Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Power Outage Mars South-South Economic Summit As President Jonathan, Paul Kagame, Okonjo-Iweala, Shun Event
The much talked about second edition of the South-South Economic Summit in Asaba, on the theme of “Development, Investment and Security” was disrupted for over 30 minutes this afternoon following a power outage that greeted the event shortly after the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, had delivered his speech.
But the embarrassing power failure is not the only reason the event will be remembered by many. Conspicuously missing were President Goodluck Jonathan and his Rwanda counterpart, Paul Kagame.
Also absent were the Senate President David Mark, the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke. Observers said these crucial absences may have had some political undertones.
Even the generating set positioned for the epoch-making event failed to rise to the occasion. The development forced the dignitaries and participants to scamper for a more bearable environment outside the new N3 billion Delta Event Centre.
The blackout saw Nigerian Vice President, Arch. Namadi Sambo, who represented Mr. Jonathan; and Mr. John Agara, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Development Board who represented Mr. Kagame, sweating it out alongside Prof. Soyinka, several Governors, Prof. Pat Utomi, members of the National Assembly and other dignitaries that included Chief Edwin Clark, a Minister of Information in the First Republic and South-South Peoples’ Assembly leader.
As if the power failure was not bad enough, the dignitaries and participants were further treated to a poor Public Address System (PAS). The Vice President and Mr. Agara, as well as Prof. Soyinka who had earlier taken the Federal Government and its cohorts in political circles and the private sector to the cleaners, shook their heads in total dismay.
The considerably-embarrassed host Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, was seen shuttling between the hall and the generating house, leaving the nation’s Number Two man sitting by himself as he tried to ascertain what had gone wrong. This reporter gathered that Dr. Uduaghan was shocked to that despite the huge sums of money put at N5 billion pumped into the project by the state and private sponsors, the ceremony still went off beam.
Before the sad event began, participants, delegates, government officials, groups, media men and others who had besieged the Delta Event Centre as early as eight o’clock in the morning, had been left stranded as proper arrangement for accreditation had not been made.
Speaking at the event, Prof. Wole Soyinka tasked the Governors of the geo-political zone to translate the agenda for the summit into “real” action. He charged the governors to go beyond rhetoric and provide infrastructure, human-capital and stability in the region.
The Nobel Laureate stressed the needs for states to form regional groups and translate their areas of comparative advantage into meaningful ventures. He also called for the convening of a Sovereign National Conference.
In his statement, which was read by Mr. Agara, Rwandan President Kagame stated that encouragement is the hall mark of any nation that wished to succeed. He said Rwanda had had its own share of catastrophes but has, through courage, overcome. The solution to challenges comes from within, he said, charging Nigeria to take the bull by the horns.
According to Kagame, who spoke on the topic “Opportunities to Development,” with the right mentality, the continent of Africa in general and Nigeria in particular can achieve whatever they dream of. He encouraged cooperation, stressing that when people pool their efforts together, they are destined to achieve far much more than they would achieve working as individuals.
Kagame stated that his country and the South-south region of Nigeria have several things in common especially in the area of natural resources. He pointed out that the progress seen in Rwanda is evidence that a lot more can be achieved if people put their minds to it.
He said that his region was richly blessed, but that there is need to de-emphasis the bureaucratic nature of the way businesses are conducted. He charged governors of the region to make their environment business-friendly by providing facilities needed for investment to thrive.
Governor Uduaghan stated that one major setback for the region was the over-dependence on oil and lamented that the state had been unable to develop its non-oil sector in agriculture, solid minerals and tourism, but that the state is determined to surmount that.
“As a government we knew we must diversify our economy from its dependency on mono-culture source to other sources that are more empowering, that are more sustainable and can create wealth for our people,” he said.
According to him, one shining example that has stood out as a remarkable success story in Delta State is the over 5.9 billion dollars Chevron EGTL project that will be commissioned soon. He said the project thrived at a time of uncertainty when some investors would rather not venture into the state.
“Today, its successful conclusion is a study in perseverance,” he said. “I want to declare that Delta State is a committed partner to any serious investor.”
Meanwhile the six South-South Governors have vehemently condemned in strong terms Thursday’s twin- bomb attacks on the offices of ThisDay newspapers in Abuja and Kaduna.
In a joint statement issued in Asaba, the Governors described the attacks as barbaric and cowardly.
“We totally condemn the bomb attacks on the premises of the ThisDay Newspaper in Abuja and Kaduna state,” they declared. “It’s barbaric, cowardly and condemnable. We call on security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of this heinous crime and bring the full weight of the law to bear on them.”
The Governors sympathized with the staff and management of the Newspapers, urging them not to be deterred by the incident.
They expressed regret that the attacks came at a time President Jonathan was doing a lot to restore confidence in the Nigerian state through purposeful leadership, and reiterated their support for Mr. Jonathan’s determination to tackle acts of terrorism and other forms of insecurity in the country.
The Publisher of ThisDay, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena was at the summit venue in Asaba, where he was chairman of the Planning Committee, when his business empire was suffered simultaneous bombins in Abuja and Kaduna at about 11 o’clock in the morning.
Anti-corruption activists in Delta state have described the South South Economic summit hosted by the state government as an avenue for corrupt enrichment in the state. Last week the state government revealed that it spent N7.5 billion to demolish a sand hill around its uncompleted airport in Asaba claiming it did so to enable President Goodluck Jonathan presidential jet land safely at the airport. Some participants were also ferried from the airport to the venue in luxurious cars bought specifically for the summit.