By Julius Oweh
Strategic thinking and clear-cut policy implementation are the hallmarks of responsive governance and this perhaps informed the Delta State Economic and Investment Summit held in Asaba last year. The summit saw the presence of the vice president of the country, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, former governor of Central Bank, Prof Charles Soludo, chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia and governor of Sokoto State, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal.
The state governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa explained the underpin philosophy behind the summit: ‘From the onset of this administration, we were determined to diversify the economy and make it more resilient to external shocks.
We have set a target of 10 percent annual growth rate in our agricultural sector, especially in commodity where we have comparative advantage, particularly cassava, oil palm and aquaculture. .. Ultimately, our goal is to vigorously develop the non-oil sector of the economy such that they overtake oil and gas as growth drivers.
The framework and guidelines of the agenda have been articulated in our Delta State Medium Development Plan…. From preliminary analysis, the total private investment to be realized in the next two or three years from the various PPP projects is about 500,000 million dollars‘
The vice president who was impressed by the convocation of the summit praised the state government for the initiative, adding that government alone cannot provide enabling and fertile environment to fire the growth of the economy. Listen to him: ‘The governor of Delta State in his speech said his administration is partnering with the private sector to develop the state.
There is no way we can create prosperity without the private sector because the public sector does not have the resources to ensure speedy development‘.
More than a year since that August 2016 summit, many Deltans are reaping the benefits of that summit. Investigation carried out by this reporter revealed that the ‘smart agenda‘ and the job creation office had empowered more than 3,000 people with starter packs to start their own businesses. And that about 7,000 indirect jobs have been created as part of the prosperity agenda of the government. It is also revealed that the State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources had changed the lives of farmers and fishermen.
Speaking recently in Abraka on the benefits of the economic summit, the Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr Kingsley Emu disclosed that so far about 539 cooperatives societies comprising 6,252 beneficiaries in the 25 local council areas have benefitted from huge sum of money made available by the Okowa administration. He also maintained that financial support was given to micro and small enterprises – traders, market women, artisans and small time farmers.
Emu lauded the benefits of the summit: ‘We do not owe salaries to date and have supported local governments in their constitutional role of payment of salaries in excess of N3 billion despite our tight financial position. We have also consistently made provision of N470 million monthly towards payment of the state obligation to the contributory pension scheme‘.
The development of the three agro-industrial areas in Uzere in Delta South senatorial district, Abraka -Umutu in Delta Central senatorial district and Ogwashi-Uku in Delta North Senatorial districts are part of the deliberate efforts of the government to diversify the economy and wean it off dependence on crude oil. This was the theme worked on by the state Commissioner of Information, Mr Patrick Ukah recently.
Ukah explained the predicate of the economic and investment summit. His observation :‘Our agriculture policy directive is moderated more by the developed world aggressive climate induced engineering targeting the complete elimination of fossil fuel by 2025 and more importantly mobilising Deltans into mechanised agriculture and agro-business driven industries.
The agro-industrial park will also promote economic diversification and growth of the state including creating more than 5,000 jobs along the agriculture value chain. It will provide a common dedicated infrastructure and facilities for agro-processing, value addition and agro business as a means of improving the ease of doing business.‘
Thus the common sentiment in Delta State is that the economic and investment summit is beginning to yield dividends to peak the welfare and standard of living of Deltans. It is also very instructive to note that the micro credit programme of the government has lifted a lot of urban and rural poor from the nadir of poverty, placing them on the laps of economic empowerment by engaging them in small businesses rather than depending on handouts from paid employment.
It will be recalled that during the summit, Governor Okowa explained to the outside world and investors the size of Delta state economy and the need to make the place an investment haven. He also harped on the need for strategic thinking that has the signature of foresight, careful planning, innovation and creativity.
Okowa wore the robe of the greatest salesman of the state: ‘With the size of Delta State economy standing at approximately 24.6 billion dollars, Delta is the fourth largest economy in the country.
Delta state is perhaps the only state in the federation with multiple urban centres numbering as many as 12. As a coastal state, it has four seaports in Warri, Koko, Burutu and Sapele. Indeed it is fair to say that the Nigerian business and corporate arena would not be the same without the solid contributions of illustrious Deltans who are excelling in a facet of human endeavour‘.
Today the tree of that summit are bearing fruits of economic activities by majority of people actively engaged in business and the economic climate of the state shall never be the same again.