Tuesday, 28 May 2024.

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57 years after, Cross River remains in the doldrums

By Agba Jalingo

Cross River State turned 57 years old yesterday, 27th May 2024, after its creation from the South Eastern region along with 11 others by the then General Yakubu Gowon regime. The State capital, Calabar also doubles as the first capital of Nigeria from 1900-1906.

With an arable landmass of 23,074km², Cross River is equal in size to Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and Anambra States, all put together or more than six times the size of Lagos State and still hosts Africa’s biggest street party, the Carnival Calabar. The State still boasts an exclusive list of exotic tourist sites including the second tallest height in Nigeria, the Obudu Ranch Resort standing at 1,600 meters above sea level.

The State is also one of the very few who still has four of its former military Governors and four former elected governors alive, namely: Colonel Ernest Kizito Attah, Chief Clement Ebri, Admiral Gregory Agboneni, Colonel Umar Farouk Ahmed, Navy Captain Christopher Osondu, Mr. Donald Duke, Mr. Liyel Imoke and Prof Ben Ayade.

Cross River has a longer coastline than Lagos and a natural harbour deep enough for vessels with a draft of 6 metres (20 ft), and hosts more than 50 per cent of the remaining tropical rainforest in Nigeria, comprising 13 forest reserves spread across the State and home to some of the world’s rarest and most endangered species of biodiversity.

Cross River State is also home to over 33 solid minerals including gold, barite, lead, zinc, iron ore, granite, and manganese, amongst others and it is the only State along with Delta State, which has two intra State airports, the Margaret Ekpo international airport and the Bebi Airstrip at the ranch.

Yet, with all these impressive endowments, the State remains stuck in the doldrums after 57 years. We are still at the bottom of every development index in Nigeria, despite the many resources available in the State.

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We remain at number 35 out of 36, on the revenue allocation table from the federal government with one of the lowest Internally Generated Revenue IGR profiles in the country. We remain a civil service State that primarily collects and shares federal allocation for salaries with no industrial base.

In the South South region where we belong, we are the poorest of the six States. Calabar the first capital of Nigeria has remained stunted in development compared to neighbouring Uyo, which was only a suburb in the old Cross River State. Yet crime continues to soar and rob our State capital of its hitherto peaceful reputation.

What are we not doing right? Do we deserve the successive leaders we have gotten? Is the incumbent doing any different or is it time that will tell? What are the things we need to do differently so that even if we don’t become the best in Nigeria, at least we can move from the bottom of the rung even to the middle? Or are we just going to continue like this?

Yours sincerely,
Citizen Agba Jalingo.

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