3 August 2014

Nigeria: Uduaghan's Delta Beyond Oil Vision

Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, a public affairs analyst, posits that the Delta Beyond Oil initiative of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan is a vehicle for diversifying the economy of the oil producing state for the economic prosperity of the people away from the status quo of dependence on earnings from oil ...

The "Delta beyond Oil" initiative is an economic vision of the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmaunel Uduaghan. The idea is to shift reasonable focus from the economic benefit of crude oil (which is the main stay of Nigeria's economy) to other productive sectors of the economy. The vision is anchored on the truism that oil is a "finite and exhaustible" community which is why there is the need for States and indeed the federal government to develop other sectors of our economy to support the huge financial gains of crude oil exports.

The vision has already set in motion systematic and deliberate economic policies that will galvanize reasonable and substantial turnover for government and private investors so as to facilitate the eradication of poverty and at the same time bring about rapid and consistent economic and financial prosperity for government and citizens of Delta State. The drive of Governor Uduaghan to achieve this monumental task has been steady and consistent as can been seen from his giant strides in infrastructural development in the state. It is on record that the state government has invested over fifteen billion naira (N15 billion) in the ongoing federal government Independent Power Project (IPP) with the aim of providing steady and uninterrupted power supply to industries, medium and small scale business operators as well as for other entrepreneurs doing business in Delta State.

It has been said over and again that total reliance on crude oil is the major factor responsible for the political debacle in Nigeria, occasioned by reliance on federal allocation proceeds from oil by all the states including the federal capital territory. It is therefore heartwarming to note that Delta State which is one of the major oil producing states is to be the first to think beyond oil. This vision propelled and driven by the visionary leadership of Governor Uduaghan is now yielding substantial results due to rapid inflow of foreign direct invest in the state. Local investors are not left out as Heirs Holdings, one of the prominent private conglomerates in Nigeria as well as other prime local investors are at the moment partnering with the state government in diverse sectors towards the attainment of the socio-economic rebirth of Delta state.

At the moment the government has injected over N225 billion in overhauling the economic machinery of the state with prime target on infrastructure, security, development of special economic zones (SEZs), Industrial Estate/Parts of cluster models through the instrumentality of Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The state has also crafted various institutional reforms, capacity building, vocational skill training programmes and at the same time harnessing agricultural, mineral and human resources to facilitate the attainment of the economic vision of Governor Uduaghan's administration. These giant strides when fully operational and working in reasonable capacities will no doubt gradually eradicate poverty and youths restiveness which has caused both the state and federal governments monumental financial losses in trillions of dollars, particularly during the era of massive pipeline vandalization in the creeks and disruption of crude oil production activities at the high seas as a result of agitation for the economic emancipation and development of the Niger Delta by various ethnic militant groups.

As we know it today, Delta State is in the forefront of socio-economic engineering targeted towards the masses which cuts across all strata of society. The micro-finance scheme is meant to boost the business activities of peasant farmers, petty traders, small and medium commercial venture operators, fisher men and women in the rural communities and other cooperative groups registered with the state government. The idea is to assist rural and some categories of urban dwellers with nearly zero per cent funds that will enable them to develop their talents and economic potentials so as to grow progressively until some of the beneficiaries become investors and industrialists in the future.

The Asaba International Airport is currently a major hub for business people and tourists, serving the ever busy Onitsha market traders and other categories of business people. In the near future and when the Delta beyond Oil initiative is in top gear, international passenger's flights and cargo jets will land and take-off on a regular basis. Top ranking international investors private jets can now safely land at the Asaba airport in the morning and jet out in the evenings after signing major commercial and financial deals by business moguls.

It is worthy of note that the Uduaghan's economic foresight has yielded positive results as youths restiveness and insecurity has been reduced to nearly zero percent in the past four years. The huge investments in urban and rural transformation have also provided thousands of job opportunities for both skilled and unskilled persons in the state. The joy that radiates in the faces of beneficiaries of Uduaghan's visionary leadership can tell the story. Market women, peasant farmers, hair dressers, petty traders in markets spread across the state, youths who have benefited from skills acquisition and empowerment programmes are today bread winners for themselves and their dependants.

Perhaps what the government need to do is to take additional proactive steps in the agricultural sector by ensuring massive production of Cassava, Rubber, Coca and their bye-products in commercial quantity for domestic consumption and for export. This can be achieved through well organized farmers associations and cooperatives societies that would maintain a common products warehousing system. Local and international investors are to provide counterpart funding for mass production while government and key players would import equipment and provide technical expertise for the processing of these products for export. Substantial foreign earnings from the export of processed and raw agricultural products will further boost the financial and economic power of the state, investors and the farmers.

Rural banking should be encouraged. Delta State government should partner with the commercial and micro-finance banks to bring banking to rural communities so as to facilitate financial transactions, disbursements and repayment of soft loans and grants to farmers, traders, small and medium scale business people and local entrepreneurs. Security for these banks can be achieved through a synergy of proactive security measures between the state, security agencies, local vigilante groups and private security companies. Since the youths form a substantial part of the beneficiaries they will eager to provide security for the banks so as to secure their economic future. Women empowerment should be given additional boost through deliberate extra funding due to the reports which indicate that women repay loans faster and on target than their male counterparts. Women are also known to show more compassion for children and are basically in-charge of the home-front which is why additional grants and soft loans to boost their commercial activities will facilitate the attainment of the "Delta beyond Oil" economic vision of Governor Uduaghan.

It is strongly recommended that other governors in the country should emulate the economic vision and leadership strides of Gov. Uduaghan and commence deliberate development of the agricultural sector, make huge investments in education, construct durable infrastructure, harness other internal economic potentials as well as develop the human resources at their disposal so as to garner socio-economic prosperity for their states and citizens. It is now obvious that over-dependence on allocation from crude oil export funds from the federal government can no longer tackle the high level or poverty, joblessness and other socio-economic constraints in Nigeria.

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