In this article, Wilfred O. Usani chronicles the achievements of the Imoke administration in eight years.
With the successful transition of the Senator Liyel Imoke led administration in Cross River State to the new administration led by Senator (Prof.) Ben Ayade, it is usually appropriate to take stock of where we are as a people, in order that we can chart a course for the future of Cross River State.
Opinions will of course vary regarding the legacy of His Excellency. Senator Liyel Imoke in the eight years he presided over the state as Chief Executive. Some opinions will be influenced by politics; others will be founded on sheer ignorance. Other opinions will again be formed by filial connections and so on. Notwithstanding the bias of the opinions, there are facts and truths of the administration of Senator Liyel Imoke which cannot be discountenanced.
“Vision” and “purpose” are two adjectives which must be used to describe the eight (8) year administration of Senator Liyel Imoke.
In 2007 when the administration took over the reins of government it was immediately beset with immense challenges. The huge debts incurred by the previous administration were called in, the state faced the challenge of loss of revenue arising from the ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun, civil servants embarked on a strike to press home their demands for payment of the minimum wage, the Tinapa Resort for which so much debt had been incurred for its construction suffered setbacks in its operation owing to the absence of a legal framework for its operation approved by the Federal Government thus leading to the exit of a number of establishments which had taken up accommodation in the Resort to commence operations.
The administration in response to these challenges devised a comprehensive Economic Development and Reform Plan. It articulated a 7 point economic development agenda to guide the economic development of the state. At the heart of this agenda was the recognition and acceptance of the fact that the state’s economy could no longer be dependent on the monthly statutory allocation from the Federal Government and therefore the economy of the state had to be founded on something else outside the monthly allocation.
THE 7 POINT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENDA
Recognizing that the state could no longer be dependent on the monthly statutory allocation from the federal government, the Economic Development and Reform Plan articulated by the Imoke Administration was focused on developing a sustainable service based economy for the state supported by a solid infrastructural base and strong social services.
This plan recognized that the current trend worldwide is that economic development based on the exploitation of raw natural resources is unsustainable in the long run.
To achieve this ideal of developing a serviced based economy, the Imoke administration’s 7 point economic development plan covered the following sectors:
- Private Sector
The strategic focus of the administration in agricultural development was to transit the agricultural sector from a subsistence, plantation/raw produce based agricultural economy to a commercial, agro- processing and value addition based agricultural economy. Key initiatives of the administration in this regard include:
- The development of the Songhai Cross River Initiative – an integrated world class center for agribusiness and entrepreneurship training whose purpose is to train Cross River Citizens in developing and managing agribusinesses employing modern methods in agro produce development, processing and sale. This facility is located in Abi Local Government Area.
- The attraction of big agro allied businesses such as Wilmar International Limited and Dansa Agro Allied Industries Limited to invest in large scale agricultural ventures in the state. Wilmar International Limited is the largest oil palm producing and distributing company in the world and it is investing $450million USD in the state to develop oil palm plantations, oil mills and an oil palm refinery. Dansa Agro Allied Industries Limited (a member of the Dangote Group) is developing a huge multi million naira pine apple plantation in Oban, Akamkpa LGA which includes a juice processing factory for the production and packaging of its fruit juice.
- The establishment of the Cross River Agricultural and Rural Empowerment scheme (CARES). This scheme is aimed at training rural farmers in the state in commercial agriculture. This scheme has successfully established an oil palm out – growers scheme in partnership with Wilmar International Limited and Dansa Agro Allied Limited. The scheme aims to supports the development of the state’s agricultural value-chain and thereby grow agricultural services in the state.
These initiatives are intended to catalyze the development of the agricultural value-chain and thus get more Cross River citizens engaged in the agricultural sector whether through direct employment or the provision of support services in addition to ensuring that the state gets more value from its agricultural resources and products.
The strategic focus of the administration in tourism is to grow tourism services by diversifying the tourism offering in the state to ensure all year round tourist arrivals, increase private sector participation and investment in the tourism sector and increase government revenues from the tourism sector. Key initiatives of the administration in this regard include the following:
- The Summit Hills Development – this will stand out as the most profound and iconic investment of this administration in the tourism sector. The development located in Calabar consists of an international convention center (the Calabar International Convention Center) which is the center piece of the development, a four-star hotel, an 18-hole international golf course, a high – end residential estate, a world class Specialist hospital, a Conservation Area as well as a Carnival Village which will include a Carnival Museum.
The project is strategically conceived to position the state as the premier destination for meetings, conferences, conventions, exhibitions and events and thus expand the tourism offering of the state. The Convention Center is the first of its kind in Nigeria and West Africa. It provides an avenue for all year round visitor arrivals to the state and establishes “the reason” for visitor arrivals to the state in other times of the year other than just in December for the Carnival and Calabar Festival.
The project is also strategically located adjacent to the Tinapa Business Resort and linked to it by monorail so that the Tinapa Resort can feed off the traffic generated by the Convention Center and thus create a new hub for business, entertainment and leisure.
