Christopher IsiguzoÂ in Enugu
Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, has declared that the South-east zone remained key to the nationâ€™s economic development.
Ekweremadu spoke yesterday as the three-day South-East Economic Summit put together by the governors of the five states of the zone formally kicked off in Enugu with the governors restating their resolve to lead the zone out of economic woes.
The lawmaker lamented that but for the Civil War which he identified as the greatest tragedy to the nationâ€™s development, Nigeria would have overtaken most developed nations of the world, especially with the South-east reputed to be fastest growing economy in the First Republic.
â€œSouth-east zone has a lot to give to the nation. If we work together, we can develop our roadmap to a great nation,â€ he said, expressing dismay however that the efforts of south-east governors may not yield the expected results in the absence of the necessary legal framework.
â€œThereâ€™s no law setting the zones, south-east, south-south, south-west, north-central, north-east or north-west. We need the necessary legal backing. The state structure has not helped us as we continued to partition the entire country into states when we thought the military would have taken us back to regions in order to develop at our pace.
â€œIt has become imperative for us to restructure. We need to come up with a law on how these entities can operate. All our efforts will amount to nothing if the legal framework does not exist. We can come up with lofty ideas but we need the necessary legal framework.
â€œWe need to come up with a tool to solve the problem caused by state creation, thatâ€™s why we are working hard to come up with the South East Development Commission (SEDC). Though it failed at the House of Representatives but it succeeded in the Senate.
â€œHere we are discussing about power, railway etc, how can we achieve that without devolving power to states. We are working hard to convince our northern colleagues to support devolution of power to states, we have no hidden agenda, we feel it will be in the best interest of the country,â€ he said.
On his part, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo hailed the governors for their unity, zeal and commitment towards the development of the zone.
He said the theme of the summit â€˜Repositioning the South East Region for Rapid Economic Developmentâ€™ was apt as the zone was facing several problems including high unemployment rate, poor road infrastructure, with only nine per cent of the Nationally Generated Power despite being the area with the fastest growing economy in the past.
He said the apex organisation had set up an Economic Planning Committee with the hope of coming up with a South East Development Plan to further complement the effort of the governors.
Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state and Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state said the time had come for the zone to be rejuvenated, and therefore urged industrialists and entrepreneurs to come and invest in the zone.
â€œWeâ€™ve never in our history come together in this form with common goal to overcome our challenges. The lessons we draw from this summit will help us to jumpstart the economy of the zoneâ€, they said.
Among notable personalities that attended the opening session of the three-day summit expected to endÂ on MondayÂ were Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Prof. Barth Nnaji, Senator Enyinna Abaribe, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Dr. Greg Ibe, Dr Greg Mill of Brenthurst Foundation, among others.