By Maurice Ekong
In the heart of Nigeria lies a state that has endured its fair share of hardships and setbacks, yet it remains undeterred in its pursuit of economic prosperity. Cross River State, nestled in the Niger Delta region, has faced monumental challenges, including the loss of its oil wells, the relinquishment of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, and marginalization as an oil-producing state. However, the time has come for Cross River State to rise again, and this begins with a steadfast administration that puts the people at the forefront.
The Price Of Cross River State Losses
The people of Cross River State have experienced the bitter taste of loss, both economically and territorially. The Supreme Court judgment that stripped the state of its 76 oil wells, awarding them to Akwa Ibom State, dealt a devastating blow to her financial resources. This decision not only undermined the state’s revenue base but also hindered its ability to provide essential services and embark on much-needed development projects.
Moreso, the loss of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, as ruled by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), deepened the socio-economic setbacks endured by Cross River State. This loss not only deprived the state of valuable natural resources but also disrupted the lives and livelihoods of her citizens who called Bakassi home. It remains a painful reminder of the challenges faced by the state and the urgent need for redress.
Marginalization And Its Consequences
In addition to these territorial losses, Cross River State has been subjected to a prolonged period of marginalization as an oil-producing state. The Federal Government’s refusal to partition and allocate oil blocks within the state’s boundaries has hindered its participation in oil block bid rounds. This exclusion has made Cross River State, the ONLY state in the Niger Delta region that has not been divided into oil blocks and this has made the state unable to benefit fully from its oil reserves, denying it the economic potential that could have arisen from this and propelled her development as an oil-producing state.
The consequences of this marginalization are evident in the stark disparity between Cross River State and her contemporaries in the Niger Delta. While neighboring states thrive on their oil revenues, Cross River State remains the poor languishing sister, grappling with financial constraints and limited opportunities for growth. It is an injustice that has stifled the state’s potential and left her people yearning for a chance to flourish.
Charting The Way Forward
It is pertinent and instructive to underscore the fact that, the economic challenges faced by Cross River State are not of its own direct making but are the result of decisions made by the Federal Government. Therefore, it is only fair and just for the central government to extend a helping hand and assist the state in catching up with its counterparts in the Niger Delta. Cross River State deserves the support it needs to overcome its setbacks and forge a path to economic resurgence.
Strategies For Economic Prosperity
To state’s journey to economic prosperity, must first begin from home. The incoming administration must be focused, steadfast, and dedicated to the welfare of the people. Every Cross Riverian must rally behind the incoming governor, and offer him all enabling environment and assistance to succeed. We must urge him to lead with unwavering focus and steadfastness. The people of Cross River State need a leader who not only empathizes with their plight but also possesses the vision to chart a new course towards economic prosperity.
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Furthermore, the state government should actively engage with the communities, embracing their ideas, concerns, and aspirations. By involving the people in decision-making processes and empowering them to participate in the state’s development, a sense of ownership and pride will be fostered, paving the way for inclusive growth and sustainable progress.
While it is important to explore alternative avenues for economic growth, tourism remains a prominent sector in Cross River State. The state’s natural beauty, diverse cultural heritage, and unique attractions offer immense potential for tourism development. By leveraging these assets, Cross River State can attract domestic and international tourists, generating revenue and creating employment opportunities.
To maximize the tourism potential of Cross River State, there is a need to develop and improve infrastructure. This includes upgrading transportation networks, expanding airport capacity, and enhancing road connectivity to key tourist destinations. Additionally, investing in quality accommodations, recreational facilities, and tourist amenities will enhance the overall visitor experience.
Ecotourism And Wildlife Conservation
Cross River State is blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, including the Cross River National Park, Afi Mountains, Obudu Cattle Ranch etc. Emphasizing ecotourism initiatives and implementing sustainable practices will not only preserve these fragile ecosystems but also attract nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. By collaborating with local communities and conservation organizations, the state can protect its biodiversity while reaping the economic benefits of responsible tourism.
