The Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has taken his ‘Delta Without Oil’ campaign to the United States of America with the sponsorship of the Corporate Nigeria Stakeholders’ and Investors Forum at the United Nations Headquarters in New York last week.
At the forum, which was organised by the Heartlink Group, and officially endorsed by the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, an award for Excellence in Governance and Support for Arts and Culture was presented to the governor and it was received on his behalf by the Chief of Staff to the governor, Dr. Festus Okubor.
The state government was represented by a powerful delegation of its economic team, which included Okubor; the Commissioner for Commerce, Dr. Kingsley Emu; the Commissioner for Information, Chike Ogeah; and the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Foreign Relations, Oma Djebah.
Guest speakers at the event included the immediate past President of the Institute of Directors, Architect T.C. Awagu; Hon. Joseph Akinlaja of House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters, who represented Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; MD/CEO of Kresta Laurel Nigeria Limited, Engineer Dideolu Falobi; and Micheal Adeniyi.
The Delta Without Oil campaign, which signifies a paradigm shift from the total dependence on oil resources to exploring the immense opportunities in areas such as agriculture, tourism, telecommunication, transportation, power generation, to mention a few, seeks to develop the state further through a Public Private Partnership initiative.
The forum provided an opportunity for the state’s economic team to woo investors in the diaspora, especially from United States of America and other developed economies, in order to foster wealth creation, capacity building and ultimately develop the human capital, which abounds in the state.
Emu, who represented Governor Uduaghan at the forum, said the state is not just an investment destination.
He disclosed that Delta State has also created enabling environment to allow investors get value for their money and also recoup their capital within the framework of their revenue projection.
In a keynote address delivered on behalf of the governor at the event, titled: “Harnessing Investment Opportunities in Delta State”, Emu said the “Delta Beyond Oil” initiative has recorded many milestones in the overall interest of the people of Delta State, especially the less privileged.
He said: “Where we are now in terms of policy direction is Delta Beyond Oil.
“What we are saying is that when the oil wells eventually run dry, what are those things we should do with the revenue from oil in the decades while the oil wells lasted?
“How can we diversify our economy using our areas of comparative advantage?
“The major ones are the micro, small and medium scale enterprises.
“The success of the MSMEs underscores what we have always believed: that is, Delta is a land of limitless possibilities in terms of human capital and natural resources.
“Out of all these possibilities, we thought the one we could advance to the next level would be the MSMEs.
“This is because this happens to be where we have been doing very well.
“To our credit, we have won four consecutive Central Bank of Nigeria awards.
“When you talk about MSMEs, you must involve agriculture, whether it is agrarian farming or aquaculture.
“Delta State is 60 per cent riverine and we are maximizing this advantage very well for the economic good of the state.
“There are two ministries that are coordinating these MSMEs: the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation, which incubates them and brings them to life, before they are passed to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which takes them to medium and possibly big industries.
“This is one of the initiatives driving our Delta Beyond Oil vision.
“Let me also tell you that we are remodelling our schools all over the state.
“That’s a huge investment in the future of our children.
“We have e-libraries, air-conditioned classroom blocks, excellent sporting facilities.
“We are building 50 model schools, the type never before seen in the state.
“Don’t forget that Delta State, unlike most states, has about 21 big towns and cities.
“We are also offering scholarships to our graduates who make First Class Honours in various fields to pursue further studies abroad.
“This has greatly boosted our efforts in terms of human capital development.”
Uduaghan’s speech came as Akinlaja, who represented Dabiri-Erewa at the occasion, in his presentation, unveiled the immense opportunities Nigerians in the Diaspora stand to benefit and the need for them to come back home to invest.
He affirmed that the Federal Government will not renege in its promise to release the Diaspora Bond.
He said: “According to the World Bank, Nigeria is one of the world’s fastest growing emerging economies.
“No one needs to tell you what this means – a billion investment opportunities lie in various sectors, with a lot of these sectors largely untapped – Agriculture, Information Technology, Medicine, Mining, Textiles, Electricity, Energy – the list goes on.
“To be more empirical, there is an organisation called the Nigerians in Diaspora Alumni Network.
“NIDAN is an organisation that consists of former Nigerians in Diaspora who have returned home and now own thriving businesses.
“They lend support to one another and I am sure they will continue to capitalise on investment and growth opportunities in the Nigerian economy.
“Most of these successful businesses are in medicine, IT Tech firms, entertainment industry, and several other professions.
“With respect to the Diaspora Bond, we know the Federal Government has plans to issue a $500 million bond by issuing a first tranche of $100 million in 2013.
“This will be a major milestone in the process of involving our Nigerians in the Diaspora in the development of the Nigerian economy.
“As said earlier, there are lots of opportunities for development that these funds can be put to.
“Also, of all the countries in Africa, Nigeria received $21 billion in remittances from its citizens abroad, putting us at number one in Africa.
“This fact, along with the success of the Nigeria’s $1 billion Eurobond in 2013, promises to show that Diaspora bond will be a very viable agent of investment and development in Nigeria.
“Nigeria remains an attractive investment destination for anyone, no matter the challenge we face today as a nation.
“We have the human and material resources in abundance.
“You are part of the solution.
“Let us do all we can to make Nigeria the great country that we know it can be.”