Although budgetary provisions were made for the construction of new cities in different parts of Cross River State, the governor, Prof Ben Ayade has made fresh provisions for them in the current budget.
Just as was the case in various other sectors, the envisaged new cities were not constructed under the 2017 budget. Now, he has allocated N57,319,153,793.01 in the 2018 budget. This is an increase of N21 billion compared with the N36,328,943,616.14 budgeted in 2017, although the actual expenditure between January and October last year was a paltry N343,000.
The controversial dream cities with fanciful or exquisite names are Calas Vagas (sounds like gamblers' paradise, Las Vegas in America), Centicot City and Norticot City. Those criticizing the proposed new cities that are yet to get off the ground say they are grandiose, misplaced priorities and that rather than pay attention to the dilapidated infrastructure across the state, the governor is dissipating his energy on utopian projects that may not see the light of day any time soon.
Out of the N57.3 billion tagged 'Budget for New Cities Development', N15 billion is for the construction of new village and renovation. The location of the new village is not stated in the budget. The same N15 billion was allocated in 2017 for the new village, whereas everything concerning the New Cities Development attracted an actual expenditure of N343,000 between January and October 2017.
The design and construction of Calas Vagas in Calabar is to gulp N28,124,020,000.00, a difference of N23 billion from
the N5 billion it was allocated in 2017. According to security sources, the location of the project not far from the Naval Base poses a very serious security risk and the project appeared to be dead on arrival as Navy authorities may not allow it to take off.
Another cogent reason given for the stoppage of the futuristic project is that the Calabar River Channel where the project is to be located is to be expanded by the federal government for large ships to berth in the Calabar port.
If allowed to be constructed, the project would impede the expansion of the channel. It was widely reported recently that the federal government had already stopped the project.
Another new city for design and construction is Centicot City. As the name suggests, it is to be located in the Central Senatorial District of the state. It was allocated N5 billion in this year's budget, same as what was allocated in 2017.
The design and construction of a new city to replicate what is to be constructed in Calabar and the Central Senatorial District was also budgeted for in this fiscal year. It is known as Norticot City to be located in the Northern Senatorial District. It is also to gulp N5 billion, same as the allocation for 2017.
The sum of N3 billion was budgeted for the design and construction of Obudu New City in this year's budget, while in 2017, N150 million was allocated to it.
Design and construction of Ranch Resort got N250 million in the budget. The same amount was allocated to it last year. Summit Hills also got N200 million for design and construction, same as the allocation for 2017. It is located in Calabar, the state capital.
Haulage City was allocated the same amount budgeted for it last year. It got half a billion naira. N40 million is for consultancy for the development of viable new cities model, same amount as in 2017. The sum of N25 million was allocated for the procurement of office furniture from the New Cities Development budget. Another N100 million was allocated for infrastructure for “subhills”. There is no clarification about what this means and no amount was budgeted for this item in 2017.
Also, sensitization and awareness programme got N10 million just as technical capacity building which got the same amount this year as was the case in 2017. Shoreline protection was allocated N100 million last year, while nothing was budgeted for it this year.
Like the New Cities projects, some of the governor's signature projects are also suffering serious setbacks as they have not also taken off three years after they were conceived owing to some challenges beyond the governor's control.
The affected signature projects are the Bakassi Deep Seaport and the 275km super highway designed to link the state from the south to the north. Again, critics have said the funds needed for the execution of these projects are humongous and that the state's lean financial resources could not shoulder the burden. But the governor has insisted that they are long term projects to be funded by private investors under the public/private partnership arrangement.
Last Tuesday, Ayade signed the N1.3 trillion budget into law at the state executive chambers. While doing so, he broke down in tears and called on a clergy man in the audience to hold the signed copy of the budget in his hand and lead everyone present in prayers for God's divine intervention to make the budget realizable.
In what appears to be beating his chest for achieving an unusual feat, after he signed the budget, and before he began to sob, the governor said the “budget of kinetic crystallization” was the first of its kind in the history of the state and the nation as it is the first to pass the N1 trillion mark.
“This budget is indeed kinetically crystalizing all our vision, but we must put all our hands on the table,” he said.
Ayade added: “Cross River state is a state that enjoys the agony of being a state with an international boundary and internal national boundary. It is also known for its continuous struggle among communities for farm lands.
“The state itself is in a continuous state of gyration and easily agitated therefore we need a stabilizing factor like a budget of this nature that can change our situation.
“Part of the philosophy of this budget will focus on human capital development and we say we will put food on the table; which was still what we focused on in our year one and year two but in this third year, we are amending the agenda; to put food on the table and hand on the plough”