An Open Letter To My Governor: Senator Ben Ayade

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Utum Etem

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My dear Governor, good day, today is exactly 2 months after you took the oath of office to be our governor. Please do not be bothered that I choose this open letter method to communicate with you concerning our Cross River State which you are by providence the Executive Governor today.

Firstly, may I congratulate you for your victory at the April 2015 polls wherein you won as Cross River State governor?

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Let me place it on record that the choice of this open method of communication is deliberate and for the avoidance of doubt I want you to personally read it because as sometimes the case, the people around public office holders do not avail them the opportunity of even sighting some documents. I have grown to sympathize with those who hold high political public positions because sometimes you are only allowed to hear those things that the organized praise singer would want them to hear. I concede that it is by no means difficult to lead a people especially in a system where almost everybody around invariably pursues his or her personal interest first.

Sir, I had before now written such open letters to other past governors like the charismatic Gov Donald Duke and to the out-gone Gov Imoke. If in doubt you may refer to page 32 of Daily Independent Newspaper of Tuesday, September, 18, 2012.

My Gov Sir, I make bold to state that, you are the first Governor of Cross River State from the Northern Senatorial District since the creation of man, and you will agree with me that people staked their reputations years back, to press for it using the defunct ATAM CONGRESS as the point of contact to sensitize the people. Names were given to the protagonists of this noble idea, because at that time the so-called three (3) wise men had arranged themselves to hold onto power in the state for 24 years in turns. Before you came, they had done 16years, Donald 8years and Imoke 8years, with 8years to go for the last supposed wise man now Senator Gershom Bassey to go, before providence struck to favour you.

As ATAM CONGRESS Secretary with Gen. Unima Edward (rtd) Chairman, I had consistently used the media to preach against the dreamed marginalization of the Northern Senatorial District to stop them from taking their turn after Imoke. For the avoidance of doubt and for the records, I refer you to page 32 Daily Independent, Friday August 24, 2012, “Review and Update Column”. I am making this reference to you to react the point that what I write here or position I take is not new or taken to disrespect the office of a governor. That is far from it.

The decision to let the North take it turn was not a simple one and in-spite of the open pronouncement by Chief Sony Abang, then PDP State Chairman at the Imoke final Rally at Ogoja in 2007, that “the governor to succeed Imoke will come from the North” skirmished were made to do otherwise. This decision was reached as part of the conditions to suspend the activities of the Atam Congress with a view to support the governorship ambition of Liyel Imoke. Hence at the said Ogoja public square, Gen. Unima (rtd) openly suspended the Atam activities of the Congress and called for the total support of Imoke’s ambition. This is recorded.

This open facts though recorded may be denied today given our penchant to telling distort facts. Among the leaders present were; Gen. Unima, Chief J. I. C. Igbe, Chief Linus Okorm (though not a member of the congress), but also spoke at the rally to align with the sentiments expressed by Gen. Unima, Barr Idi-Yakubu and other Cross Riverians to include; Gov. Donald Duke, Chief Sony Abang, Liyel Imoke the candidate adopted. Barr Effiok Cobham, Ekpo Okon, Chief Jona Egbe (Jabengo), Dr. Otu Abam Ubi, Prof Moma, Chief Mgbekem, Chief Nsemo, Jimy Aniyom, and others too many to mention.

My Governor Sir, sorry to bore you with the above details, this is because of the issues I would like to raise herein. Your success as governor will underscore the initial wrong impression that the north was bereft of potential governorship candidates. Today providence has smiled at you, a professor, a lawyer and a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from the North bossing a senior professor from the South.

Your success therefore would be a big plus to all of us who stood firm to press for a Northern Senatorial District Governorship candidate before now. They include, Gen. Edward Unima, Gen. Anthony Ukpo, Chief J. I. C. Igbe, Dr. Peter Ogbang, Senator Musa Adede, Dr (Mrs.) Rose Oko, Ambassador Obi-odu, Chief Igbaji Momkom, Omobright, Chief Wilfred Inah, Chief Emanuel Inang, Chief Sony Abang, Chris Agara, Chief Pius Tawo, Hon. Cletus Obun, Barr Tanko Ashang, Dr Sandy Onoh, Barr Mathew Ojua, Late Ntufam Mathew Ojong, Chief Okang Ekpo, Senator Mathew Mbu, Col Edor Obi, etc.

Sir, the preamble may be boring, but it is necessary to remind you of the true circumstances of your final emergence as governor which cannot be said to the personal decree of one person. It is a collective resolve of many.

