In my quest for whom to feature this week on THROUGH THE KEY HOLES my little train took me all the way to Cross River State(The Nations Paradise). On THROUGH THE KEYHOLES this week my guest is Senator Liyel Imoke the former Executive Governor of Cross River State. As i tour the state i begin to understand what silent development really means and what really captivates my attention the most to this Icon of nation development is his vision.
A vision that is founded on fundamental principles. One of the existential beliefs held by Imoke’s administration is that Government exists primarily to serve the need of those who need government the most. Throughout the tenure of his administration, he adhered to this principle. The guiding principle of his administration was to serve. He believed in improving the state education system, upgrading healthcare facilities, providing infrastructure such as roads, water, and electricity.
Realizing the role the Civil Service plays in the delivery of service, he launched a Public Service Reform Plan. The Reform Plan set out a range of practical actions, aimed at creating a Service that is fit even for the future. He believed that these things are “key” to economic and social transformation. In addition, Imoke’s administration sought to strategically position Cross River State to become a self-sufficient, dynamic and competitive non-oil dependent State for the 21st century. In other words, his administration objective was to achieve economic growth which was independent of any single natural resource but would rather develop from a range of economic activities with real and meaningful commercial prospects for the people.
It was therefore essential that he channeled his efforts in creating a business and leisure environment which would be attractive to investors and tourists alike, particularly since the state is surrounded by neighbors with significantly higher allocation of revenues from the Centre. In this respect, he explored all possibilities and opportunities and met with great success. Armed with this conviction, Imoke’s administration promptly defined it’s ideals and assiduously worked in re-engineering the systems and processes of government which attracted domestic and international investors who saw the state as reliable partners. This has already yielded immense benefits, evidenced by the entry into the state of global commercial interests from the likes of General Electric and Wilmar Corporation. In line with Imoke’s commitment to reforming the public service, he implemented extensive policy initiatives including open, transparent and accountable governance. This meant adherence to due process and the rule of law which ultimately translated to more effective and productive governance as encapsulated in his administration’s seven (7) point Agenda. He undertook crucial and important programs directed at transforming urban and rural communities, bringing quality and affordable education and health care as well as other social amenities to the state populace. The significant achievements recorded during his tenure have become a platform that will empower Cross River State government and its people to be active agents of change and transformation as the State continuously march towards economic and social development.
In 2012, the renewal of Imoke’s mandate in the polls was a resounding endorsement of the people’s collaborative efforts as being active agents of change and development. The good people of Cross River stood steadfast with their governor. His mandate was renewed by a popularity of purpose. It encouraged him to work even harder in the second term. Cross Riverians right across the state were becoming beneficiaries of the development agenda of the administration in the State that would ensure not only better living standards but enhanced economic prospects.
It may be tempting to put a rosy gloss on his achievements but they were however, not without massive challenges. For example, the State was confronted with a significant reduction in the state’s statutory allocation due to the loss of Bakassi and the 76 oil wells. There was also an influx of people into the State with under-estimated levels of resources needed to support them.
Nonetheless, he remained steadfast in the implementation of his socio-economic plan as he held onto his commitment to the good people of Cross River State as represented in the social contract he entered into when he took oath of office as Governor. In all these times, Imoke’s administration ensured that the trust bestowed on him was not misplaced.
Indeed the potentials of Cross River State tourism sector are enormous. His administration expanded the scope and scale of the Calabar Festival, and exploited its economic benefits. There are now over half a million more regular visitors to the Calabar festival. In fact, since 2007, the State have witnessed a year-on-year increase in the number of visitors to the festival. This has translated to significant increase in internally generated revenue in that sector and the creation of thousands of direct and indirect employment opportunities thus contributing to the growth of our economy. With the emergence of the Summit Hills development, encompassing the Calabar International Convention Centre, a new Golf Course and Residential Areas as well as a world class Specialist Hospital, the State is already pushing her tourism industry to unassailable heights. Indeed Cross River can now stand head and shoulder above any other tourism offering in this part of West Africa.
Imoke’s administration rejuvenated the agricultural sector in the state with the injection of well over $500m of international investments and financial support to farmers. Since 2007, his administration created over 20,000 jobs while introducing new technologies and improving on the agricultural value chain.