This is critical as the project has as one of its objectives to rescue the Tinapa Resort. The biggest challenge to the Tinapa Resort is its seeming detachment from the city’s population center and thus is unattractive to retail services providers. By creating a hub around the Tinapa Resort which the Summit Hills development is poised to do, the Tinapa Resort will attract retail shopping and leisure service providers who will then see a population that their outfits will service.
- Strategic Tourism Development Framework – the administration has also articulated a clear strategy for future tourism development in the state contained in the new Cross River State Tourism Policy. It outlines the strategy for private sector participation in the tourism sector, the proper regulation of the sector, the development of SMEs in the sector to create wealth and generate employment as well as the realization of revenues from tourism. It is important to mention that Cross River State under the Imoke Administration is the only state in the federation that has developed such a strategic framework for the development of tourism in the country.
A key provision in the policy is the engagement of the private sector in the management and operation of government assets and facilities in the tourism sector. This has led to Public Private Partnership initiatives in the management of iconic facilities such as the Obudu Mountain Resort and the Marina Resort.
This strategic framework sets up a system for tourism operation that ensures that the state derives benefit from the huge investments it has made in developing its tourism assets such as those already mentioned above.
- Development of Heritage Tourism – the administration has also enacted a new legislation – The Cross River State Historical and Heritage Properties (Preservation) Law 2014 which outlines the framework for the restoration and preservation of historical and heritage properties in the state.
The law provides for the establishment of a Body of Trustees to take custody of and restore and preserve historical and heritage properties in the state and utilize them for tourism purposes. This initiative is also aimed at diversifying the tourism product to include heritage tourism where the state is richly endowed.
The strategic focus of the administration in the education sector is to improve the quality of education received by pupils and students to enable them compete nationally and internationally in the labour market and provide them skills relevant to contemporary industry to enable them find employment.
The administration recognized that it was just not enough to improve access to educational facilities but that it was important that the pupils and students in the state had to have a better type of education which will make them relevant to the needs of the industries and companies and thus enable them get employment. It recognized that the problem of unemployment in the country is also affected by the fact that most of the young people graduating from schools around the country are actually unemployable as they lack the relevant skills required by modern industries and service providers.
Key initiatives in this sector are:
- The massive renovation and re-equipment of schools statewide with modern learning aids such as computers and laboratories.
- The re-introduction and equipping of the College of Education, Akamkpa to train teachers and thus improve the quality of the teachers training students.
- The establishment of the Institute of Technology and Management, Ugep the first technical and vocational education training center (TIVET) in Nigeria managed by Highbury College of England, the foremost TIVET institution in the world. The development of this institute stands out as the most profound legacy of the Imoke Administration in the education sector. This initiative is aimed at developing the TIVET ecosystem in the state and provide the mid-level manpower needs of industries and business in the state and indeed the whole country. This institution is designed to provide training based on the manpower needs of specific industries and business and so graduates from this institute are immediately absorbed in to these industries where they are needed. In this way young graduates who regularly roam the streets and find it difficult to gain employment because they lack the relevant skills required by these businesses can then become employed having been trained to acquire the skills required by these businesses.
The most significant proof of success of the government’s educational strategy is that the state is currently rated as the 5th in terms of educationally advantaged states in the country as from being one of the most educationally disadvantaged states in Nigeria in 2007.
The strategic focus of the administration in the health sector is to improve the access of the citizens to quality health care. The administration recognized that the traditional approach to development in the health sector which focused on the development and provision of facilities and equipment was not the fundamental challenge in the health sector as these could be provided but the citizens will still not have health care. Key initiatives of the administration to deal with this challenge of actually providing health care include the following:
- Establishment of a comprehensive Primary Health Care Program in partnership with the Tulsi Chanrai Foundation of India. Under this program, primary health care facilities have been opened up in virtually all local communities (Wards) in the state where doctors and nurses employed under the program provide basic primary health care to the citizens.
- Working through the Bureau for Public Private Partnerships, engaging private sector health services providers to invest in and manage the secondary health care facilities (General Hospitals and Pharmaceutical and Diagnostic Centers) in the state in partnership with the government.
- The construction of the new Calabar Specialist Hospital within the Summit Hills Development area to serve as a world class tertiary health facility to handle complicated health cases which are usually referred abroad for treatment. The Specialist Hospital is managed by a US based medical consortium.
- Establishment of a medical insurance scheme– this is the initiative currently being developed by the administration to ensure that the ordinary citizen will be able to have access to health facilities and health care in the state particularly at the new Calabar Specialist Hospital.
The focus of the administration in the health sector was to develop a complete health care delivery system beginning from a functional primary health care system to a workable secondary health care delivery system ending with facilities for the provision of tertiary health services.
THE PRIVATE SECTOR:
The strategic focus of the administration is to develop a strong private sector led economy where the private sector gradually replaces the government as the key provider of employment and creator of wealth. The key initiatives of the administration to achieve this objective are the establishment of the Investment Promotion Bureau to drive large scale private sector investment in the state economy, the establishment of the Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency (MEDA) to facilitate the development and growth of SMEs.