Having gone through the above prologue, let me then use the opportunity of this letter to wish you well and also remark that your starting with a zeal to succeed and to also make impact on the sands of our times as was done by Donald Duke (1999-2007). Sir, for purposes of clarity, you may wish to throw more light on the following issues which I think are of major concern to the rest of us not in government;

You publicly after your inauguration on 27th May 2015 declared that you will build a garment factory within a specified time. This is a wonderful idea, but Sir, may I request you to kindly explain the following;

Whether the planned garment factory is a private or government concern?

Is it a Limited Liability Company incorporated according to CAMA with a board of directors?

What is the membership of the board for it to legally function as such?

If it’s a government business outfit established by a law of the Cross River State Assembly, which law for ease of reference?

Whether provision has been made for it in the 2015 appropriation law or in a supplement budget if any?

Whether the contract be it by direct labour would not require the approval of the State Executive Council before committing state funds knowing fully well that the 1999 Constitution makes mandatory provision for a State Executive Council with specific functions.

Pursuant to the due process law, were tenders called for and opened to award the project or is it by direct labour?

It is again opined that you want to develop a deep sea port now in Akpabuyo Local Government. Assuming this is true Sir, would you be kind enough to do let Cross Riverians know the following;

Whether the same is provided for in the inherited Appropriate Law 2015 of Cross River State?

Whether the State Executive Council established by the constitution approved and the state tenders board awarded the contract in so far as there is yet?

Whether creating of a sea port is not within the exclusive list of the Federal Government in so far as ocean vessels can only berth upon NPA, customs, immigration and others relevant federal agencies approval and supervision?

Whether it does not require the approval of the Federal Government/NPA?

Whether or not you have truly entered into the contract for its construction?

How much is the cost and who provided the bill of quantities to meet due process standard.

When and where was the contract advertised in view of it huge cost and also knowing fully well that the due process law is still in force?

Above all, whether you have adverted your mind to the Supreme Court judgment on the locus classicus case of CRS v. Akwa Ibom State (1985) wherein the Supreme Court held that: Cross River State is a Landlucked State having no access to the sea?

Whether you have adverted your mind also to the judgment of the ICJ that skewed the boundary of Nigeria to make it different for an ocean giving vessels to berth at any Sea Port at Akpabuyo without passing through the International territorial Waterways of Cameroon.

Would the approval of Cameroon be needed for ships to pass through its waterways?

Sir, your desire to construct a dualised road from Calabar – Oban – Ikom – Obudu is noble and wonderful. We pray the Almighty God to see you through, but Sir, would you be kind enough to let us know the following;

The alignment of the road, who prepared the bill of quantities, When and who paid for it, which company surveyed the road?

How much is the estimated cost of the road, how much is the estimated compensation to be paid having regards to the constitutional provision for compensation whenever ones property is acquired for public use? See Section 44 of 1999 Constitution.

When was the tenders advertised and opened and construction to begin? If you had signed the contract for its construction in far away Germany, and if it is true that the German partners require a bank guarantee of about 25% of the total cost for them to be involved? Do you have the locus at a time when there is no State Executive Council to commit state funds on behalf of the state?

Above all, has the State Appropriation Law 2015 or supplementary (if any) made provision for the construction of the road? Do you know that it is an impeachable offence to commit state resources into projects not provided/captured in the appropriation law? See Section 121 of the Constitution.

Has the Cross River State Executive Counsel given a nod for all this expenses (if any)?

Will it not be cost saving if you use your cordial relationship with President Buhari to prevail on him to dualize the existing Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja – Obudu – Katsina Highway?

Would it be economically beneficial to the state to deliberately eclipse commercially viable local governments and towns like Odukpani Local Government Area, Biase, Yakurr, Abi, Obubra, and part of Ikom to construct a road through the forest because the distance to one or two places is to be shortened?

Sir, do we not as a people on whose count money is allocated to the state reserve the right to know all of the above and also to know, how much you inherited as money standing to the credit of the state from out-gone governor Imoke administration, and also how much is the total debt standing against the state when you took over from Gov. Imoke?

This information is necessary, because there are speculation that Cross River State is the 3rd most indebted State in Nigeria, and also that locally, Gov. Imoke left behind a huge indebtedness of about N403 billion. This may be true or false, but you are in a better position to enlighten the people as any business including governance operated on credit is like a living corpse.

All the above questions are premised on Section 120 – 124 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Sir, you are our governor, speak to us so that we can understand and flow with you. Ignorance is an infectious disease which sometimes spread like wild harmattan fire.

I wish you a successful and purposeful tenure.

My warm regards.

CHIEF (BARR) UTUM ETENG

Private Legal Practitioner,

Human Rights Activist,

And Anti-Corruption Crusader

Calabar.

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