By Kennedy Mbele
Vice President of South-East South-South Professionals of Nigeria, SESSPN, Mr. Andy Wabali, in this interview, explains the association’s determination to make both regions an economic hub irrespective of emerging security challenges.
Ever since the South-East South-South Professionals of Nigeria, SESSPN, came up with Development Agenda 2035, DASESS, nothing has been heard about it. What is happening?
I can tell you that a lot has happened since then. There were summits in Port Harcourt and Enugu. Yes, the tempo slowed down but now there is a re-awakening.
What informed the adoption of the agenda?
The ethno – political complexities surrounding apportionments and developments in Nigeria have always necessitated the adoption of some measures. That is the reason for the regional perspective to the development of the various regions. In addition to this, the current low crude oil prices and the realisation of the need for economic diversification, make it even more critical to decentralize economic planning and development strategies. Planning around the zones rather than individual states can afford numerous synergies, which would be difficult to achieve if each state were to plan for its economic future alone.
Also, the rising inequalities and competition among Nigeria’s geopolitical regions, have shown that any region that does not raise its game will soon be left behind due largely to urbanization and rising unemployment. On the global side, the increasing globalization, increased mobility of capital, labour and ideas, have led to these key resources seeking out only the best place. Only regions or localities that position appropriately can achieve swift development from the influx of these resources.
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The increasing calls for devolution of power from the central government to levels, present an opportunity to drive growth and development. It is only a detailed development blueprint that would ensure that development proceeds in an organized fashion.
DASESS 2035 looks very holistic but more futuristic…
Yes, it is more futuristic. We are planning for the future. Of course, the future is now. The overall vision of DASESS 2035 is to make the South East / South-South region of Nigeria the most prosperous and globally competitive region with emerging economies in the next 20years. We are talking of emerging economies like Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, India, and South Africa among others. We want to compete with these countries. The question is: can we? Of course, we can. We had a better GDP than these countries in the ’60s as a region. With a population of over 50 million people, we want to ensure the actualization of a sustainable regional competitive advantage by prioritizing key shared values like innovativeness, integrity, hard work, entrepreneurship, education, technology and creativity. Generally, it is to make the regions where you can live, work and play.
In the light of current security challenges in both regions, is it right for SESSPN to be talking of the development agenda?
Of course, there is no right time but now to talk about DASESS 2035. DASESS 2035 is a blueprint that encapsulates solutions. We need an enabling environment for development. Without the right environment, there will be no development. Security is an important enabler for development. Like I said earlier, the overall vision is to make the regions a place where you can live, work and play far ahead of Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco and South Africa.
As the Vice President of SESSPN, to what extent has the group been involved in the search for solutions to the emerging security challenges in the zones?
Until recently, you will agree with me that the regions had been very safe. The burning of police stations and killing of policemen in the region are new developments. However, we condemn such acts and are fully in support of measures that would restore peace and stop the further breakdown of law and order in the region. Justice should also be brought to all perpetrators of criminality in the region.
One of the key issues often discussed when talking about economic revitalization of the regions is the need for the revamping of eastern ports in Rivers, Delta, Cross River and Anambra states. What role is SESSPN playing to ensure it becomes a reality?
As a group, we engaged the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, on the issue in October last year. He assured us of the revitalization of the eastern ports and railways to operate at full capacity. He announced the building of two new deep seaports in the region by the federal government. They include the Bonny Deep Seaport and the Warri Sea Port. Also, at the meeting, he reiterated government’s commitment to ensure the Gulf of Guinea is safe. I am very optimistic that we will begin to see the multiplier effects of revitalised ports in the South-East and South-South regions.