Speaking last night ahead of a meeting of governors of the region at Government House, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the host governor, Mr Nyesom Wike who was flanked by the others in his welcome address, said it was unfortunate that the regions had been marginalised politically and economically in the country.
He said seaports, federal roads and several federal infrastructures had remained seemingly abandoned, adding that the forum was to promote the common interest of the regions for development.
In attendance were Chairman of the South-South and South-East Governors Forum and Akwa Ibom Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, Governor Nyesom Wike, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
Others in attendance include acting Governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Nkem Okeke, Enugu State Governor, Mr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Edo State Deputy Governor, Mr Philip Shaibu and Cross River State Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu.
Governor Udom Emmanuel urged the governors of the two regions to form a common front for socio-economic development.
He described the meeting as a new beginning for the two geo-political zones for the good of her people.
In his welcome address, Governor Wike said that the people of the two geo-political zones have always shared common heritage and affinity.
He said: “Even in contemporary Nigeria, we still share the same or similar challenges, including insecurity, poverty and under-development despite the best of efforts by the constituent state governments. Today, the two regions are the most politically and economically marginalized within the nation, environmentally degraded and deliberately neglected by the Federal Government in appointments and provisions of basic development infrastructure.”
The governor noted that none of the airports and seaports located in the regions are reasonably functional, while the few federal roads are not in good shape, neither are the two regions linked by any rail services.
“From geo-strategic economic perspective therefore, there is an urgent need to establish and link our cities with railways and super highways, to provide viable and affordable flight services between our cities, and to ensure that cargoes are brought into the country and the regions through our seaports, jetties and ferry services as a veritable means of stimulating economic growth and social progress across our two regions.”
“Also, we are all aware that economic growth and social progress are possible only in a peaceful and secure environment. And much as we try to tackle this menace in our respective States by providing the necessary logistic support to the security agencies, perceptions of insecurity are on the rise, doing significant damage to our investment climate thereby preventing reasonable inflow of direct foreign and local investment into the regions.”
He said as neighbours, the two regions must strive to overcome challenges through regional efforts by sharing resources, intelligence and denying sanctuaries to criminal elements in the areas.
According to him: “As we go into the business of this meeting, let us be confident in the rightness of our course and clear in our considerations that we have been and would continue to be worse off without the will to exploit our political and economic complementarities to drive our ways into political, economic and social prosperity.
“Above all, we must continue to demand for the devolution of powers and resources to the states as well as the institutionalization of State Police, now that there is national consensus on these issues.”
At press time, the governors were in a closed door meeting. A communique is expected at the end of their deliberations.