.BY DOMINIC KIDZU
As a leading member of PANDEF in Cross River State and the All Cross River Nationals Forum, together with Honourable Bassey Ekefre, Eric Ani Esin, Dr Joe Edet, Col. PAM Ogar Senator Bassey Henshaw, General Ennang, late AVM Osim, among others, we have severally discussed strategies to engage the Federal Government on the necessity to provide adequate compensation to Cross River State for the loss of the notorious 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom State. Little did we know that the Federal Government was already providing such necessary assistance to the state on a consistent basis.
There had been a flurry of activities on the back of that loss in the form of compensation to the people of Bakassi and provision of living homes for those who relocated back to Nigeria back then, but regrettably, neither Governors Liyel Imoke nor Ben Ayade has told Cross Riverians the true facts and figures thereof. It would take the Chairman of RMFC (who himself could not distinguish the difference between Naira and USD) to bust open the Pandora box.
What is clear to the people right now is that the N500m monthly payment is not lumped into the monthly allocation to the state, but rather paid alone, or perhaps under the table. Therefore when figures of income accruing to Cross River State are advertised by the Governors freely to underscore the poverty of the state, the regular and consistent payment of the N500m to shake off our sterile and mendicant curse is never mentioned.
In the present dispensation, the question to ask is whether that sum is reflected in the budget of
QUANTUM INFINITUM, or its mouth-filling predecessors in the last seven-plus years, or not. If it has not been captured in all these budgets, then where and how has the money been expended? Again, why have Governor Ben Ayade and his predecessor, Liyel Imoke been so close-lipped about these payments?
I was bemused by the Press Release from the Governor’s Office in which the use of the wrong currency was sufficiently belaboured, followed by a tortured admission of the receipt of the invisible monies. Even if the entire windfalls have dissolved into debt repayment should the people on behalf of whom Government collects these monies not know about it? Why should it take one Fulani man who could not tell the difference between the Naira and the greenback to make the great announcement on national television for Cross Riverians to know and for government to finally admit the fact?
The very idea of democracy is coterminous with transparency because it promises a government of the people, by the people and for the people. That being the case, the people reserve the right to know about their money and the use to which it has been put even as they continue to endure an electoral authoritarian regime in the hands of people who may have come to town without a stitch of moral fibre or a whiff of political philosophy.