Senator Liyel Imoke had a long term plan for Education. As he sought to execute the well-articulated, holistic credo for development, as encapsulated in the his Economic Blue Print, he invested immensely in the people. He built over 78 new primary and secondary schools, which included chemistry and biology laboratories as well as computer centres and well stock libraries. He also renovated and equipped hundreds of existing educational facilities across the State. Enrolment rose significantly in both primary and secondary school as result of these improvements. Likewise, overall performance in external examinations improved to a point where Cross River is now rated amongst the top states in the Federation. In his mandate, he promised to educate the youths who would be entreprenual, forward minded and innovative. He kept his promise by instituting information communication technology in the State’s education sector. With the strategic investment made by his administration in the State Colleges of Education and the introduction of world-class vocational and technical education at the Institute of Technology and Management in Ugep, Imoke has positioned the youths to attain the skills and productive capacity that would see Cross River State emerge as an industrial hub and the premier service-driven economy in Nigeria.
His administration also took meaningful steps to advance healthcare delivery to ensure that people live longer, healthier lives. Imoke’s healthcare policies are supported by significant investments such as the establishment of 2 additional general hospitals, 66 new primary healthcare centres and 1,110 functional health posts in all 196 political wards. All Cross Riverians, irrespective of locality, now have access to affordable qualitative healthcare services. In addition, hundreds of thousands of mothers have accessed maternal services due to the free Medicare to pregnant women and children under the age 5 years through the ‘Project Hope’ Initiative of his administration. Similarly over 30,000 eye surgeries have been performed in the state. To add to this success, there has been a complete eradication of guinea worm and a 20% drop in the prevalence rate of HIV. The State has achieved significantly lower maternal and infant mortality rates and life expectancy has improved.
To consolidate these achievements, his administration embarked on the establishment of a 105 bed Specialist Hospital for referrals and tertiary care. The project when completed will provide improve access to qualitative healthcare not only to the people of the state but also to the neigbouring state. This will definitely reduce the number of medical evacuations to overseas as well as provide access to training for medical personnel in the State.
In fact, there is government presence in all the nooks and crannies of the state, with citing of at least one government project in every community. Connecting all these amenities is a vast network of roads. His administration has tarred hundreds of roads from Calabar South to Obudu and constructed the first inter-change bridge in the state. Cross River State under Imoke’s administration currently has over 1000 kilometres of asphalted roads linking most communities of the state, including boundary communities like Danare and Ukelle thereby providing improved access to over 1.5m Cross Riverians. His administration installed about 200km of street lights in Calabar improving the aesthetics and safety of the city.
Today, over 70% of states population have access to potable water. This administration has also electrified close to 200 communities thereby providing access to a significant population of Cross Riverians. He also ensured that Cross Riverians get real and tangible value for their land assets through the establishment of the Cross River Geographic Information System. This system improves the efficiency of the land procurement process and certifies the authenticity of landed properties across the state, giving them real market value.
One of the goals of his administration was to create entrepreneurial opportunities. He achieved this goal! He provided an environment for entrepreneurs to thrive and grow their businesses while contributing meaningfully to the local economy. His administration created an environment for our youths to express themselves and develop their potentials with the Medium and Small Scale Entrepreneurial Development Agency (MEDA) and the EDC Programmes.
Imoke’s comprehensive sports development programme has seen Cross River State winning the National Schools Sports Championships for the past 4 years – consecutively. Besides this, his administration renovated the Calabar Sports Stadium, which has attracted several international and national events. In an attempt to bring qualitative competitive sports to other parts of the state, he built a new stadium in Ikom, and the one in Ogoja is under construction.
Gender mainstreaming, a core initiative introduced in the past 8 years, is so ingrained into the state’s processes of governance that it is now part of the political and administrative DNA. As a result of this, women occupied unprecedented elected and appointive offices in government – both at the local and state government levels. In this regard, the state is a trail blazer as Cross River nearly met the 35% affirmative action in the country. Today, youths are increasingly gainfully employed, the scourge of cultism has abated and schools are proper establishments of learning. Moreover Imoke secured over 10,000 computers for teachers and put in place robust training programmes for teachers to make them better equipped to meet the challenges of their vocation. Furthermore, he positively intervened in the lives of the most vulnerable in the state through various social safety net programmes, giving them the social security they never had and never thought they would get. Thus bridging the gap and ensuring inclusivity.
