South-south States Close Rank for Socio-economic Integration

09 May 2012

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 Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan

Victor Efeizomor writes that the just-concluded 2nd edition of the South-south Economic Summit  in Asaba , Delta State, recently, under the auspices  of  the BRACED  Commission is capable  of launching the geo-political zone  into   socio -economic  and political  fortunes,  if only   the far-reaching decisions are not turned into mere rhetoric

The need to promote cooperation, accelerate socio-economic development, create an integrated prosperous and globally-competitive    economy  informed the vision and mission of the governors of the six states of the South-south geo -political zone to come together  under the BRACED Commission.

The BRACED Commission, an acronym  for ; Bayelsa,  Rivers,  Akwa Ibom , Cross Rivers,   Edo and Delta  states  decided  to collectively  pursue  and promote  regional  economic  cooperation  and integration  of their  six  states  by working  more closely with one another  at exploring  opportunities  for  co-operation , integration  and growth  so as to  strengthen  the  economies  of the  six states.

The forum  felt that  this step  was imperative  if the  six  states  were to progressively  and collectively achieve their visions  and aspiration   for the individual and  collective    benefits  of the region  as well as that of Nigeria.
To realise their vision, the BRACED Commission articulated an economic summit, known as South- south Economic Summit, to fashion out modalities for the sustenance of the initiatives of the governors. 

The second edition summit was held in Asaba, with the recommendation that the Federal Government should reduce its powers and operational responsibilities in order to make the centre less attractive and give more room for the government to focus on security. 

The governors also called for a review of policies and regulations on power and gas production to enable states to generate, transmit and distribute electricity to complement the efforts of the Federal Government.

On the area of security ,the governors of the six states in the zone also called for a  new  approach  to security  that will focus  on safety , food  and  job  security  to encourage  investment  while harnessing  the untapped energies  and creativity  of the youth population  through  job creation .

The governors  in the 13 point communiqué,  noted that that  if  the policy on power  and gas  is reviewed, they would facilitate  the utilisation  of moribund capacity  in  the region  as well as  promote  and accelerate economic development  in the geopolitical zone.

They also conversed  the  development  of a Niger Delta  energy  corridor,  a project  with potentials  for connecting  the people , industry  and natural  resources   and creating  jobs .

They stressed the need to accelerate the implementation of agricultural development initiatives as the region‘s priority focal area, to complement the federal government’s transformation agenda on agriculture.

On transportation  ,the governors  further called on the federal  government  to develop integrated transport  facilities in the  region , through a balanced development  of railway,  roads, water ways  and airport facilities , adding that  there was need  to collaborate  with  the federal government  in the development  of the Lagos –Calabar railway line  project.

They urged the federal government to expedite work on the East-west highway to ease the transportation pangs being experienced by motorists and commuters on the road.

The governors, among other recommendation, stressed the need to review the current revenue allocation formula, to give more funds to states and local government areas to meet their expected greater responsibilities under the restructured political system.

The summit with the theme: “Integrating the South-south for Sustainable Development” (with special emphasis on Development, Investment and Security),   featured plenary and breakout sessions with about  125 speakers, panelist and resources person of international repute from within and outside Nigeria.

The keynote speakers included :  President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan , represented by Vice-President Namadi  Sambo; President of Rwanda , Paul Kagame, represented by CEO,  Rwanda Development Board,   John Gara;  and  Nobel Laureate , Prof. Wole Soyinka.

Lead speakers included: Co-coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr.  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; National Security Adviser ,General Owoye Andrew Azazi (rtd); and  First Deputy Director ,  IMF , John Lipsky .

Other Speakers at the summit included: Minister of Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe , Minister  of  Agriculture , Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina  and Minister of Tourism   Chief Edem Duke and Chairman and Managing Director Chevron Nigerian Limited , Mr. Andrew Fawthrop , among others.
President Jonathan  commended the Governors of the South- south zone and  BRACED Commission  for the vision , efforts, in making the summit a reality and impressive one.

He  said:  “My vision for the South-south and indeed Nigeria is for us to develop an economy that should be sustainable without oil” adding:  “It is a fact that world oil reserve has limitations and has therefore become absolutely necessary that we use our present opportunity create economy devoid of oil for our future.

“We are aware of the fact that in many parts of the world, oil has only resulted in creating rivalry, rife, corruption and even worst, however, oil can also be a blessing or a war, but with creativeness we can serve our people through good planning, transparency and good governance. I can see from this summit that qualities and intentions as well as the foundation for the achievement set objectives are being put in place.”

