Repositioning The Niger Delta As The Economic Hub Of Nigeria: The Strategic Fundamentals

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-By Inuiro Wils

“Every morning … a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning … a lion wakes up, it knows it must run faster than [the gazelle], or it will starve.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” (Christopher McDougall, Born to Run. Quoted on the blurb of “My Vision”, the book by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai)
To present the keynote at the Strategic Leadership and Governance Platform is a privilege. I am humbled to be chosen for the role.

Implied in the theme is a challenge which, adequately resolved, could lift the overwhelming majority of our 30 million-strong population in the Niger Delta region out of wretched poverty, despair and wracking conflict into the realm of meaningful living and reckoning on the global map. But its significance goes far beyond our delta region to its intrinsic potential to instigate the economic transformation of our entire country Nigeria and, quite plausibly, Africa.

The connections are not far fetched. The Niger Delta region has for about 60 years been the economic mainstay of Nigeria, thanks to its rich endowment in oil and gas. Even before petroleum was discovered in commercial quantities in the Oloibiri area in present day Bayelsa State in the region, the delta was of high economic importance to every mutation of Nigeria that it has been part of since the first day of the 20th Century, again due to its natural endowments: the coastal nature conducing to international (trans-Atlantic) trade, commodities like palm produce (thus the name “Oil Rivers”), and its energetic people.

A Niger Delta regional economy running at optimal capacity, with the delta’s critical mass in geography and population along with linkages to existing or potential economic centres flanking the region in the South East (Aba, Owerri, Nnewi, Onitsha, etc) and South West (Otta, Lagos, etc) could therefore be the engine to get the sleeping giant, Nigeria, started towards becoming a developed economy on a global scale. Nigeria being the most populous, one of the biggest and most naturally endowed and strategically located countries in Africa would naturally have a positive knock on effect on the continent.

That is how potentially significant our Niger Delta region is. But we have to get irritated by the tired narrative of constant potentiality rather than actuality.

The story of the Niger Delta is so familiar it is almost boring. Besides a plethora of individuals who have been the best at what they do or did (from banking to the sciences to literary arts, law, political economy and what have you), the region’s major claim to “fame” in about half a century has been that it is the source of the oil and gas that has provided hundreds of billions of dollars to keep Nigeria going. Its petro-rich status is evidenced by numerous petroleum exploration and production installations, generous gas flares, world record oil pollution and, lately, the profligate lifestyle of its top political class.

In overall socio-economic terms, the region is still defined by poverty, pollution, poor productivity, and suppressed potential. In many states, what obtains in practical terms is economic stagnation. This has recently heightened a trend whereby most of the region’s more successful professionals and many of its smartest young graduates migrate to Lagos, Abuja or abroad to settle or to find a way forward. For the former, the big ticket consultancies and transactions that are now worth their while are too few in the region (even in cases where the physical operations may take place here). Likewise, many bright young grads can hardly see themselves being able to start or build competitive careers within the region, outside of political jobbery and ad hoc tasks that are in local parlance called “runs”. This mobility has so intensified it deserves a special study to inform policy and governance decisions in the region.

