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When governors made far-reaching demands for South-South, South East

by Ignatius Chukwu

September 3, 2017 | 4:32 am
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The eleven governors that of the south-south and south east have made far-reaching demands from the centre that may shape the tone of agitation in the coming months starting with raising concern over the decision of Dangote Group to locate its $18billion hydrocarbon projects away from the oil region.

The united front may ring a bell in Nigeria as reunification may create a large front for negotiating a new Nigeria, contrary to the undertone of the May 27, 1967 fragmentation aimed at creating a tower of Babel in the form of Biafra enclave.

The governors rose in Port Harcourt, the new power centre of the two geopolitical zones, to demand for return of hydrocarbon ventures to the region, devolution of power and state police. These seem to add to the age-long demand for restructuring, resource control and fiscal federalism.

The meeting, which was chaired by the interim chairman, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, had in attendance seven governors and four deputies. The other governors present at the meeting in the N4.2billion Brick House built in 2006 by Peter Odili were the host, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. Deputy governors who represented their governors were the retired rear admiral, Gboribiogha John Jonah of Bayelsa, Nkem Okeke of Anambra State, Philip Shaibu of Edo State and Professor Ivara Esu of Cross River State.

In a strongly worded position paper, the two zones showed concern about the reality of the dearth of infrastructure in the region, including what they called the deplorable state of federal roads in the two regions. “That none of the airports and seaports located in our regions is reasonably functional, and that neither of the two regions is linked by any rail services.”

These are no new issues however, as the region had agitated on these scores over the years.

The communiqué added: “That the Federal presence in the regions is very minimal and only noticeable in the presence of policemen. The emerging trend where approvals for investments in the oil and gas industry are granted for siting in other parts of Nigeria with laying of pipelines in deep waters rather than siting the projects in the areas that produce the resources.” This squarely referred to the Dangote project which had been agitated against by the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF) for long without any response.

But, analysts say the governors cannot push this too far since the Dangote project is entirely private and that the Group had the right to site its businesses wherever it felt comfortable with. The observers also said that the Group may have been motivated to site the refinery in Lagos to avoid disruptions from militants. “It is a case of he who pays the pipe, calling the tune,” an analyst said.

The governors thus resolved to pursue inter-regional cooperation and integration for the common good of the regions’ people. “To work together politically, align and re-align as a people that share common heritage, culture and affinity.” This point seemed to agree with analysts who think that the new platform bringing the old foes together could be useful in the election years. The two zones produced the highest vote for the former ruling party and are still in the firm grip of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) even as the new federal party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) controlling Edo and Imo states are seen to push hard in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, and Bayelsa states.

The governors further resolved to “articulate and advocate for issues affecting the wellbeing of the regions. The issues may not necessarily materialise immediately, but for the benefits of future generations. To continue to subscribe our faith to the destiny and greatness of Nigeria and call upon Nigerians to put their hands on the plough and rise to claim our rightful place in the Comity of Nations. To condemn hate-speech in national discourse, whether in individual communication, utterances of political actors, or parties.”

They also agreed to urge security agencies to set up joint border patrols and develop more proactive strategies in combating crime and criminality; and to urge the Federal Government to come up with a clear policy on concession of federal roads and to fast-track the process in order to ameliorate the sufferings of the people of the regions. They agreed to urge the Federal Government to encourage investors in the oil and gas industry to operate from within the regions and also make the investments in the sector in the region.

The governors who began the new platform in Enugu on July 9, 2017, in the heat of hate speeches and quit notices, agreed to reconvene in Owerri, Imo State, on Sunday, October 8, 2017.

The tone of the meeting was laid by the host governor, Wike, who pulled all the stops to make the meeting a success. In his welcome address, Wike stated that the people of the two geo-political zones have always shared common heritage and affinity.

He said: “Even 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.”

The governor noted that none of the airports and seaports located in the regions is reasonably functional, while the few federal roads were not in good shape, neither were the two regions linked by any rail services. These formed critical planks in the communiqué, indication of the governor’s huge influence in the new body.

Governor Wike said: “From 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.

“Also, 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.”

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: “As 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.

“Above 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.”

Chairman of the forum, Udom of Akwa Ibom, in his opening speech, 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: “Federal presence in the region is minimal and only seen in the presence of policemen”.

He called for the development of an industrial framework that will enhance development.  He said the regions are better of united than divided. He pleaded with Nigerians to continue to strive for the unity of the country.

Politics has always divided the region with bitter inter-ethnic rivalry that has ruined any move for economic integration. It is not clear if any measures have been created to stop such things from striking once again at the new platform as soon as electioneering resumes for 2019.

Ignatius Chukwu

 


by Ignatius Chukwu

September 3, 2017 | 4:32 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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