From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has highlighted various economic strategies to develop the oil rich Niger Delta region through industrialisation.
Uduaghan who re-echoed the urgent need to diversify the region’s economy, called for a more receptive attitude of the people towards investors, and further stressed the need to stimulate the informal sector.
The former governor is convinced that if this approach is adopted in a concerted manner, a new face would emerge from the long neglected region.
Uduaghan spoke in Asaba while delivering a lecture titled ‘Niger Delta Economy: Building A New Face For The Region’ organized by the Delta Online Publishers’ Forum (DOPF).
He said informal enterprises remained the primary sources of livelihood for the people who account for 85 per cent of the population in the region.
“Nigeria ranks fourth among cocoa producers in the world, and the Niger Delta region produces 53 per cent of the country’s output. It is an important crop, earning non-oil foreign exchange.
“Cross River, Ondo and Edo states are the leading producers in the Niger Delta region, producing about 97 per cent of the region’s cocoa.
“Yet, the major processing for cocoa is in Western Nigeria, around Lagos. So major value addition takes place outside of the Niger Delta because the region has no industries.
“We have been very hostile in the Niger Delta to investors. I hope we can improve on our reception to industries coming to the region. We must be hospitable to industries.
“We must encourage people to have large scale farms in rice, sugarcane, cocoa, roots and tubers, citrus fruits, plantain, rubber, even as the region is blessed with many resources for aquaculture and forestry,” Uduaghan said.
He said cultivation of industries related to these products deserve the active and collaborative support of the state governments, oil and gas companies and other stakeholders in the region.
Decrying the moribund state of the ports in the region, Uduaghan tasked the Federal Government to open up the ports to attract investors into the region, a development he said would bring about employment and stem criminality in the nation.
He further urged the Federal Government to carry out environmental remediation of the oil polluted land and rivers of the region in line with relevant laws, noting that the Niger Delta region is an agrarian area where its people depend on for source of livelihood.
Dr. Uduaghan decried a situation where the Niger Delta which has limited land space is denied the benefit of its water space which the Federal Government has declared a no go area by the states.
“There cannot be a part of Nigeria that is a no man’s land. The offshore areas belong to the states,” he said.
He said it was grave injustices for people from other regions to come to enjoy the work facilities provided by the oil resources of the region but who don’t reside in the states of the region thereby not paying the tax due to them to the states.
“We have a lot of people in Escravos working in Niger Delta but they are paying taxes to governments outside Niger Delta. We are being oppressed year-in year-out in the region. Persons brought from outside Niger Delta for NYSC and are given employment opportunities, especially those from the South West, leaving Niger Deltans out,” the former governor lamented.
On diversification, Uduaghan explained that it must be in the area of establishment of industries, human capital and infrastructure development through a concerted effort of stakeholders towards redeeming the lost glory of the region.
He said concerted effort was needed to diversify the economic fortune of the region to viable areas of human endeavours, using the …