It is pertinent to look at an abridged profile of data on the region.
Brief Fact File
1. Political Composition:
– Cartographic Niger Delta: mainly present Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States
– South South Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria (*most commonly adopted): Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo States
– By NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) membership status: Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Abia and Ondo States
2. Total Area: 86,982 square km land mass (6 States)
112,110 square km (9 states)
3. Population of six ND states combined (South South composition):c.28.5 million (2016 estimate)
Population of Lagos State: 12 million (2016 estimate)
4. Regional Unemployment Profile:
Unemployment rates according to the Niger Delta Regional Development Masterplan as of 2000 were 18.2% in Akwa Ibom, 19.1% in Rivers, Edo about 2%, Cross River 16.6%, Delta 10% and Bayelsa about 6.5%.
Current data are not available, but it is doubtful if there have been substantial improvements.
5. Total Public Revenue from 1999-2017 (6 states, including their IGR, FAAC, NDDC – partial, Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme, and Federal Ministry of Niger Delta):
Internally Generated Revenue (Jan 2011 – July 2017):
Akwa Ibom State – N107.9 billion
Bayelsa State – N51.2 billion
Cross River State – N86.6 billion
Delta State – N282.49 billion
Edo State – N125.04 billion
Rivers State – N513.11 billion Total IGR for ND States (5.5 years) – N1.17 trillion Lagos State IGR (5.5 years) – N1.68 trillion FAAC Allocation (Jan 2011 – July 2017)
Akwa Ibom State – N1.396 trillion
Bayelsa State – N855 billion
Cross River State – N266.5 billion Delta State – N1.0639 trillion
Edo State- N324.120 billion Rivers State – N1.152 trillion
Total FAAC for ND States (5.5 years) – N5.058 trillion
Lagos State FAAC (5.5 years)  – N673.320 billion
Sub-totals of IGR+FAAC (2011 – June 2017)
ND States =N6.226 trillion
Lagos State  = N2.353 trillion Niger Delta Presidential
Amnesty Programme budgets(2011–2017)
2011  – N78,694,871,902
2012  – N70,176,411,902
2013  – N 63,281,093,786
2014  – N 63,281,093,786
2015  – N 63,281,093,786
2016  – N20 billion
2017  – N65 billion
Total Presidential Amnesty Programme budgets (7 years)  –  N423,714,565,162
Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (Jan 2011 – 2017)
2011 – N55,207,384,35
2012  – N61,446,831,425
2013  – N63,392,377,074
2014  – N113,633,319,131
2015  – N10,434,200,737
2016  – N21,410,455,882
2017  – N35,501,382,365
Total MoNDA Budget (7 years)   –  N361,025,950,972 billion
NDDC (Only FG’s releases from 2001 to 2015) N515,973,257,464.00
(*As against N2,313,687,224,116.29 due from FG)
TOTAL PUBLIC REVENUE FOR NDR (less oil company dues to NDDC, etc) 2011- June 2017: N7.5 trillion (States + MoNDA + Amnesty Office + FG’s 2001-2015 releases to NDDC) (Excluding oil industry contributions to NDDC, LG allocations and other revenue sources)
(Assuming all budgeted sums to Amnesty Office and MoNDA were released)
Akwa Ibom State – $11.1 billion
Bayelsa State- $4.34 billion
Cross River State – $15.56 billion
Delta State – $16.75 billion
Edo State – $11.89 billion
Rivers – $21.07 billion
Total GDP for NDR – $80.71 billion
Lagos State GDP – $91 billion
Debt Profile (2016):
Akwa Ibom State N170.9 billion (domestic) + $62.9 million (external)
Bayelsa State N172.1 billion (domestic) + $39.3 million (external)
Cross River State N163.4 billion (domestic) + $114.9 million (external)
Delta State N254.2 billion (domestic) + $42.3 million (external)
Edo State N101.4 billion (domestic) + $183.6 million (external)
Rivers State N157.2 billion (domestic) + $48.26 million (external)
Total for 6 States N1.019 trillion (domestic) + $691.26 million (external)
Lagos State Debt N737.7 billion (domestic) + $1.44b (externalPer Capita Poverty Measure:
For the Region (6 South South States): 51.6%, Per UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Report for Nigeria
For Lagos State: 40.3%
National Measure: 61.3%
The figures do not look good. Though the region’s average poverty measure is about 10 percentage points lower than the national (Nigerian) average and “only” about the same measure higher or worse than the Lagos State average, it is a mark of the grossly unacceptable socio-economic conditions in the region. Worse, going beyond these figures to the real life stories in our communities will reveal a human misery index that might have been embellished to not look as bad in development reports and annual statistical data. So, placed side by side with graphic photos of life in most communities in the delta, even these uninspiring official data could only be justified by reference to sharp income inequalities in the region.

