PIND, MADE Put Niger Delta Development in Focus at Nigerian Economic Summit
On October 11, 2017, the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) and the Market Development Project in the Niger Delta (MADE) teamed up with the Nigerian Economic Summit’s Sustainability Policy Commission to sponsor a breakout session at Transcorp Hilton in Abuja themed “Low Carbon Investment Opportunities for Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) in Niger Delta Communities”.
This year’s edition of the annual Nigerian Economic Summit was themed “Opportunities, Productivity, and Employment: Actualizing the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan”, which was a direct response to the Nigerian government’s plan to strengthen and diversify the Nigerian economy. From each of the ten policy breakout sessions will come short, medium and long-term plans that address the challenges on economic inclusion, access to capital, legislation, skills building, and local production.
This edition also marks the first time that the Nigerian Economic Summit will hold a session on Niger Delta development; and the Niger Delta is important for national development for many reasons. Nearly 32 million Nigerians representing over 40 different ethnic groups live in the Niger Delta. Even though the oil-rich region is the source of 75% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, over 70% of the population in the region live on an average of less than US$2 a day and are beset by diverse development challenges, making the Niger Delta one of the world’s leading development puzzles to be solved. The region’s importance has typically centered on oil but the sector provides only 0.01% of Nigeria’s total jobs. Agriculture, while still hampered by low productivity and land-based conflicts in the Niger Delta, remains a key sector for unlocking growth for both the region and the country as a whole, employing approximately 45% of the workforce.
“It is no coincidence that this panel is happening this year, following one of the worst economic recessions that Nigeria has seen,” said PIND’s Deputy Executive Director Mr. Tunji Idowu. “The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to put us back onto the path of sustained economic growth and presents a unique opportunity for non-oil sector development in the Niger Delta that both tackles youth restiveness and employment. We can only ensure the sustainability of the Nigerian economy by focusing on sectors with high-growth potential. That is why agriculture is so important.”
This breakout session, co-sponsored by PIND and MADE, took advantage of the national conversation on economic diversification (spurred by the ERGP) to drive attention to agricultural sectors in the Niger Delta with high-growth potential.
Present at this event were representatives from energy companies such as OandO; Royal Dutch Shell’s All On; agribusiness firms like Syngenta and Olam; the German development organization Heinrich Boell Foundation; and state and federal government representatives from Rural Electrification Agency, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), the Presidency and Ministry of Environment, among many others.
Before participants broke into groups, there were brief presentations from representatives of government and the private sector. Dr. Princewill Ekanim, Director of Special Duties at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), gave a brief presentation on the Commission’s work and willingness to partner with private sector on notable projects as it plans to improve broadband access across the Niger Delta and increase agricultural lending through the establishment of a Niger Delta Development Bank. Eze Wakanma, Union Bank’s Unit Head of Corporate Agriculture, discussed the Bank’s plans to improve farmers’ access to improved technologies and set up Agricultural Finance Centers and locally-based agency banks in farming communities. Eze Wakanma also challenged NDDC to seek partnerships with already-established banks such as theirs.
Participants in this session broke into groups and came up with policy recommendations for such issues as: fluctuations in monetary policy following the devaluation of the naira, improving access to power in local communities, and improving agricultural output in the Niger Delta using technology.
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) and Country Chair Mr.Osagie Okunbor praised the session and the organizers following the discussions. “I have been listening in on the different group sessions, and was very impressed with the quality of the recommendations. This was top notch, and I give credit to PIND and MADE for organizing this worthwhile session.”
“This was a very efficient session,” enthused Dolapo Kukoyi of Details Solicitors and one of the lead discussants on the access to power discussion group. “From our brief time together we were able to come up with short, medium and long-term plans, and the quality of the solutions provided here speaks to the quality of participants we had in the room.”
“What this event has further crystallized for me is that the problem of access to energy will have to be fixed with solutions that are homegrown,” says Sola Abulu, External Relations Communications Manager for Shell Petroleum. “It is all about innovation and coming together to deliver value.”
This event also brought the opportunity for participants to form partnerships. Among the outcomes of this session, NDDC and Union Bank agreed to work together on agricultural development in the Niger Delta.
“As a financier, we are willing to finance, but it has to viable,” says Eze Wakanma. “NDDC today has agreed to bankroll a pilot program that will focus on funding agricultural lending. And we now want to use that to test the theories we have propounded today. We are more than ready to work with them.”
Niger Delta focused organizations at the session expressed pleasure at the outcome of the event and hope that it will begin a larger effort to mainstream the region into the national conversation on economic diversification.
“The Niger Delta is crucial to Nigeria’s development, and not just because of oil,” opined Fidelis Ekom, Advocacy Manager for MADE “and partnerships like ours with PIND and now NESG are important because no organization can address the development challenges facing the Niger Delta alone. With this and the upcoming Niger Delta Development Forum (NDDF), we are supporting PIND to plan on November 14-15, we are hoping to fully mainstream a regional framework for economic diversification and development in both the Federal Government’s plans and in each of the Niger Delta states as well.”
The Nigerian Economic Summit will harmonize all the action plans drawn up in different sections and share them with all private and public sector stakeholders. These plans will be reviewed by the Federal Executive Council and will be adopted to form part of policy guidance towards improvements in diversification in the Nigerian economy.