GOVERNOR Ben Ayade of Cross River State has created a ministry of foreign affairs as part of an aggressive plan to attract international investment in a desperate bid to diversify the state’s economy.
In an ambitious programme aimed at getting his administration going during his second term, Governor Ayade swore-in 39 commissioners in Calabar this week. Among the other new ministries he created were the ministry of robotics and artificial intelligence, the ministry of humanity and social welfare and the ministry of grants and economic empowerment.
Other new ministries include ministry of establishment and payroll, the ministry of special duties, the ministry of aviation, the ministry of commerce and the ministry of sports and cinematography. Among the already existing ministries in the state are the ministry of training and doctoring, ministry of infrastructure, ministry of rural transformation, ministry of climate change and the ministry of new cities development.
Asu Okang, the Cross River State commissioner for information, said: “The governor has made quite a number of foreign trips in the last four years but there were some encumbrances because there were other engagements, sometimes more than five functions in a particular state of visitation. It became very important that the governor needed another person who would speak of the government perspective and engage investors as it were at any point in time, either with the governor or alone.
“Cross River is an independent state of its own under the federation. Are you saying a state does not have the right to source for foreign investors for its own state?”
He added that Governor Ayade wanted to create a ministry of defence and internal security but dropped the idea when the issue of the exclusive list came up. According to the commissioner, the ministry of robotics and artificial intelligence is just another name for science and technology.
“The governor in his wisdom refused to call it science and technology because it would be limiting the real essence and the intent of the creation of that ministry. Artificial intelligence as a major issue is what the state is leveraging on as we have young people who are very innovative in our state who are doing a lot but are not seen.
“If you now call it science and technology, it will completely be a stereotype. So, to run away from the stereotype of science and technology which is not delivering, we want to be specific in our mandate,” Mr Okong added.
He also defended the governor’s decision to build a super highway through the rare tropical rain forest of Cross River State, saying they cannot say because they are fighting global warming the government cannot create infrastructure for the people. According to the commissioner, Governor Ayade’s administration has planted over 1m new trees in the course of building the super highway.