Imoke’s administration accorded training and re-training of Civil Servants priority attention. He tried to close the skills gap by working closely with local and international partners to build capacities across the Service. He improved the recruitment process and released accumulated back logs of promotions. Of course, as a way of encouraging productivity in the Service, he instituted an annual merit driven Award and embarked on an owner-occupier House Scheme for the civil servants occupying government houses. He also developed housing estates for Civil Servants as well as executed a Vehicle Ownership Scheme to enable workers acquire cars for ease of transportation. To bridge the digital divide and improve efficiency, he establish the Computer Acquisition Scheme and laptops were provided to all grade levels 07 and above employees. His administration increased wages and improve condition of service for civil servants and inspite of the recent challenges that the State faced meeting the wage bill, Senator Liyel Imoke honoured the commitments he made to Civil Servants.
All these achievements could be considered laudable and may have attracted many plaudits, but what mattered to this administration was the real impact it is having on the people of Cross River State and the complimentary social transformation which was taking place concurrently. This is the essence of Government. In Imoke’s administration, the dream of a new Cross River became a palpable reality and the good people of the State worked together to achieve this.
Today, Cross River State stands as the benchmark for democratic and electoral integrity in the country. This is a clear validation of the performance of Imoke’s administration and the democratic process in general. Here today, the commendation is actually for Senator Liyel Imoke, the good people of Cross River state! At the Pan African Good Governance Council we take great pride in the realization Imoke’s dream of a united Cross River State through the privilege of the leadership role he played in the last 16 years. He has set a high bar. He did not approach administration work with faltering steps nor a flinching spirit. All the projects his administration inherited were completed during his tenure and he was still able to carry out his socio-economic agenda. The PAGGC is happy that everyNigerians and more especially Cross Riverians has felt the impact of Imoke’s administration
Oh!!! least i forget, Senator Liyel Imoke was born on July 10, 1961 at the University College Hospital, Ibadan in the then Western Region of Nigeria. His father, late Dr. Samuel Imoke was a Medical Doctor and first generation politician who played an instrumental role in Nigeria’s nationalist struggle, eventually becoming a cabinet minister and leader of Parliament in the former Eastern region. His mother, Mrs. Comfort Imoke, nee Imoukhede, is a retired nurse/midwife practitioner, and a pioneer community and public health delivery expert.
Senator Imoke had his early education in a number of primary schools: Santa Maria Primary School, Enugu, Ireti Primary School, Lagos and Government Primary School, Itigidi – where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate, (FSLC). In 1973, he entered Mary Knoll College, Okuku, Ogoja, for his secondary education, where he would complete as a member of the pioneer class of 1977 at the Federal Government College, Enugu, earning his West African School Certificate (WASC).
Subsequently, he enrolled for a Bachelors degree in International Relations (Major) and Economics (Minor) at the University of Maryland, College Park in the United States. He graduated in 1982, and went on to study Law at the University of Buckingham, England, earning an LLB degree in 1985. Imoke would go on to pursue a Masters in Law at the American University in Washington, D. C. He completed his legal training at the Nigeria Law School, Lagos, in 1988.
After Law practices in Washington, D. C. and Lagos, Imoke ventured into business, with interests in oil and gas, construction, communication, merchandizing and management consultancy. As his deftness as a technocrat evolved, circumstance, conviction and destiny compelled him into politics. In 1992, aged 30, he was elected a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, becoming the youngest legislator in the history of The Senate.
His political credentials were substantiated and he was thrust to national prominence when he was appointed a Special Adviser on Public Utilities by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. He also served as Executive Chairman of the Special Board charged with responsibility for the winding down of Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC. He served as Chairman of Technical Board of the National Electric Power Authority, NEPA charged with rehabilitating existing electricity infrastructure to deliver 4,000 MW of electricity. A feat that was accomplished with satisfaction.
