by Akanimo Kufre
Cross Riverians will soon have another reason to be proud of their heritage and brand as the state government is making concrete moves to consolidate on their tourism dynasty and seaport city legacy.
Airlines consulting firms and shipping experts were given two weeks to submit financial bid for Cali Air flight commencement, shipping vessels and yacht procurement for the State.
Gov. Ben Ayade last Monday at the Exco chambers, in Calabar mandated shipping consultants to be ready to provide state owned yacht, 10,000 metric ton oil tanker, 10,000-15,000 gas tanker, 15,000 metric ton merchant vessel for general cargo and dry bulk.
Also expected from the selected consulting firms are at least two Boeings 737, 700 series were recommended to be procured for Cali Air operations before the prestigious Calabar Carnival come December 2017. These competing firms are expected to package alongside funding partners.
‘In the next two weeks we will receive the final bid from those selected to bid. This will be tendered with funding advisor who will hand-hold us to financing agency that can partner with us to ensure all of will come on his bid. But where any of these remain a challenge, we will go first with an oil tanker, which will be preceded with a yacht before the carnival. So with this concluding remark it means that cross river is set to make sure the air craft is on ground, oil tanker is on ground and the yacht before Christmas carnival. Remember we have our 4% infrastructure fund where we also hope to draw our funding from and I believe it is the responsibility of the Exco to also give rapid approval to set aside that funding to ensure these high ending great ideas are achieved. And am happy someone told me Lagos is also thinking of doing that. We have already awarded contract for the smart city. Calabar will be the first smart city in Nigeria.’ Gov. Ben Ayade said
Calabar seaport had international port status early in the 16th century when palm oil and gum (use in textile industry) was exported to Europe and the infamous slave trade. On tourism Calabar has been traffic point for Nigeria’s first competitive sporting events including Cricket, Football and Hockey games. Pre colonial and colonial historical sites attracts thousands of tourist as well as Gov. Donald Duke instituted Calabar carnival and Obudu Mountain Race. With Gov. Ben Ayade infusion of the state owned vessels the Calabar port is definitely on the part of re-emergence as super economic port city in the gulf of Guinea.
Although Cross River State is not famous as other oil producing state in the region it may soon be influential in oil and gas logistics and fishing trawlers. With the process proposed tankers for crude and gas lifting, dry dock facility as well as maritime simulation centres for manpower training. More so the state is also developing a model to ship agro allied product amongst its largest banana plantation with state ripping in revenue from the freight charges.
The proposed yacht is hope to ferry passengers to place like Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the new smart city, Calavegas raking in revenue for the state.
The location of Calabar port is vital in the gulf of Guinea linking West Africa and southern Africa with the rest of the world. According to one the consultant, Mr Ndubuisi Oruche, Strickland Services, ‘Cross River State already has indigenous maritime cadets being trained in the Philippines which is an advantage. Cross River can be important shipping hub the port can control West African market as well as northern part of South Africa. Calabar use to be a shipping hub before that has drastically reduces over time so why not turn around the fortunes. I do not believe in South Africa and Egypt being surpassing Nigeria because we have the population and what drives every economic aspect of things in the world is population. Population means we have consumers, consumers means you have trade, trade means you have activities, activities means you have a success.
To consolidate its tourism the Cali Air project is to ensure reliability to tourist to cross river state especially during Calabar carnival other business trip to the region.
“Cali Air will be part of the value chain, like today, there is only on flight going back to Lagos. If someone came for business or holiday, there is always that fear, ‘will I get stuck, will I tell the office no flight to get back to work?’ we are trying to provide that reliability. It is part of the value chain of promoting the whole place. You will be shocked how things are going to blow up. I still remember there was no flight to Benin at all and suddenly there was Okada Air from Lagos and Benin became within reach. Before you know it hotel and business spring up because people now found out it was easy to go to Benin. There will be employment. The focus is not Lagos – Abuja but Calabar and the rest of the destinations. It is going to be profitable because there is already an existing gap. Businesses will spring up, because there is assurance that one can move easily to Cameroun, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and others. You are not buying a plane and say which route do I fly but there is an existing gap, a hub.”
Captain Olusina Akinsete of NG Engineering services and former UN test pilot reassured.
The spectacular view about the session was Governor Ben Ayade’s transparency, rich background on the terms and procedures as regarding safety, specification and global best practices in air travel and maritime business. On the whole he sought out safety in multitude of expert counsellors in attempt to squeeze out juice for Cross Riverians from their lean resources yet premium location and wealthy history.