Cultural Festivals And Heritage
Cross River State boasts a rich cultural heritage, celebrated through colorful festivals such as the Calabar Carnival, the Ekpe Festival, the Iboku Boat Regatta, the Leboku Yam Festival etc. These events showcase the state’s traditions, art, music, and folklore. By promoting and preserving cultural festivals, the state can draw tourists seeking immersive cultural experiences and support local artisans, performers, and entrepreneurs.
Sports And Recreation
Cross River State has the potential to become a sports and recreation hub. By investing in sports facilities, hosting regional and national tournaments, and supporting local athletes, the state can attract sports enthusiasts and generate revenue through sporting events. Additionally, developing recreational facilities such as water parks, amusement centers, and adventure sports destinations will cater to both domestic and international tourists seeking leisure and entertainment.
Hospitality And Tourism Training
To provide high-quality tourism services, it is essential to invest in hospitality and tourism training programs. Collaborating with educational institutions and industry experts, Cross River State can develop vocational training initiatives that equip locals with the necessary skills to excel in the tourism sector. This will create employment opportunities and ensure exceptional guest experiences, contributing to the state’s overall tourism competitiveness.
While tourism has been a notable driver of the state’s economy, it is crucial to explore additional strategies and quick-win solutions. Some of these possibilities include:
Agriculture And Agro-processing
Cross River State boasts fertile land and favorable climatic conditions, making it ideal for agricultural activities. The incoming administration should invest in modern farming techniques, provide farmers with access to credit and training, and establish agro-processing industries to add value to agricultural products. This approach would not only boost food production but also create a sustainable agricultural sector capable of contributing significantly to the state’s economy.
Education And Skill Development
Investing in education and skill development is crucial for the long-term economic growth of Cross River State. By prioritizing quality education, vocational training, and entrepreneurship programs, the state can equip its people with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a competitive job market. This approach will empower individuals, foster innovation, and attract industries seeking a skilled workforce.
Adequate infrastructure is the backbone of any thriving economy. The state government must prioritize the development of transportation networks, power supply, and telecommunications infrastructure. Improved connectivity will not only facilitate the movement of goods and services but also attract investments and enhance the overall business environment.
Federal Government Support
After all is said and done, it is crucial for the Federal Government to acknowledge its role in the state’s setbacks and extend a helping hand. As a matter of fact, while the people of Cross River State strive to overcome their challenges, they cannot easily achieve economic resurgence without the active support and cooperation of the Federal Government. It is imperative that the Federal Government acknowledges its role in the state’s setbacks and takes proactive measures to rectify the injustices suffered.
The Federal Government should provide financial assistance and grants to aid the state in recovering from its economic woes and losses. Additionally, it should actively engage with the state government to devise strategies and policies that promote inclusive development, equitable resource allocation, and fair representation as and when the need arises. Some areas of the Federal Government’s direct intervention include:
Dredging The Calabar Seaport Towards Unlocking Trade And Investment
The dredging and modernization of the Calabar Seaport hold immense promise for Cross River State’s economic rejuvenation. A deepened and upgraded seaport will attract international shipping lines, stimulate trade, and facilitate the export of goods. This development will position Cross River State as a significant player in regional and global commerce, attracting investments and creating employment opportunities. The Federal Government should allocate resources and collaborate with relevant stakeholders to expedite the dredging process and ensure the viability and attractiveness of the Calabar Seaport.
Special Economic Zone To Foster Industrial Growth
Designating Cross River State as a special economic zone will encourage both domestic and foreign investments, promote industrialization, and stimulate economic growth. By offering tax incentives, streamlined regulations, and robust infrastructure support, the state can attract industries from various sectors, including manufacturing, technology, and services. The creation of a special economic zone will provide a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, generate employment opportunities, and contribute to the state’s economic development. The Federal Government should collaborate with the state government to establish the necessary framework, policies, and infrastructure to ensure the success of the special economic zone initiative.
