…But development experts worry state’s ‘signature projects’ unrealized as time ticks away
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
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Cross River says Infra-Cross, its infrastructure company, a miniature of the Nigeria infrastructure firm, Infra-Co, is a concerted and deliberate policy blueprint to aggressively develop the state’s manpower and technical know-how.
It said, since its establishment, it had, as a matter of state policy direction, always engaged competent local content in projects execution.
Eugene Akeh, an engineer and chairman of Infra-Cross, told members of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Cross River State branch led by Ndifon Agbiji that the infrastructure company was incorporated in Calabar in June 2015 as a limited liability company to midwife and aggressively fast-track the 275-kilometre super highway and the Bakassi Deep Seaport, all signature projects, as well as other development projects in the state.
“As a proactive, pragmatic and visionary leader, Governor Benedict Ayade, from inception envisioned the prime role that the Cross River Infrastructure Company Limited will play in ensuring standard infrastructure and projects development in the state; while at the same time serve as a great motivator and enhancer of local content through involvement of indigenous companies in projects execution, thereby checkmating capital flight out of the state,” Akeh said.
However, development experts expressed concerns on the Ayade administration’s capacity to realize the ‘signature projects.’ Till date, neither of them has gone anywhere near completion, with two years left for him to leave office.
For instance, the N800 billion superhighway is quite doubtful about its completion. The $2 billion Bakassi Deep Seaport is still in search of core-investors more than three years after it was mooted.
Antwerp Ports International of Belgium had visited the site in October last year, as prelude to expression of interest but till date, no FID (final investment decision) has been made on the port project by the Belgians.
Many had expected Infra-Cross, as a limited liability company, to have gone funds-sourcing maybe from the capital market or from other private equity investors to engage in projects.
Infra-Cross was dreamed up to serve as a special purpose vehicle (SPV), bolster the state’s local content by involving competent local professionals in projects execution for growth of the state.
Akeh said Infra-Cross is an investment portfolio using the public, private participation (PPP) arrangement as investment window. He listed some indigenous companies engaged by the company in the design of the superhighway and deep seaport: Abeno Associates; Indite DK Partners Ltd; Struck Designs; Kairos Engineering Services; and Ekpe Ara and Partners. He said these companies were fully involved in the superhighway design, while indigenous survey companies including: Akom Survey Services Ltd., Mapping Engineering and GIS Consultants, were engaged by the infrastructure company.
He also informed that the infrastructure firm’s preference for local content for projects execution is given top priority as shown in the number of companies that were engaged. He said the company engaged 22 young Cross Riverians in its projects’ sites.
But experts said, six years into its existence, it is yet uncertain if the infrastructure company had engaged in any credible special purpose investment on behalf of the state.
Meanwhile, the state NSE chapter is seeking for areas of collaboration with Infra-Cross. Chapter chairman, Agbiji, said the NSE commends Infra-Cross chairman and his team as managers of SPV put in place to execute critical infrastructure in the state.
He, however, urged the Infra-Cross boss to engage competent indigenous engineers as consultants for some of the ongoing projects in the state, as according to him, mentorship of engineers and transfer of knowledge were important requirements for execution of projects.
“Making use of our indigenous engineers with various specialties will bring about positive multiplier effect on the state economy in general, and the individual engineering firms in particular,” Agbiji said.