BudgIT asks Ayade to terminate controversial superhighway project

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BudgIT, a civic organisation, has asked the Cross River state government to halt its “controversial” superhighway project over “undue financial hazard”.

In a statement, Shakir Akorede, communications associate, BudgIT accused Ben Ayade, governor of the state, of planning to defraud the people with a project that is “overly ambitious and almost a misplaced priority”.

Quoting a report, the organisation said Cross River government had transmitted a letter to the house of assembly to approve modalities for the repayment through irrevocable standing payment order (ISPO) for N300 million per month for a period of 180 years.

BudgIT said it is financially myopic for the state to pursue the project, especially with its approved budget not reflecting the realities of its total revenue uptake.

“For the umpteenth time, BudgIT is blowing alarm over this attempt to hold public resources to ransom,” the statement read.

“Suspecting an obstinate intention of the Ayade government to defraud the people of Cross River, we deem the project overly ambitious, superfluous and almost a misplaced priority especially – besides its viability to investors – when there has been hardly any explanation on ‘infallible plans’ to upscale the state revenue and clear cumulative debts let alone fix the human and environmental costs of the project.

“With a budget estimate of N648 billion, the 275km Superhighway fails all tests of fiscal sustainability and proper procurement process, as the state government has unacceptably failed to name the investors, four years down the drain.

“Cross River has the 4th largest external debt among Nigerian states all thanks to its obsession with phantom projects without federal government institutional support. As of December 31, 2018, the state’s domestic debt stood at N167.96 billion, according to the Debt Management Office of Nigeria (DMO).

“In the whole of 2017, Cross River was only able to generate total revenue of N41.6 billion, with its internally generated revenue accounting for 34.58% – N18.1bn. Yet, the government has come up with a proposed budget of N1.4 trillion for the 2019 fiscal year.

“The state government claims that investors will make returns on their investment through collected toll fees from vehicles and trucks that ply the highway, evacuating the proposed Bakassi deep sea port. Our analysis has, however, showed that it will take over 100 years for the funds to be recouped.”

BudgIT advised the state government to focus its funds on viable and more financially realistic projects such as information technology hubs, renewable energy facilities.

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