From Judex Okoro, Calabar
In its commitment towards poverty reduction in Cross River State, the Community and Social Development Agency (CSDA) has empowered 328 indigent communities and vulnerable groups with 910 multi-sectoral microprojects.
The projects, worth N2.7 billion, span across 12 years, covering construction/rehabilitation and furnishing of classroom blocks, science laboratories, dormitories and teachers’ quarters, construction of solar-powered boreholes with reticulation, and furnishing and equipping of health posts with staff quarters.
Others include construction of solar-powered boreholes with reticulation, VIP toilets to discourage open defecation, bridges and culverts and the construction of several market stalls and skills centre.
The Cross River State CSDA, established by an act of the House of Assembly in 2009, among others, is to implement the World Bank-assisted Community and Social Development Project, a development partnership between participating states and the World Bank.
It is aimed at improving human capital development of the downtrodden through improved access to social and infrastructural services.
Addressing journalists during the tour of some project sites, the general manager, Mr. Fidel Udie, said the projects were successfully executed because of tremendous support from successive governments and particularly Governor Ben Ayade’s administration, ensuring prompt release of funds for effectiveness of the agency.
Udie disclosed that, on assumption of office in 2015, Ayade promptly approved and released N150m as government’s contribution to the projects just as he has since mid-2019 ensured the release of 0.5 per cent monthly statutory deduction from the local government account to the agency as provided in the amended law of the agency.
According to him, with such releases, Cross River became the state with the highest government support among the 27 participating states in the projects and at the CSDP closeout ceremony held in June 2021 in Abuja, and the state was honoured with outstanding performance award on the projects’ execution at different levels. The event was organised by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Services, in conjunction with the World Bank Project Task Team.
The general manager further disclosed that 99 per cent of the 917 approved and funded microprojects have been completed and are now in use.
He said: “The Cross River State Community and Social Development Agency would be one of the delivery units of the Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) programme built to commence in July 2021.
“The agency, which has been categorized in Result Area 1 of the programme, would be seen fulfilling the activities of Disbursement Linked Indicator 1.4, which focuses on improving access of the poor and vulnerable to social infrastructure services.
“It uses the Community Driven Development approach that puts the targeted beneficiaries in the driver’s seat of their development, a model that development experts have described as least costly and socially inclusive.”
He listed some of the microprojects to include construction/rehabilitation and furnishing of classroom blocks, science laboratories, dormitories and teachers’ quarters, all in educational sector, construction, furnishing and equipping of health post with staff quarters, in health, and construction of solar-powered boreholes, with reticulation, in the water sector.
The general manager also listed 123 mini bridges, culverts and market stalls, as well as skills centres to power the rural economy just, even as they have constructed VIP toilets to discourage open defecation.
A community leader, Mr. Patrick Oko, from Ebuafen, said: “What the agency has done by providing our community with VIP toilets would really go a long way to improve our sanitary condition and environment. Before now, we used to defecate in any available space around the environment, but now we have clean toilets.
“Besides, we have not had cases of outbreak of cholera as before because we don’t defecate on bush tracks anymore. With the health centre, there is an increase in antenatal services and access to health care services, even in critical hours.”
Mr. Ntino Ntino, another resident, also appreciated the agency for the mini bridge project, noting that the bridge has helped them in moving their farm produce like banana, plantain and cocoa closer to the market, which in turn has increased their income level.
Also speaking, Frank Archibong of Atakpa Community in Calabar South noted that the primary school block has increased enrolment and improved learning and teaching conditions.