himself, his brothers and their families, this is the truth. That is not what Cross River was noted for. So let’s leave this thing about zoning, everybody has had his turn. If you want to apply this zoning principle, you are only entitled to a first term, you need to go and fight for your second term and let Cross Riverians of their own accord say that Ben Ayade should go back and so it will be. It’s a simple matter and not about zoning. It’s about the man who has been able in one way other to persuade enough people to send him back to office or the person who has been able to persuade enough people that that man does not deserve to go back to office and should be thrown out of office. So let’s leave that talk aside.
On Tinapa, what institutional framework did you put in place for the sustainability of TINAPA because several governments have cited this as a huge problem to the state?
What are the challenges in the power sector in the state and how do you hope go about addressing them?
Will you continue with the projects the government is embarking on as from 2019 like the deep seaport, calas vages, centricot, and the rest?
How will you defray the states debts in view of the high rate of insolvency of the state?
How will you surmount the threat of vote buying which is becoming a norm?
What are your views on direct primary, local government reforms and restructuring?
Assuming Ayade is denied a ticket in PDP and he decides to come to the SDP, will the party accept him and also Atiku?
Let me start from the last, nobody can stop them, you go to a ward take a membership card and join. If he comes to the SDP, with the express purpose of becoming the candidate of the SDP, well those of us in the party will have the option of either staying or going back to another party. if the SDP betrays its ideals and gives to somebody like Ayade its ticket. This is the rights of members of the party by either direct or indirect primaries, it’s an academic question because the PDP cannot afford not to give Ayade its ticket and that is what is happening. I mean if you follow what is happening in the state the last time the usual thing has been done. The PDP of Alex Ekwueme, Solomon Lar, Jerry Gana, and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua of 1998-1999 is dead. That PDP died at some point between 2003 and 2006 before the third term thing came up, that PDP is gone and so when you are talking about the PDP lets also look beyond the name and look at the people in there. So do I want Buhari to come and debate, he should. It is his duty to debate and present his score card, whether the APC will run the risk now by presenting Buhari for a debate where he will slumber, can you imagine Buhari debating with other presidential aspirants like Donald Duke, Jerry Gana, Saraki, Atiku? Who is quite articulated I worked with him and there is nothing you tell him that he will not repeat back to you in different words. So he will not come for it, I am very sure of that.
So direct primaries, is the function of the parties. One of the ways around vote buying even though it’s not fool proof is to have direct primaries and when you have a field that is deep and packed with contestants, it may be the best thing rather than delegates. One of the problems we have with delegates is that they are controlled by governors and that is why governors in Nigeria politics have acquired powers far beyond what they should have. If we really want politics to be the way they should be, American style direct primaries is the way we should go. If we can find a way to take out the element of financial inducement from it and have people actually go and vote because you know in the United States, in some states, anybody can participate in a party primary it’s just to be a member of the party it’s almost like an election, in some states of the US. Just be a registered voter that is the stratospheric level of politics, we are not there yet.
On local government reforms, in cross river, I don’t think we need to reform the local government system, is actually not a bad system. Another law I participated actively in drafting was the local government law of cross river state in 1994 which was a direct result of the experience we had between 1999 – 2003 when we had some problems local governments which had no problems owing debts I think there was a local government, Obudu or Obanliku that was owing 11 months’ salary and the chairman had no problem, he will go to Abuja and collect the money pay in Abuja and had a rollicking time. You had a chairman that hard no problem putting his constituent in the boot of his car and driving the person to Calabar because he offended the chairman, so we wanted and drafted a law that used the institution of a joint Account Allocation Committee the so called JAAC where the SA will sit like this with the Special Adviser for local government. The law legalized the order in which the resources of the local government will be utilized the first priority was the payment of salaries the it stipulated the percentage of funds that will be expended on projects which will be in agreement with the state government for healthcare, education, roads, a certain percentage had to go. It was not just about spending; you had to go through a procurement process to identify those projects that will be paid for. The balance of that after paying for salaries, projects and overhead costs was then, I would not call it free money because it gives the impression that you spend as you like, but it was to be spend on items that each local government will still have to present again to the JAAC and the Ministry of local government for approval. It was paternalistic and took local government chairmen as children almost but that a product of the experience we had from 1000-2003. The expectation was that overtime, we will then be able to generate a pipeline of local government chairmen that came through government either they had been Special Advisers or commissioners and they will then go back to their local governments with an expectation of how government should actually work. That did not happen because just like it happened with the reserve fund, that local government law then got itself abused. So what we need is not necessarily reform, if there is any kind of reform that should be done, it is a way to ring fence the utilization of local government funding for local government use. I think that the best thing that should be done is to actually focus on the quality of people that go to our local governments as councilors and chairmen and supervisors. I don’t know if you people realize or remember that I was once an aspirant for local government elections. And historically, you will also remember that I was not even allowed to do the primaries, I dropped out. I dropped out because the sane government which encouraged me before he became a governor called me after his oath of office and said Eyo don’t run because I had been told, I understand, I don’t know if it is true that he was told that Eyo will sue the state government for abusing local government funds which is possible I would have sued actually. I would only have done it in a nicer way. So it’s less reform and more quality control or quality assurance of people. What we have now seen from my answers around the reserve fund and even the local government law is very clear that it is not just the law alone but the people that actually implement the law. This state has an executive council. The constitution requires the governor to meet with his Exco and the governor is not meeting with his executive council, that an impeachable offence because the constitution requires it. The state house of assembly is not asking questions.
