The Governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in Cross River State, Barr Eyo O. Ekpo, last week made public his manifesto which spelled out in details how he intends to run the State if voted into power. PillarToday brings excerpts of what Barr Ekpo referred to as ‘FRESH’ approach to governance when he takes over.
Our campaign promise is simple: to adopt a FRESH approach to managing our State, based
on integrity, outstanding competence and dedication, and in that way, return our beloved State to the Cross River Way. Our approach will work because it encompasses:
1. Functional Government – restoring institutional integrity to government
2. Redevelopment – of physical and social infrastructure
3. Economic restructuring – refocusing commitment to making Cross River a viable business destination and its people employable and employed
4. Security – addressing key public safety concerns including cultism, communal clashes and crime prevention, investigation and prosecution
5. Hospitality – re-establishing brand Cross River to encourage tourism and promote arts, culture and heritage.
1. State Executive Council
Among our keys goals, restoring the State Executive Council (EXCO) as the State’s highest policy debate and decision body, is a top priority. We plan to restore EXCO to a high functioning, decision-making and -monitoring body. We will achieve this with regular, scheduled meetings that will enable us to re-integrate routine and competence in the governance process in Cross River State and thus create the foundation for rebuilding and re-establishing the State.
We will install a collegiate system, one designed for peers to work together and take decisions together. Every member of EXCO will be given a specific mandate to manage and will be required to report and deliver on goals and targets at scheduled intervals. The terrible spectacle of 4 or 5 “appointees” struggling for influence over the same set of tasks or budget will end. No member of EXCO will be allowed to exploit their authority or ignore due process in the execution of their functions. EXCO will operate as a team, with accountability to the State and its people and work very hard to deliver its responsibilities on schedule.
2. Civil and Public Service
It is vital to restore the functionality of the civil service of the State, to ensure that once again it serves the needs of governance. The civil Service will be revitalised by combining service by merit, competence and integrity, with balance across the State. This was precisely what I did during my tenure as Attorney-General of the State in 2003 – 2007. During this time 15 young legal practitioners were employed annually for four (4) years consecutively, using a combination of merit-focused entrance examinations and Federal character applied within the State with integrity and without fear or favour. These four sets of legal practitioners are today the backbone of the State Ministry of Justice. A redeveloped Code of Ethics will also be published for the State Civil Service. The International Standards for the Civil Service in use by the United Nations will serve as a guide for the creation of this Code.
Political appointments will no longer be a hotspot for freeloaders and never-do-wells. Our task is to create a public service that is competent. The people of Cross River State should be able to trust their government functionaries to do their best and put the needs of the State first. We will only employ the best from across the State, who desire to serve their State, and will ensure that all political appointees adhere to a strict code of obedience to the rule of law and a written code of ethics in the service of the State.
3. The Traditional Institution
Cross River State has always respected its traditional rulers, paramount chiefs and community leaders. Over the course of our tenure, we will restore the broken links to these institutions by allowing for regular scheduled conferences with traditional leaders, to discuss their communities’ needs and to ensure that they receive the proper protection afforded by law for their proper functioning. We recognise the importance of consultation with leaders who are better equipped to deal with problems as they arise at the local level and will empower the traditional institutions to do so. We also recognise that a functional traditional system works with a functional Local Government system that possesses quality public officers and civil servants across the board.
Such a system shall have its independence guaranteed by law and practically implemented. Upon taking office, we will also develop Local Government reforms via extensive consultations in good faith that will result in a new Local Government Policy and Bill being submitted to the House of Assembly. Meanwhile, we will also commence preparations for local government elections in the State and conduct elections within four to six (4 – 6) months of the Local Government Bill being passed.
We will build excellent relationships with our community leaders and extend a hand of friendship to every person involved in governance in this great state. It is only together that we can achieve our goals for the sake of Cross River.
4. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)
Every high functioning government faces the counter balance of those elements that represent and advocate for the people’s rights and welfare in a way that government cannot always do. CSOs are a vital component of society in this way. We will work hand in hand with them to extend the reach of good governance to the people of Cross River State at grassroots level and to continue to make sure that our government shows up for them. It is our stated goal that no Cross Riverian should be without adequate attention from the government and we will use every facility we can to achieve this objective.
5. A New Compact
Every good democratic government is founded on a simple principle. If the people put their trust in an elected government, pay their taxes, observe the law and contribute to the good of the society, the government will repay that trust with a commitment to the welfare and security of the people.
This is our compact with our people in Cross River State: We will make the economy and security of Cross River our primary goal and establish a system that supports this goal; all we ask in return is that the basic rules of civil society are respected.
Over time, we will ask our people to give feedback on our government. Citizens of Cross River will be able to give feedback and make complaints electronically and physically at regular town and village meetings. Attendance by senior State and Local Government officers will be compulsory, as part of our FRESH approach to governance.
6. A Clear Agenda
Our government will set a clear agenda from the outset and maintain its focus on that agenda throughout our time in office. This manifesto will serve as a blueprint and it is accompanied by a comprehensive execution strategy paper. Once elected, this strategy will be discussed across various segments of the State and its stakeholders. The output, within the first weeks and months of taking office will be detailed plans, mandates, a revised 2019 Budget and a 2020 Budget that are established on realistic expectations, plans and programmes.
