Appraising The South East Ring Road
By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
To advance the proposed regional integration of the South East zone, the governors of the zone recently agreed to construct a ring road that will link the five states in the zone for ease of transportation and economic growth.
The ring road, according to the communique issued at the end South East Governors’ Forum and read by the Chairman of the Forum, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State,would cover an area of 430 km and constitutes part of strategies for the economic development of the zone.
This project is apt for some reasons. One, there are heavy agricultural activities in the South East. Second, there is apparent failure of the rail system in the zone. Thus, the ring road would ease the transportation in the zone, especially goods and services.
Another area that elicits interest is the efforts to boost the power sector in the zone. To this effect, the forum has taken presentation from the consultant on the project. More cheering is that the forum had resolved to follow up on details of implementation especially as it relates to right of way for the gas pipeline project. There are great expectations that the development would provoke industrial revolution in the zone.
The governors of the zone deserve resounding applaud for thinking home recently.The level of collaboration existing among the governors is heartening. It will be recalled that last year, in a bid to advance the economic well-being of the region, governors of the zone resolved to bury their differences and work for the economic integration of the region.
Last year’s meeting was a landmark because it discussed critical issues affecting the region such as security. On the issue of security, the governors agreed to collaborate by comparing notes to talk with the Commissioners of Police and other security agencies located in the region on security integration.
Security, no doubt, is an important component of the integration and must be pursued vigorously. It is indisputable that kidnapping has taken a serious toll on almost all the five South East states and deserves a serious collaborative effort. When kidnappers are dislodged from one South East state, there is every tendency that they would seek a safe haven in a nearby South East state and resume their unwholesome trade there.
On this note, it is fashionable for other South East governors to draw models from their counterparts. Abia in its continued effort to boost the security situation in the state launched Security Fund recently. The fund is part of the state’s effort to enhance the present security situation in the state by deploying money generated from the fund to procure logistics, including high-tech security equipment, vehicles, welfare of the security personnel, among others. Also, a security card was also unveiled. The security card which looks like the automated teller machine (ATM) card can be used to load and withdraw money any where in the world. Besides, the card with micro chip has the recognition of its owner and cannot be tampered by another person.
Prior to the launch of the Security Fund, the governor has recorded other landmark achievements.These include the procurement of 20 modern patrol vehicles fitted with communication and monitoring gadgets for the police and other security agencies in the state to enhance inter-agency communication and improve their response time to distress calls from members of the public . Similarly, Zenith Bank had donated five brand new security Toyota Hilux trucks to assist Abia State government in its crime fighting efforts.
Also, it is not out of place for other governors of the zone to borrow notes and copy Governor Willie Obiano’s exploits in agriculture which has raked huge revenue for the state.
Currently, the urge for regions across the country to come together and forge economic integration is increasing at geometric progression. The urge is basically informed by the prevailing economic realities in the country. Regional integration joins individual states within a region into a larger whole, is now the vogue. This arrangement tends to achieve the following functions: to strengthen trade in the region; to create an appropriate enabling environment for private sector development; to develop infrastructure programmes in support of economic growth and regional integration; to develop strong public sector institutions and good governance. Others are to reduce social exclusion and the development of an inclusive civil society; to contribute to peace and security in the region; to build environment programmes at the regional level; and to strengthen the region’s interaction with other regions.
In the South West region, the governors of the region in a continued search for Regional Integration of the zone under the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), recently resolved to work together to address security challenges confronting the region and foster economic growth and well-being of the people.
Furthermore, the South East states can engage in joint projects that require huge capital outlay by pulling financial resources together. To buttress this claim, recently, the 19 governors of the northern states of Nigeria gave approval to Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), owned by the 19 northern states to establish a strong and viable bank.
While NNDC is also vigorously pursuing the search for oil and gas in the Lake Chad Basin and the Niger-Benue trough, plans are underway by the northern states to establish an Agricultural Commodity Board, to guarantee market, quality and more farm produce in states in the region as well as the establishment of a multi-faceted Agricultural Industrial Park that would assist in fast-tracking economic productivity.
NNDC has become a strong instrumentality to establish a strong foundation for Northern Nigeria to be self sufficient in food production, financial services and other sectors. Nothing makes it unbecoming for the South East states to think along this line.