Cross River state government has lost at least N150 billion by failing to sustain the State Reserve Fund created by the Donald Duke administration.
This was disclosed by Eyo Ekpo, a governorship aspirant under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Calabar.
Ekpo, a former attorney-general and commissioner for justice under Donald Duke administration, told journalists in Calabar at the weekend that the state reserve Fund which was backed by law was worth almost N5 billion when Duke left office in 2007.
He said through the fund, the state set aside N50 million monthly and the money was not to be spent until after 15 years when it was to be re-invested.
He said the fund, which was to provide guarantee for investors should have been worth N150 billion by now, was abandoned.
Ekpo also revealed that Tinapa was a flourishing free trade zone when Duke was leaving office but began to have issues because those he called enemies of progress went and lied to the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, that the free trade zone had become a den of smugglers. And Obasanjo immediately ordered that the place be shut down between August 2007 and February 2009.
He said by the time it was reopened for business, several investors who left when it was shut refused to return. And that was the beginning of the decline of Tinapa.
“I knew Tinapa was going to work when businessmen in Alaba and Ariaria markets invested their money in it. The funding of Tinapa also came from local government deductions and due process was followed in the course of the deductions.”
Speaking about his governorship aspiration, he said “I represent an aspiration that has been forgotten. Cross River state has always been an aspiration but we have been driven to forget the aspiration.
“I was part of a government that took the oath of office seriously. Now governance and due process have been cast aside. Institutions of governance have been thrown away. In the past, we had leaders who made us proud of our state. But today that is not the case. People are now suffering. The leaders are taking without giving anything back.”
Continuing, he said “I feel angry when people say we should allow this to continue for another four years when it will be their turn to take over power. The mistake we made in 1999 was to allow people who did not have the interest of ordinary Nigerians to take power. That is the mistake we have been trying to live with. Some states are trying to reverse it. If we in Cross River continue with what is happening, we will never go back to where we were.”
On why he is running on the platform of SDP, he said “I needed a contest. SDP represents a credible alternative to the mainstream parties. I believe it is the platform that I need to pull our state from the current leadership. If things are bad now, we should wait until we make the mistake of returning this administration to power in 2019, an administration that is setting a record of depravity in governance.”
He dismissed zoning, saying it was non-existent because when Duke contested in 1999 and 2003, it was not automatic, he fought for the ticket against other aspirants in his party, the PDP.
“Imoke did the same thing. It is only Ayade that took the governorship by consensus. Ayade was the best the north could offer. Now the north is saying Ayade is not good enough. It is left for the people to decide whether Ayade should be returned to power. Ayade cannot give what he does not have in the second term.
“Whoever is going to be the governor of Cross River after Ayade will suffer. He will find it difficult to persuade investors to return. Most of his projects are MOUs. He is an MOU governor. Those who come to sign MOUs are not fools. When they come and assess what is on ground, they go away with their funds. Those projects said to be existing will be dead because the necessary framework required for their takeoff is not there,” he said.