Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has harped on the importance of strategic development of infrastructure in the nation’s drive for improved non-oil sector of the economic.
Obaseki stated this on Tuesday at the opening of the South-South Export Enlightment and Engagement Forum, organized by the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), holding in Asaba, Delta State.
Adequate development of relevant infrastructure would provide the necessary launchpad for various export-bound local products, other than oil, which will enhance Nigeria foreign exchange earnings and save the country from overdependence on crude exportation.
He said that the south-south states are endowed with variety of agricultural and natural products whose comoetitive export potentials could be enhanced by putting in place relevant infrastructure that would add value to the local non-oil products.
Governors of four South-South states, namely Dr Ben Ayade of Cross River, Mr. Nyeson Wike of Rivers, Mr Sariake Dickson of Bayelsa and Mr Udom Emmanuel of Akwa- Ibom, were however conspicuously absent at the opening of the forum at the Events Centre, Asaba.
THISDAY observed that the stands of the the aforementioned four states were empty and devoid of any activity whatsoever while only the stands of Delta, Edo and numerous participating private corporate organisations were a beehive, in terms of activities.
Edo State Governor, Obaseki, was the only South-South governor that joined the host governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, despite arriving after the host Governor, Okowa had delivered his opening speech.
Governor Okowa, who congratulated NEXIM for the initiative, said that the economies of these states have been largely dependent on the oil and gas sector, which has resulted in a mono-product economy and not doing well for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.
The Delta governor noted that oil is a depleting resource, expressed worry over alternative transport modes especially with the advent of electric cars, saying it was a clear and present danger to the future of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
Okowa said, “To achieve this, it is exigent that we first take full advantage of our unique location. In business, it is axiomatic that being in the right location is critical for success. Our natural location in the coastal region puts us in a prime position to engage in export-import trade. Take Delta State, for instance. It has four seaports in Warri, Burutu, Sapele and Koko, which combined capacity exceeds that of all the other ports in Nigeria put together.
“You can, therefore, imagine the quantum of trade and commerce, as well as the limitless possibilities that exist for investment and employment opportunities when just two of the ports are fully functional.
“While the Federal Government has commenced the dredging of Escravos Bar for this purpose, the Delta State Government is taking steps to bring the Burutu Port back to life. Located in Burutu Local Government, it was the first modern port in Nigeria and served as the hub for the movement of goods to and from Nigeria as well as distribution through the inland waterways to and from the hinterland of the North, Central and Eastern Parts of the country.”
Nonetheless, the organizers said that the forum was meant to draw the attention of South-South States and other stakeholders to the need to expeditiously diversify the economy and maximise non-oil export potentials for accelerated economic development.
The Executive Director of Nigerian Export Promotion Corporation (NEPC), Mr Olusegun Awolowo, called for attitudinal change in line with the theme of the event, “Maximaxing Non-Oil Export Potentials ln The South-South Region For Economic Growth, adding that most of the companies supported by NEXIM Bank are not from the South-South.
Awolowo, however, lamented that most of the agricultural products like palm oil, cassava, vegetables, groundnut, seafoods and minerals like clay, kaolin, copper, gold, salt, glass, comical, gravel, granite which have good potentials for exportation, employment and income generation were ignored or largely untapped, unexployed.