In the aftermath of the inaugural meeting of the South East, South South Governors’ Forum which took place at the Nike Lake Hotel and Resorts, Enugu on July 9, 2017, newly appointed Interim chairman and Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel has stated strongly that refineries and petrochemical industries should be built where the oil is explored. “It doesn’t make economic sense to lay sub-sea pipelines from the location where oil is explored to other parts of the nation at a cost of five billion dollars (about two trillion Naira). This amount is enough to build many modular refineries and establish seven Industrial Parks in the region.”
Throwing light on the main reason that led to the realignment of economic and political forces of the two zones, Governor Udom Emmanuel applauded the decision of the leaders of the two zones to come together to harmonize their economic interests and pursue inter-regional cooperation and integration. “If mature democracies as exemplified by the European Union (EU) could see the economic benefits of coming together, expanding markets and opportunities, I think the decision of the two zones to come together is frankly speaking in my opinion, long overdue and highly commendable.”
The July 9th event is hugely significant in many ways. It has, for one, turned on its head long held conventional wisdom that has been fed and somewhat internalized by a cross-section of Nigerians that the region which is culturally homogenous but somewhat linguistically heterogeneous cannot ever come together to form a bloc of unity or integration. Most political pundits have for so long exploited these manufactured fault lines to create a false narrative of a region that is shaped by mutual distrust and endless acrimonious relationship.
The coming together of the two geographically contiguous zones and the formation of the forum of the Governors of the mineral rich region is of strategic interest and one that other component units of the federation cannot overlook or treat as a flash in the pan. If the resources in the region were to be pooled together and an economic integration forged, it could become an economic powerhouse in Nigeria and this and other issues were what its interim chairman – Governor Udom Emmanuel elucidated on recently.
In an exclusive interaction with a cross-section of the press in Uyo shortly after returning from the Enugu event, Governor Udom Emmanuel had re-emphasised the cardinal point that formed the organizing narrative at the Enugu event which revolves around the “economic survival of the two zones” and how to “use our huge resources to create economically viable zones in Nigeria”.
“There is no doubt that the resources of the two zones”, the Governor had stated, “the ingenuity, creativity , technological wizardry of the people of the region if properly utilized and harnessed can point the way forward towards the development and economic growth of the region and the nation at large. The region in my opinion represents what California is, to the United States and as the saying goes “as goes California so goes the United States. The two zones will insist on appropriating the resources found within its geographical space for the advancement of its strategic interests within the larger Nigeria content. We will demand and insist on the location and utilization of resources that are found in our region for the common good of our people and the Nigerian society at large and I believe this is a fair demand. There is no reason why we should be blessed with huge resources and yet our region lacks the corresponding federal presence or infrastructure.
Let’s look at the oil and gas industry for instance, it does not make economic sense for oil companies to lay sub-sea pipelines that run from our region to other parts of the nation at a cost of five billion dollars (about two trillion Naira) when such amount could easily build many modular refineries in our region or create modern Industrial Parks across the entire region. Industrial parks can significantly transform the country economically and engender a domino effect that would be felt all over Africa. As the largest oil producing State in Nigeria, it is regrettable that Akwa Ibom State for instance,does not have even a Depot built by NNPC nor any NNPC Group presence.
There is the need for our people to begin to look inwards and we the leaders of the region will do all we can to attract and encourage our hardworking people across the length and crannies of the nation and beyond to come home and invest. It is a new dawn for the people of the two zones and we will work together to advance our mutual interest and send a loud signal to interested parties that we shall not only be the land that lays the golden egg but we will demand to take part in the making of the omelette”. Governor Udom Emmanuel had stated strongly.