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Dwindling oil revenues: Lessons for Nigeria from Cross River (Pt.2)

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ImokeIn the first part of this article, with the same caption and published few days ago, I recommended Cross River State, under former governor Liyel Imoke, as a case

study on how Nigeria can survive the current cash crunch brought by dwindling oil revenues. I used Cross River as an exemplar because it is the only State in modern Nigeria that has faced a similar predicament when, due to a dramatic boundary adjustment, it suddenly lost its oil revenues during Imoke’s tenure.

[Image: Former governor Liyel Imoke]

The thrust of my thesis is this: Even though Nigeria as a whole is now experiencing the same problem due to the continuing fall in oil prices, governance goals are still achievable, even though scaled down, by studying Liyel Imoke’s approach and replicating it throughout the federation. For clarity, let me proceed, below, to cite a few examples of Imoke’s policy flagships despite the dramatic fall in federal allocations:

First: From 2007, there was this innovative policy powered by Imoke – of citing at least one project in every Ward and LGA in Cross River State. To me, that says a lot about spread in the midst of scarce resources; and spread is the key when revenues are less. Plus, the dividends are easy to see either because they are everywhere or by the dint of their strategic quality or pioneer status.

For example, the tertiary institution Imoke established in Ugep created a higher educational window in that axis for the first time in the history of the State. It also meant that a young and potentially restive population in that area became the catchment population for an institution for the first time. It is a sound policy strategically geared to reducing social unrest or youth restiveness that often follows dwindling government revenues. How did Imoke do that, and with less revenue? Nigeria needs to study that and emulate the same.

And then, there is Songhai Farms, an innovative agricultural venture known to have created over 5,000 jobs for mostly young people; and still counting. What this means is that Imoke used productive employment to create jobs; in addition to making Cross River a food basket. This is in contrast to the artificiality of merely employing more in the civil service, which increases recurrent expenditure and creates redundancy.

Second: I made a point of driving around Calabar to have a feel of the roads infrastructure, and to better test their quality. I must confess that my trip through Jonathan Expressway in Calabar was joyful, as I took-in the high quality construction. The road, which was built by Imoke, is pretty long, and it serves as an alternative route to navigate Calabar, apart from also serving as an easy access to the airport. The road also stands to become an arterial beltway that will as soon become the basis for shorter link roads to the outer flanks of Calabar suburbs.

The point of this is that Imoke achieved this feat through ‘creative financing’; and the strategic location of the road opened a new commercial corridor that will engender private enterprises that will keep the population busy and thriving. It is wonderful and Nigeria needs to take note.

Third: Of the many other myriad projects and policy innovations by Senator Imoke, I was particularly impressed by his quality renovation and equipping of schools and the rural access he created for the first time across the State. But most importantly, Calabar is the only city in Nigeria with constant water supply; but vast majorities of Nigerians, including this writer, didn’t know this. No we know. I heard that all these were possible through a new regime of increased IGR, unprecedented in the history of the State, and worthy of replication on the national stage.

Fourth, I was impressed with Imoke’s policy on making Cross River State the favorite destination for hosting national sporting events; his improvement of the Carnivals which attracted huge revenues for the State and created thousands of youth employment; his policy on children’s welfare and youth empowerment; new and significant forays in the tourism industry; and many more.

Finally, with the above few examples in mind, amongst many others, I will recommend Cross River as a case study on how our present leaders can still deliver despite the significant fall in oil prices. Cross River, under Liyel Imoke, has been there, seen that, and not only survived, but triumphed.

Danlami wrote from ibrodanlami@yahoo.com

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