DELTA @ 21: AFFIRMATION OF STATE CREATION
When on August 27, 1991, the military government of Gen. Ibrahim B. Babangida (rtd.) decided to create more states, some Nigerians jubilated, while others were saddened either because of their opposition to the idea or because their own desired state was not created. Of course, there are still segments of the population that continue to clamor for their own States. Part of the argument for State creation is a belief that the new State will result in better delivery of dividends of democracy to the citizens of the new State and a voice to those who feel marginalized in their current State. An opposing argument is that many current States cannot survive on their own without the monthly allocation from the Federal government, and that many of the proposed new States will not have any quantifiable or dependable source of income or revenue. How does Delta State fit into this argument?
Delta State was part of Bendel State (carved out in February1976), which previously was part of Mid-western Nigeria (created in August 1963 from Western Nigeria & made mid-western State on May 27, 1967). A clear look at Delta State will reveal that the State is well able to sustain itself both because of its natural resources and its human resources. Focusing on the Natural resources, the State is of course a major contributor to the nation's oil revenue, and as a result, a recipient of the derivative allocation from the center – an agenda zealously fought for the State by the former Governor James Ibori during his tenure.
To run a State, the Governor needs a capable and dependable Secretary to the State Government (SSG) because the SSG “is the hub of the administration whose task is to keep the whole machinery (of state) moving and working smoothly. All major decisions and policies of government are issued through him (or her) and he/she has a direct responsibility to monitor the implementation of the policies.” Since its creation, Delta State has been blessed with nine (9) SSGs as follows: Jackson Ajogri (1991-1993), Kodit Mordi (JP) (1994-1996), Sir (Barr.) Simeon Efenudu (1996-1999), Engr. James Bukowho Erhuero (1999-2003), Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan (2003-2006), Barr. Ovie Omo-Agege (2006-2007 transition), Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa (2007-2010), Dr. (Mrs.) Beatrice Omeni (2010-2011 transition), Comrade Ovuozourie Samuel Macaulay (2011 – present).
Delta State SSG Comrade Ovuozourie Samuel Macaulay (“A man of vision”)
Recently the SSG had this to say about the State. “Delta State accounts for one third of the entire volume of Oil and Gas produced in the Country. She also accommodates some of the country's major oil-based industries and facilities. They are: a refinery at Ekpan, a gas plant at Okpai, a steel complex at Ovwian/Aladja, two gas fired electricity stations at Sapele and Ughelli and an oil export terminus at Forcados. Because of its diverse ethnic configuration and strategic position in the national economy, Delta State is often referred to as a miniature Nigeria...Delta State is a land of immense opportunities for investment and business activities which cut across Oil and Gas, Agriculture, Manufacturing, Telecommunications and other Service Sectors. Our people are generally very industrious, accommodating, hospitable and ingenuous in their chosen fields of endeavour.”
The purpose of this article is not to go through a litany of projects or achievements of successive Delta State governments, but to specifically focus on revenue generating projects as an aid in answering whether a State should or should not have been created. Can the State sustain itself without going cup in hand to Abuja? As you will see from the listing of a few projects from the SSG's office, Delta State is an affirmation of its creation.
Asaba International Airport
Any State that wants to be involved in major movement of passengers and cargo must have an airport. If you study places like Miami-USA and London-UK, you will see the value of an airport. Significant revenue is generated through an airport and major businesses are attracted to that State because of the presence of an airport. Developments spring up around the locale of the airport. In the case of Delta, large streams of revenue have been coming from the five neighboring States that are taking advantage of the airport. Traders in Onitsha (Africa's largest market) now use the airport. We are tapping into revenue from some of our richest brothers and sisters from Anambra, who now make Asaba their home or business transit point. I have personally benefitted from using the airport for crucial meetings in Abuja and Lagos, with the realized revenue spent in Delta. The airport encourages even international travellers to reside in the State. If you have a flight to the US or Europe which usually leaves around 11pm, you can take an afternoon flight from Asaba and still make your connection. Same applies when you are returning. You can disembark from a morning flight and still catch a connecting flight to Asaba. You don't have to spend your hard earned money in an Abuja or Lagos hotel. You bring it Delta.
Micro-Credit and YETA
According to 2006 Census Final Results published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette; No.2, Vol.96 (February, 2009), Delta State had a population of 4,112,445 in 2006 (approximately 6 million today), with an unemployment rate of 22.9%. On July 14, 1980, the Central Council for the Creation of Delta State stated the following in their petition: ”The Delta areas of Bendel, for which we demand a separate state, contain some of the most backward and impoverished areas in the whole federation. To continue to regard Bendel as a single state is to continue to hide away the underdevelopment of these riverine areas in the superficially happy conglomeration of a single Bendel State. Let the benefits of evolution of federalism, in the creation of more states, reach these areas. A Delta State is an appropriate answer in the context and history of development and evolution of Nigerian politics.”
