In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Calabar, Ekpo said that the state requires a new lease of life to meet current challenges.

He said getting the state back on the path to success, required a functional government with plans and capable hands that would execute the plans and a governor willing to monitor performance.

Ekpo said that the state needed to have a budgeting system capable of managing its debt profile which was huge and was preventing it from raising more funds.

“We don’t have infrastructure in Cross River anymore, we have a power plant that is not delivering power to anybody, roads that are not maintained, water boards that are not delivering water and rural electrification agency that is not doing its work.

“We had a programme that was backed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) that was designed to take Agricultural produce from the hinterlands to the roads. Unfortunately, that is not happening anymore.

“The Cross River plan is to invite investments into our state, if you don’t have a state that is functionally governed, with good infrastructure that takes care of social welfare issues particularly health care, education, security and is not attracting investment, the youths have no business doing there.

“I have engaged with young people around the state and I see how they bubbled with ideas, what they don’t have is a government that will enable them and not treat them as thugs that money should be thrown at.

“The future is Information and Communication Technology (ICT), application-based work, and this is a sector that takes a lot of young people. We can create an ICT hub in Tinapa which is built for research and innovation and engage a lot of these young people.

“We have a programme called the Cross River Trust Fund, we will take a fraction of what is spent on people in the name of putting food on their table and put it in the trust fund and secure counterpart funding from private investors and every year we will get 100 to 200 business ideas from young people on the ground.

“We know some of these ideas will fail but we will keep that percentage low but the rest will succeed and they will employ labour because we will give them mentors and monitor them.

“We have a huge power plant in Cross River, 550 megawatt that nobody is deploying, we can take some energy from there, I know how to do it because I was in electricity business, I know how to get energy from point A to point B.

“We need to see our young people as agents of growth, it is just a question of vision and leadership. The state is very fertile and I know what it takes to provide them with opportunities.

“We have everything in Cross River, the problem is that we have just allowed them to die which is why my campaign is titled ‘recover and restore’,” he said.

Ekpo said he believed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had tried its best to ensure free and fair elections.

He, therefore, urged residents of Cross River to come out on the election days and express themselves if they believed they had a right to good governance.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ekpo, a lawyer, was the state former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and an energy sector specialist.

He has 35 years old Mr Okoi-Wofai Ewa as his running mate.



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