Ex-raying The Commerce Ministry

As the formal and informal sectors in Cross River State continue to seek an enabling business environment, Governor Bassey Edet Otu’s administration, through the Cross River State Ministry of Commerce, has commenced plans to revamp business and commerce in the state. The ministry has met with the Calabar and Ikom Chambers of Commerce and over 30 traders’ associations in the state, in an attempt to resolve taxation issues and other challenges faced by the business community.

Speaking at the Cross River Movement (TCRM)’s Civic Engagement Series, April edition held on April 28, 2024, via Zoom and anchored by TCRM’s founder, Iso Bassey, Hon. Dr. Abigail Duke Orok, Cross River State Commissioner for Commerce, reassured the business community of the government’s commitment to restoring steady power supply for businesses, providing soft loans, and grants in the state. She announced how the ministry has met with stakeholders and appealed for patience for at least the next 6 months for improved results.

“As a ministry, we are to facilitate business. Like what we did, we have gone out of our way to work with the organized private sector, the Calabar Chamber of Commerce, and the Ikom Chamber of Commerce since we came on board to feel their pulse and take stock of the challenges they have been facing over the years. Our focus now is to ensure that those challenges become a thing of the past.”

The commissioner added that the engagements held so far helped the government decide on cutting down daily taxation from N1800 to N300 Naira per day at Ika-Ika Okwa (Marian) market, Calabar. “We have set up a desk office to register trade associations to enable the curbing of their challenges and ease of doing business. In the next year, investors will be happy to come into Cross River State,” she assured.

On power, the commissioner appealed to the business community in the state to exercise patience with the governor: “As the leader of the state, Governor Bassey Otu is doing everything possible to ensure that within the next 6 months, electricity will be steady in the state for businesses and residents.”

“Within the past month and now, the Cross River State government has given grants via the Ng Cares Program to about 500 businesses in the state.” She added that about 50 persons have accessed direct grants from her ministry via the Ng Cares program. She said the target is to assist at least 1,000 businesses with soft loans per LGA.

While making his points on the state of businesses and the business environment in the state, Mr. David Etim, President of the Calabar Chamber of Commerce, spoke: “It has not been what it should be, but I can assure you that it is getting better. We have a very good relationship with the Commerce Ministry.” Etim mentioned that the major challenge businesses face in the state is taxation, noting that the business environment is always a work in progress.

Meanwhile, Mr. Idim John-Collins Ude, Director at the Canaan Global Business School, gave some advice on how to thrive and grow in the business environment: “Our basic interest is startups. We go as far as teaching people how to apply for loans and grants and to know the rudiments of doing business. In the last 3 years, the major challenges businesses face in Calabar are power issues.”

The civic engagement had many participants from both the home front and from the diaspora. It was broadcasted on Sparkling 92.3 FM Calabar.