The administration has recorded significant successes in this regard with big ticket investments such as the $1billion USD investment being made by General Electric in the development of a multi-nodal manufacturing facility in the state, the investment by Wilmar International of over $450million USD, the $250million USD investment by Brentex Petroleum Services Limited in a steel pipe manufacturing facility to mention a few. The investment inflow into the state has made a significant rise from its 2007 level of $20million USD to over $3billion USD in 2014. The state has achieved recognition within the country as a safe haven for investment and doing business in Nigeria.
The administration also established the Bureau for Public Private Partnerships under a new Public Private Partnership Law passed by the State House of Assembly and through this agency has involved private sector investment and management into government assets and facilities to improve their efficiency.
The strategic focus of the administration in infrastructure development has been to develop infrastructure to support the economic development direction of the state.
Key initiatives in this regard include the establishment of the Rural Development Agency (RUDA) and the Cross River Rural Access Mobility Program (CR-RAMP) in partnership with the Africa Development Bank which have been focused on opening up access to the rural areas through the construction of roads.
The establishment of the State Electrification Agency has led to the extension of electricity to several communities in the state as well as the provision of water through the Ministry of Water Resources and the Water Board.
The Urban Renewal Program of the administration has seen the 5 key urban areas in the state – Calabar, Ugep, Ikom, Ogoja, Obudu enjoy comprehensive infrastructural development in terms of tarring of roads, beautification as well as the provision electricity and water.
The administration has in partnership with a private telecoms company invested in the Calabar Metro Fiber infrastructure for the implementation of telecommunication and broadband services. This infrastructure is principally to aid the development of ICT and ICT related business. This coupled with the administrations development of the Tinapa Knowledge City – an ICT incubation center established to serve as an incubation hub for ICT related enterprises is intended to lay the foundation for the state to serve as a hub for the development of ICT businesses in the country.
The strategic focus of the administration on the environment has been to preserve the pristine environment of the state, improving the aesthetics, protecting the ecosystem and maintaining the status of the state as one of the 25 top biodiversity hotspots in the world.
The administration recognizes the fact that the economic and social development of the state cannot be sustainably achieved at the expense of the environment.
In this regard, the administration has maintained the ban on indiscriminate logging, and in addition set up an anti-logging task force to monitor and check the activities of illegal loggers.
The administration signed an MOU with the United Nations REDD+ initiative which will qualify the state to participate in the first phase of the global carbon credit trading under the UN REDD+ program. The essence of this program is to help provide alternative lively hoods to forest communities and so avoid continued exploitation of the forests.
This initiative ranks as the most profound initiative of the administration with regards to the environment. Cross River State is the only sub-national entity participating in the UN REDD+ initiative. All other participants are national entities (countries as opposed to states within countries). This is testament to the level of commitment of the administration to the preservation of the environment in the state.
To stem the continued degradation effects of erosion caused by regular flooding, the administration has constructed a number underground drainage channels, the most significant of which is the Channel 2 underground drainage channel in Calabar aimed at addressing the challenge of regular flooding in parts of the city during the rainy season.
We will conclude this treatise on the legacy of the Imoke Administration by reiterating that the vision of the Administration’s Economic Development and Reform Plan was to develop a service based economy leveraging on key resource areas such as agriculture, tourism and Information Communication Technology (ICT) supported by a strong infrastructural base and social services.
The administration has largely succeeded in laying the foundation for the development of such an economy going by some of its initiatives and programs which we have been highlighting above.
It is important to mention that the administration would have found it challenging to achieve its vision in the 7 point agenda without the corresponding investments it made in developing strong governance institutions.
The administration implemented far reaching reforms in the public procurement process through the establishment of Due Process in the procurement of goods and services by establishing the Bureau for Price Intelligence and Due Process; reforms in the planning and budgeting process through the introduction of Action Plans for MDAs monitored by the State Planning Commission and relating MDA Action Plans to MDA budgets so that MDA budgets are directly related to their planned programs and activities which have set and measurable outcomes; reforms in the execution of government projects through the establishment of the Project Monitoring and Evaluation Department; the reforms in the management of state debt through the establishment of the Debt Management Department as well as the coordinated and transparent approach to the solicitation of international development assistance through the establishment of the Department for International Development Cooperation.
The effect of these reforms in the governance regime of the public service has resulted in increased confidence in the state government by international development partners and investors. Cross River State is today the highest recipient of international development assistance in Nigeria as well as the preferred destination for foreign direct investment in the country.
We must conclude by saying that the Imoke Administration has laid a firm foundation and placed the state on a firm trajectory of progressive development. This is the legacy of HE. Senator Liyel Imoke as Governor of Cross River State.
Developments internationally particularly the fall in crude oil prices which is impacting negatively on the national budget, shows clearly that the days when the nation depended on oil revenues and monthly allocation from the federal government are fast disappearing. Through the far sighted vision of the Imoke Administration, Cross River State has had a head start in adjusting to life without oil revenues. The state cannot afford to reverse this trend. We must continue on this trajectory of progressive development already charted by HE. Senator Liyel Imoke.
Wilfred Usani Esq. is the immediate past Special Adviser to the Governor of Cross River State on Tourism Development.
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