The Uduaghan administration is transforming the economy of Delta State from one that is dependent on oil revenue to a diversified one
Juliana Idafum is a petty trader in perishable fruits. In all the years she had been hawking in the neighbourhood of Nnebisi Roundabout in Asaba, life has never been as good as it is for her today. Early this year, she and several others moved into modern kiosks built by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration, where they now trade in a more dignified manner, making decent living. Although they pay a rent of N4,000 per month for the kiosks, Idafum and her colleagues are trading happily because buyers now prefer to stop by to buy fruits unlike when they were running after moving vehicles on the streets, putting their lives at risk without actually earning much.
“Vehicles used to hit us. Sometimes, when our fruits fall, they run over the fruits. That is not happening again. Here, people park their cars, and buy fruits. We are even selling more than before. We are enjoying this place, no sun, no rain, no abuse from car owners,” said Charity Uzochukwu, another trader. Idafum and Uzochukwu are not the only ones that are enjoying the benefits of the economic transformation in Delta State. The transformation that has taken place in their lives and businesses is so spectacular that on one occasion, a prominent citizen of the state made what was intended to be a frantic telephone call to the governor. His aim was to report that the kiosks that he mistook for modern bus stations had been taken over by fruit sellers. But to his pleasant surprise, the governor told him that the structures that are now common sights in Asaba, were built for that purpose; and that more were going to be built across the state.
Through its Delta Beyond Oil initiative, the government has embarked on a transformation that will see the state earning revenue from diverse sources apart from oil. Among other things, the economic transformation agenda is one that touches people in all the strata of the population. From the successful administration of its highly acclaimed micro credit scheme to the development of air and sea ports as well as provision of infrastructure facilities that drive modern economies, the Uduaghan administration has indeed, acquitted itself.
If indeed, the wealth of an economy is measured by the value of goods and services that the economy can produce, and not a single product like oil, then the economy of Delta State will in no distant time, emerge as one of the very few vibrant economies in Nigeria. Through the micro credit initiative, small businesses are growing into cottage industries. Locally manufactured goods are attracting international attention. A good example is the native Akwa Ocha of Delta North, which globally acclaimed designers have shown interest in. Also at the lower end of the economy, spices manufactured in Delta State under the micro credit programme now dot the shelves of mega stores across the country and even outside.
Under the programme, thousands of young graduates have created employment for themselves and others. Among them are fish farmers, shoemakers, palm oil producers, bead makers and several others. For small-scale business owners in the state, life has never been so good and the future is even brighter as they grow their businesses with zero interest loans received from the micro credit programme. Under the industrialisation policy of the Uduaghan administration, the government has signed a partnership agreement with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO, for the establishment of a shoemakers’ village. The village is to be located along the Benin-Onitsha Expressway; just about ten minutes drive from the airport and to Onitsha market.
Similarly, for big players in the economy of the state, good times are here. The Asaba International Airport, built by the Uduaghan administration is not just one of the best in the country; it is also one major infrastructure that will transform the economy of the state. Chike Ogeah, Commissioner for Information recalls that the government received knocks from people who never believed the project could be realised. Today, the airport is one of the prides of the state, and in a long time to come, it will continue to be a revenue earner and major driver of the economy of Delta State.
The vision of the Uduaghan administration about the airport is legendary. Apart from the businesses that are springing up because of the airport, Delta State government is also working out strategies to make the airport an agriculture hub. Around the airport, government has parcels of land where it intends to start commercial farming. The initiative is one in which fruits like pineapple, orange and several others are taken abroad soon after harvest. The ultimate plan is for the airport to operate international flights in due course. That is perhaps, one of the reasons agriculture is being promoted to become one of the drivers of the economy of the state.
In recent times, the Asaba airport has become the gateway to Delta State. For many businessmen in Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha in Anambra State, which boasts of the largest market in West Africa, the airport has become a major entry and exit point, making business travels a delight and attracting revenue to the state. Like the Asaba airport, the Osubi airport, which is receiving a face-lift, is also attracting major economic activities especially with the movement of oil businessmen in Warri.
Having realised the role of transportation in business and economy, the Uduaghan administration embarked on some ambitious road projects through which the movement of raw material, goods and services will be made possible. One of such is the Asaba-Ughelli highway dualisation project. Through the road, the Warri Port will become easily accessible to importers from the South-east who often use the Lagos ports more often.
Also the Warri Industrial Business Park, which is under construction, is another project that is expected to drive the economy of the state. The government is providing the enabling environment for investments to thrive. The projection is that there would be value chain. Local entrepreneurs will have more businesses to do as investors move into the park.
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