BudgIT, Nigeria's civic tech organization, says Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, is attempting to defraud the state of N648billion through construction of a “super highway”.

Ayade had proposed to construct a super highway and is bent on going on with the implementation despite disapproval from all angles.

The highway is to be funded through N648billion Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) fund that will cost the state to pay back N300million per month for 180 years.

A statement issued by Shakir Akorede, Communications Associate of BudgIT, noted that the highway construction is "misplaced priority and overly ambitious".

The statement read: “Suspecting an obstinate intention of the Ayade government to defraud the people of Cross River, we deem the project overly ambitious, superfluous and almost a misplaced priority especially – besides its viability to investors – when there has been hardly any explanation on ‘infallible plans’ to upscale the state revenue and clear cumulative debts let alone fix the human and environmental costs of the project.

“With a budget estimate of N648billion, the 275km Superhighway fails all tests of fiscal sustainability and proper procurement process, as the state government has unacceptably failed to name the investors, four years down the drain.”

Citing more reasons Ayade should not commence the project, BudgIT noted that Cross River has the fourth largest external debt among Nigerian states.

It added: “As of December 31, 2018, the state’s domestic debt stood at N167.96billion, according to the Debt Management Office of Nigeria (DMO).

“In the whole of 2017, Cross River was only able to generate total revenue of N41.6 billion, with its internally generated revenue accounting for 34.58% – N18.1bn. Yet, the government has come up with a proposed budget of N1.4 trillion for the 2019 fiscal year.

“The state government claims that investors will make returns on their investment through collected toll fees from vehicles and trucks that ply the highway, evacuating the proposed Bakassi deep sea port.”

BudgIT stated that after paying the debts, the state would take over 100 years for the funds to be recouped while urging Ayade to invest in more financially realistic projects.

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