While the Ben Ayade administration and Cross Riverians bask in the euphoria of the planned commencement of commercial flight operations by the state government following the arrival in the country of the aircraft recently acquired for this purpose, cerebral Abuja based economist and Cross Riverian, Ceejay Ojong, has advanced 10 ways to make the Cally Air initiative work. He writes:
1. It is to my mind a very good initiative if well managed. It sure holds enormous potentials for revenue generation, employment creation, local capacity-buiding, foreign investment attraction and global marketing of brand Cross River State.
2. Apart from coffee export, leather works and tourism, Ethiopia as a country thrives mainly on its airline business that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. We can surely study their airline business model and borrow a good leaf from their good practices.
3. Beyond the unsatisfied local market, there is a big unserviced market of direct flights from Nigeria/West Africa to the capitals of Central and East African Countries. Calabar is uniquely positioned to take advantage if the right things are done. I believe such an idea had previously been mooted during the OBJ/Donald Duke era with some sort of agreement for the expansion of the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar officially reached.
4. It is a capital intensive undertaking no doubt. However, if single individuals have already been owning and operating airline business in Nigeria I see no reason why a committed and serious State cannot partner with private investors both local and foreign to ride the crest.
5. I appreciate the cynicism of some of our people. For them, H. E. has never lacked big and brilliant ideas but the devil has always been in the planning and execution details that have so far seemed not to deliver the envisaged results just in time.
6. For me, the issue has been more about not using smart and modern investment and project financing options to make the big dreams a reality. Monthly FAAC allocations to the State can hardly sustain the financing of projects of such magnitude. Direct borrowing is not only inefficient but may not be immediately feasible owing to the financial and fiscal fragility that our State currently faces. We therefore have to innovate or allow the financial quagmire suffuse us – God forbid!
7. Nevertheless, our State is gifted with bountiful natural resources that we can easily generate over US$3 – 5 billion annually for a start with so much that is lying waste, idle or unemployed in the State viz: palm (Oils and several derivatives), rubber (tyres manufacturing), cocoa (chocolate and cocoa butter), gmelina and teak plantations (paper industry from gmelina and currency notes manufacturing from teak), bananas, pineapples, hard wood (furniture industry – imagine concentrating on producing ultra modern school desks and furniture for primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria), trawling in our territorial and international waters – fisheries/sea foods for local consumption and export, etc.
8. Think of how much ice-fish and canned fish (mackerel and sardines) that are being consumed daily across our country. Almost everything is either being directly imported or sold to us by foreign nationals fishing in our territorial and international waters because of our laxity and lack of participation. The Navy of South Africa in same African continent would shoot to death and destroy any person and vessels fishing in their international waters.
9. Commercial planting of cassava and soya beans in the meantime along the about 275 km long and at least 1 km wide super highway route can on its own generate over US$3.5 billion over the next 3 years. This will provide the needed funds for not only building the superhighway in the medium to long-term but also surplus cash for infrastructure upgrade and improving the quality of lives and livelihoods.
10. Nigeria the largest producer of cassava in the world produces about 45 million metric tons annually and consumes it all. Indonesia the third largest producer in the world earned about US$1.98 billion from selling 22 million metric tons of its about 30 million metric tons annual cassava production as at end-FY 2018. About 185 million metric tons are required in global markets annually. There is a yawning demand gap to be filled. Just a little effort, planning and commitment can get us to taking the export sales lead and earn windfall revenues.
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