Echoes From South-South Economic Confab

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This is the concluding part of this article, published on Monday, May 7, 2012

Amaechi  lent his voice to the call for the unbundling of the Federal Government’s existing revenue sharing formula to give the states and local governments more responsibility to deliver democratic dividends to Nigerians.

Before the Governor’s outburst on the structural defect, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who presented a keynote address at the summit, fired the first shot by condemning the concentration of powers at the centre and  urged the regions to brace up for autonomy.

Soyinka, aroused participants’ anxiety of seeing a nation that is actually operating true federalism, when he flayed the non-development autonomy of the Federal Government and urged the regions to call the shots to relegate the centre.

“Let each regional groupings collaborate to create a community of interest to manage the natural and human resources, and become creative and more  productive.  Let each state call its conference and begin to relegate the centre. Begin to engage in policies that reduce the ability of the central government to impede the development of the constituent parts”, he charged.

Also speaking, the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, challenged South-South Governors and the people  to come up with realistic actions.

According to him, despite the fact that the nation was centralised, there was increasing poverty and joblessness, adding that government must encourage job creation and growth, so as to keep the youth busy and improve security.

The National Security Adviser, General Andrew Owoye Azazi ( rtd), who took the stage on the second day  after the media became victim of increasing terrorism in the country, blamed the menace on the zoning policy of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, (PDP).

Aziza said the zoning policy which precludes certain ethnic groups from ruling the country at a particular period in time, contrary to the 1999 Constitution was responsible  for security breaches being witnessed in the country.

His words, “The PDP got it wrong from the beginning by saying Mr A. can rule, Mr B cannot rule, according to the PDP convention rules and regulations and not according to the constitution.  That created the climate of what is happening and manifesting in the country today.”

The NSA stressed that although he knew that the PDP would not agree with him, but that would not stop him from making the point, adding that political   positions have brought a situation today, whereby a particular party would say before an election that it must win 80 per cent in an area, and when that did not happen, people would resort to violence.

Azazi said from information available to him, it was clear that the on-going violence by an Islamic sect was also linked to the battle for 2015 adding that people should ask questions, as to how the said sect just suddenly become very well equipped.

According to him,  “What we are experiencing today started several years ago but we  did not realise it, but we have started to make sure that we take some fire-brigade approach to find the solution”, even as he further said that the security challenges had been politicised.

He noted that security is not only the responsibility of those officially employed but that of all Nigerians stressing on the urgent need to effectively orientate the citizenry on the skills of security alertness. “Security should be the business of everybody, be it an individual or organisation. People should not live in an environment or go in and out of an organisation without being monitored by others”,  he said.

Looking at the issue from the African regional perspective, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whose address was presented by Mr Agara, Rwandan, stated that encouragement is the hall mark of any nation that wished to succeed. He said Rwanda had had its own share of catastrophes but has, through courage, overcome.  The solution to challenges comes from within, he said charging Nigeria to take the bull by the horns.

According to Kagame, who spoke on the topic “Opportunities to Development”, with the right mentality, the continent of Africa in general and Nigeria in particular can achieve whatever they dream of.  He encouraged cooperation, stressing that when people pool their efforts together, they are destined to achieve far much more than they would achieve working as individuals.

Kagame stated that his country and the South-South region of Nigeria have several things in common especially in the area of natural resources.  He pointed out that the progress seen in Rwanda is evidence that a lot more can be achieved if people put their minds to it.

He said that his region was richly blessed, but that there is need to de-emphasis the bureaucratic nature of the way businesses are conducted. He charged governors of the region to make their environment business-friendly by providing facilities needed for investment to thrive.

On his part, President Goodluck Jonathan assured at the summit that his administration is still committed to addressing factors militating against the implementation of revolutionary programmes in the South-South.  “Taking into consideration the various transformations and development in the region orchestrated by the governors, we can confidently say yes we can”, he declared.

Represented by his vice, Namadi Sambo, the president said the major areas that need to be tackled in the region are transportation and power which he said the Niger Delta Ministry is handling, noting that the diversification agenda of the BRACED states from oil to education, tourism, agriculture, industrialisation and human capital development is in the right direction.

At the end of the three days summit, the Governors of the South-South region recommended review of the current policies and regulations on power and gas to enable states generate, transmit and distribute  power to complement efforts of the Federal Government in the region.

The governors saw the review as a catalyst to economic development of the region, agreed to develop a Niger Delta Energy Corridor, a project with the potential for connecting the people, industry and natural resources, and creating jobs.

In  a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, the governors under the BRACED (Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta) Commission, also recommended the restructuring of the federation, including review of the current revenue allocation formula to give more powers, responsibilities and funding to the states and local governments as centres of growth.

The communiqué was signed by Governors Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), and Joe Keshi, Director-General of BRACED Commission.

The summit resolved to “strengthen the nascent governance structure in the region to incorporate private sector and other non-state actors with a view to creating favourable policy, legal and regulatory environment that would stimulate greater private sector.

 

Amieyeofori Ibim