The Minister for Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio at the weekend indicated the Ministry’s interest in partnering with Cross River state to turn the Niger-Delta region into a hub for rice production in the country.
The Minister was at the Executive Chamber of the Governor’s Office in Calabar, for a courtesy call on Governor Ben Ayade.
Akpabio who was later given a tour of the rice seeds and Seedlings Factory by Ayade applauded the governor’s strides in agricultural value chain, saying Cross River has under his watch attained unparalleled height in Industrialisation.
”l see a great future for the people of Niger Delta through Professor Ben Ayade. He has shown exceptional leadership by the great works he is doing in Cross River State”, Akpabio said.
Speaking further, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State said: “We (Niger-Delta Ministry) will explore areas of collaboration with the state. You have proved that it is not so much about the amount of money you collect by way of federal allocation but so much about the quality of your ideas. I want to assure you that under my watch as Minister of Niger Delta, Cross River will never walk alone. My Ministry is focused seriously on Cross River.”
In his own remarks, Governor Ayade decried what he described as Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC’s) shabby treatment of Cross River in the scheme of things.
He appealed to the Minister to reverse Cross River’s fortune and see the state as its major priority in order to show it is indeed part of the Niger Delta.
“Cross River is the last in the consideration of the NDDC, Cross River is the last in the consideration of Niger Delta Ministry. Please, reverse our fortunes, please reverse the fortunes of Cross River. Show us that you love us. We are suffering.
“We earn N2.7 billion in terms of federal allocation and we pay out N1.7 billion every month for debt servicing, yet we are 35 in terms of revenue allocation.
“Cross River state lost oil wells, we lost our land; Cross River state is the only state in the Niger Delta where ex-militants are not captured in the Amnesty programme, yet NDDC spends billions of Naira on the programme,” the governor lamented.
According to him, his administration’s investment in agriculture stemmed from its believe in President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy of economic diversification.
“The only way you can actually keep the Niger Delta peaceful and safe is to assist in creating jobs. From the experiences of industrialised countries, all Industrialisation starts with Agro- Industrialisation. The president is championing a Nigeria beyond oil and he is creating a roadmap for Nigeria without oil. Cross River state has keyed into this through Agricultural value Chain.
“We can actually turn Niger Delta into the largest rice producing hub. Our Agro- Industrialisation drive is a model. It puts food on the table, creates jobs, it reduces militancy and insurgency, keeping our pipelines safe,” Ayade further remarked.
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