How Banks can Engender Accelerated Economic Growth in Cross River State” By Pastor John Iyoha

How Banks can Engender Accelerated Economic Growth in Cross River State” By Pastor John Iyoha

January 06
06:11 2021


Mr. John Iyoha

On March 1 2005, providence brought me and Cross River State together. I was sent by my employer then (Oceanic Bank) to prospect for business that that seemed to be eluding the bank for over four years. Before coming, I all knew and heard about the state was that Cross River was a “dry civil servant” state. With such information, I really did not know what to expect.

As we approached the outskirts of Calabar, I was awed by the splendour of this burgeoning city. The artistry of the City Gate and its well engraved welcome message, “This is Calabar” was soothing to my frayed nerves. I immediately felt at home. “Wao!, I exclaimed”. I was charmed by the beauty, neatness, and orderliness of the city. The people were well behaved, welcoming, and hospitable.

The view was breathtaking: the well laid out lawns, the pedestrian walkways and the calmness with which people went about their business. It was unbelievable that I was in such a city in Nigeria. It seemed as if I was dreaming. I told myself that this was the nearest thing to the Nigeria of my dream. There and then, I made up my mind that I will relocate my family to Calabar.

For a considerable period of time Cross River State was about the most respected state in my organization.  For one, you saw transparency, organization, a contented people and  institutions that were working. The state was run like a private corporate organization. I was therefore not afraid to take the state’s financial proposals to my management in Lagos. You got any information you asked for from government. I had no reservations pushing Cross River State’s agenda to my management. I kept urging them to support the government and people of Cross River State. The state had such a glittering integrity and a bankable reputation that even if you had an agreement verbally, I mean not written, you can go to sleep because they will comply with the terms of the contract.

I often boasted that in terms of investment destination, Cross River State was second only  to Lagos. People would go to Lagos first because of the population & the market. For Cross River State, a lot went for it: visionary leadership, good governance, strategic planning, excellent infrastructure, a virile youth population, a welcoming people and comparably safe. All these things contribute to creating an enabling environment for investment.

Calabar may not have the population but it has a system which works thereby becoming the second preferred investment destination. I was not disappointed when in 2014, a national daily reported that Cross River State was next to Lagos in attracting Foreign Direct  Investment (FDI).   A major reason for this I believe was that the Cross River State was nearest thing to the environment that the foreign investors were coming from.

The level of greed in the state was very  low. As you may well know, greed fuels corruption. Due to the low level of greed in the state, there was a corresponding low level of corruption.

The state has Africa’s warmest welcome. A white South African who came to do some work in Ebony  Life  shared with me how much he fell in love with Calabar and its people because of their warmth and friendliness. He particularly was enthused by the way people he didn’t know greeted him and extended pleasantries each time he walked on the streets.  It’s an experience you don’t find in South Africa.

Looking ahead to the future, I would like to advise that the state takes the issue of security as sacrosanct. Security in Cross River State should be non-negotiable. If you take away the security and cleanliness of the state, then the state would have nothing to recommend it.  The clean and green character of the state should not be destroyed. If this is lost, then you don’t have anything left.

We can sustain a Cross River State of our dream in terms of the economy being the best. The good thing with people who fall in love with the peace and clean nature of the state and come back to settle here is that they don’t come to stay idle, they also invest.  They add value to the system.

It is worthy to note that most big cities are not developed by the indigenes. More often than not, it is those who migrate into the cities for a better life that make things happen.

Cross River State has the potential to be the next investment, business and economic hub south of the Niger. In the last dispensation, that is, the Imoke-led government, the state received about the highest support from my bank among all the 36 states of the federation. This was mainly because of its transparency.

The international donor community also brought in a lot of resources to the state on account of the state’s prudent financial management and development of institutions of corporate governance.

One thing that stands Cross River State out is its attempt by their governors to continue with the projects their predecessors started. That spirit of continuity has helped to facilitate growth. Their understanding of the fact that government is a continuum has vastly stabilised the system and added impetus to the economy. Investors have more faith when they know that the political environment is stable and there won’t be much policy changes. They feel insured against political risks.

So, if we maintain this narrative and the system put in place by Gov Duke and Governor Imoke, the state will be on a roller coaster of economic prosperity. Investors will fall over themselves to put their money in the state and honestly we may not need to shuttle often out of the country in search of investors. The moment there is peace, security, consistent power supply, good roads, good tax regime, and other infrastructure, investors will flood the state because they are looking for friendly business atmosphere to do business.

Generally, the future holds a lot for the state if it continues being a model in good governance and visionary leadership. The state is destined for greatness.



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January 2021