Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State on Monday met President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa to ensure that the President fulfills his commitment in 2015 to support the completion of two of his signature projects, the Bakassi Deep Seaport and the 276 kilometers superhighway.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the meeting, Ayade described his interaction with the president as engaging and fruitful.
Buhari had, while performing the groundbreaking ceremony of the superhighway and the deep seaport promised to support the completion of the two projects with a view to returning to commission them.
The governor disclosed that he was in the villa to intimate the President of the state’s economic and infrastructural development.
“The essence of my visit to Mr. President is to share with him a quarterly brief like I have always done, giving him a clear idea and indication of what Cross River State has done so far, particularly in our major signature projects.
“Our discussion also extended and included issues that border on financial status of Cross Rivers State vis-a-vis the Supreme Court judgement in relationship with the loss of Bakassi and its downstream economic implication of the federal government action and position on the issues that deal with consistent support of Cross River State.
“The position of the Supreme Court has been obeyed religiously since 2002 to date and I am happy that the President has maintained that decision to find means and ways to support Cross Rivers by way of the stabilization fund which the apex court ordered be paid to the state following the loss of its oil wells to Akwa Ibom.”
Ayade commended the President “for his usual kindness towards the people of Cross River state” and explained that he was on the same page with him on the issue of economic diversification hence his government’s Agro- Industrialisation drive in Cross River.
“I will like to commend Mr. President most especially for his usual kindness towards the people of Nigeria and Cross River in particular,” he added.
The Governor, however, hinted that their discussion also extended to his key trust, which is Nigeria beyond oil, adding, “President Muhammadu Buhari came into office with a clear mandate to the entire Nigerians that we must focus on creating our alternative income beyond oil. Against that background, I took his policy trust and drove it strongly, expanding and focusing especially on rice and grains.
“On the rice beneficiation process, we also discussed the issue of rice mills, the rice seedlings factory, the only seedling factory in Africa, which is actually providing seedlings for all farmers, working and collaborating with central bank.
“He came to do the commissioning of that factory and gave a standing mandate and order that Nigeria must move from seeds to seedlings, which is the right way to go if you must actually have full value per acreage of your farmland. So that was also elaborately discussed.”
On his two signature projects, the governor said of his meeting with the President: “The superhighway came in as a frontal issues for discussion. The superhighway and the deep seaport go together as a twin project.
Basically, we have only one maritime corridor in this country and that is Lagos ports.
“But with the congestion of the Lagos ports, there is a gradual movement as a strategic government policy to see how some of the eastern ports can begin to have life and have cargoes coming in.
“The Calabar port is beginning to receive light vessels with a tonnage of less than 6,000 tons. But that is completely different, the message and the trust is that the Bakassi Deep seaport, with an evacuation corridor to Northern Nigeria, is the strategic way forward for this country.”
On why the two projects are of strategic significance to the northern part of the country, the governor further disclosed: “The major deposits outside of hydrocarbon in this country are in Northern Nigeria.
“The solid minerals deposits from tantalite to tantalum to bauxite to coal and all such raw metals are found in the northern part of Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible for you to evacuate all of that through the roads to a near 2,000 kilometers to ship out of Lagos.
“Today, vessels come into Nigeria and discharge goods and they have nothing to take back because, we are an import-dependent country, we have very little to export other than crude oil.
“This explains the urgent need for an alternative port like the Bakassi deep seaport with the six-lane evacuation corridor, stretching from Bakassi to northern Nigeria, terminating at Benue State. It becomes more imperative and urgent, therefore, that as a government we must act.”
Describing the port project as an African regional project and Northern Nigerian, the governor stated that the Bakassi Deep seaport, when completed will solve shipping and maritime headache of neighbouring landlocked African countries, especially those in the Sahel.
“That project is not a Cross River project, it is rather a Northern Nigeria project. Because, in Bauchi State alone, the amount of tantalum you can pick abruptly, which means you go to a particular belt, you can pick tantalite off the ground.
“But today, we have 20 container loads of tantalite in Bauchi but its evacuation requires a port. Niger, Chad and all of these other countries bordering Northern Nigeria are completely landlocked.
“They evacuate gum Arabic and all their hydrocarbons including cotton and the rest through Cameroon, which is over 2,000 kilometres. A very difficult terrain.
“These countries have written to Cross River State on the Bakassi deep seaport, whose phase three is going to be 20 meters draught. It is urgent, it is critical and they want to take bonded warehouses in the Bakassi deep seaport.
“So, Mr. president understands indeed that the coming to fruition of the Bakassi Deep seaport with an evacuation corridor to the north is like taking the Atlantic Ocean to Northern Nigeria.
“Nigeria needs to create an alternative corridor so that we can decongest Lagos ports. A major alternative port needs to exist and close to the North and that will link the eastern flank.
“And Calabar is the closest and with the new superhighway that cuts travel time from seven hours to about one hour forty-five minutes, it is the best option to go with a cargo rail running by the side.
“That is the strategic master plan which is even contained in the master plan of President Buhari‘s Nigeria beyond oil,” he maintained.
Ayade further revealed that Buhari would soon visit the state to commission a new Agricultural scheme called G- Money.
“As part of the discussion with Mr President, we have agreed that he will be visiting Cross River state to commission yet again, a new programme called G-money.
“G-money is the empowerment of young people through agriculture, job creation through agriculture and the acquisition of massive equipment.
“And as a state government, the we have procured equipment from John Deere of the United States, the biggest company in the world for deforestation, land clearing, land preparation for agriculture.
“With the partnership we have with Tata, the local partner, we have made orders and taken delivery of a large number of tractors, bulldozers, payloaders, excavators, the list is endless.
“So we are going to create jobs for over 2,000 young people who will have at least 5,000 hectares of farmland for rice.
“Mr. President will flag off the G-money programme, which is a green economy focusing on agriculture as a way forward.
“For a country that imports rice, where rice is our staple food, it is a key project to Mr. President, lifting women and young people out of unemployment by creating green jobs for them. The president has given his approval that he is coming to do the grand commissioning of the G-money programme.”