*Agree on political, economic integration
By Emeka Mamah & Dennis Agbo
ENUGU – GOVERNORS of the South East and South-South geopolitical zones rose from their joint inaugural meeting in Enugu, yesterday, stating that the two regions common heritage, culture and affinity.
They subsequently agreed to enter into political and economic integration of the two regions, pledging to work together and realign as a people that share similarities.
The Governors after about four hours deliberation also agreed to pursue regional cooperation of integration for the economic benefit of the two geopolitical zones and unanimously adopted Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state their interim chairman.
The forum scheduled to continue their meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers state on August 27 2017.
Nine out of Eleven Governors of the two regions were present at the meeting. They were Governors Nysome Wike of Rivers, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Prof Ben Ayade of Cross River, Chief David Umahi of Ebonyi, Owelle Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia and Anambra state Deputy Governor Nkem Okeke.
Governors of Edo and Delta states were absent and did not send representatives.
In a communiqué read by the interim chairman of the forum and Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Udom Emmanuel, the Governors said that “having reviewed the state of the nation, particularly as it affects us in the south-South and South East regions, we have agreed as follows:-
“To pursue inter regional cooperation of integration for the economic benefit of the two regions; to politically work together and realign as a people that share common heritage, culture and affinities.”
Governor Emmanuel also announced his appointment as the interim chairman of the forum, disclosing that the also agreed that their next meeting would hold in Port Harcourt, Rivers state on August 27, 2017.
Host Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in his welcome address described the meeting, the first in the current dispensation, as “the dawn of a new thinking that will lead to a mutual cooperation between the governments of South East and South-South zones.”
According to Ugwuanyi, “What God has joined together, not even the Niger or delineation for administrative convenience will put asunder. We are essentially one, we are brothers joined by geography, one brotherhood and one friendship.
“We also have common challenges, we believe that this meeting will fundamentally help us to understand ourselves better, rekindle the spirit of brotherhood, strengthen ties and cooperation with common vision and agenda for economic and political development of our regions,” he said
Ugwuanyi sought the cooperation of South-South governors for the establishment of South East Development Commission, to address peculiar needs of the zone, just Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
He lamented the breakdown of roads and other infrastructure in the two zones which he said hamper their economic development, adding that it was regrettable that only 5 percent of electricity generated in the country is allocated to the two regions
“We also cannot fly from South East or South-South states to the other; we can only fly from Lagos or Abuja to a connecting flight unless you can afford a chartered flight,” Ugwuanyi said.
He also called on South-South Governors to support South East call for the restructuring of the country to ensure equity, justice and equality.
Chairman of South East Governors forum and Governor of Ebonyi state, Chief David Umahi in his address released by his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, said that they were meeting for the first time as governors of South-South and South East to brainstorm on various but salient issues affecting the
Umahi said “We are meeting as brothers to talk about regional integration and find lasting solution to intermittent outbreak of interstate clashes arising from boundary disputes among the two regions.
“We are also talking about economic survival of the two regions and look at possible ways of bringing our ingenuity and making use of our huge deposit of both human and natural resources to attain economic viable zones in Nigeria.
“There is also need to discuss security, peace and unity of the two regions and find lasting solution to various salient issues that affect our unity in Nigeria.
“It is a meeting born out of love and desire to find cohesion among the two regions and I am happy that my brother Governors responded to the call even at the short notice given to them. In other words, we are discussing regional and national interest.”