By Austin Ogwuda
Asabaâ€”MINSTER of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Odein Ajumogbia (SAN), said yesterday in Asaba that there was need for Niger Delta governors to look inwards and diversify away from oil and gas, noting that no amount of proceeds from oil and gas could be sufficient to develop the area.
This came as the immediate past governor of Delta state, Chief James Ibori, challenged lawmakers from the Niger Delta in the National Assembly to defend their people over the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Both the minister and Ibori spoke at the 4th Distinguished Annual Lecture 2009, entitled â€œOil and Gas as depleting resources: Recreating a Niger Delta without Oilâ€, organized by Delta State House of Assembly Service Commission.
The minister, who was the guest lecturer, told the audience that â€œit is imperative for the Niger Delta to begin to diversify away from oil and gas and realize its vast potentials in other areas if we must provide an economy that is healthy, sustainable and can meet the basic needs of every Niger Deltan.
â€œI know that some might argue that a larger share of the oil and gas proceeds will sort things out. While it certainly would be good to get a larger share of the proceeds, that in itself will not cure the rudimentary needs.
â€œJust to give a quick example, the average OECD per capita expenditure on public health alone is about $2000/per annum. This would amount to some $22 billion per annum for the core Niger Delta states and $60 billion for the expanded Niger Delta.
â€œComparing these numbers to the federal governmentâ€™s oil revenue of some $40 billion (2mb/d) production and $70/bbl) reveals the huge gap in funding. And we have not talked about education, roads, electricity etcetera.
â€œAs a first step in diversifying, the forum may consider our natural competitive advantage and channel efforts towards marine-based industries. A study by the Australian government on its South-East Marine Region lists some of the following marine-based industries – commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, seabed mining, marine based-tourism; ship/boat building; biotechnology; marine waste disposal; marine transport and portsâ€.
On his part, Ibori maintained that if the Petroleum Bill was allowed to be passed into law, it would amount to crying over spilled milk, pointing out that now was the time to rise up to the challenge and ensure that the Bill was killed.
He asked the people of Niger Delta to mount pressures on the representatives in the National Assembly instead of beating about the bush.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman of the State House of Assembly Service Commission, Mr. Tonye Timi, said the topic of the lecture was carefully chosen because â€œit has become imperative for the state to plan towards a day without oil. The governor (Uduaghan) believes so much in that.â€