The fighting in the Niger Delta has impeded Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, from developing the area’s oil wealth, critics say.
But the government responds by saying the military action in the area is improving the region’s infrastructure. In fact, the governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan says the area is a safe environment for investors.
"We have a peaceful and secure environment, natural and human resources to make any business, thrive in Delta State. [We have very heavy investment in the Escravos Gas and Liquid Plant, a $5.9 billion investment that is going on in the heart of Delta State and in the creeks],” says the governor.
All over the state, construction is going on as the government moves to deal with one of the militants’ main complaints – the perceived underdevelopment of the area and abuse of the environment through oil spills and acid rain.
Dr. Uduaghan says his administration has also taken steps to improve infrastructure in many parts of the state as a deliberate policy to reduce militancy and give everyone a sense of belonging.
“Our overall objective is to make Delta State the investment destination, the investment hub for Nigeria, for West Africa and in fact for Africa. Now for any investment to succeed, for investors to be interested, there has to be critical infrastructure. Apart from the peace and security that is necessary for successful investment, there are also critical infrastructures and that is what we have been concentrating on," says Governor Uduaghan.
"The areas we are concentrating on include power, and transportation. That is why we have constructed the international airport at Asaba to handle cargo and passengers. We are also trying to put up another runway in Warri Airport, which is actually the business center for Delta State.”
Governing the Delta State is not easy
That is one point the ruling party, the opposition and the civil society agree upon. They point to the mixture of oil wealth, militant activities, environmental destruction and difficult terrain. All that, adds up to a challenging task for those trying to satisfy conflicting interests. Governor Uduaghan acknowledges the demands of the job but says he is up to it because of his leadership style.
“It is challenging. You need to know the basic issues, which I have come to know -- the problem of distrust, mainly, the problem of inter-ethnic disharmony and why this has occurred. [There has been an imbalance among various ethnic groups] in [the government’s distribution of] amenities, in giving out developmental, human or capital, in appointments. What we have tried to do that has really won the heart of many, is to as much as possible give to each ethnic group what is due to them, in terms of appointments, in terms of development,” the governor explains.
Governor Uduaghan says his policies have succeeded in changing the minds of some militants who have dropped their arms to join efforts to develop the state. He says the government will continue to reach out to other groups and will quicken the pace of development as a permanent solution.
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