We are faced with two, perhaps more, overriding imperatives in the 21st Century and beyond: i. to take those steps that are fundamental to becoming a sustainable economy, and ii. to go further and be constantly strategic in thinking and acting, so to gain and maintain the competitive edge. Playing on the semantics of our theme, we may treat both imperatives interchangeably as we underline below some of what I consider to be the strategic fundamentals for repositioning the Niger Delta as the economic hub of Nigeria, starting with the first fundamental: Leadership!

Visionary Leadership, Qualitative Representation and Good Governance
There may not be a single hard and fast model that was applied for the contemporary transformation stories of Singapore, South Korea, China, India, Botswana, Brazil, Rwanda, Dubai and the rest of the UAE. Yet, from Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia, to Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Al Maktoum of Dubai, visionary leadership is perhaps the first ingredient for transforming any polity.

The region needs leaders (particularly governors, but also federal and state legislators, NDDC executives, ministers, commissioners and other key actors) with vision, values and verve. Vision stretches to see beyond the horizon and sees the full spectrum of the rainbow. It makes the difference between a Mandela-led post-apartheid South Africa and a Mugabe-led post-Rhodesia Zimbabwe, though both leaders were fervent freedom fighters with equal elocution.

It is instructive that the Bible in Habakkuk 2:2-3 says “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it  Because it will surely come. It will not tarry.”

If there is no vision, there is nothing worthy to write, so nothing to read and run with. Vision is what caused Al Maktoum’s father, the father of modern Dubai, to declare boldly “build it and they will come” and also to lay down that city-state’s 3-B credo of doing things that are the biggest, the boldest and the best. Outcomes of that vision include some of the biggest and best airports and seaports in the world, and the audacity to build  40 modern cities simultaneously in “Greater” Dubai, with specialized hubs for medical excellence, sports, golf, knowledge/education, media and other specialties.

Vision is what enabled Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set a target of 175 gigawatts of power to be generated from renewable energy by March 2022, almost 50 times Nigeria’s current overall output from all sources.

Vision made Lee Kuan Yew’s team to identify a time window when all global stock markets would have gone to bed, and Singapore plugged into it to not only place itself on the global stock trading scene but to also move the world towards a 24-hour market. And vision is what created right before our eyes in the last 15-20 years the new Lagos: Lekki City.

Back home, it was by vision that then Governor Diete-Spiff, barely in his 30s, built the tallest and most classic edifice south of the River Niger (excepting Lagos and Ibadan) that remains unequalled a whole 40 years later; i.e. the Point Block in Port Harcourt. Similarly, while mundane leaders concern themselves with the legalisms of whether or not state governments have the constitutional power to build power plants, then Governor Melford Okilo of the original Rivers State built the first independent/state-owned power plant in Nigeria, the Kolo Creek Gas Turbine Plant, over 30 years ago.

Vision goes with values and verve. Without values, a leader will have no force of personal example for his lieutenants and citizenry to emulate and rise above their selves.

Associated, if not synonymous – with visionary leadership are qualitative representation and good governance. For the sake of time, we can do with just an example or two in the narative. If the Niger Delta’s political elite were providing the least bit of qualitative representation, the environmental holocaust in the region would not have continued unabated since 1999 when indigenes resumed governance and representation of the region’s affairs. Then the Niger Delta would not have gained its scandalous distinction as the undisputable oil and gas pollution capital of Planet Earth. If that elite were doing so, they would have first taken up the region’s quest for authentic federalism, resource ownership restoration and control, and access to environmental justice, and formally negotiated or advanced these aspirations with the Federal Government and other stakeholders through legally available platforms like the National Council of States, the National Economic Council, the National Assembly and the courts, lawfully deploying all their official authority and resources. So one always wonders what agenda our governors and legislators discuss in those meetings and chambers.

