2.4 Billion Naira is a lot of money by any standards. This is the exact amount of money the Cross River State government obtained from First Bank of Nigeria PLC as a loan in 2012 for the Calabar Media City Special Purpose Vehicle. While the Cross River State House of Assembly authorized government to obtain the loan to help set up an entertainment channel to serve Africa and generate much-needed income for the state, Mo Abudu’s Ebonylife TV with its ‘experience’ became the company chosen to handle the operation.
Now, State governor, Liyel Imoke stated in the days leading up to when the loan was to be obtained that the “Calabar Media City, through EbonyLife, has secured the patronage of Multi-Choice company. The total fees of N2 billion is expected from Multi–Choice in the first year of operation,”. This initiative further promised opportunities for Cross Riverians in events that will be created around the Calabar Film Academy, Calabar Film Festival, Calabar Music Festival and Calabar Festival Week projects.
By the third year of operation, we were informed, a whooping N3.8 billion would accrue to CRS, according to the business revenue plan, while by the seventh year, N33.3 billion will be what the state shows as total income earned from this venture. The obligator in this transaction is the Calabar Media City with a tenor of 48 months and a 16 per cent interest rate. Other fees within the transaction are charged at a total 1 per cent flat.
A Media City should ideally offer “media companies and independent media professionals a pro-business environment which enables them to operate with collective synergy and freedom while enjoying free zone benefits including 100 per cent business ownership and tax-free income as well as value added services such as networking opportunities, venue management services, industry building programmes and government services”. Perhaps we need to state that the MediaCity in Manchester, UK and the Dubai Media City, two of the world’s most notable Media Cities, meet the criteria quoted above and are functional just like their infrastructure is visible.
Now we ask, where is the Calabar Media City situated? It is necessary to ask this question because too many “executed projects” that form the crux of written speeches all too soon become something put together in the court of Alladin and his magic lamp. If we can indeed be pointed to the Calabar Media City, does it have thriving businesses in Advertising and Communication, Media and Marketing Services, Media Support Services, Event Management, Event Support Services, Media Consultancy, New Media, Freelancers and Associations (Non Profit), complemented by an exciting mix of retail, leisure and entertainment experiences?
Let the truth be told; VERY LITTLE happens at the Ebonylife TV studio in Tinapa…the main plugs, switches and cables are in Lagos. Those who had banked on having some form of experience at the Ebonylife TV Tinapa facility, especially our youth corps members have only found cobwebs where cables should be running. We are indeed worried because if a state as poor as CRS can go ahead and take a N2.4 billion facility in 2012, turn around and hand it over to one private company which then takes flight to Lagos, there’s definitely more to it than meet the eye. We make bold to say that it is fraudulent for such a government to ignore the development and encouragement of indigenous media, opting instead for supporting an idea that transmits only a very negligible aspect of CR news, views and features.
Those who are keeping sealed lips about this phantom Media City cannot do it for so long because as we have begun asking questions, more and more Cross Riverians will insist that this information be let out. The pilfering of huge funds by government officials under whichever guise is a burden the poor suffering Cross Riverian must not continue to bear.
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