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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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Buhari Seeks UK, EU Countries’ Partnership On Green Energy Policy 

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President, Muhammadu Buhari, has stressed the need for a long-term partnership between Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the European Union (EU) on green energy policy.
Buhari, who made the call in an interview with Bloomberg News, said the UK and EU countries should invest in the planned 4000 km pipeline meant to bring Nigerian gas, regarded as the largest reserves in Africa, through Morocco, to Europe.
According to the President, when completed, the gas pipeline project would help to address gas supply crisis in Europe.
“We need long-term partnership, not inconsistency and contradiction on green energy policy from the UK and European Union.
“Investment is hampered by their broad-brush moratorium on overseas gas projects, while at home the same projects are classified as green.
“It does not help their energy security, it does not help Nigeria’s economy, and it does not help the environment. It is hypocrisy that must end.
“To change, the UK and EU countries should invest in our planned 4000 km pipeline to bring Nigerian gas, the largest reserves in Africa, via Morocco, then onto Europe”, he said.
The President explained that the gas pipeline project, connecting Nigeria to Europe, which was conceived four years ago, had since been unveiled.
Recalling that on June 2 the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) entered into an agreement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for its construction, he said, “concurrently on July 1, the NNPC will become a Limited Liability Company and be subject to more robust auditing and commercial disclosure obligations.
“It will help stimulate investment and boost transparency, where corruption has deterred the former and stymied the latter.
“My administration is the first to pass this landmark reform in our oil and gas sector, after two decades of predecessors’ failure to do so, no doubt due to vested interests,” he stated.
Buhari, however, noted that criminality and terrorism in Nigeria’s oil-producing regions had continued to hamper oil production.
Consequently, called on the Western allies to sanction all terrorist groups operating in the Niger Delta region and other oil-producing states in the South-East and South-South zones.
“It would help if our western allies designated IPOB as a terrorist group, given their complicity in damage to pipelines and infrastructure,” he said.
Buhari also revealed that the country had invested in the security forces, including the one billion dollar military deal with the U.S. for the acquisition of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.

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Nigerians Collect 3m Passports From 2019-2022 – Aregbesola

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Minister of Interior Affairs, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, says a total of three million passports were issued to Nigerians between 2019 to 2022.
He used the opportunity to warn officers and men of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) against extortions and hoarding of passport booklets to create an undue scarcity in the system.
The minister, who disclosed this at the official launching of the Enhanced e-Passport in Benin, Asaba and Warri passport offices, and the commissioning of the passport production centre at the Benin Passport office, Edo State Command, lauded the achievement of the NIS.
“It will interest you to know that between 2019 and now, as difficult as that era was, the Nigerian Immigration Service has issued over three million passports to Nigerians. It is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria.
“Last year alone, 1.3 million passports were issued. Also, last time I checked, over 250,000 passports remained uncollected by applicants”, he said.
He assured that the exploitation of Nigerians seeking to get their passports will no longer be tolerated by him, saying that erring officers will be seriously dealt with.
“Whoever disregard any Nigerian,  whoever exploit any Nigerian in their quest to get this document will be dealt with personally by me. This is the last time I am going to warn”, he said.
Aregbesola said President Muhammadu Buhari expressed regrets on hearing that Nigerians are always denied passports, stressing that with the enhanced e-Passport, denial of passports will no longer be experienced.

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NDLEA, NAGAFF Collaborate Against Illicit Drug Importation

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National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has called for a working relationship with 100 percent Compliance Team of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) in order to curb the Illicit importation of drugs through the seaports.
Speaking at a courtesy visit to the secretariat of the 100 percent Compliance Team in Lagos, Commander, Tin Can Island Port NDLEA, Mr. Aminu Abubakar warned freight forwarders and their importers to desist from Illicit drug clearance from the ports stressing the need for proper sensitisation of importation.
While calling for the support and cooperation of the NAGAFF Compliance Team, Abubakar urged freight forwarders to desist from the spread of hard drugs through the seaports by sticking to their legitimate duties.
He noted that since the NDLEA launched the War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) in Abuja, several seizures have been made during cargo examination at the ports, with freight forwarders arrested and jailed for their  involvem in the importation of hard drugs.
The NDLEA boss stated that from January 2022 till date, the agency has intercepted 1500 Kilograms of Tapendatol with a value of over N6million amongst others at the seaports.
According to him, Tapendatol is another type of Tramadol drug which is more potent and dangerous than the usual Tramadol.
“The agency has different units and strategies through which we fight the menace and monster of drug abuse, and trafficking into our country.
“This is the suppression of the supply of drugs, which we do at the seaports. We profile some containers at the seaports, and based on the profile, we target such consignment and ensure we conduct proper examination.
“Sometimes we work with intelligence information or on the basis of profile which informs what we do.
“The agency has some strategies, which include counselling drug abusers and public enlightenment on the effects and prevention of drug abuse. There are also rehabilitation centers”, he said.
It will be recalled that the Chairman of the NDLEA recently launched call centers which would soon be operational, where one can report issues or seek for help.
“We have gotten 1500 kilograms of Tapendatol drug worth over N6million from Apapa and Tin Can ports.
We can only imagine what it will do if it gets to places where it is intended. Nigeria is already in crisis. We have the problem of banditry, kidnappings and youth restiveness and the root cause of these acts emanate from abuse of drugs”, he stated.
On his part, the National Coordinator of the 100 Percent Compliance Team, NAGAFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko, explained that most freight forwarders become liable to the crime of hard drugs importation because 60 percent of freight agents at the ports use their company names to import consignments on behalf of the importers.
While assuring NDLEA of the group’s support, the NAGAFF Compliance boss noted that about eleven members of NAGAFF have been innocently detained in prison due to such acts.
Tanko, however, stressed that freight forwarders should desist from using their company’s name to ship in consignments in favour of the importers to avoid being liable when there are infractions.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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