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IMOKE: TURNING THE PAGE IN CROSS RIVER

PHOTO R-L: CROSS RIVER STATE GOVERNOR, SENATOR LIYEL IMOKE RECEIVING THE NEW AMBASSADOR OF THE REPUBLIC OF EQUATORIAL GUINEA TO NIGERIA, MR. JOP OBIANG ESONO, DURING A COURTESY VISIT TO GOVERNMENT HOUSE, CALABAR ON WEDNESDAY.
PHOTO R-L: CROSS RIVER STATE GOVERNOR, SENATOR LIYEL IMOKE RECEIVING THE NEW AMBASSADOR OF THE REPUBLIC OF EQUATORIAL GUINEA TO NIGERIA, MR. JOP OBIANG ESONO, DURING A COURTESY VISIT TO GOVERNMENT HOUSE, CALABAR ON WEDNESDAY.

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It may not be a blast but it is glaringly obvious that great governance feats are astride in Cross River State. Governor Liyel Imoke is creatively addressing the severe economic, political and social pressures he met on ground at his inception as Governor in May 2007. He is achieving this by practically articulating a government policy that is driven by programmes instead of the conventional projects that hardly make a difference in taking the people out of the woods or ensuring sustainable development in the long term.

Although reversal in the financial fortunes of the State seems to have slowed down the implementation of these programmes, there is great reason for optimism as the Governor is intensely working on turning-around this public finance to drive his programmes to the letter. For instance, the government had to replace the traditional paradigm of concentrating on only statutory allocation from the Federation Account with innovative ways of expanding internally generated revenue streams. Yet another shift is innovative financing mechanisms that are structured on a Public Private Partnership, PPP model.

The PPP model has proven very successful in the implementation of some strategic programmes that are core to the administration’s long term goal of instituting a strong, sustainable and wealthy economy for this generation, and the ones after. This reliable funding model cuts across all key sectors in the State and policy targets as defined in the State’s Economic blueprint, CR-SEEDs II and further articulated in its Seven-Point Agenda of Development.

In tourism for instance, corporate sponsorship has been engaged for the Calabar Festival and Carnival Calabar, including Leboku International Festival. This has yielded strong value for the events and the sponsors. The same philosophy that informed the retainment of African Sun as manager of the Obudu Ranch Resort, and Amber Tinapa Hotel. In agriculture, Tolan Energy is collaborating with the State for the production of bio-diesel, while Notore Chemicals Industries is involved in the cultivation and milling of 20,000 hectares of rice. These two projects are creating possibly 20,000 jobs.

The free healthcare programme of the government, and the social security programmes are policy initiatives, the first by a State Government in Nigeria, that Governor Imoke is very passionate about. This is not just attributed to the fact that infant and maternal health is one of the goals of the MDG but because he cares deeply about the welfare of Cross Riverians. Imoke’s sense of urgency in tackling this health challenge was powered by the moral imperative or conviction that absence of free and quality healthcare for the most vulnerable was incompatible with the branding of the State as a Destination.

In all critical sectors of the State’s economy, Imoke has made the right-pitch. In education, where a State standard for accreditation was spelt out, results have started changing as indicated by significant improvement in performance in national examinations. The same goes for the administration’s efforts to build-up its carbon stock by conserving its bio-diversity resources through sound environmental practices. Or in information communication technology, where the service and administrative machinery of the government is now e-governance driven. And in the leveraging of strategic development and investment opportunities in oil and gas via the Calabar Energy City. Tourism as in the development of a Theme park, Calabar Modern Market, International Airport expansion project, Water-Front Resort (Riviera Club), Hospitality, Academy, etc.

Imoke himself has been quick and gracious to admit that while his programmes may not make screaming newspaper headlines or cut any ice with the elites, they resonate loudly in the hearts and lives of rural dwellers and the vulnerable who have long been left with the short end of government policy. Like he is wont to say always, Imoke is taking the government to those who need it the most.

There is nowhere this is most reflected than in his rural development initiatives. The construction of over 480 kilometres of rural roads with high economic value is on course. The commissioning of the first of such roads in Ogoja, elicited dramatic excitement from farmers, and traders and boosted economic activities in the area dramatically, and gave farmers a better deal for their produce. The government is also intervening in the provision of basic infrastructure like water, electricity, bridges, in rural communities across the State. A Community-based Poverty Alleviation programme is in execution, while the establishment of a Micro Enterprise Development Agency, is enabling the government to enrich the lives of rural dwellers.

Imoke has forged a bond of political unity in Cross River State that is germane to the success of his programmes, and political stability in the State. He sought for and succeeded in weaving a brand of politics that is not coloured by ethnicity, godfatherism, and cronism. This is a rare achievement in a State whose ethnic composition makes it macrocosm of Nigeria.

Governor Imoke is instituting an exceptional legacy in Cross River State. He is breaking conventional governance boundaries and making a huge success of it. Imoke is creating a record in governance that future generations shall be proud of. His programmes are initiatives whose long term prizes are great. Overall, Imoke is doing great things for Cross River State at a time of great financial difficulties for the State.

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