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By Jérôme-Mario Utomi

In a room called The jokes in Lagos, poverty and disease in the Niger Delta, posted about four years ago, precisely in February 2018.

In addition to spreading out the needs, interests, aspirations and even their problems were critically examined in relation to solution plans and implementation, he, among other concerns, posed the review / conclusions following comparisons; namely, firstly, that while the executives of the oil companies in Nigeria exchange daily jokes / pleasures in Lagos and Abuja, the poverty, disease and illiteracy orchestrated by the activities of exploration and production of crude oil are rampant. the creeks, rivers and estuaries of the Niger Delta.

Second, and most importantly, as the oil giants look to the future with great hope, the people of the region where crude oil is domiciled lament their fate in their sorrows and hardships.

Third and most basic, while the oil chiefs who reside mainly in Lagos / Abuja sing songs of praise daily and claim the “wisdom of Solomon”, the true owners of the “black gold” in the coves and coastal areas of Niger Delta, not only studies the “book of lamentations”, but manifests despair and economic powerlessness because the majority of these organizations operating in their localities do not believe in the principle of “equal pain” nor do they respect the principles corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Said piece, however, concluded that while facing endless socio-economic and environmental challenges, one thing is for sure. The Niger Deltans are troubled but not discouraged. A situation that makes it easy to manage and contain them if only the federal government could equip itself with a plan and political will to meet the challenges currently facing the inhabitants of the region.

After about four years of this article, an in-depth review of a recent keynote address given by former Delta State Governor Dr Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at the Delta Online Annual Conference Publisher Forum (DOPF). held at Banquet Hall, Orchids Hotel, Asaba, Delta State shows that each of them has something in common.

Talk about the topic the economy of the Niger Delta; Building a new face for the region, the former governor called on managers in the region to invest more in human capital development programs / initiatives on potential youth and women as a means of ensuring the sustainable socio-economic development of the region, noting that this can be achieved by encouraging collaboration / inter / intra-regional exchanges among the people of the Niger Delta as well as the diversification of the Niger Delta economy.

According to him, the Niger Delta is well positioned geographically and endowed with human and natural resources. But we need investments in / for infrastructure development, peace and security.

Human capital, he explained, refers to the economic value of the knowledge, experience and skills of a group of people in a state, local government or an entire region like the Niger Delta. There is a close relationship between human capital and economic growth.

He argued that it is in the interest of every administrative state in the Niger Delta to deliberately invest in skills and knowledge through education, vocational training and health. All financial investments made in the development of human capital have a direct relationship with the socio-economic growth of the Niger region.

To substantiate his claim, the former Governor of Delta State added that the Delta State Micro-Credit Program (DCMP) was a financial empowerment program, under his administration, aimed at providing interest-free loans and mentoring. to potential young people and entrepreneurs, including women in agro-processing, creation of various businesses, fintech, agriculture and other creative activities. He told the assembly that the initiative has produced 21,000 entrepreneurs and artisans in 730 clusters of 25 local governments in the state.

Now, this piece will spread its wings on the details put forward by Emmanuel Uduaghan as to why the region urgently needs a new face.

Regarding the urgent need to diversify the economy of the Niger Delta through the adoption of the mantra “The Niger Delta Beyond Oil”, Uduaghan said that 85 percent of the population, informal businesses are the main sources. subsistence, but they are characterized by low productivity and wages.

“Nigeria is the fourth largest cocoa producer in the world and the Niger Delta region produces 53% of the country’s production. It is an important non-oil foreign currency. Cross River, Ondo and Edo states are the main producers in the Niger Delta region, producing around 97 percent of the region’s cocoa.

“The main processing of cocoa is in western Nigeria, around Lagos, so the major added value takes place outside the Niger Delta region,” he said.

On the way forward, the former governor said improving rural competitiveness in non-traditional agricultural products through value-added exports could be a major source of economic diversification.

According to him, the region can easily produce rice, sugar, cocoa, roots and tubers, citrus fruits, plantains, rubber and rubber products.

He said something else relating to the imperatives of economic improvement.

Starting with biodiversity, the region, he said, is home to the largest mangrove forest or contiguous wetlands in Africa and the third largest in the world with extensive freshwater swamp forest and rich diversity. biological. This factor makes the region key for agriculture / agribusiness with capacities in areas such as wholesale / retail, manufacturing, aquaculture, transport, construction and other creative activities. .

Far from possessing biodiversity to its geographic and demographic advantages, Uduaghan observed that the region is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and endowed with a coastline stretching from the mouth of the Benin River to the estuary of the river. Imo and stretches for about 500 km.

He added that more than 62% of the region’s population are 30 years of age or younger and are increasingly younger. With an estimated population of 31 million, the region accounts for around 24% of Nigeria’s total population.

From the above realities, especially the availability of the coastline, it is evident that the Niger Delta seaports, if developed, are very key infrastructure that will support and facilitate the manufacturing process and development. commercial.

Given that seaports are globally recognized as agents of development and engines of growth, it goes without saying that making the existing seaports in the region operate to their full capacity will only reverse their fate as a structure of sea-land interface, but will once again revive the once active structure but dying market outpost including the port towns of Warri, Sapele, Burutu, Port Harcourt, Onne and Calabar.

Having said that, Uduaghan concluded that there is no doubt that in order for us to give a new face to the Niger Delta region, we must focus on the activities that will lead to the economic development of the region, and this will require all hands on deck and all brains devoid of madness.

To catalyze the process, he therefore called on leaders in the region to urgently work with the federal government to ensure that there are good road networks connecting states and communities.

I pray that those in positions of authority will listen.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Program Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Advocacy for Social and Economic Justice (SEJA). He writes from Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected] or 08032725374.


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