In July 2003, Senator Imoke was appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Power and Steel – at a point, doubling as Minister of Education. As Minister of Power and Steel, Imoke implemented comprehensive reforms in the power sector including the management of the passage of the Electric Power Sector Reform Bill in 2005, which resulted in the promulgation of the Nigerian Power Sector Reform Act of 2005, and consequentially, led to the establishment of the Nigerian Energy Regulatory Commission (NERC), the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and the unbundling of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). Also under Imoke’s leadership, the Ministry devised, and began the implementation of a 25-year national energy development plan, embarking on the largest power programme in the world at the time – the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP).
Senator Imoke was elected Governor of Cross River State on April 14, 2007, in a landslide. That election was annulled by an Election Appeal Tribunal in July 2008, which necessitated a re-run on August 23rd of the same year. Governor Imoke’s previous victory was validated as he won, again with a landslide.
Governor Liyel Imoke has received many awards, including:
• Thisday Award as Best Governor in Tourism Development in 2008
• Award of Excellence on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) by the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) for Imoke’s giant strides in ICT revolution in Cross River to include Calabar Communication Infrastructure Project, Tinapa Knowledge City, Cross River State Open Data & Smart City Service, Cross River Geographic Information Agency (CRGIA), the Electronic Transaction Processing & Financial Inclusion (SmartGov.CRSG) Projects, among others, described him as a man of initiative, innovation and vision, whose sterling contribution to the IT landscape in Nigeria deserved celebration.
• The Honorary Fellowship Award by the Nigerian Computer Society, a body of over 10,000 computer professionals in the country for advancing technology development not only in his state, for distinguishing himself with exceptional achievement and service that has accelerated IT development in Nigeria, for the establishment of the world class knowledge cluster known as the Tinapa Knowledge City (TKC), For aggressively supporting and investing in the promotion of software development in Nigeria
• Nigeria National Honours Award recipient – CON
• Global Tourism Ambassador Award 2014 – for making Nigeria a world Tourist destination via Calabar Carnival
• NCI most outstanding personality of the year 2014 Award – for his credible records in the realization of numerous enviable achievements in developmental projects, and for being an exceptional leader
• Housing Governor of the Year 2012 Award – develop over 2000 housing units for civil servant who retires from service after 35 years to at least own a home. The cost of the housing units, which are sold to civil servants through mortgage, is subsidized by as much as 50 per cent by the state government.
• The 2012 Pitch Star Award – for his immense contributions to the qualification of the Super Eagles for the 29th Africa Cup of Nations, which they won in South Africa – for his contribution to the growth and development of sports in Nigeria.” Apart from being the sponsor of the All Nigeria Athletic Championship in the last four years, Imoke’s administration conceptualized and has been implementing a comprehensive sports programme where talents are spotted in primary and secondary schools and groomed. Cross River has won the National Schools Sports Championship for two years running and building two ultra-modern stadia in Ikom and Ogoja and has established five sports centres of excellence across the state.
• the Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies’ Best Governor Award for 2013 – The award for transformational leadership was bestowed on the Cross River State governor for overseeing the rapid infrastructural and human development of the state.
• Bantaba Nigerian Tourism Man of the Year
The selfless and innovative services rendered by Imoke from when he became Senator through his Federal appointments have been profound, but this article will try to unveil his achievements in delivering good governance during his time as governor of Cross River State.
When he assumed office as State Governor of Cross River State, Imoke set out to re-engineer governance in the state to bring tangible economic development to the rural areas, improve healthcare, create jobs and transform the socio-economic landscape.
Nigerians and especially Cross-riverians are really proud of his efforts. History is a ribbon, always unfurling. When history chronicles this crucial juncture, we believe it will establish Sen. Imoke’s efforts as profound and vindicate his sacrifices as necessary. The partnership between the people and his administration will be remembered in posterity as one that forged the new Cross River State and new Nigeria.
With the hope of the strong foundations laid during Imoke’s tenure, for Cross River State, best years are ahead. The future is bright. Nigeria has unarguably witness an era of transformation
ON THROUGH THE KEYHOLES……………….IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER.