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Agriculture: Catalyst For Africa’s Development

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Mr Joseph Dekina, a 55-year-old farmer in Ujoh village in Bassa Local Government Area of Kogi, has sustained his family of six with proceeds from his farm over the years.

   These days, however, he can barely make ends meet as he is going through some harrowing times.

This is because his continued use of traditional farming implements cannot enable him to record appreciable yields and by extension, improve his earnings.

Dekina is like most farmers in African countries who eke a living via subsistence farming. To this group of farmers, mechanised farming is still a mirage.

However, the problem has been eliciting a lot of concern from various governments of African countries and they came together in Abuja from March 8 to 10, to examine the issues at stake.

The meeting was designated the High-Level Conference on the Development of Agri-Business and Agro-Industries in Africa (HLCD-3A).

The African leaders sought to redress the perceptible problems and accord agriculture its rightful place as a major contributor to economic growth on the continent.

Three African heads of state, ministers from 42 African countries, senior policy makers and representatives of financial institutions attended the summit.

The summit’s goal was also to share the countries’ experience in efforts to promote competitive agro-industries and thus foster international collaboration.

The Federal Government and UNIDO jointly sponsored the meeting, with support from other international agencies.

In 2008, the Global Agro-Industries Forum (GAIF) was held in India. It was then organised by the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

In spite of these efforts, current records of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) indicate that food importation by African nations costs about 33 billion U.S. dollars annually.

Furthermore, about three billion-dollar worth of food aid come into the continent annually.

Observers say that this development is a source of concern to many African economists and agriculturalists, particularly as Africa has been unable to attain food security in spite of her vast arable lands.

Mr Abdoulie Janneh, the Executive Secretary of UNECA, decried Africa’s huge reliance on food importation and noted that it was partly fuelled by urban demand for processed foods.

He also lamented that FAO statistics had shown that Africa was home to 265 million of the world’s 915 million under-nourished people.

Janneh stressed that efforts to develop agriculture for sustainable economic growth must necessarily go beyond the narrow confines of farming.

Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who was then Nigeria’s Acting President, also bemoaned the neglect of agriculture in Africa.

Commenting on the Nigerian experience, Jonathan said that although the country was blessed with abundant arable lands, favourable climate and other natural factors favourable to agriculture, the resources were not fully harnessed.

He blamed the development partly on poor private sector investment in the agriculture value chain, which encompassed agricultural production, processing, storage and marketing.

Sharing similar sentiments, Janneh stressed the need to adopt an integrated approach at all stages to improve productivity and efficiency.

For Jonathan, the Nigerian experience is illustrative of the degree of neglect of agriculture in Africa.

According to him, Nigeria’s land mass consists of 28.3 million hectares of arable land, 2.5 million hectares of forest and woodland with 7.3 million hectares and 853-km coastland for aquatic production.

“Nigeria’s large population of about 150 million also offers a unique investment opportunity and a ready market for agricultural products,’’ Jonathan said.

However, analysts opine that Nigeria has not fully tapped these huge potential to attain self-sufficiency in food production, as food importation is still taking its toll on the country’s foreign exchange.

Jonathan blamed the trend partly on the limited private sector investment in the agriculture value chain beyond production, to areas such as processing, storage and marketing.

He said that the agriculture sector had also suffered from weak productive and trade capacities, induced by the reduced supply and quality of agricultural commodities.

There are other factors, including high production costs and high interest rates, according to Jonathan.

Economists argue that some of the challenges include infrastructural deficiencies, such as poor road network, inadequate electricity supply and obsolete equipment, as well as inadequate extension service delivery.

They also claim that poor human capacity development, ailing institutional capacity, limited access and non-availability of agricultural inputs, coupled with the negative impact of smuggled and imported agricultural produce, are part of the problems.

Dr Kandeh Yumkelle, the Director-General of UNIDO, stressed that energy problems had hindered agricultural development in Africa.

His words: “Africa and indeed Nigeria cannot make any meaningful impact in agriculture and manufacturing without electricity.

“It is a shame that most of our cities cannot guarantee a 24-hour power supply. This impacts negatively on manufacturing and agriculture.’’

However, the agricultural situation in Africa is not totally gloomy, as some countries such as Egypt, Algeria and South Africa have some success stories to tell.

The Egyptian Minister of Agriculture, Mr Amin Abaza, said that his country had concentrated efforts on the development of ports, roads and energy as a means of developing its agricultural sector.

According to him, 99 per cent of Egyptian villages now have access to electricity.

“We have in the last 25 years made a lot of progress; we have tried to minimise losses in agriculture, while adding value to products through our industries,’’ Abaza said.

“I am a great believer in Africa; I think that this century will be Africa’s century. We have a lot of potential, plenty untapped resources,’’ he added.

The Minister of Agriculture for Botswana, Mr Christian De Graff, spoke on the implications of the projected increase in the world’s population vis-à-vis agricultural production.

He warned that the projected increase, by three billion, in the world’s population in 2050, would require a 70-per-cent increase in Africa’ food production.

On agricultural finance, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said that funding of agriculture in Nigeria, for instance, had been dismal and needed to be improved.

“The percentage of banks’ credit to the sector in Nigeria progressively declined from 17.5 per cent in 2007; many rural farmers have little or no access to financial services from institutions,” he said.

A major feature of the conference was the launch of the African Agri-business and Agro-industries Development Initiative (3ADI).

The initiative is a joint effort by UNIDO, FAO, IFAD, UNECA, the African Union (AU) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

It is expected that the 3ADI will transform the agriculture sector in Africa into a highly productive and profitable value chain by 2020.

Chief Achike Udenwa, Nigeria’s former Minister of Commerce and Industry, said that the initiative represented African countries’ commitment to meeting the goal of improving national incomes, food security and the people’s well-being.

“It identifies agricultural innovations and prioritisation as imperatives for Africa to cope with its various developmental challenges.

“Africa needs to promote economic growth and integration at regional and global markets that will lead to sustained poverty reduction,’’ Udenwa said.

The summit’s participants unanimously agreed to initiate plans that would promote the establishment of appropriate financing mechanism to support the initiative’s implementation.

De Graff described the conference as “very fruitful’’ and stressed that financial institutions were needed to support the efforts of African countries to develop their agriculture sectors.

The participants also resolved to enhance strategies for development, planning and policy implementation through improved capacities and linkages of public agencies in charge of agriculture, agri-business and agro-industries.

Besides, they pledged to fast-track the implementation of regional trade agreements, while initiating additional measures to remove barriers to intra-regional trade.

They also promised to harmonise standards in the production, processing, storage and marketing of agro products.

Mr Youspha Kah, Gambia’s Minister for Economic, Planning and Industrial Development, however, urged African states and their development partners to work closely for a well-coordinated and articulated development of agri-businesses and agro-industries on the continent.

“I wish to call on our development partners and the private sector to provide the requisite financial resources to finance agri-business in Africa, in line with the goals of the 3ADI.

“Our partnership can only be meaningful and beneficial if such resources are provided,’’ Kah said.

Agricultural experts and economists have expressed the hope that the conference would transcend the level of mere deliberation to a level where pragmatic decisions and actions would be taken to address Africa’s agricultural problems.

They urge the private and public sector organisations, as well as financial institutions to collaborate in this direction so as to enable Africa to attain self-sufficiency in food production by 2020.

Yusuf writes for NAN.

Grace Yusuf

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Features

Should Daughters Inherit Father’s Property?

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Recently, a court in one of the southern states nullified the practice of denying female children the right to inherit their father’s property. The ruling confirms that the female child can inherit her father’s property. It is good but how the message is going to be sent to the villages at the grassroots calls for concern.
This issue of women inheriting directly from their lineage is supposed to be translated to the rural areas. This will give them a sense of belonging.
One thing is for the government or a competent court to make and interpret such law, another is for kinsmen to obey and allow the female children inherit their father’s wealth.
There are those who hold tightly to the cultural practice that females should not inherit their father’s property because, according to them, women get married out. Some people have vowed not to, feeling that if a daughter partakes in the share of her father’s property, she will take the proceeds to her husband’s house. Even as educated as some persons are, and having attained certain levels in the society, they still hold to the opinion.They claim that it is African culture. In some rural areas they don’t bother whether such laws are in existence and view it as imported.
Another group say there is nothing wrong in that since the woman came from such lineage. For them, such idea is primitive and archaic in this 21st century.
A legal practitioner, Chidi Enyie explained that every female child has a right of inheritance.
Citing Section 42 Sub 1&2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, he said that every person has a right to freedom from discrimination.
He said that was invoked in Ukoje Vs Ukoje (2020) where the Supreme Court came to a judgement that no person by reason of sex shall be discriminated against by reason of sex from inheriting the property of the parents.  The same way the males are entitled to inheritance, that’s the same females are entitled.
According to Barr. Enyie, the issue of sharing inheritance comes into play when a deceased parent dies intestate, that is dying without a Will, but if it is when there is a Will, it means the deceased person has done the sharing of the property in the Will.
“In most cases, it happens when there is a Will.  In our custom in Nigeria, they tend to favour the male child, but the Supreme Court judgement remains the name unless it is reversed in later decisions”, he said.
His words: “As it is, the barrier of discrimination has been nullified. Both male and female can inherit.  Even if she dies, her children are supposed to continue the ownership of the property, they are supposed to inherit their mum.  It can continue to run from generation to generation in that lineage”.
He pointed out that it depends largely on the type of marriage as sometimes in a customary marriage, the custom of the people will apply so long as the custom is not repugnant to national justice, equity and God conscience, then the custom will apply.
But in a Statutory marriage, Esien vs Esien (1934), he said that the Supreme Court came out with a decision that if it is the biological father of the child and not the customary father of the child.
“But ignorance on the part of the society tries to hamper the execution of the judgement of the Supreme Court”, he insisted.
He maintained that the judgement of Ukeje vs Ukeje is being criticised by the Ibo tribe that it wants to nullify their customs stressing that it should not prescribe what their custom should be.
He advocated that women should remain vibrant and contend for their right until awareness is created about the equality of both sex.
A pharmacist, Mr. Edet Okong, said such issue is prevalent in Nigeria because of poverty and illiteracy while it is not practised in other countries.
He noted that women have a share in his family whenever they are sharing things.  
He asked: “Is it not somebody from that family that gave birth to the woman?”
A legal practitioner, Mr. Ejike Uboh, noted that the issue of inheritance has to be handled by the court.
He said that NGOs need to carry out a lot of campaigns to the rural areas to be able to change the mindset of people who still hold into such cultural practice.
Uboh said that females inheriting their father’s property is good and traceable to the Holy scripture and called on FIDA and traditional rulers who are the embodiment of customs to sensitise people, giving reasons why such practice should stop.
A mechanic, Nude Ikegwuru, insisted that it is impossible for a daughter to inherit her father’s property and argued that women are exempted from paying levies in some communities and so should not.  
He made reference to the Aba women riot of 1929 which prevents women from paying tax in Nigeria.
A businessman, Gold Ibokwe, said that such laws and decision by the government should be taken seriously as time goes on.
According to a medical laboratory scientist, Ebere Nduidi, “when a woman is not married, she should have right to any property in her father’s home but when she gets married, I don’t think that is necessary.”
He emphasised that when a woman gets married, she changes her name and start answering her husband’s name, becomes somebody’s wife and so should not as she has been legally married.
Although he argued that the daughter can if it is her biological father’s property and not a general family case and insisted that if she gets the property before the death of the father, she should not return it.
“Fathers have the right to Will properties to their daughters if they want. They have equal opportunity as the male children”, he opined.
An entrepreneur, Davies Peter, said a woman can inherit her father’s property while she is alive and after her lifetime, the property should be released to the family.
According to him, since she bears the name of another family, the children shouldn’t continue the inheritance.
He advised that natural justice has to take its course instead of imported law while the laws be properly looked into and maintained that there should be some exception to the interpretation of some of the law as regards Nigeria and Africa generally.
He said although some of the laws are treated based on the fact that women are referred to as the weaker sex and they try to wave certain things.
He cautioned that people should not bring what is impracticable into existence and argued that male and female are not equal.
Mr. Kayode Ojo, an Architect asked: “Don’t you think that when you give a woman land in her father’s house, another one in her husband’s house, it will be too much? 
“ A man and a woman is a family, the husband and the children, so she should inherit in her husband’s house”, he noted.
Although the law supersedes tradition, he said, but that is if he wants to give the land to his daughter, at the end of the day, it is her own and insisted that tradition cannot prove the law wrong.
A pharmacist, Mary Udoh, said that fathers should be sensitised about writing Wills before death, so that if a property is bequeathed to whether a female or male, nobody under the law can take it away from such child.
An engineer, Emeka Obi, said what one may call cultural barriers and taboos is a common problem in Nigeria.
As he puts it: “People’s customs and traditions are peculiar to those who practice them. If according to the way of life of a given people, their daughters don’t have a place in the family inheritance, so be it, but if out of love or goodluck, a father Wills a property to any of his daughters, I have no problem with that”.
A nurse, Mary Uche, in her own view said: “ This is a welcome development. We are more of girls in my house than boys. “Could you believe that we lost our Dad, we the girls buried him but the boys took all the properties. And even if a woman dies, all her properties will be given to the sons’ wives. The only things given to the girls are clothes, if you demand more, they will tell you to go and inherit your husband’s house. If you are single, they will tell you to go and marry”.
The consequence of denying the female child the right of inheritance of father’s property is that if it comes to a situation where she is expected to contribute to family pressures, definitely she will withdraw. 
I’m not sure that any property can be too much to be owned by a woman.  If she has properties both in her father’s house and husband’s home, better for the children; after all, they were not stolen but inherited from grandparents. 
Religious leaders should preach more to the populace on improving the lives of people in the society.
Traditional rulers, NGOs should continually have dialogue and pass the messages down to the grassroots and perhaps to those in the urban centers no matter how learned and their level of exposure.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Features

Should Daughters Inherit Father’s Property?

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on

Recently a court in one of the southern states nullified the practice of denying female children the right to inherit their father’s property. The ruling confirms that the female child can inherit her father’s property. It is good but how the message is going to be sent to the villages at the grassroots calls for concern.
This issue of women inheriting directly from their lineage is supposed to be translated to the rural areas. This will give them a sense of belonging.
One thing is for the government or a competent court to make and interpret such law, another is for kinsmen to obey and allow the female children inherit their father’s wealth.
There are those who hold tightly to the cultural practice that females should not inherit their father’s property because, according to them, women get married out. Some people have vowed not to, feeling that if a daughter partakes in the share of her father’s property, she will take the proceeds to her husband’s house. Even as educated as some persons are, and having attained certain levels in the society, they still hold to the opinion.They claim that it is African culture. In some rural areas they don’t bother whether such laws are in existence and view it as imported.
Another group say there is nothing wrong in that since the woman came from such lineage. For them, such idea is primitive and archaic in this 21st century.
A legal practitioner, Chidi Enyie explained that every female child has a right of inheritance.
Citing Section 42 Sub 1&2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, he said that every person has a right to freedom from discrimination.
He said that was invoked in Ukoje Vs Ukoje (2020) where the Supreme Court came to a judgement that no person by reason of sex shall be discriminated against by reason of sex from inheriting the property of the parents.  The same way the males are entitled to inheritance, that’s the same females are entitled.
According to Barr. Enyie, the issue of sharing inheritance comes into play when a deceased parent dies intestate, that is dying without a Will, but if it is when there is a Will, it means the deceased person has done the sharing of the property in the Will.
“In most cases, it happens when there is a Will.  In our custom in Nigeria, they tend to favour the male child, but the Supreme Court judgement remains the name unless it is reversed in later decisions”, he said.
His words: “As it is, the barrier of discrimination has been nullified. Both male and female can inherit.  Even if she dies, her children are supposed to continue the ownership of the property, they are supposed to inherit their mum.  It can continue to run from generation to generation in that lineage”.
He pointed out that it depends largely on the type of marriage as sometimes in a customary marriage, the custom of the people will apply so long as the custom is not repugnant to national justice, equity and God conscience, then the custom will apply.
But in a Statutory marriage, Esien vs Esien (1934), he said that the Supreme Court came out with a decision that if it is the biological father of the child and not the customary father of the child.
“But ignorance on the part of the society tries to hamper the execution of the judgement of the Supreme Court”, he insisted.
He maintained that the judgement of Ukeje vs Ukeje is being criticised by the Ibo tribe that it wants to nullify their customs stressing that it should not prescribe what their custom should be.
He advocated that women should remain vibrant and contend for their right until awareness is created about the equality of both sex.
A pharmacist, Mr. Edet Okong, said such issue is prevalent in Nigeria because of poverty and illiteracy while it is not practised in other countries.
He noted that women have a share in his family whenever they are sharing things.  
He asked: “Is it not somebody from that family that gave birth to the woman?”
A legal practitioner, Mr. Ejike Uboh, noted that the issue of inheritance has to be handled by the court.
He said that NGOs need to carry out a lot of campaigns to the rural areas to be able to change the mindset of people who still hold into such cultural practice.
Uboh said that females inheriting their father’s property is good and traceable to the Holy scripture and called on FIDA and traditional rulers who are the embodiment of customs to sensitise people, giving reasons why such practice should stop.
A mechanic, Nude Ikegwuru, insisted that it is impossible for a daughter to inherit her father’s property and argued that women are exempted from paying levies in some communities and so should not.  
He made reference to the Aba women riot of 1929 which prevents women from paying tax in Nigeria.
A businessman, Gold Ibokwe, said that such laws and decision by the government should be taken seriously as time goes on.
According to a medical laboratory scientist, Ebere Nduidi, “when a woman is not married, she should have right to any property in her father’s home but when she gets married, I don’t think that is necessary.”
He emphasised that when a woman gets married, she changes her name and start answering her husband’s name, becomes somebody’s wife and so should not as she has been legally married.
Although he argued that the daughter can if it is her biological father’s property and not a general family case and insisted that if she gets the property before the death of the father, she should not return it.
“Fathers have the right to Will properties to their daughters if they want. They have equal opportunity as the male children”, he opined.
An entrepreneur, Davies Peter, said a woman can inherit her father’s property while she is alive and after her lifetime, the property should be released to the family.
According to him, since she bears the name of another family, the children shouldn’t continue the inheritance.
He advised that natural justice has to take its course instead of imported law while the laws be properly looked into and maintained that there should be some exception to the interpretation of some of the law as regards Nigeria and Africa generally.
He said although some of the laws are treated based on the fact that women are referred to as the weaker sex and they try to wave certain things.
He cautioned that people should not bring what is impracticable into existence and argued that male and female are not equal.
Mr. Kayode Ojo, an Architect asked: “Don’t you think that when you give a woman land in her father’s house, another one in her husband’s house, it will be too much? 
“ A man and a woman is a family, the husband and the children, so she should inherit in her husband’s house”, he noted.
Although the law supersedes tradition, he said, but that is if he wants to give the land to his daughter, at the end of the day, it is her own and insisted that tradition cannot prove the law wrong.
A pharmacist, Mary Udoh, said that fathers should be sensitised about writing Wills before death, so that if a property is bequeathed to whether a female or male, nobody under the law can take it away from such child.
An engineer, Emeka Obi, said what one may call cultural barriers and taboos is a common problem in Nigeria.
As he puts it: “People’s customs and traditions are peculiar to those who practice them. If according to the way of life of a given people, their daughters don’t have a place in the family inheritance, so be it, but if out of love or goodluck, a father Wills a property to any of his daughters, I have no problem with that”.
A nurse, Mary Uche, in her own view said: “ This is a welcome development. We are more of girls in my house than boys. “Could you believe that we lost our Dad, we the girls buried him but the boys took all the properties. And even if a woman dies, all her properties will be given to the sons’ wives. The only things given to the girls are clothes, if you demand more, they will tell you to go and inherit your husband’s house. If you are single, they will tell you to go and marry”.
The consequence of denying the female child the right of inheritance of father’s property is that if it comes to a situation where she is expected to contribute to family pressures, definitely she will withdraw. 
I’m not sure that any property can be too much to be owned by a woman.  If she has properties both in her father’s house and husband’s home, better for the children; after all, they were not stolen but inherited from grandparents. 
Religious leaders should preach more to the populace on improving the lives of people in the society.
Traditional rulers, NGOs should continually have dialogue and pass the messages down to the grassroots and perhaps to those in the urban centers no matter how learned and their level of exposure.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Business

Rivers: The Wheel Propelling Nigerian Economy

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The economic importance of Rivers State to national development has never been in contention. It is easy to discern, even by the blind. It was not by happenstance that the state was christened the ‘Treasure Base of the Nation’. The state earns the sobriquet on account of its contributions to national development. What is rather in contest is the benefit accrued to the people of the state from the huge natural deposits the state is endowed with.
Generally known as the hub of oil and gas industry in the country, Rivers State accounts for 40 per cent of Nigeria’s crude oil production. It is also the largest economy in Nigeria after Lagos. It has vast crude oil reserves among other natural resources, and remains a leading supplier of the nation’s wealth with associated export revenue.
Apart from Lagos, Rivers State contributes the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the nation’s economy. It accounts for about 65 per cent of government revenue and 88 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. As at 2010, Rivers State was contributing US$21,073 next only to Lagos with US$33,679 as GDP.
Despite its relatively low industrial base, the State has two of the nation’s four petroleum refineries at Eleme, two major seaports in Port Harcourt and Onne, an international airport at Omagwa, an oil and gas free zone, and a petrochemical and fertilizer plant in Onne, an industrial estate at Trans-Amadi, a gigantic liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny and tens of petrochemical related companies.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the aggregate growth of the Nigerian economy weighs heavily on the natural resources of Rivers State. For over five decades, the oil and gas sector has remained the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy till date. Little wonder that happenings in the oil and gas industry tend to have serious impact on the other sectors of the nation’s economy.
In the area of oil and gas which creates the wealth that sustains the nation, Rivers State ranks the highest contributor. Apart from playing host to two of the nation’s four petroleum refineries, the state also hosts major oil companies such as The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited (TEPNL), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and tens of petrochemical related companies. Added to these is the existence of a multi-billion naira Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Bonny which produces a million tones of gas per year.
It is, however, regrettable that in spite of Rivers State’s status as the hub of oil and gas in the country, these multinationals are reluctant to move their headquarters to the state citing insecurity and restiveness as excuses. It was even recently that NLNG relocated its head office to Port Harcourt.
Meanwhile, the new spate of development from marginal oil fields by the multinational oil giants has also created a vent for the participation of indigenous firms in the nation’s oil and gas sector. These firms include Minipulo, Nestoil, Belema Oil and Sahara Energy, among other upstream operators.
The import of this is that in spite of marginal neglect of the state by the Federal Government in terms of infrastructure and human development, Rivers remains the epicentre of Nigeria’s oil and gas activities, contributing a significant percentage of government’s revenue. That Nigeria was able to prosecute the three-year civil war successfully without borrowing a kobo was courtesy of the oil wealth. The oil boom of the 1970s also led to the mass importation of foreign manufactures, salary reviews and arrears payment, oversea scholarship and training of workers, among others.
Also given its position as a natural seaport and railway terminus, Rivers State has long established itself as an investor’s haven, with the bulk of its tenants in Trans-Amadi Industrial area of Port Harcourt.
Before now, there were several companies scattering around the state, such as Michellin, Pabod Breweries, Port Harcourt Flour Mills, Nigeria Engineering Works (NEW), West African Glass Industry (WAGI), Slumberger, Halliburton, Metalloplastica, Rivers Vegetable Oil Company (RIVOC), Riversbiscuit, Flag Aluminium, Indorama  Eleme Fertiliser &Chemicals Limited, NAFCON, now Notore, among others.
Although a good number of these companies which once contributed to the economic growth of the state and Nigeria at large had since closed shop or relocated outside the country due to a number of factors ranging from poor electricity supply, general infrastructural decay resulting in high operational cost, multiple taxation and insecurity; a handful of them that are still in existence in the state make significant contributions to the nation’s economy in terms of employment generation and wealth creation.
Not too long ago, Pabod Breweries which was once moribund was revived by South Africa’s SAB Miller through a partnership that appears to be yielding good dividends to both the state and national economy, alongside Indorama Group.
Meanwhile, Rivers State also plays host to the second busiest seaport after Lagos. It hosts two of the nation’s seaports – Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), Rivers Complex and Onne Port. This suggests that the state constitutes a major commercial centre in the country. The state’s proximity to Aba in Abia State and Onitsha in Anambra State – two notable destinations for containerised imports, adds impetus to the commercial status of Rivers State, and also contributes in no small measure to the economy of the country.
Rivers State is not lagging behind either in the area of hospitality industry. Apart from the popular Hotel Presidential located along Aba-Port Harcourt Road, which has been in existence since the days of the Eastern Nigeria, there are several other hotels scattering around Port Harcourt and its environs. Prominent among them are Meridian Hotel at Old GRA, Port Harcourt; Landmark Hotel at Waterline area of Port Harcourt, Sasun Hotel at Trans-Amadi, and a host of others. The avalanche of these hospitality industries in the state does not only boost the economic base of the state, it also attracts and facilitates investment in the country.
Added to this impetus is the NEW vision of the present administration in the state led by Governor Nyesom Wike, which has led to a deluge of social infrastructures, thus attracting investments to both the state and the country at large.
It is, however, a painful irony that despite the avalanche of wealth tapped from crude oil sale and other economic opportunities in the state over the years, there has been a complete neglect of the state by the Federal Government in the area of basic infrastructure. For instance, the two major roads that link Rivers State with other parts of the country, namely, the Eleme section of the East West Road that leads to Onne industrial hub, and the Oyigbo section of the Port Harcourt-Aba Road have been in a state of disrepair for years without attention from the Federal Government.
Worst still, the multinationals that operate in the state and Niger Delta as a whole, and who ordinarily should be a propeller of development have only succeeded in adding to the sufferings of the people. They do not only devastate the environment with their oil activities and leave their host communities with destroyed farmlands, polluted air and deteriorating marine life, they also subject the indigenes to a second class citizens in terms of employment.
One of the most disturbing paradox is that crude oil for export is transported to Bonny and Forcados through a network of pipeline stretching across 6,000km over communities and living quarters approximately the distance between Cape Town in South Africa and Cairo in Egypt. Yet, little or no measure is taken to ensure the maintenance of the pipes which often corrode and burst, leading to oil spill, killing people and devastating environment, water and farmlands. Worst, the Federal Government that is supposed to be a regulator appears helpless and complacent as it lacks the political will to rein in on these oil conglomerates to stop the criminal environmental pollution in the state. This obviously accounts for occasional pockets of unrest and restiveness in Rivers and other Niger Delta states.
Many analysts and keen observers have decried the criminal neglect of Rivers State by the Federal Government. Piqued by the aberrant, incongruous structure of the Nigerian federation, especially the iniquitous disposition of the Federal Government in robbing Peter to pay Paul, a professor of Economics, Willie Okowa, had in a seminar presentation on Rivers State since 1967 said, “The use of oil resources derived largely from Rivers State in the creation of the infrastructure basis for development in other parts of the country while denying the same treatment for the territory in which oil is found speaks of a callousness that is numbing to the mind and an outrageousness that is a challenge to the ethics of civilised behaviour”.
The Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike himself has, at several fora, complained about the inequities and apparent lack of visible federal presence in the state despite the state’s contributions to the nation’s economy. He believes the state deserves a special status and consideration from the Federal Government given its contributions to national growth.
Presenting a paper on ‘Institutional Weakness and Challenges of Development in Rivers State in Abuja in 2016, Wike observed that, “the state has suffered sustained neglect, marginalisation and injustice from successive federal governments and its agencies”.
The governor continued: “Even as no new development project has been initiated in the state for decades, what is most distressing is the failure of the Federal Government to adequately maintain some of the critical federal infrastructure in the state.
“I am referring to the Port Harcourt Terminal building, the Port Harcourt seaport, as well as the East West Road, particularly the section that leads from Eleme junction to the Onne industrial hub that has remained broken for years without attention from the Federal Government.”
Five years after Governor Wike made this cursory observation, has anything changed? Perhaps not. Apart from the Port Harcourt International Airport Terminal building which was constructed recently, all other critical federal infrastructure listed by the governor for attention in 2016 have remained unattended to by the Federal Government. It took the intervention of the state government under Wike to fix two of the federal roads in the state: the Industry Road that leads to the NPA, Port Harcourt seaport and the Igwuruta-Chokocho Road.
Indeed, this disturbing irony of an oil state wallowing in poverty and squalor speaks of an utter insensitivity and indifference that is not only numbing to mind, but also strange to all ethical conducts.
But how long will this criminal neglect and deliberate marginalisation continue? When will the Rivers people get a fair share of the national cake? When will the Federal Government realise that Rivers State is the the wheel that propels the nation’s economy and should be accorded honour and respect? Who will rescue the Treasure Base of the Nation from the oppressive claws of national inequities?  Questions. Endless questions.

 

By: Boye Salau

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