By Jimitota Onoyume
THE first Warri Economic Summit with the theme: Warri Rising, ended on a promising note with various speakers urging ethnic groups in Warri to bury their sentiments for the common good of the oil- rich city.
One of the speakers, Ngozi Mogbolu, captured the situation of the oil city appropriately when she said it was one of the entry points of colonial civilisation and a linguistic melting port in the country. Urging Wafarians as residents choose to call themselves, to change the ugly narratives on the oil-rich city to something positive by shunning crime and related acts, Mogbolu further described Warri as the economic heartbeat of the state. She stressed that the city shares similar status with Lagos, Port Harcourt and other notable commercial nerve centres in the country.
Commercial nerve centre
“The big take home from this summit is that we should manage information on Warri. Let us point at the positive side of Warri; there are so many good things about Warri. We should take opportunity of this summit to grow Warri again,” she pleaded.
Francis Daniel Okumagba and Professor Tosan Harriman, who also spoke, harped on unity among the three ethnic groups in the oil-rich city, saying the groups should come together to move the city forward. Professor Harriman said the people should stop seeing other tribes as impeding development of the city. While urging the youths to shun brigandage, Harriman said: “If we all develop a community sense of engagement, we will redress so many challenges in the area. We can’t see Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo as our problem, our problem is endemic.”
On his part, Chief Okumagba urged the Chairman of Warri South Local Government Area, Mr. Michael Tidi and residents of Warri to set up Warri Club anywhere they found themselves, stressing that it would promote the desired unity among the people to advance the good of the area. Okumagba also unveiled several business opportunities to the gathering.
“Money flows in the streets of Warri; we are not picking it. You don’t need money to start a business but the will and determination. Some of our youths need a change of mindset. Let us all grow Warri before we look at where we are from. In Warri, we need to re-brand. Let us have Warri Clubs everywhere. Let us de-emphasize tribal sentiments for the growth and development of Warri,” he said.
Former Director-General, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Mr. Temi Omatseye, who spoke extensively on opportunities in the maritime sector for development of the oil-rich city, said that Warri should collaborate with other areas to fully tap the benefit in the sector.
He said: “I am very passionate about the maritime sector. I go on speed boats round Nigerian creeks to speak on shipping. Nigeria has a very long coastline of about 853 kilometres. We are facing a major challenge in Nigeria as a country with about 1.3 million tonnes of petroleum products sitting offshore Lagos. How do we clear issues relating to Apapa Ports? Dangote says he loses so much on a monthly basis because of the situation. Are we ready to receive the volume of products in Warri? Warri can’t do it alone, we must overcome ethnicity. Warri does not have the landed space for it alone. Warri must collaborate with other areas around.”
Omatseye also spoke of the urgent need to effectively utilise the opportunities offered by the rail sector in the state, particularly Agbor end to further develop the economy of the state. ”Nobody has progressed when you put ethnicity first. I will work with anybody that will make my state better, “ he added.
While lamenting the security challenge in the state, Omatseye also called for more seafarers to be trained to fill up the gap needed in the maritime sector.
On security in the state, he said efforts should be made to redress the problem, noting that it was affecting movement of vessels to the Warri waterways. According to him, most vessel owners would hardly allow their vessels on the waterways because of the security challenge.
“Insecurity is an issue in Warri. Youths in Warri must help resolve the problem. Vessel owners say pirates are attacking vessels. They collect ‘War Risk’ charge from vessels on Warri water. But we are not at war in Warri. We must collaborate to end this,” he pleaded.
Executive Director, Business Development, NEXIM Bank, Stella Osadjere, unfolded several opportunities for business operators in her area. Another speaker, Mr. Alex Eyengho spoke on opportunities in the movie industry for youths in the oil-rich city. Former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, said litigations were part of challenges his government faced while developing the state, noting that when his government initiated projects, sometimes there were too many litigations around them that hampered completion of some.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa while declaring open the summit assured that his government would continue to take steps to promote development of the state, stressing that his government would not play politics with development of the state.
Dredging of the Escravos map
He further appealed for partnership between government and the private sector, adding that his government would support dredging of the Escravos map recently approved by the Federal Government.
He enjoined youths and other stakeholders in Warri to work for growth and development of the state. “The youths, leaders all must partner for Warri to rise. Thank God for the announcement by the Federal Government to dredge the Excravos map, we will give all our support for the project.
“Warri no doubt is the economic nerve centre of the state. It began trading with Europe hundreds of years ago. This summit is important. The opportunities that made Warri economic nerve centre, are still there. The youths can’t be left out of the drive to develop the area. They must continue to promote peace at all times,” he said.
The governor also said his administration had acquired 50 hectares of land for a tanker park, saying this would remove nuisance created by reckless parking of tankers along the road in the state.
“We don’t play politics with development as a government. There has to be partnership for Warri to rise again,” he said. While lauding the Chairman of Warri South Local Government Area, Mr Michael Tidi, for organising the first Warri Economic Summit, the governor enjoined Shell to return to the oil-rich city of Warri. He said: “I appeal to Shell to return the full components of its operation to Warri. My administration is committed to ensure that private enterprises flourish.”
Mr Tidi, who was chairman of the two-day summit, said its essence derives from how Warri could rebound economically.
“This two-day star-studded event is not a talkshop. Yes, we need to have a conversation about business conditions in Warri and we need to re-brand Warri away from the negative connotations of the last decade or two, but that is not the singular purpose of this event.
“We want to achieve two major outcomes: Firstly, we want to identify a few key sectors where Warri can be number one or number two in business within the next three years. Secondly, we want to identify what can be done to revive maritime trade in Warri within the next six to 12 months. If we can define a road map to achieve these goals at the end of the two-day summit, we would have done very well,” he said.
Some attendees who spoke to the Vanguard lauded Tidi for the economic summit, saying it was timely and opened their eyes to several opportunities in the oil- rich city. “We are happy with the summit. We want more development and capacity-building programmes in Warri to re-brand our people. I thank the Chairman of the Council, Mr. Michael Tidi, for the programme. It was rewarding,” Tobore Majemiter said.