By Ike Uchechukwu
In an effort to ensure greater participation by Cross Riverians, the state governor, Prof. Ben Ayade has extended by two months, the referendum which seeks to gauge the opinion of indigenes of the state on whether industries constructed by his administration should be privatized or not.
Ayade gave the extension order on Thursday when the Technical Team of the Privatization Council gave a presentation of about 34 industries to be privatized by the council to make for optimal output.
Speaking after the presentation, Governor Ayade said there was no room for lapses or error, stressing that his reason for extending the exercise by two months was to create opportunity for more people to participate in the exercise.
Although not a requirement of the Privatization Law, Ayade insists on a referendum to ensure government is on the same page with the people regarding the future of the industries.
His words: ” You must return to the streets, local government areas, creeks, and riverine communities, our people must be properly carried along. If we truly need their contributions, then we must do it with all sincerity and professionalism.
“I cannot make a decision based on what you have given me because the opinion is based on that of a few people, more Cross Riverians must be given the opportunity, more field responses must be taken, more people must participate in the referendum exercise.
“We are ready to put in more money to ensure you increase campaign and awareness on the streets, in the markets as well as all the communities and local government arrear. They must be effective public awareness.
“I am not playing politics with this. We should not be in a haste to get it right. I need to hear what the people want. If they say they don’t want privatisation, after my tenure I will pack my bags and walk away.”
According to Ayade, “The 2001 privatisation law gives me the authority to call up private investors myself but I said no and I decided that we do the right thing which is to actively involve the people and get their opinion. That is what we must do.
“I want to see you in the market places, I want to hear and see sensitisation, I want to see the real participation as our people are filling the questionaires so that history will know that we really consulted the people,” he said.
Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of the Privatization Council, Mr John Odo disclosed that it was the first time in the history of privatisation in Cross River that the people will be consulted in this manner.
He added that the move was in tandem with the governor’s principle of ethics, transparency and accountability.
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Odo said: “Your Excellency, in the history of privatization in Cross River State, this is the first time that the government is conducting a referendum which will enable citizens to vote, to either accept or reject government initiative(s).
“This again is in tandem with the Governor’s principle of ethics, transparency and accountability. Right from when we were appointed, we knew that a great task lay ahead of us to deliver on our mandate and mission of moving away from government ownership, control and participation in the economy towards free enterprises and increased operation of market.
“Your Excellency you may wish to recall that it is your determination an aspiration to finish strong and even surpass the expectations in the development of the state by your governance strategy of participatory and inclusive governance where the people come first.
“In pursuance of good governance and to positively impact on our people by improving their standard of living, you adopted the model of agro Industrialization to create employment, increase internally generated revenues, decouple the state from over dependence on federal allocation, etc.
“To diversify and grow the State economy considering our comparative and competitive advantages in agriculture and solid minerals, you adopted industrialization with the establishment of agro-allied industries to create jobs for our people which is one of the indices for measuring good governance anywhere in the world.”
“Having established these industries, the issue of management remains a huge challenge to guarantee sustainability and efficiencies in operations,” he said.