How will I survive vote buying. I am not worried about vote buying, to be very honest, I do not endorse it and I don’t have money to buy cross Riverians votes but I will have more than enough money to go to cross Riverians to deliver the message that let the evidence of your eyes and the cries of your younger brothers and your children tell you what you should do. Let your common sense tell you what you should do and let your understanding enable you to look at the candidate. After 19 years of the democratic process, there are no novices and everybody has a record. None of us except Ben Ayade can say I have been a governor before. You cannot look at that but you can look at where we are coming from and what we have done and determine for yourselves. And if you still choose to sell your votes, Eyo Ekpo and his party try. It is better for me to try and fail than not to try at all and guarantee failure. I try and believe I will succeed. These guys by my side we believe we will succeed but we may not, of course we will go home and pat ourselves on the back and say we gave them a good run for their money and so many people were willing to take their money and forget their future. When people begin to cry they will be reminded and I know they will cry as sure as the sun rises from the East and sets in the west every day they will cry. You cannot give what you do not have. It is not in the second term that a person that did nothing that will come and talk about continuity; that did nothing but plunder our natural resources and work that will turn around and deliver.
On debts, we have a huge debt profile because we are not attracting investments into our state. It appears insurmountable because we want to pay our debts from the 5 billion that comes in from FAAC every month which is for states and local governments. Unfortunately, that 5 billion goes to paying salaries and that is the basic reason why you think our debt is insurmountable. Fortunately, government cannot be declared bankrupt, public entities cannot be declared bankrupt and there will always be money somehow so the answer to your question is, how do you deploy our resources to ensure that the right kind id people we need, those that used to come before come back. Again, this is why I believe it is not an academic proposition because we have been there before and seen it happen. The right kind of people we need and used to come in the Unicems of the world, the wilmers of this world, the GE’s, Nigerian breweries which has shut down and run out of the state, how do we ensure that the come back in, how do we ensure that people believe and see that this state has so much value, intrinsic value in its culture come back. How do we get an average of 30-50, 000 people to come in that month of December and spend 10, 15, 20, and 000 on average each? That’s the question you need to be asking and not how do we pay debts because if you don’t earn, no matter how much resources you have, you will never pay debts so I’m not worried at all about out debts. Debts can be restructured, bought, Cross River state today does not have the ability, the thinking capacity in government which is very ironical considering the fact that we have the largest number of political appointees ever seen in the state, are there not thousands of them. None of them is actually thinking of how to repay our debts. It’s amazing, truly amazing. Nobody is applying himself to actually sit down and come up with a valuable plan that will enable this state either to sell its debts or to pay it off and yet we have the natural resources, we have the brain in the state, we have the means to actually deal with this debt. How much is it, I hear that it is about 170 billion dollars or so. I’m not making light of it because it is handwork and by the way, if nobody knows, anybody that is going to be the governor that is a credible person it may be me or somebody else but whoever is going to be the governor of Cross River state after this administration is coming to suffer because your work is persuade people that had given up on Cross River state to come back. We here, we do not have the earning capacity to pay up our debts ourselves, it’s that simple, you have to accept that. You have to get other people to buy in to the idea once again of a cross river that is actually bubbling and brimming with ideas and knows how to execute those ideas.