The prized dividends lost to this dereliction of duty are peace and security. As the issues of political-economic equity that lie at the core of the Niger Delta’s distress have been neglected by those with the official mandates, the contestations around them have been driven only by activists, civil society and militants via a pot pourri of methods good, bad and ugly. Why should a voluntary group like PANDEF (Pan Niger Delta Forum) with no visible financial resources bear the burden of trying to pin down the Federal Government for a dialogue on the aspirations of Niger Delta communities when we have state governors and senators and more? The law and order crisis in the region is merely a symptom of a deeper malaise: the breakdown of (internal) governance and avoidance of responsibility. To fully regain peace and security in the region, our reps must resume responsibility and remove the alibi they have unwittingly given to militant agitators, leading to avoidable violence and ancillary environmental destruction. There are proper times and sequence for everything under the sun.

Let leadership work back peace, and let development and economic transformation begin unhindered. When shall we start having good governance? To reposition the delta as an economic hub, we must start with visionary, transformative and transcendental leadership.

Development Planning
Write the vision!
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) commissioned a 15-year Niger Delta Regional Development Masterplan that was launched in 2008, with recommendations for periodic reviews every five years. For whatever reasons, state governments and NDDC as well abandoned that plan in the preparation of their annual budgets. Nor has the plan been reviewed, ten years or more after its preparation. While there may be disparate action plans and work programmes by different development actors (state governments, Federal Ministry of Niger Delta, NDDC, donor agencies, and oil and gas companies – e.g. NLNG’s MOU with Bonny Kingdom), there is now no working single coordinated and integrated masterplan for the development and positioning of the region.

What to do? Update and revalidate the regional masterplan, with fundamental improvements in its orchestration. As a positive signal, “restoration” of the masterplan is one of the four pillars of the 4Rs programme (Restructuring, Repositioning, Restoration and Reaffirmation) recently avowed by the management of NDDC. There is an opportunity there. All key development partners – NDDC, state governments, BRACED Commission, the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Federal Ministry of Niger Delta, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NIMASA, UNDP, local government councils, genuine community leaders, federal and state legislators of the region, National Planning Commission, local universities and research institutes, the organized private sector and the organized civil society, should be brought on board from ground zero.

The collaboration should aim at
-joint conception (reconceptualization),
– joint funding of the plan itself,
– joint consultations,
– joint formulation or updating of the plan,
-joint allocation of responsibilities,
– shared ownership of the plan,
-shared provisioning/budgeting for implementation,
– clear time lines for joint reviews
– legal enactment of the plan by national and state assemblies for mandatory alignment of budgets, and
– shared/coordinated implementation.

Anything less may cause the reviewed masterplan to be dead on arrival. The process must be so participatory the result will not be an “NDDC Masterplan” as some stakeholders misnamed the existing one, but a Niger Delta Masterplan co-owned by all concerned.

While pressing for more from the centre on grounds of equity, we must learn to make the most of what we have now. Natural principles work like science and hardly respect differences. The parable of the talents comes to mind. Use what you have well, or even the one you have might be taken from you. In law, one of the maxims of equity is that equity does not aid the indolent. The current state of the delta implies that governments and the development agencies have jointly and severally performed sub-optimally.

Actually, very badly! Institution Building
We must revamp the public service. One of the stated aspirations of Dubai’s government is to keep the public service ahead of the private sector in efficiency and service delivery. The region’s public service is institutionally dilapidated. If it is not rebuilt, professionalized and motivated, it is a pipedream to think of repositioning the region. A 2-4 year medium term plan for upgrading the sector should be devised, complete with world class retraining and updating of staff, radical redefinition of work ethics, substantial improvement of staff welfare to compare with or come close to the private sector or the development/voluntary sector, and a highly incentivized rationalization programme (enterprise training, financial perks, subsidized loans, etc) that ensures the redeployment or meaningful private engagement of all staff that may be affected. The service must be granted the opportunity for job satisfaction, and not have all its work farmed out to committees, contractors and consultants. Sector reforms must also be undertaken, from waste management, utilities, justice delivery and land administration.

