South-South braces for regional growth, holds summit in Asaba
By CHIMA TITUS NWOKOJI
Thursday, April 19, 2012

• Oshiomhole

Oil rich South-South states have taken up the daunting challenge of setting development pace for the country. The states, comprising of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Rivers states are running a race to put their region in a global development agenda, geared towards improving the living standards of the people.

The states are targeting for accelerated growth in such sectors as education, infrastructure and investments, while at the same time ensuring that the region is well secured and investor friendly.

To achieve their set objective, the states, who go by the acronym, ‘BRACED’, are gathering from Wednesday, next week, in Asaba, Delta State capital, investors from all over the world, to feel first-hand the regions investment potentials. On display are the oil and gas resources, vast arable land, abundant human capital and a serene business environment.

The states see economic problems such as high rate of unemployment, low-income levels or lack of investment opportunities, to be closely associated with a broad range of physical and social issues. These include substandard health and housing conditions, inadequacies in physical infrastructure: water supplies, waste disposal, transport facilities, environmental pollution, and deficiencies in educational, recreational and social services. A concerted and well-articulated programme of regional development is seen as a panacea to the regional problems. Therefore, the South-South Economic Summit scheduled to hold between April 25 and 28, promises to be another springboard to development in the region.

According to the spokesperson of the Organising Committee of the summit and Delta State Commissioner for Information, Chike Ogeah, President Goodluck Jonathan, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Professor Wole Soyinka are among dignitaries that are expected to cross-fertilize ideas with the six state governors of the South-South and other stakeholders. The summit will focus mainly on development, investment and security.

The region held its first economic summit in Calabar, Cross River State in 2009 where it articulated strategies for development in the area. A co-ordinating structure known as the BRACED Commission was set up after the Calabar summit where every state has at least one commissioner as a member. The commission is headed by a director general, now Ambassador Joe Keshi. The zone, which produces more than 80 per cent of the revenues of Nigeria boasts of resources covering agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, oil and gas and infrastructure whic are critical sectors.

The objectives of the 2012 Summit according to BRACED commission, are among others, to x-ray issues that will help in fine-tuning strategies for economic cooperation and integration of the states in the zone. They will also be adopting a unified approach to power generation and distribution; working towards protection of the environment especially in areas associated with oil pollution; to fashion a blueprint for the exploitation of the region’s natural endowments for sustainable human development and position the South-South for Global Competitiveness.

Profile of the South-South region
The South-South is strategically located at the mid-point of Nigeria’s southern hemisphere where the Y tail of the river Niger joins the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of Guinea. Though, the south-south geo-political zone represents about 7.5 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass with a land mass area of 84,587km2; this relatively small stretch of land provides the economic mainstay of the Nigerian economy; Oil. The transformation of this region from a fishing and agricultural community to an exploratory oil and gas zone is traceable to the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity at Oloibiri in 1956 in present day Bayelsa State. With a meagre 400 barrels per day in 1958, the region now produces an estimated 2.4 million barrels per day.

Unarguably, this region has unprecedented human and natural resources that is the envy of other regions in Nigeria. With an aggregate population of over 26 million people of more than 40 ethnic groups including the Efik, Ibibio, Annang, Oron, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Kalabari, and Igbo are among some who speak about 250 dialects in the region and with a GDP of over 74.52 billion US Dollars; the South-South has become an economic powerhouse.

Since 1970, the region has accounted for more than 95 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings with a conservative estimate of USD 700 billion that has accrued to the country. The region has over 40 billion barrels of crude oil reserve and over 176 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves. In terms of investment potentials the region is ripe for the establishment of petroleum refineries, petro-chemical plants and Independent Power Plants. In addition to oil and gas, the region equally contributes other key resources to the country with potential huge investment opportunities.

Agricultural resources
There are investment opportunities in the South-South for a combination of agric products ranging from Tree Crops like Cocoa, Coffee, Kolanut, Timber, Rubber, palm trees, Raffia Palms; Fruits like Pineapple, Oranges, Mangoes Pawpaw and Food Crops like Yams, rice, plantain, banana, cassava, cocoyam, sweet potato, okro, tomato. There are potentials also for water resources like fish farming and salt production.

Apart from direct investment in these resources, investors can tap into the commercial potentials of these products by setting up agro-allied industries at medium to large scale levels. These industries could include setting up cold rooms for sea foods; canning industries, oil extracting industries, sugar factories, and warehousing, packaging industries among others.

Mineral resources
Unsurprisingly, apart from the well-known oil and gas, the South-South can boast of an array of other minerals like Gold, Uranium, Tin Ore (Cassiterite), Manganese, Titanium, Limestone, tantalite, mica (muscovite), Iron ore (Hematite), Clay, Tourmaline, Amethyst, Spring water, Granite, Bentonite, Feldspar, Quartz, Baryte, Diamond, Graphite, Pyrite, Talc schist, Salt, Coal, Kaolin, Crude oil, Galena (lead zinc) and Rutile, Bitumen, Kaolin, Tar sand, Lead, Zinc, stone, basalt, Gypsum, Copper among others.

Tourism
The South-South is tourist’s paradise. With the panoramic views from Obudu cattle ranch to the Agbokim waterfalls; the famous Oloibiri museum where crude oil was first discovered in large quantity in Nigeria in 1956 to the Mary Slessor house/tomb; the Nana Palace in Koko to the King Jaja of Opobo monument; the Alok and Nkarassi Monoliths to the Igun bronze casting; the Kukuruku Hills, Samorika to the Okomu wild life park; the Ibeno sand beach to the Tinapa business resort the list is endless.

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