On the projects currently ongoing by the present administration, like the rice factory, garment factory, calafarm, centricot, most of these are MOU’s; our governor is known as the MOU governor. MOU’s have a very finite life usually 90, 180 days and maybe a year and they will be renewed. The reason why an MOU does not become a solid implementable project, properly financed with commercial viability is that the people who are supposed to put money into it have sense, they have come, looked and seen that there is no justification for what they were told and so they take their money and they go away. Which brings me to the project on the ground, how many of them have real private sector money. How many of them have real private sector funding. When you have a PPP, the money is from the private sector the public usually gives natural assets like land and guarantees which is not money but a promise that you will pick up a particular bill if it not paid by the private sector. How many of them, tell me, you are members of the press has anybody called you to show you how we procured this project, how they procured their private sector partner, this is the contract we negotiated with our private sector partner, this is the key financial and commercial terms, these are the guarantees we were given. Is it not odd that every day you go to the garment factory you see Frank Ayade there is that the private? That’s co-governor, so it’s not a PPP, it’s a public sector project and the reason why it is not going anywhere anytime soon is that the basic underlying rigor that enables a project to have life in a continuum is not there, its missing so I suspect that the question that the new governor will have to answer is not whether he should continue those projects but whether he should go and resuscitate them and the answer to that question I would give is very simple, is there anybody in the private sector that is ready to go and put his money in there, is there is none then lets deploy our money in the right way and to the right things. If there are genuine PPP’s and there are actually viable and are continuing in business, then the question answers itself, why would I as a governor want to stop them, that’s foolishness. Cross Riverians are unemployed, tax is being paid and people are coming into the state to do business, who am I to kill it, I must continue it and help to make it bigger, find a way to make it grow. That’s my job as governor of cross river state. It’s not about whether I like or dislike a particular project its people who depend on it for their livelihood. But if government salaries are being used to maintain the place as I understand, you know everything is just one black box, nobody has information. These projects we are all talking about is what we call a black box, you look inside and see nothing. So the first thing that any government will have to do is to inform itself, but if as I understand government salaries are being paid to people who work in those places then you have to ask yourself whether public resources is being deployed in a way that generates maximum value to the people that generates the resources.
On power how do we resolve the current power conundrum in cross river state, I find it a great irony that this state is blessed with two people who probably between them, know how about the power sector than anybody else in this country and I am not saying this lightly. Liyel Imoke and I, and neither of us has every been asked for one second this question that you have asked. If nothing else that cross river state has is its brain power and resources, intellectual resources. By the way I am not angry about it and that’s not why I want to run for governor because nobody has asked my Eyo how we solve the power problem in cross river state. That is not why because I know for a fact that if I had been asked and I had given the genuine answer nobody will accept it because the answer would not have enabled the governor to award a contract. So let me answer the question in two points. In the southern part of cross river state, there is 660 megawatts sitting down, 560 in Odukpani and 100 in Unicem. Unicem uses 45-50 megawatts of that 100 megawatts and has 50 megawatts sitting down and doing nothing. We do not have a generation problem inside cross river state in the southern part as we are sitting down here. We do not even have a generation problem in the state. We do not need to build that thing that they call a power plant. The two power plants we have in cross river which is 660 megawatts use gas which is the cheapest source of fuel. Nobody can run a diesel plant in cross river state commercially; we don’t have the money to pay for it. The cost of generating power with diesel is somewhere likes N125 to 130 naira per kilowatt hour or unit, which of you is ready to pay N130 per kilowatt hour. If I run I pass my neighbor I am more efficient than that. So I will not buy the power. That thing the governor is doing is the very definition of a white elephant. It only benefits whoever is the contractor in that place which again nobody knows. They say it is Lileker, maybe, I do not know so the solution to our power problem is actually to focus on a number of things. One, enumeration of people who want power and their metering. Nobody will come and give you power if they don’t know if you want the power so we must first count the dwelling of the customers that need power, who occupies them and what’s the nature of their use then you determine which class of customers they belong to, then they are metered. But then metering in the other way serves multiple purposes and I will not address them because I will be giving them a few secrets to our people there, not that they will even use them because I don’t know if they need the information. Good government work can be done with metering in healthcare, education, and infrastructure. Then the next thing we do, because we have the power, is to sit down with those people and work out how we can deliver the power to the people that need them and that is distribution and transmission. Calabar and its environs have about 4-5 