Former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has harped on the need to invest more in human capital development programs and initiatives on prospective youth and women, for economic improvement of Niger Delta region.
Dr Uduaghan who noted that there is a strong relationship between human capital and economic growth, stated that “Any financial investments made on human capital development do have direct or indirect relationship with the socio-economic growth of the Niger Delta region”.
While delivering a keynote address titled, “Niger Delta Economic Forum: Building A New Face For The Region”, at the third annual conference/lecture of Delta State Online Publishers Forum held recently in the state, Uduaghan observed that “It is in the interest of each administrative state within the Niger Delta to purposely invest in skills and knowledge through education, training and competence development”.
His words; “Human capital as intangible assets, refers to the economic value of knowledge, experience and skills of a group of people, and as investments are being put into human capital development, the region should also ensure in creating and establishing commerce hubs or economic growth poles within each LGA, particularly in rural areas.
“Human capital is very important, not only to a state but also as an entire geo-political zone or a region as the Niger Delta”.
The region he noted, will also require effective socio-economic policies that yield short-medium term results as part of his model on ‘policies for inclusive sustainable and agro-processing and business development strategy’”, saying that “Sustainable development is a broad-based concept that impinges on all sectors and activities of both national and state development”.
According to him, “An example Cross-cutting policy was Delta State Micro Credit Program (DCMP). The DCMP was a financial empowerment programme, aimed at providing interest-free loans and mentorship to prospective and entrepreneurial youth including women in agro-processing, diverse business start-ups, fintech, aquaculture, and other creative activities”.
The program also helped to identify many viable and creative business sub-sectors that have the potentials of expanding, with many future opportunities for success and, progressed further in partnering with LGAs to engage prospective youths including women in setting up cottage industries. “For us, it was like the “one village, one product” agro-processing and business development strategy”, he disclosed.
Commenting on diversification of the Niger-Delta economy- “Niger Delta Beyond oil”, as one of the key areas for economic improvements, the ex-Delta state governor, said “Improving rural competitiveness in non-traditional agricultural products through value-added export could be one major source of economic diversification”.
Uduaghan who boasted that “Niger Delta is well geographically positioned and endowed with human and natural resources”, explained that “Nigeria ranks fourth among cocoa producers in the world, and the Niger Delta region produces 53% of the country’s output. It is an important crop – earning non-oil foreign exchange. Cross River, Ondo and Edo States are the leading producers in the Niger Delta region, producing about 97% of the region’s cocoa.
“The major processing for cocoa is in Western Nigeria, around Lagos, so the major value addition takes place outside of the Niger Delta region”.
“Cultivation of industries related to these products deserves the active and collaborative support of state governments, oil and gas companies and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta region.
“The region can readily produce rice, sugar, cocoa, roots and tubers, citrus fruits, plantains, rubber and rubber products, and is blessed with many resources for aquaculture and forestry”, he added.
Also on his list of crucial areas for economic development is “Investment in/ for infrastructural Development”, as he pointed out that “Infrastructure is the foundation upon which the structures of any regional economy is built. There is an urgent need for the Niger Delta Administrative States and the FG to work in collaboration to ensuring that there is a good road networks connecting states and communities”.
He emphasised that “As ports are globally acknowledged as development agents and growth drivers, it goes without saying that making the existing seaports in the region to function in their full operating capacities will not only reverse their fortunes as sea-land interface structures but will once again revive the once active but now dying market out-posts of the port towns of Warri, Sapele, Burutu, Port Harcourt, Onne, and Calabar”.
While noting that the Niger Delta Seaports are very key infrastructure that support and facilitate manufacturing, processing and business development, he however, regretted that “By indices of port productivity and performance, particularly ship traffic and tonnage of cargo handled per given period, on aggregate, the Niger Delta Seaports have performed sub-optimally due to low vessel patronage”.