LAGOS – Before 2010, Cross River state is one of the major oil-producing states in the country. It once had one of the largest oil reserves in Africa until the implementation of the Green Tree Agreement of 2010 which ceded Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon following the judgment of the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
Cross River lost her status as a littoral state after the Federal Government ceded the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon in 2008.
The seven justices of the court headed by former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Dahiru Musdapher, in their ruling, submitted that the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) was right in attributing 97 oil wells formerly belonging to River state to Akwa Ibom at one of its inter-agencies meetings..
Since then it has been a bit tasking running the state with nothing but allocation from the Federal Government. Not only were the 13 percent derivation allocation gone with the cession of Bakassi to Cameroun, accruable internally-generated revenue from then operating oil companies were gone too. Thus, it takes only a governor that is efficient in managing resources prudently to get Cross River state working.
Apart from having to managing only Federally collectable allocation from Abuja, the Ayade administration has been contending with the welfare of refugees flowing into the state from Cameroun, and also nurturing small scale enterprises to jumpstart industrialization in the state, if only to open up revenue generating windows in the near future.
One of the major challenges newly elected Professor Ayade would be contending with on his second leg would be improving on the welfare of the displaced Bakassi indigenes who have very often been the booth of Cameroonian gendarmes.
Unfortunately since the refugee crises began following the cession of Bakassi Island to Cameroun, the federal Government which complied with the ICJ judgment have not been upbeat about the welfare and security of those at the border towns of Bakkasi affected by the execution of the agreement.
The UN High Commission for Refugees late February this year said some “836 refugee students have received cash for education support to facilitate school enrolment and retention in Calabar and Adagom settlements in Cross River state. It also said it completed the construction of two blocks of nine classrooms to increase learning space for refugees and host community pupils in Adagom (Ogoja area of the state, while an other 8,031 set have been enrolled into the health insurance scheme, to improve health care delivery for refugees also in Adagom and Anyake settlements Cross River and Benue states.”
Giving chilling and pathetic report about the refugee crisis status of Cross River state UNCHR said:
“Cameroonian refugees continued to arrive in Nigeria from the southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon through unofficial entry points, as official borders remain closed. During border monitoring, UNHCR partners Caritas and Foundation for Justice Development and Peace (FJDP) recorded a total of 928 new arrivals, most of them women and children, in the border areas of Obanliku, Akamkpa and Kwande Local Government Areas (Cross River and Benue states). The refugees were assessed and found to be in dire need of food, non-food items, and shelter.”
It also said: “Some 287 refugee households, the majority of whom were women and children, self-relocated from the Anyake settlement (Benue state) to the Adagom settlement (Cross River state) following eviction threats from the Anyake chief in December 2018. The refugees fled the settlement due to fear of insecurity of their lives and properties. Interventions are ongoing by government officials and the UNHCR to ensure the safety of refugees and facilitate access of humanitarian actors to carry out their activities without disruption, while searching for durable solutions.”
Most Nigerians are worried about the deluge of internally displaced people in Cross River state as the ones Nigeria is currently contending with in the Boko Haram North East and herdsmen displaced areas. It appears the two later cases have shifted attention away from the growing humanitarian crises in Cross River’s border towns since the cession of Bakassi. According to Mathew Akhue,a distraught refugee who escaped one of the many UNCHR camps in the Bakassi border towns last December at Boki area of the state: “It is like we are no longer in the agenda of the Federal Government. Maybe it is because we are no longer an oil-producing state. But it was the same Government that gave out all we had to Cameroon. They first gave all our oil wells to Akwa Ibom before finally giving all our land, water and every other thing to Cameroun. And now they have abandoned us here to our fate.”
He called on the federal government t to hold the Cameroonian authorities culpable for not honoring their own part of the Green Tree Agreement by ensuring the safety and security of those communities affected by the Green Tree Agreement implementation
On infrastructure renewal, citizens of Cross River are anxious to see their governor complete the ten lane super highway he started building in the state in 2016. “This road is intended to stretch into Obudu Ranch to bring back life to the Ranch. People think the Ranch is dying; it is dying for the things that keep killing any city or project that is stranded. The Ranch is located in too far a place and the access has been a problem, so I knew that the only way we can bring back life to the Ranch is to make the approach to Ranch very worthy,” the governor intimated.
Lately, there have controversy surrounding the funding of the project with some sections of the Cross Riverians insisting that at a rate of N300 million deductions at source from the state’s federal allocation for the project, there would be little or nothing other left for rung the state. Writing on the issue, veteran columnist, journalist, author and social critique, Nnimmo Bassey while labeling the project “ a superhighway to bondage” carpeted Ayade’s administration’s approach to the project. He said:-
“The government of Cross River State is reported to have approached the House of Assembly of the state to endorse its request for an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) for the sum of N648, 870, 730,739.23 billion to be paid to Messrs. Sydney Construction Company at the rate of N300 million every month for a period of 180 years. The superhighway project of the Cross River State Government (CRSG) was first conceived as a 260 kilometers long road slashing through communities and forests beginning from Esighi at the Bakassi end of the state to Katsina Ala in Benue State.”
After much struggle by community people and other stakeholders as well as the watchful eyes of the Federal Ministry of Environment, the superhighway was realigned away from the pristine forests with its length inching up to 275.344 Km. By this alignment the decimation of the Cross River National Park as well as community forests including the one at Ekuri was avoided. A tentative approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of this project had 23 conditions that needed to be fulfilled before the project could commence”.
Another concern being expressed over the projects is the duration the funding would last, at the rate the Ayade administration structured it.
According to the activist, “While the communities and stakeholders fought to preserve their common ecological heritage, little attention was given to the financial cloud hanging over the project. Some analysts had estimated that with the sort of funding architecture the government was contemplating, the costs of the project would not be recouped in less than 100 years. It simply sounds outrageous that any government would contemplate such a contentious project, considering that the state was already saddled with handling the debt incurred in the construction of its largely moribund Tinapa project said to have been priced at $450 million or N60bn in 2007”, the activist insisted.