A Special Frontier Oil Exploration Status
A Catalyst for Progress
Granting Cross River State a special frontier oil exploration status would be a transformative step towards economic prosperity. This designation would fast-track the state’s entry into the league of oil-producing states, allowing it to harness its oil reserves for economic development. The Federal Government should prioritize and facilitate the necessary exploration and production activities in Cross River State, providing the state with a much-needed boost in revenue generation and job creation.
The Power of Unity And Collaboration
While the Federal Government has played a significant role in the setbacks faced by Cross River State, it is crucial to approach the path to economic resurgence with a spirit of unity and collaboration. The incoming administration should prioritize building strong partnerships with the Federal Government, neighboring states, international organizations, and private sector stakeholders. Together, they can work towards a common goal of uplifting Cross River State, ensuring that the state receives the necessary support, resources, and investments to overcome its challenges and realize its full potential.
A Call to Action: Time for Cross River State to Soar
Cross River State has endured immense setbacks and struggles, but its resilient spirit remains unbroken. The time has come for the state to rise again and reclaim its rightful place among the thriving economies of the Niger Delta region. The incoming administration must be steadfast, focused, and dedicated to the welfare of the people. It must advocate for fair treatment, justice, and support from the Federal Government to rectify the injustices faced by the state.
By implementing a multi-faceted approach that encompasses tourism development, strategic economic initiatives, and collaboration with the Federal Government, Cross River State can overcome its challenges and achieve economic prosperity. Quick-win solutions such as granting a special frontier oil exploration status, dredging the Calabar Seaport, and establishing a special economic zone will pave the way for immediate progress.
Simultaneously, long-term strategies focusing on agriculture, education, infrastructure development, and skill empowerment will drive sustainable growth and uplift the lives of the people.
Let us unite and rally behind Cross River State, by encouraging the incoming administration to lead with integrity, accountability, and a genuine commitment to the people’s welfare. Together, we can restore the fortunes of the state, propel it towards economic resurgence, and create a future where Cross River State stands tall as a beacon of progress, opportunity, and prosperity.
Cross River State’s journey to economic resurgence is not without its challenges, but with determination, collaboration, and a clear vision for the future, the state can overcome the setbacks it has faced. The loss of oil wells, the relinquishment of the Bakassi Peninsula, and the marginalization as an oil-producing state have impeded progress, however, these obstacles should not define Cross River State’s destiny.
The incoming administration must prioritize the welfare of the people and work tirelessly to address the economic disparities. It is crucial for the Federal Government to acknowledge its role in the state’s setbacks and extend a helping hand. By providing financial assistance, granting special frontier oil exploration status, and supporting the dredging of the Calabar Seaport, the Federal Government can demonstrate its commitment to rectifying past injustices and ensuring the state’s economic prosperity.
In addition to these strategic initiatives, fostering unity and collaboration among different stakeholders is paramount. The state government should engage with communities, encourage participation, and create a sense of ownership in the development process. By working together with the Federal Government, neighboring states, international organizations, and the private sector, Cross River State can forge a path to economic resurgence that benefits all stakeholders involved.
The road to economic prosperity may be challenging, but Cross River State has the resilience, resources, and potential to rise again. By focusing on the people’s welfare, pursuing strategic initiatives, and garnering support from the Federal Government, the state can overcome its setbacks and build a prosperous future. Let us rally behind Cross River State, inspiring the incoming administration to lead with passion, integrity, and a commitment to the people’s well-being. Together, we can ensure that Cross River State takes its rightful place as a thriving and economically prosperous state in Nigeria.
About The Author
Dr. Maurice O. Ekong, is an Environmentalist, a Public Relations Consultant and an Oil and Gas Expert with over 20 years of experience in the Upstream and Downstream sectors of the industry. He writes from Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria.
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