Regional Economic Integration
It is time to revive the BRACED Commission and take it seriously as an engine for regional economic integration between the states (Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta), the first letters of whose names form the acronym. Some development experts recommend a statutory funding for the Commission to the tune of at least one percent of the respective states’ budgets, in line with global cooperation practice, with about 6-8 priority sectors clearly defined, such as education, agriculture infrastructure, ICT, health, finance/entrepreneurship development, and environmental sustainability.

BRACED Commission and NDDC should be intellectually equipped to collaboratively provide institutional leadership on planning, innovation, economic intelligence, a leap-frog enterprise development plan, financing for development and public governance. They should also work with state governments and other partners to promote world class centres of excellence across the delta, to brand it as a destination for cutting edge knowledge acquisition and executive education in Africa, with linkages to global institutions, relevant industries and regional endowments. For a start we should expect institutions like

– a business school (overdue) in the class of Lagos Business School or better,
– a PPP resource centre, to be the best in Africa and draw international attendance,
– a school of governance and development, designed to be Africa’s answer to the Harvard School of Governance, the Blavatnik School of Governance (Oxford) and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy,
– technology incubation centres, targeted at the growing community of young tech preneurs,
– a centre of environmental excellence,
– an executive education centre for petroleum sciences/technology, management and policy,
– enhancement of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, and the Maritime Academy, Oron, to be the best of their kind in the Gulf of Guinea, and
– upgrading of 10 to 12 polytechnics and enterprise institutes across the region, tailored on a practical needs assessment of existing and upcoming industries in the region.
BRACED should also be a strong advisory body to help streamline comparative strengths between member states, so state governments do not waste scarce funds on large scale carnivals at certain periods, whereas Cross River State could be encouraged to build a compelling year round calendar of tourism activities and Delta State could be supported to have Burutu Port and its rubber plantations revived and beneficiated.

To enhance synergy, the Niger Delta Development Advisory Committee that is a statutory part of the governance structure of NDDC and comprising member state governors, amongst others, also needs to be resurrected. Governors in the region need to spend more time engaging these platforms, a little less time on the mundane affairs of their respective political parties, and target the spawning of a robust regional economy that would be second to none in Africa.
Finally on BRACED (for this paper), head hunt Donald Duke or his type to chair the governing board, supported by a first class Director-General and executive team. BRACED must send a signal from Day One of its resuscitation.
Revenue Mobilization, Access to Capital, and Financial Inclusion

Set a medium term target to achieve a minimum of $10 billion per annum public revenue mobilization, strategizing in synergy with each other, and it will happen! In lockstep, also strategize on ensuring that a number of solid financial institutions, existing and new, are headquartered in the region or grant verifiable operational autonomy to their regional headquarters. Leverage the substantial public funds from the oil and gas derivation allocations to the state governments. Support NDDC in urgently starting up the proposed Niger Delta Fund or Bank, and possibly create windows for market financing of infrastructure (along with an infrastructure preparation and advisory facility), venture capital, MSME funding (including early stage and scale up funding), and partnership with sector specific local content financing (cabotage vessel financing, oil and gas local content activities, etc) and other development finance institutions like the Bank of Industry, Development Bank of Nigeria ($1.5 billion start-up funding) and the Infrastructure Bank.

Revolutionary land reform should be undertaken too, with cadastral mapping of the entire region and easing of land title administration, to unlock the massive capital in land for enterprise and mortgage financing. Every local government should host a land title registry. The book The Mystery of Capital by Hernando de Sotos is recommended reading for state chief executives and policy makers on this subject, and Prof Akin Mabogunje’s policy advocacy in the same regard is also instructive.

