In Cross River State, Governor Benedict Ayade is building on his ongoing massive investments in the manufacturing sector of the economy. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led administration in the state took off in 2015 with a promise to satisfy the yearnings of the vast majority of the people who had hitherto witnessed very little or have been deprived of democracy dividends.
Areas of intervention at inception ranged from reinvigoration of the machinery of governance to rapid revolution in public service, education, and agricultural development. Adequate attention was also paid to other fundamental sectors of human development as health, housing and environment, social security and rural development. Aside completing projects initiated by previous administrations in the state, the Ayade administration has executed people-oriented projects.
Ayade has maintained that the thrust of his administration was rapid industrialisation of the state and building of socio-economic infrastructure. In this regard, the administration has embarked on the establishment of a number employment creation initiatives, namely: Cala Chika, a frozen chicken factory that will process 22,000 birds per day, a feed mill, a noodle factory, and a fertilizer plant. To ensure that economic empowerment blossoms and takes root, he began a new agro-economic empowerment scheme for the youths, known as G-Money or Green Money, which seeks to make 1,000 youths millionaires in the first instance.
The programme is described as being for the empowerment of the youths and creating a value chain in agriculture through a beneficiation process that allows young men to hold plots of land and the government helps them in the land clearing and processing, so that the industries can now buy back the raw materials from them as feedstock. It also provides direct cash, a million naira, as take-off grant, and others get plots of land. Then they are made to nurse their crops depending on their council of origin and the crops suitable for their council.
Then, there's CrossRice, the state's flagship agricultural project, a multi-billion naira project promoted by the Cross River State Rice Company Management Board, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and Sterling Bank. So far, over 2,000 Cross Riverians have already been either directly or indirectly engaged in the scheme as part of an ambitious employment generation move that targets 5000 people in the next one year, making maximum use of commercial and mechanised farming methods.
Ayade said the CrossRice project, which is a response to President Buhari's call for diversification of the nation's economy from dependence on revenues from crude oil is conceived to help citizens seize the opportunity and be part of the rice revolution in the state by becoming modern mechanised rice farmers. Under the scheme, farmers are aggregated into cooperatives to cultivate cluster farms in various locations in the state while the Cross River State Rice Company Management Board provides land, funding, farm inputs, mechanisation and serves as off-takers for the rice paddy produced by the farmers. The CrossRice project will also improve rice yield through the use of improved seeds and seedlings, employment of mechanised farming, deployment of technology and innovation and expansion of processing.
Ayade argued recently that, if agriculture currently employs, say, 10 million Nigerians, the agro-processing industry can employ thrice as much in the value chain. He argued that a standard cocoa-processing factory producing chocolate can employ thousands of staff compared to any farm just farming cocoa for export. The factory will also employ or engage the services of engineers, technicians, accountants, drivers, administrators and lawyers.
The facility will process 240 tons of cocoa daily, which will be turned into liquor and chocolate bars for export to Europe and China, according to the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Professor Anthony Eneji, who was recently on inspection of the facility with Mr. Chris Agara, the Managing Director of AA Universal, the firm constructing the facility.
A prominent academic before entering politics, Professor Benedict Ayade has a large network of politicians and businesspersons, both young and old, who have helped him, and whom he has helped in return in his rise to prominence. Although he has not formally indicated interest in running for the nation's important political office come 2023, feelers are that it is only a matter of time. The popular sentiment in the state is that, with massive investments in the manufacturing sector of the economy, the governor of Cross River State appears to be readying to create wealth, by creating opportunities for the people of his state, and Nigerians in general.
In a country where those who hold political offices are usually identified by promises with least action, and sometimes demeaning the weak and poor, the Ayade's Singaporean experiences have come to bear and with a difference and hope for the present and future generations.
Udokhai-Obafemi, a poultry farmer, wrote in from Gwagwalada.