He emphasised: “Several  developed countries in the world do not have oil but have developed robust economy. I have had the opportunity to visit South-south states, for example , when I arrived at the brand new Asaba International airport , it is like a dream come true, look at Rivers State, the power project , education programmes as well as Agricultural programme , in Akwa Ibom State , the third largest serving  centre for aircraft in Africa in been built there, also  road development , education , healthcare facility  are in place.”

Kagame, represented  by the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board, Mr. John Gara, said the South-south shared similar history with Rwanda.

He stated that the zone has a lot of economic advantages over some countries, adding that oil, which had been the mainstay of the Nigerian economy was derived from the zone.
He advised African leaders to avail themselves of the Rwandan experience by fashioning a holistic approach towards reviving their economies, as well as facilitating development in their areas.
In his submission, Nobel Laureate , Prof. Wale Soyinka,  urged  each  states  in the country  to convene its own  conference of people  to articulate   the direction  they  wished  to direct  their  leaders  and relate  to the centre  and other  states , as Nigeria had proved to  be  too large and inefficient for a centralised  identification  and management of human  skills and material resources.

The National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi (rtd), in his contribution, described security as good governance and public safety pointing out that investment could only thrive in a safe environment.

He declared that the security challenges the country was facing today started many years ago but nobody not realised it.
He stated: “If you have insecurity you cannot have development. If you don’t have development , you can’t have security “.

Okonjo- Iweala,   who painted a gloomy picture  of the global economy  and measures the international communities were putting in place to tackle economic  downturn said the global recession   had  its  correlating effects  on  developing  countries like Nigeria.
She stressed  that  Nigerian  economy needed to be diversified  rather than relying more on revenue from oil .

Fawthrop in his submission, said Nigeria was the largest exporter of oil in Africa as there were  active presence of international oil companies and indigenous  independents , adding that there were big  and small exploration opportunities available if the right condition was provided.
Fawthrop  said  that South-south indigenes should see themselves as partners  in human capital , infrastructural and economic development of the region, as the zone has  over  5,000 km of oil and gas pipeline, while the region has 267 on- stream oil and gas fields and 13 has remained under- developed .

He  stated that  Chevron , through  EGTL   project had  provided employment  for over 12500 Nigerians , mostly  from the South- south region , adding that the company had revived , upgraded and revitalised  the Warri port  to be one of the busiest ports in Nigeria , just as it had  awarded  sub-contracts worth  over $2 billion  and executed  more than 500 construction  equipment  on lease back agreements.

On the expectations  of oil and gas industry in Nigeria , Fawthrop  pointed out that  there would be a raise in the daily production level of crude  oil  and encouraged exploratory drilling  to increase  oil reserves.

He added that new oil and gas  industries  would be created to provide entrepreneurial and employment opportunities .
He observed that the challenges facing the South- south  zone was the implementation  and adoption  of consistent  clear stable polices supportive  of oil and gas development , and the development of medium to long term infrastructure to support the growth.

He added that free competitive and reliable market should be encouraged with robust  community partnership.   
Adesina , in his presentation, said  the Federal Government had launched a transformation programme to  transform  the agricultural sector .

He added that the government had concluded plans to build 13 large-scale rice milling plant in the South-south zone. 
This, amongst others, was necessary because the $1 billion Nigeria spends on rice yearly, could not sustained.

Minister of Tourism Chief Edem Duke in his presentation said, Nigeria was yet to wake up to the potentials of tourism.

According to Duke, “we want to be one of the 20 biggest economy in 2020 , it is therefore important that we must do what the top 20  countries are doing  and they are investing in tourism , they are creating capacity for investment, they are providing incentives for tourism investment , they are training their people and they are focusing attention on their image.

Earlier, Edo State Governor  Adams Oshiomhole,  lamented the  nation’s electoral system , saying if the election processes were transparent ,  politicians would not force their way into elections.

He added that  when elective position became a do  or die affairs, where all manners  fraudulent  acts were  perpetuated  to win election , it  had the tendency to breed crimes and criminals.

“We must resolve to allow the people’s will to prevail;  we must revisit the issue of job insecurity , we must put  more effort to create jobs  because job insecurity will  lead to other forms  of insecurity.”

Delta State Governor Emmnauel Uduaghan, in his remarks  said:  “As a state of over four million people and largely oil producing, we account for about 3.0 percent of the national population and about 30 percent of national oil production and export.” 

The fear  of  many  socio-economic,  and political  analysts    border on the ability of the commission and the  governors of the south- south  region  to implement  the far- reaching decision that the summit had proffered; whether this yearly event will not   just be turned into a talk shop that will  fizzle away in the course of time . 

Tags: Nigeria, Business, Featured, South-south, Close Rank

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