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 .