Resource Optimization and Reprioritization
There is a gamut of possibilities here. In education, for example, devote quality thinking and funds to building a public education system that governors’, senators’ and ministers’ children can also attend, the way it used to be when our current governors, senators and ministers were of school age. Now they all send their children to schools overseas or luxurious private schools. Also, there is no more need for open-ended foreign scholarships, except for a fair number in top-notch institutions that can offer our brightest kids the global gilt-edged networks that will invariably benefit our society in strategic ways in the future. State governments, NDDC and the Presidential Amnesty Programme should do some critical thinking on this. For instance, with the about half a trillion Naira (!) that has passed through the Amnesty Programme in the last eight years, we should by now be seeing international quality vocational colleges and polytechnics with direct industry linkages in the region, training repentant militants. The Amnesty Programme should also redirect its focus to cleaning out the political economy of  artisanal oil refining in our creeks.

In the trade and industries sector, some commercialization and privatization initiatives have to take place, subject strictly to open competitive bidding and other due processes, to avoid or minimize the concessioning of government’s assets to people in public offices and favoured consultants who may sometimes also be veiled bidders.

Paradigm Shift in Infrastructure Delivery
In an article on the World Bank’s Infrastructure and Public Private Partnerships blog, a policy advocacy group (the B20 task force on infrastructure) is quoted as confirming that
“the investment gap in infrastructure is not the result of a shortage of capital. Real long-term interest rates are low, there is ample supply of long-term finance, interest by the private sector is high, and the benefits are obvious.” … “The main challenge is to find bankable and investment-ready projects.”

Nigeria has generally not gotten it right with market financing of infrastructure, though Lagos State has posted some successes with the Lekki Expressway, the Ikoyi-Lekki Bridge and similar projects. The Niger Delta need not wait for the rest of the country. Granted that the deliberate regulatory frameworks for PPPs are still in their infancy and beset with some constraints, a substantial pipeline of transformative infrastructure projects can still be launched – with the right determination, imaginative thinking and requisite transaction advisory teams.

An incremental mindset would be useless, in light of the volume of bold projects needed to create a tectonic shift in the industrial and investment readiness profile of the region. Only the Niger Delta region has the advantage of an entrenched development coordinating institution like the NDDC (as its North East counterpart is still in formation), but NDDC needs to move quickly to harness that advantage by institutionalizing a partnership with the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Agency, the pension funds sector, and international development finance institutions (WB, AfDB, IFC, foreign sovereign wealth agencies like Norway’s trillion dollar fund, etc). Not just would bankable projects have to be prepared; the delivery institutions would have to be deeply reformed or there will be no deal! And regional PPP structuring capacity has to be steadily built.

In my opinion, until we are able to get every billion Naira of public revenue (states, NDDC, etc) to attract additional two to three billion Naira of private capital for infrastructure delivery, we might not have started the race to fill the infrastructure deficit. In that case, any talk of becoming the economic engine room of the country will be hot air. How else can the proposed East-West Coastal Road, with the ambitious potential of serving as the backbone for a massive development corridor, be built? How else could the wretched Port Harcourt “International” Airport be made truly international and start to run the three to five daily international connections that a repositioned Niger Delta can commercially justify?

Diversification, Stakeholding and Value Chain Development
If we must be ready for business and for the future, we must diversify. We must also build processing and production capacity along the full value chain of our natural resources. Singapore is not reputed to have any oil minerals but is one of the world’s leading refiners of the stuff. NCDMB, NDDC, BRACED and the state governments can work together on a 3-8 year plan to develop the once proposed Niger Delta Energy Corridor that envisioned the substantial indigenization of petroleum asset holdings and the development of refineries, gas processing plants and a suite of other utilization facilities within their proximity. The upcoming multi-billion dollar Brass Fertilizer Plant is one of several possibilities. Bayelsa State Government and NCDMB are respectively promoting two industrial parks in the state. That is also a very promising sign, depending on faithful execution, despite suggestions that perhaps both bodies should have partnered to speedily give traction to one before proceeding with another.

