President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Obung Village, Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State defied the heavy down pour to commence the construction of the 260-kilometre, Calabar-Ikom- Katsina-Ala Super Highway valued at N700 billion.
The proposed road, a six lane dual carriage way, according to the state Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, would serve as evacuation route for cargoes that would be imported through the proposed Calabar Deep Sea Port.
Buhari arrived Obung at about 12.36 p.m. by road from the Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar, after about 45 minutes drive perhaps due to bad weather occasioned by the early morning heavy rains.
However, he departed the event by air through a presidential helicopter. The president was accompanied to the event, his first official visit to any state since he assumed office, by the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha; the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate for Akwa Ibom State, Umana Okon Umana; Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, his media aides , Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, among others.
The governors of Akwa Ibom State, Emmanuel Udom; two former governors of Cross River State, Donald Duke, Liyel Imoke; the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu V; the Chief Judge of Cross River State, Okoi Itam, and the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, John-Gaul Lebo; National Assembly members, members of the state traditional rulers council and others also graced the occasion.
Delivering his address before formally commencing the project, the president commended Ayade for conceptualising the road which he said at completion, would enhance easy movement of goods and persons and the economy of the people.
"The road will open a window of opportunity for the people of Cross River State and Nigeria as a whole as well as reduce travel time.
"That I am here in person underscores the importance the federal government attaches to this. It is indeed a significant milestone in the economic and policy of the governor.
"This is the first groundbreaking under my presidency. I commend Ayade and his team for their foresight in conceptualising this project.
In his address, Ayade stated that the project would provide employment for the teaming youth population in communities along the 14 local government areas that the road would pass through to the borders of northern Nigeria.
Ayade who commended the president for honouring his invitation to commence the project said: "You said you are for everyone and today you have proven this by your support for us.
"That is because given the circumstances of our nation and the politics, Cross River State would not have been worthy of being your first port of call. You have shown that you are truly a president."
On the road project, Ayade said: "The ontological kinetics of the road started with the loss of oil wells, consequent on the loss of Bakassi. The state was reduced to want. It became imperative to reconstruct a new means of production and open a horizon to get teeming young men employed."
"The road will serve as an evacuation corridor for the new deep seaport. The seaport will have a draft of 14 metres a d a key wall of 680 meters that will allow for all sizes of vessels to berth.
"The road will be the first to have broadband Internet connectivity, speed cameras, ambulatory services, photology solar system".
Commenting on the flag off of the super highway project, the Chairman of the Inter -Party Advisory Council (IPAC) , Goddie Akpama enjoined Ayade to ensure that the road was not abandoned.
Akpama who spoke to THISDAY at the end of event said: "It is a good thing that President buhari has come personally to flag-off the super highway. What I am advising the governor to do is to ensure that the road is completed and commissioned and should not be abandoned the way the Liyel Imoke administration abandoned the International Convention Centre (ICC). Today the ICC is an eyesore. But, we belive Ayade has what it takes to see to the completion of the 260 kilometre super highway."