- Opposition accuses Gov of diverting public funds to private account of his younger brother
By Inyali Peter, Calabar
The Cross River State Government and the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) have been engaged in war of words over confiscation of rice imported by the State Government by the State command of the Nigerian Customs Service.
The Customs had recently apprehended three trucks, one J5 and Siena Vehicles loaded with imported rice and belonging to the Cross River State Government.
APC State Publicity Secretary, Mens Ikpeme, in a statement tagged “Cross River Production and Packaging Farm” accused the government of importing the rice to repackage into the recently unveiled locally made brand, Ayade Rice, belonging to the State Governor, Ben
The party accused the Governor of misappropriating the funds from federal government to support agriculture in the state by dumping the money in the private account of the Governor’s Younger brother, Frank Ayade.
APC declared in the statement: “Governor Ben Ayade has openly misappropriated billions of Nigeria in funds for “The nation’s network for support of food, agriculture and rural development to eradicate hunger and poverty,” a scheme introduced by the Federal Government to enable farmers exploit the untapped potentials of the State’s Agricultural sector to reduce inflation, lower the cost of agricultural production (food items) generate surplus for export, increase foreign earnings as well as diversify the State’s revenue base.
Billions of naira in respect of the above scheme have been received by Cross River State Government, but no account has been given nor do farmers enjoy this benefits. Rather, these monies are credited into one Mr. Frank’s account, his blood brother.
“Governor Ayade is a perpetual fraudster, he acquired a large expanse of land at Ogoja, named it “RICE VILLAGE”. A fraudulent fake Rice Factory in the State powered through smuggled Rice from neighboring countries is his newest fraudulent act. Using same landed property as a facade to re-bag and rebrand smuggled rice named after himself to deceive the entire people of the State.
“His several trucks with thousands of bags of rice smuggled into the State were apprehended and impounded by the Nigerian Custom Service, this is a commodity banned by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Governor Ayade’s Government in smuggling rice, is the height of fraud in the nation and this leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the public.”
Responding, the Cross River State Government dismissed as a product of dementia, allegation by the APC that Governor Ben Ayade repackaged smuggled rice as Ayade Rice which was recently unveiled in the state.
Describing the APC in the state as black market liars, Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media and Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, said the party, like its national headquarters, is one intractably steeped in the art of mendacity.
While also dismissing claims of a rice village purportedly acquired by Governor Ayade, Ita said the allegation by the APC in the state was sheer buffoonery aimed at deflecting attention from the gross failings of the party at the centre.
“It is galling that the state chapter of the APC, along with its leadership, is so disoriented to a scale that it can no longer differentiate between a rice mill which is currently under construction in Ogoja and a rice city located in Calabar as a seedling bed. The two are completely different projects which are at various stages of construction.
“Mr. Mens Ikpeme’s claim is nothing but outright concoction and an act of dementia directed at misinforming the public. Governor Ayade, had at inception made it abundantly clear that no longer shall rice produced in the state be processed and labeled as rice from elsewhere other than Cross River. He is working hard to achieve this goal. And before long, Ogoja rice processing plant will come on stream”, the statement reads in part.
On alleged repackaging of imported rice and seizure by the Nigeria Customs, Ita said: “It is most unfortunate how people could go to such a deprecatory length to fabricate and malign another person all in the name of playing opposition. It is not only mendacious but equally malicious to impute what is not true. What was unveiled recently was rice produced from the governor’s farm, Ayade Farms in Obanliku Local Government Area. Pending the completion of the Ogoja automated rice mill, harvest from the Ayade Rice Farm had to be milled at a plant in Makurdi, MIKAP Nigeria Limited, producers of MIVA Rice, owned by former Attorney General and Minister for Justice Michael, Michael Andoakaa”.