The Delta State Government is laying a solid foundation for the future through infrastructural development and economic advancement programmes
The future, goes a popular saying, belongs to those who are able to see and plan ahead of time. Emmanuel Uduaghan, governor of Delta State, knows this too well and that was what informed his decision to crystallise a future plan for his state at a time of relative wealth. Although Delta is today one of Nigeria’s leading oil producing states, a resource that for more than four decades has served as the main source of revenue for the country, the governor recognises the need to look beyond the present, as nothing in life is permanent. Asked by a TELL reporter in 2012 what legacy he would like to be remembered for, Uduaghan replied: “The picture we are looking at is to create a state that is not totally dependent on oil. Yes, oil is our major source of revenue now; oil is our major natural resource now as a state that is earning money not just for us but for Nigeria. We also know that this oil cannot sustain us forever as a state and so, we have
mapped out our strategy of developing a state in which other areas of the economy can be developed. That is why we tag it Delta Beyond Oil. So, what we are doing is how we can use the money coming from oil to develop other sectors of the economy.”
Since the unveiling of the Delta Beyond Oil initiative, the Uduaghan administration has never looked back on this task of championing a paradigm shift for the state. Developing other areas of the economy include investment in key sectors like agriculture, poverty alleviation, tourism and infrastructure.
In agriculture, Delta State hopes to be the leading food exporter in no distant time, and has set about encouraging indigenes of the state to take advantage of the opportunities that come with agriculture and self-help initiatives. Agriculture, as a major provider of raw materials, could create thousands of jobs for the youths and this is an aspect the government is much interested in. Similar to this is the poverty alleviation programme in the state, which is already providing support to Delta indigenes as a way of assisting them to become self-reliant and employers of labour through entrepreneurial initiatives. The mustard seed of today could, before long, become major production centres that generate returns to all stakeholders. Indeed, the path to prosperity had long been defined as many youths in the state, with the support of their government, had set up their own enterprises and have already shown great promise, given the quality of their products, from food to shoes and cloth production.
Antonia Ashiedu, Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation, Delta State, told the magazine recently in Asaba that micro-credit programmes had been open to deserving Deltans since 2007 that Uduaghan assumed office. She says the scheme is tailored towards “empowering the people, making the people feel a sense of belonging and making the economies of the communities bubble.”
Apart from empowering small and medium scale entrepreneurs, the state government is also carving a niche for itself in the area of tourism. Asaba, for instance, is fast becoming the film capital of Nigeria as not a few Nollywood movies are produced in the city on a weekly to monthly basis. Nollywood actors and actresses are a common sight in Asaba as they come to play their roles in film production which today is adjudged to be possibly Nigeria’s best gift to the world in view of the African stories they portray. Of course the main beneficiary of this increasing number of visitors to Asaba and Delta State in general is the hospitality industry, which in turn posts higher tax returns to the state. A few years ago, the government, as a way to further boost tourism, partnered with some private investors for the purpose of building the Delta Leisure Resort in Oleri, Udu Local Government, Warri and Ogwashi-Uku, in Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state.
While the main park of the project is sited at Oleri, the wildlife park is located at Ogwashi-Uku. Such collaboration by the state government and private investors, on the government’s side, is meant to attract more private sector driven initiatives to the state in the bid to fast-track and improve the fortunes of the state before long.