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Ukongikwen Adie

Calabar, Cross River –The Deputy Governor of Cross River state, Rt. Hon. Peter Odey, has assured UNICEF of government’s collaboration based on ‘The People First’ mantra to bring development to the good people of Cross River State. Rt. Hon. Odey gave this assurance on Tuesday, 8th August, 2023, as he accepted UNICEF’s mandate to chair the State Steering Committees to provide a 5-Year Development Plan for the State.

The mandate was announced by the Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Dr. Olusoji Akinleye, alongside the Chief of Social Policy, UNICEF Nigeria, Dr. Hamiden Poufom, both of whom were accompanied by the Permanent Secretary (retired) of State Planning Commission, Rev. U. J. Ugbe, and other relevant MDAs during a courtesy call in the Deputy Governor’s office.

In this connection, Rev. Ugbe informed the audience that in the closing months of the last administration, the State Planning Commission in partnership with UNICEF agreed on the need for an indigenous State Development Plan tailored to meet the peculiar development needs of all sectors in the State. He further announced that in the organogram of the plan, the Deputy Governor will serve as the Chairman of the Steering Committee with all the Commissioners as members, and representatives from the State House of Assembly.

Speaking for UNICEF, Dr.Olusoji Akinleye, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Enugu Field Office, said they were in Cross River on the mandate of Christine Rovatti, a great fan of the State, who gave the team the mandate to continue to engage with the State.

He noted that having met with the Governor, HE Senator Prince Bassey Otu, and his wife, to discuss their vision of the government for the State, they realised that the vision correlated very well with the mandate of UNICEF which is to ensure good life for the vulnerable people of the State, especially the women and children as contained in the UN General Assembly mandate for UNICEF which is what they have seen His Excellency doing: developing the human capital of the State and making people live like human beings.

This common vision is what has brought about the partnership. Consequently, by engaging as a critical stakeholder, the Deputy Governor as chairman of the State Steering Committee, is to provide strategic leadership of the State Development Plan.

This partnership, according to Dr. Akinleye, will ensure that the vision of the current administration is very well captured in that plan so as to create a synergy that will bring good life to the people of the State. He informed the Deputy Governor that UNICEF had engaged a team of international consultants who have started work by engaging the stakeholders. He added that a template has been set on how the process is going to move. He informed the stakeholders that they had met with the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly in order for the process to be institutionalized beyond the tenure of this administration. He insisted that the House of Assembly needs to give it a legal backing so that it becomes a process for incrementally developing the State and not a one-off process.

Dr. Akinleye also informed the Deputy Governor that two years ago, UNICEF supported the State to develop a State Social Protection Policy which was launched by his predecessor and is meant to address social protection issues in the state. For this to be fully implemented, the State has set up a steering committee to guide the process and His Excellency Rt. Hon Odey has been mandated by popular demand to be the Chairman of the Committee. He noted sadly that in the past few years, most of the indicators of human capital development in the State have worsened instead of improving. Dr. Akinleye submitted that he is very confident that Cross River State will be repositioned in the Committee of States in Nigeria and consequently take its proper place and be where it ought to be in the nation.

Reacting to his appointment, the Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Peter Odey, noted that having worked with UN in the past and being involved in the process that saw the signing of the Social Protection Bill into law in 2015, he will bring his wealth of experience to bear and give UNICEF and other stakeholders all the support they need to give Cross Riverians the much needed development.

Also present at the occasion were Mrs. Mbong Ausaji, Permanent Secretary, CRS Ministry of Sustainable Development Goals; Mr. Oko Bassey Aqua, Permanent Secretary, Budget Office; Dr. Josephat Ogar, Statistician-General of Cross River State; Mr. Kingsley Eyibio, Director Planning, amongst others.