Rivers: The Wheel Propelling Nigerian Economy
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
Infrastructure Deficit, Insecurity, Limit Maritime Contribution To GDP – Expert
A Maritime stake holder, and Chairman of Sifax Group, Taiwo Afolabi, has attributed maritime industry’s minimal contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to infrastructure deficit, insecurity on the nation’s waterways, low level of technology adoption, and deployment in the sector.
Afolabi made this known at the 5th Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime (TAAM) conference organised by the Maritime Forum of the faculty of law, University of Lagos.
Afolabi noted that other hindrances are foreign exchange bottleneck and inconsistent policies.
“These have limited the ability of the sector to contribute significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product GDP.
“If well harnessed, the maritime industry has the potential to become a major revenue earner for the country, particularly with the declining oil revenue.
“The lessons of the last few years as a nation should not be lost on us. The non-oil sector is increasingly becoming the mainstay of the country’s economy. We have funded our national budget in the last few years majorly without proceeds from oil but from other sectors.
“The days of our over reliance on oil is behind us now and it’s about time we focused on transitioning from an oil-dependent economy to non-oil reliance.
“The maritime sector, I can say without any fear of contradiction, will play a crucial role in this economic transitioning if more attention is committed to the industry.
“Judging by the potentials of the industry, we are of the opinion and belief that Nigeria’s maritime industry can rank among the best in the world.
“It will only take careful planning, progressive policies, generous funding, enabling environment, friendly economic policies, manpower development and massive infrastructural development”, he noted.
Loans Repayment Default: DMO Exonerates Nigeria
The Debt Management Office (DMO) has refuted the claim by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) that Nigeria has defaulted in repaying its Chinese loans.
SERAP had in an earlier statement hailed the judgement that ordered the present regime led by President Muhammadu Buhari to account for how it spent $460 million obtained from China to fund the Abuja Closed-Circuit Television project which later was not implemented.
The NGO also quoted a report in its statement saying “Nigeria has failed to repay loans for which penalties stand at N41.31bn”.
But DMO in its refuttal said the statement is ‘false’ as Nigeria has not defaulted in its loan repayment.
It said, “Nigeria is fully committed to housing its debt obligations and has not defaulted on any of its debt service obligations”, DMO said on Monday.
SERAP had sued the Federal Government following a 2019 disclosure by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed that “Nigeria was servicing the loan”, adding that she had “no explanations on the status of the project”.
She reportedly said, “We are servicing the loan. I have no information on the status of the CCTV project”.
Giving his judgement, Justice Nwite agreed with SERAP that “there is a reasonable cause of action against the government. Accounting for the spending of the $460 million Chinese loan is in the interest of the public. It will be inimical for the court to refuse SERAP’s application for judicial review of the government’s action”.
The presiding justice also said the Minister of Finance is in charge of the finance of the country and “cannot by any stretch of imagination be oblivious of the amount of money paid to the contractors for the Abuja CCTV contract and the money meant for the construction of the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)”, SERAP said.
CBN Names Four Firms To Print Cheques
Nigeria’s apex banking institution, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has named four local firms for the printing of cheques, excluding the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NPSMC) PLC.
The list of the approved firms for the printing of cheques was contained in a circular issued by CBN.
The circular, which was signed by the Director of Banking Services, Sam Okojere, said the approved firms include Superflux International Limited, Tripple Gee and Company, Yaliam Press Limited, and Marvelous Mike Press.
“The re-accreditation of Cheques Printers and Cheque Personalisers is in line with the relevant qualification criteria”, CBN stated.
The circular also revealed that seven banks were approved as personalisers of cheques: they are Zenith Bank Plc, Ecobank Plc, First Bank Ltd, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Keystone Bank Ltd, Providus Bank Ltd and Wema Bank Plc.
It further disclosed that all accredited printers and personalisers had been duly notified and certificates issued.
The Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Plc is the sole printer of N200, N500, and N1000 new notes.
Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company Plc and Euphoria Group Limited were accredited and approved on Thursday, 04 December 2014, in a letter REF: BPS/DIR/GEN/CIR/02/033.
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