Sunny Onuesoke, a former Delta State PDP governorship aspirant, is the Special Project Director, Section A, Ughelli-Asaba Township road dualization project. In this interview, he speaks on Delta State governmentâ€™s efforts in diversifying the economy of the state from oil and gas and other sundry issues.
Sir, looking at the economy as it is today, oil is still the mainstay of Nigeriaâ€™s economy, what do you think could be done to diversify the economy of this country?
My governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has been fashioning outÂ lots of economic development programmes to shift the stateâ€™s concentration on oil and gas to the core sector, agriculture. It isÂ a core sector in the sense that the governor is of the view that after oil might have exhausted ,what will be the last hope for the average Deltan? What are we going to be depending on?
What I am trying to say is that the governor has decided to delve into ventures that are quite different from what we have been expecting him to do. That is, to say the governor is determined to refocus our economic dependence on oil and gas to the core sector, agriculture. NormalÂ integrated farming system will be the order of the day.
You talked about diversification of the economy, what areas do you want government to focus on?
The three-point agenda of the state government is something you should understand. I think the principal area I want the government to focus on is agriculture and where there would be a lot of cottage industries, mega industries and production.Â The focus is going to be on agriculture.
With agriculture, the state could go into agro allied industrial sector. In another threeÂ to four years, we should be thinking of companies that could can banga into liquid Banga from the palm kernel to banga soup just like that. So the real focus of what I am talking about is purely agriculture.
Agriculture is the mainstay of any economy that wants development. The American government was able to disintegrate the USSR government under Gorbachev by starving the USSR of wheat. So agriculture is something that one cannot really do without. When the citizens of a country are well fed, the next step would be to undergo research and other things. So without food, I donâ€™t think there is going to be any development in any economy ofÂ the world.
The issue ofÂ the three point agenda is purely focused on infrastructure, agriculture and other areas, but what I want to emphasize is that if we are refocusingÂ our minds from oil and gas to other areas like the government is planning to do, in another 10 years, Delta would no longer depend on oil and gas.
We will now focus on cottage industries, sustainable industries, agro allied industries, that is agriculture- oriented industries. In Delta State, we have the talents, we have the professionals, we have the where-withal to do things like that. So these are some of the key aspects of the three point agenda.
Today, the state government is establishing industrial parks in some parts of the state and it is equally building an international airport and dualizing the Ughelli /Asaba road, what does this portend for the economy of the state?
We are building the airport as well as the Ughelli- Asaba dualization to key into the airport. The airport is an international airport of cargo capability. That is to say some of the EasternersÂ whoÂ are coming with their multi-dimensional businesses from Europe and America will prefer to utilize the Asaba International Airport. Besides, youÂ know Warri is a key commercial city. So when you are going to Asaba, we are doing all these dualization to key into the airport project to open up that axis.
If you look at the Ughelli-Asaba dualization, it is a project that cuts across the three senatorial districts. It is an embodiment of infra structural development in the state. The governor has a focal point of doing this. So sooner or later, every body in Delta State will benefit from these mega infra structural projects. There are lots of industrial parks the governor is building. We have taken the feasibility studies for the execution of Delta State Independent Power Plants. The governor is determined to do these things.
These are things that people cannot just comprehend instantly because in Nigeria we have refused to build projects ofÂ Â legacies. What my governor is putting on ground now are projects that Deltans will benefit from even in the next fifty years. What he is doing now are legacies that generations yet unborn will benefit from.
You were talking about development ofÂ the economy, today, some of the youths are jobless and the Delta State government has a micro credit scheme. How is the scheme affecting the development of the youths?|
All that is required in the Micro Credit Scheme headed by Dr. Anthonia Ashiedu is for Deltans to form credible co-operative societies and apply formally as a body to the scheme. After investigation and screening of your application, you will definitely get the loans because the state government intends to use the scheme to develop the people at the grass roots. The scheme is well spread all over the state. Those that have benefitted from it are using it to improve their economic lives.
We are talking about the core sector in the rural areas. Those that have not organized themselves into co-operatives should do so. It is only after you have organized yourselves into the co-operatives and you have been screened to know the objectives and genuineness of your co-operative society that the funds can be made available to you. The funds are meant to douse the problem of unemployment in the rural areas.
Only recently, the commercial motorcycle (Okada) riders in Warri axis protested against a levy that was imposed on them by Motorcycle Riders Association and you are talking about youth empowerment and development. How will you explain this?
Talking about the issue of Okada riders, how much is the levy? Just N20. Let them pay the N20. It doesnâ€™t make any difference. We are always talking about developed nations.
These countries got developed through the payment of tax, corperate tax and personal income tax, amongst others. I want to ask, how many people pay tax in Delta? We are seeking for infrastructural development but we donâ€™t pay tax in Delta State. Developed nations depend on tax to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. But in Delta, people want to benefit everything without an iota of tax towards the treasury of the state. Whether Okada, bus driver or the Igbudu market trader, we should cultivate the habit of paying our taxes. It is a legal way of developing any society.