injection sub stations with a total transmission capacity of less than 100 megawatts, so with 660 megawatts, this area cannot take more than 120 megawatts by its and that is what you need to deal with, dropping transformers and injection sub stations in there areas. Where I live in Diamond we share from the Niger Mills which has about 30 megawatts capacity, but then the little transformers than hang on the poles are not that many and that’s where the challenge is and it’s not an expensive thing to do. So I will call my DISCO and say let me back you and let’s work together on buying more of those things and hanging them on poles so that no more than 100 or so homes have to manage more than 1 megawatt of transmission capacity that changes the dynamics significantly. In the central, we have the Agbokim waterfalls, why is it that we have not been able to turn that hydro source there into energy. The central is two things to cross river, first of all it houses Ikom which is the commercial capital of cross river and number two, that is where all our foods are grown. When you go to buy these food stuff you will see that there is a lot of wastage there because they are not processed and you cannot process without electricity. So Agbokim is there and studies have shown that that place can deliver at least 70 megawatts of electricity. At the lowest ebb of its flow, it can deliver 75 and if you use efficient machines, it can actually go as far as 100, why did our governor not go there instead of coming to build this thing that he is building. It is because he did not know better, seek advice and it is the fastest way. A hydro plant takes a while to build as against what he is building which can be done very quickly, award the contract and make some money, that’s the truth. By the way, there is a dam somewhere around Boki that can take 10 – 15 megawatts, do we know that, we probably don’t. In the north, there is the Obudu water works; there is a dam there that can deliver another 20 – 25 megawatts of hydro so you can actually focus on looking for private sector people who will come with their money to deliver these projects. It may take you two to three years but if we had started out in the right way, by now, we would actually have had a cross river state that can give its people effective energy independence if not even total. This state is a state that has no business being connected to the national grid. We can actually create our own grid here in this state with private sector money and meet the needs and aspirations of our people.
On institutional framework in Tinapa, on the day in April 2007 when President Obasanjo came to commission TINAPA, we had already rented two out of the four malls, and about 10% of the 216 line malls had been rented out already TINAPA was actually a going concern on the day Donald duke handed it over to his successor. The framework that had gone into preparing TINAPA was tremendous, we had some of the best people come and look at what we wanted to do here, and it got to a point where we actually persuaded people with private money. This governor went round talking and lobbying people with private money to come and invest in Tinapa and they did because they knew that it was going to succeed. We got all the regulatory approvals that were required from the customs, immigration, FIRS and from NPA. It was all in place and on the day that guy left office, TINAPA was viable. What happened afterwards is another matter of history. Somebody went and told the president of this country that TINAPA was a den of smugglers and it was shut down and that is where autocratic power can come in. nobody can work out any kind of antidote against that kind of thing happening, so the president’s order shut down TINAPA. It took another 19 months from August 2007 to February 2009 for TINAPA to be re-opened and by then all the investors had gone. Donald duke did not hand over an unplayable debt to anybody, whether it was in terms of the procurement and all that, I know that we had something that would have been the bedrock of our prosperity in this state. I know the next question will be why this guy did that. Have we all been to DUBAI, most of us have been there, I’m very sure of that at least? The world has not forgotten that Dubai started with that guy Kutum, that Sheik, building an airport in the middle of the desert and saying to himself that I had been told that this place that I happen to be the leader of is halfway between Europe and Asia. When people travel, they must stop to drink water so they will stop here because this airport is a fantastic one and I will and it over to the airlines of this world to use as their hub free of charge. The idea behind TINAPA was that we have a port, we have this entrepreneurial state that is landlocked behind us, Abia State, Imo, Enugu state and they are known for trading so we will make this place a trading hub and work to improve our hinterland infrastructure. You know what, I knew that TINAPA was going to work when the people who control ALABA international market and Aria Aria put money into TINAPA. If those people, they are not foolish, you can call them anything that you like if they put money into TINAPA then it was a matter of time. This is Nigeria where the river that runs through your own land is not controlled by you which is an aberration and the one thing that you cannot really protect yourself against is somebody sitting in Abuja and saying kill it. When I went to Abuja to fight against what they did against TINAPA in 2006/7, somebody told me this your TINAPA what do you think it will work when there is nothing like that in Lagos, Kano and Enugu, and I said to him we did not take anybody’s money it is our brain we used to do TINAPA, what stops Enugu State, Kano State and Ondo State from doing their own TINAPA, there is enough business to go round, but that is the kind of thinking that killed TINAPA. So how do you now expect Donald Duke or anyone else at that time to take responsibility for the inability or the failure of the people that succeeded him to move rapidly to find a way to a problem that he did not create?