We will deliver our budgets accurately and on time. We will make clear the programmes for each year and each quarter, so that all citizens of our great State are made aware of our responsibilities to them and can hold us to strict account. We will set goals and targets for every aspect of government from A-Z, ensuring that every employee of the government in whatever capacity, is motivated and gainfully engaged in doing work that reflects in better governance for the State.
REDEVELOPMENT OF CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
1. Physical Infrastructure
Our physical infrastructure is the backbone of economic development in the State. Without sound design and proper maintenance, our infrastructure stock has been steadily crumbling and, with it, our economy and social cohesion. For that reason, we have in place a plan to redevelop Cross River State’s physical infrastructure along these lines:
a) State Water Board
For the first time in a long while, people have gone without pipe borne water in the State after the incumbent administration completely disabled the effective running of the Cross River State Water Board. We have made it a priority to restore functionality in this agency, as it once was, bringing back to life the quality assets that were acquired, installed and operated via a public-private partnership that was highly regarded across the developing world. We will also work very hard to increase the number of connections across the State, re-establish a payment system and work to ensure that customer care and the incidence of collection of revenue is as high as it once was in the State.
b) Strategic Infrastructure
Certain strategic infrastructure on which the welfare and security of Cross River citizens are dependent will be given key priority status. The following initiatives will be prioritised:
i. In close collaboration with the Transmission Company of Nigeria and the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, we will identify private developers of hydroelectricity generation plants in Etung and Obudu LGAs, along with ancillary transmission and distribution infrastructure to serve the Central and Northern Senatorial Districts; and
ii. We will devote sufficient State resources to redevelop the key road arteries linking Calabar – Oban – Okoroba – Okuni and Mfom – Okpoma – Abuochiche – Ogoja – Obudu roads.
c) Public Private Initiatives
It was recognised long ago that the State Government would not be able to, and indeed does not need to, fund the most, if not all of its economic infrastructure developments. We have taken care that all our plans are adequately provisioned to ensure they are executed. Some of our critical physical infrastructure development projects will require the input of the Federal Government and the private sector; and thus significant effort and time put into project development. The time necessary to be undertaken to ensure that these projects do take off and are commissioned in good time. These projects include:
i. The Adiabo – Creek Town – Okoyong – Arochukwu Road and bridge which serve substantial numbers of the citizenry in the State and will enhance agribusiness (oil palm) and movement between Abia and Cross River States and the rest of the country;
ii. The Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja – Vandeikya Road;
iii. The Calabar – Ikot Ekpene – Aba Road;
iv. The Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board park at Odukpani, vital in leveraging the State’s competitive advantage in the energy space; and
v. A programme to improve electricity distribution capacity across the Southern Senatorial District, working with the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution (PHED) Company Plc and Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to deploy 132kV/33kV transmission sub-stations and 33kV/11kV/415v injection substations and transformers in the Southern Senatorial District.
2. Social Infrastructure
a) STEM focus
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are drivers of innovation and modernisation and we have not focused enough on them in our State. While we are aware of the huge potential in Cross River State, the only way to exploit that advantage is to invest in education. Our focus will place priority on STEM education, research, and modernisation of facilities and schools developed for this reason. We will develop an Education Fund that works with CSOs to make grants and reward achievement and innovation in STEM subjects and projects across the State.
The Cross River University of Technology will become central to this mission for STEM empowerment. Our government will provide all the necessary resources for the proper administration of the University and lay down a reform plan, including a revision of its enabling law that will aim to sharpen its recruitment of talent to teaching positions; focus admission on merit; identify and support high achieving students; and seek to increase non-CRSG funding. The objective will be to emplace CRUTECH as an institution of higher learning focused particularly on STEM. Under our watch, CRUTECH’s vision will be to become a centre for advanced innovation and development for the good of Cross River State.
c) TINAPA for education and innovation
At inception, TINAPA was conceived as a centre of all things bright and beautiful – a beehive of commercial activity but also a place for the performance arts to be furthered. That mission seems to have been forgotten. We will revive and restore it and extend Tinapa’s mission into also becoming a place for STEM-focused learning and knowledge to be developed, curated, archived, utilised and amassed for the good of Cross River State and all humanity. We will revive TINAPA Knowledge City as a centre for STEM education and innovation, and position it as a utility for the execution of ambitious research and design in engineering and technology. This plan will be achieved by the active encouragement of participation in the TINAPA project through genuine public-private partnerships that will leverage on the State Government’s sponsorship of Tinapa, while incentivising the cash investments necessary to revitalise the extremely valuable real estate investment that Tinapa represents.
d) Healthcare Strategy and Execution Plan
Our government will put a comprehensive Healthcare Strategy and Execution Plan in place, to tackle the rising indices of underdevelopment in that aspect of Cross River State welfare. Vulnerable groups like nursing mothers, under-5s and infants, people living with severe and chronic diseases will be given key priority in this Plan. Our plan will be based on extensive research and consultation with experts and community leaders, to update and revalidate data that has been left lying fallow and completely unused for the past 3 years. Ultimately, we will focus on rebuilding the State healthcare system from the ground up, starting with the community health sub-sector and up through to the tertiary care level.