By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Governors of the South-south and South-east geo-political zones met yesterday night at Government House Port Harcourt where they discussed regional and economic integration to enhance the development of the area.
In attendance were:Â Chairman of the South-South and South-east Governorsâ€™ Forum and Akwa Ibom Governor, Udom Emmanuel, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Governor Rochas OkorochaÂ of Imo State and Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State
Others include: Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Acting Governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah; Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Nkem Okeke; Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu and Cross River State Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu.
In his welcome address, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, noted that the people of the two geo-political zones have always shared common heritage and affinity.
He said: â€œEven in contemporary Nigeria, we still share the same or similar challenges, including insecurity, poverty and under-development despite the best of efforts by the constituent State governments. Today, the two regions are the most politically and economically marginalised within the nation, environmentally degraded and deliberately neglected by the federal government in appointments and provisions of basic development infrastructures.â€
The governor noted that none of the airports and seaports located in the regions is reasonably functional, while the few federal roads are not in good shape, neither are the two regions linked by any rail services.
Wike said: â€œFrom geo-strategic economic perspective therefore, there is an urgent need to establish and link our cities with railways and super highways; to provide viable and affordable flight services between our cities, and to ensure that cargoes are brought into the country and the regions through our seaports, jetties and ferry services as a veritable means of stimulating economic growth and social progress across our two regions.
â€œAlso, we are all aware that economic growth and social progress are possible only in a peaceful and secure environment. And much as we try to tackle this menace in our respective States by providing the necessary logistic support to the security agencies, perceptions of insecurity are on the rise, doing significant damage to our investment climate thereby preventing reasonable inflow of direct foreign and local investment into the regions.â€
He said as neighbours, the two regions must strive to overcome challenges through regional efforts by sharing resources, intelligence and denying sanctuaries to criminal elements in the areas.
According to him: â€œAs we go into the business of this meeting, let us be confident in the rightness of our course and clear in our considerations that we have been and would continue to be worse off without the will to exploit our political and economic complementarities to drive our ways into political, economic and social prosperity.
â€œAbove all, we must continue to demand for the devolution of powers and resources to the states as well as the institutionalisation of state police, now that there is national consensus on these issues.â€
Chairman of the South-south and South-east Governorsâ€™ Forum and Akwa Ibom Governor, Emmanuel urged the governors of the two regions to form a common front for socio-economic development.
He described the meeting as a new beginning for the two geo-political zones for the good of her people.
The governor expressed delight that the governors have set aside impediments to chart a new direction. He charged the two regions to work together for prosperity.
He said: â€œFederal presence in the region is minimal and only seen in the presence of policemen.â€
He said the two regions must develop an industrial framework that would stimulate the area and also take steps to rekindle the entrepreneurial spirit to promote the ingenuity of people of the regions.
He pleaded with Nigerians to continue to strive for the unity of the country.