Statistics show that the States program such as Delta Micro-Credit Program (DMCP) and Youth Empowerment Through Agriculture (YETA) have clearly reduced unemployment and alleviated poverty in the State. Over 950 youths have been employed through YETA not to mention the countless businesswomen that have received funding through the DMCP. By encouraging entrepreneurship and agriculture, the State has also increased its tax revenue base. According to the SSG, “on 16th April, 2012, His Excellency, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, the Governor disbursed cheques to beneficiaries farmers' Co-operative Societies under the FGN/CBN N1billion naira Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS).”
EPZ & OFN
Many communities globally have seen the benefit of Export Processing Zones (EPZ). In these zones, a company can bring in some materials, process them locally and export the finished commodities without incurring taxes or other incidental costs. Jobs are created and revenue generated. The EPZ in Miami is a prime example. Delta is on this same pathway with our proposed EPZ in Koko. Obasanjo Farms Nigeria (OFN) is now located on the outskirts of Oloa-Ogwashi and employs many Deltans, while also generating revenue for the State through its poultry products.
Plantain Plantation in Songhai
Multinationals including Saudi Arabian and Indian companies are investing billions of dollars in petro-chemicals and fertilizer plants in the state. While we accept that we are blessed with oil, we are all interested in Delta without oil, meaning alternative source of revenue. Agriculture projects such as a plantain plantation is a laudable venture of the government. As you travel around the world, you see small countries like Jamaica exporting plantain chips (kpekere). We are doing this in Delta and generating revenue.
To quote the SSG again, “Conscious of the inherent risk of dependency on Oil as the sole source of revenue to finance government budgets and expenditures, His Excellency, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, the Governor of Delta State, remarked that “We are conscious of the limitations of an oil dependent economy since oil is an exhaustible resource” and have embarked on an unprecedented diversification of the economy in the urgent task of building a “Delta Beyond Oil.”
Currently the State is now known as The Finger of God. If you are reading the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, you will notice four (4) references to The Finger of God. Exodus 8:19 “Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." The magicians were of course referring to the turning of the dust of the land into lice such that there were lice on man and beats. So, we will make an analogy that God will do something so wonderful in Delta that people will be amazed. The references in both Exodus 31:18 and Deuteronomy 9:10 “have to do with God writing the Ten Commandments with His finger and handing them over to Moses. For us Deltans, we can claim it that our collective destinies have been written with the finger of God and that there is nothing our detractors can do to change it. It is etched in stone. The fourth and only mention of the finger of God in the New Testament is in Luke 11:20 where Jesus said “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Here Jesus healed a man who was dumb. To better understand this passage, we look at the Parallel story in Matthew 12:28 where “the finger of God” is replaced by the “Spirit of God.” Essentially, Jesus is saying that with the Spirit of God we Deltans can overcome anything. No obstacle is insurmountable because the Kingdom of God is here in Delta.
To quote the SSG again in a briefing he gave on 30th April 2012, “Delta State is one of the most significant States in Nigeria considering its economic, social and human capital contributions to the nation. However, development in the State had before the present democratic dispensation, been stalled by long years of military rule. The State Government since 1991 has done a lot to ensure that ethnic conflicts are abated. The State is therefore enjoying peace and security which as has been noted, are essential to development. The State is also conscious that development must be diversified in order for it to be sustainable. Hence, the attention of the State Government has been to build on an economy that invests oil resources to diversify its economic base for future prosperity. Consequently, His Excellency, the Governor has become passionate about evolving and sustaining a “Delta State Without Oil”.”
Today as all of us Deltans celebrate twenty-one (21) years of creation of our State (our birthday), I congratulate my fellow citizens and pray that the finger of God do for us what it did for the Israelites. Should you be looking for a Standard as to whether a particular State should be created, use Delta State as a guide.
Alex Osondu Atawa Akpodiete is an author, Computer Scientist, Educator, Consultant, lawyer, Political Analyst & Social commentator. He has a Doctorate degree in Jurisprudence from the US. He has lectured Law, Ethics and Security & Intelligence Studies at the University level here in Nigeria and US. He also writes for a state daily newspaper & national monthly journal. He currently divides his time between Nigeria and USA where he runs an international capacity building firm. Contact him on 08138391661 or [email protected], & [email protected] He is also on Facebook and you can follow him on Twitter.