Agriculture and agro-processing hold great promise. Rivers State Government is reported to be considerably supporting agriculture through the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency’s Shongai Farms and other initiatives. It seems though that the sector’s potentials remain vastly untapped. Unofficial reports indicate that some large-scale FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) producers in Nigeria still import over 50% of their palm produce-based requirements for production to service the West Africa market. Figure that out. This is partly why governments must create dedicated departments or bureaus for economic intelligence.

The region’s governments should also think up a win-win strategy for securing stakes for host communities and states in the petroleum assets in their domain, especially in the recent and oncoming divestments in inland basins and shallow waters in or surrounding these states and communities, including the much anticipated farm-outs of marginal fields. There are ample legal, commercial and political means by which to approach this proposition, with or without passage of relevant segments of the Petroleum Industry Bill. This will maximize revenue mobilization in the long run, expand local content, douse community agitations and help to seal the place of the region as a hub for Nigeria, the Gulf of Guinea and beyond.

The region’s governments, federal representatives and industry elite should also take up the challenge of engaging with the petroleum industry to start relocating their head offices to the theatre of operations, as obtain elsewhere in the world. It was possible to do it with Nigeria LNG Ltd, after over fifteen years of its being in Lagos, so it must be possible with other operators. This goes for NNPC as well. Only the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources needs to remain in Abuja. Engagements should start pronto with the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, himself an illustrious indigene of the region.

Finally, never again should the official political and economic elite of the region so cavalierly allow such grand missed opportunities like the $10 billion Dangote Refinery and Petrochemical Complex and the reported LNG Shipyard, both being sited in a better self-positioned location, Lagos State. There should therefore be strategic efforts to look at big tickets like the Aluminium Smelter in Ikot Abasi, various deep sea port projects and the Brass LNG, to streamline and harness them for maximum benefit.

City Development and a Megacity
The Niger Delta deserves and must develop a megacity if it must boast the gravitational pull to drive the Nigerian ship into reckoning. Port Harcourt is a naturale for that role. Moreover, there is already the unbeatable idea of a Greater Port Harcourt City properly delineated on the ground. That grand project moved much slower than it promised to at its launch ten years ago at the Port Harcourt Civic Centre, two minutes away from the venue of this event. It deserves to be collectively fast tracked as a regional priority, with Rivers State Government and NDDC taking the lead. It will spur growth on a geometric scale. NDDC and some other enabler institutions should consider building their head offices there, to stimulate its development. NDDC might have outgrown its long delayed Head Office project on the Eastern By-Pass in the congested centre of town. It is more in keeping with its statutory mandate for the Commission to move to Greater Port Harcourt, thereby urbanizing the International Airport area as well. NDDC’s uncompleted Eastern By-Pass project should be leveraged for another good purpose.

Warri, Sapele, Benin, Eket, Omoku, Ahoada, Oloibiri, Brass and Calabar are some locations that also require strategic stimulus initiatives in order to create a sufficient ecosystem of interconnected economic, urban and social life in the Niger Delta.
[PS: On relocations, the Presidential Amnesty Programme should relocate to Warri. It makes no sense to run it from Abuja. NOSDRA should also be funded and relocated to the oil region.]
There may be many more ingredients than I have set out. In the final analysis, my domino theory is that it is primarily about visionary leadership and good governance, which we have thoroughly lacked in the Niger Delta since 1999 till date. Everything else is likely to fall into place.

The thoughts I share here may sound like a dream. Without the dream of Martin Luther King, an African American may not have become America’s President four decades later. If President John F Kennedy had not seen the vision of a man on the moon, Neil Armstrong may not have taken so soon that small lunar step that was a giant leap for mankind. Without the vision of Harold Dappa-Biriye and his ilk, our Niger Delta region may not have had its place in the sun of contemporary Nigeria.

In this present day and age, but for the audacious vision of some inveterate investors who took the battle to the “enemy”, an entire 900 hectares of land may not have been so suddenly reclaimed from the voracious Atlantic Ocean to create the emerging Eko Atlantic City.

So let’s do it!
Thank you for your time.