Charting economic path for South-east, the SECCIMA initiative

The South-east needs economic rejuvenation to come out of its present state. CHUKS NWEZE writes on how this can be achieved.

Before the recent agitations for self rule took the centre stage, Nigeria had been bedevilled with crisis in the Niger Delta occasioned by outright neglect. Also, insurgents in the North-east have been resisting western-styled education.

While Nigeria was trying to extricate itself from all these, a new security threat known as banditry erupted in the north. The bandits abducted and demanded for ransom thereby giving motorists and travellers nightmare.

In the recent past, a new crime wave swept through the South-east as people were being attacked and killed. Institutions such as police stations, INEC offices were set ablaze. No one can say exactly where the criminals came from because Biafra main agitators, the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) denied knowledge of the such crimes saying that its security arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) is not responsible for those crimes.

While all those were ongoing, the South East Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (SECCIMA) on October 6 and 7 decided to focus on how the zone would fair economically believing that if the economy is right, other sectors would go well.

The new initiative/drive
Because of this, SECCIMA in a two-day economic summit with a theme: ‘Challenges of Rediscovering Nigeria as an Economic Giant: the Role of South East’, deemed it fit to gather captains of industries, chambers of commerce and eggheads from universities to deliberate on way towards an economic el dorado for the region.

Our ease of doing business the best – Enugu government Enugu state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who flagged off the summit said on the part of the state, they have been doing everything possible to make the state an investment haven by providing the enabling environment.

Ugwuanyi who was represented by the permanent secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Dr Godwin Anigbo, said Enugu is rated as one of the bests in Nigeria in the ease of doing business by ensuring that there is adequate security to ensure the safety of investors and their investments.

He noted that the state has been home for all and that to that extent had created enabling environment for the ease of doing business. He said because of the way Enugu has been handling her economy, it is one of the states that can exist without reliance on federal allocation.

“Enugu state has continued to provide basic needs especially in the area of security. We are rated the first in the ease of doing business.
“Enugu is one of the states that can exist without revenue allocation from the federation account, ” he said.

Ugwuanyi said that as a responsible government, they are responsive to the yearnings of the people and the business community.
As a proof, he said the state House of Assembly recently instituted an ad hoc committee to look into cases of extortion and over taxation as well as multiple revenue collection in the state so that investors don’t get dissuaded from investing in the state.

Poor infrastructure and corruption responsible – Anyim Former Senate president, Anyim Pius Anyim, who delivered a keynote address, lamented that Nigeria with a population of about 200 million, after 61 years of independence is yet to achieve economic independence. He said many multi-national companies have left Nigeria because of poor environment for businesses caused mainly by insecurity, poor electricity supply, among others.

Anyim, represented by Mr Ferdinand Ani, said the summit was aimed at reviewing the efforts of the industrial and commercial leaders in the zone with a view to making the South-east competitive.

Anyim noted that Nigeria with vast oil and agricultural potential ought to be an economic giant, but had been elusive because of corruption.
He listed the challenges facing investments in the country to include ethnicity, conflicts and insecurity, covid pandemic, dependence on oil, lack of power and poor infrastructure.

He therefore charged SECCIMA to study the current investment practice in the region and advise eastern entrepreneurs to think home and invest in the South-east. He suggested that SECCIMA can provide the drive to achieve development of the culture of business incubation, creation of a robust manufacturing sector as done in Ogun state.

He also suggested the development of hubs, start-ups and venture capital facilities as well as appropriate tax policies.

Anyim was of the opinion that the South-east and indeed Nigeria could improve their economic fortunes by imbibing the culture of industrialisation as done in western countries.

“Industrialisation made America, Britain, France and other nations great. We all have a part to play

to make great as well as the Igbo nation,” he said.

SME to the rescue – Don
Speaking on how to make the region thick economically, Professor Greg Ibe, chancellor, Gregory University, Uturu said small and mediums entrepreneurs are to be encouraged to drive the economy of the region.
Represented by Dr Oluebube Chukwu, Ibe emphasised the importance of SME in an economy, noting that disasters greatly affect SME; therefore should be protected. He pointed out that a dilapidated economy needs SME for revival in many ways.
He concluded by stating the South-east’s position, noting that the SME has led to massive development of communities in the South-east and made the region a force to be reckoned with.

Importance of ICT
Another key note speaker, Mr Kingsley Eze, MD (Tenece) spoke on how ICT can accelerate development in the region.

Eze noted that the South Eastern key resource is human capital but lacks the resources to fully harness it.

He noted that whereas the oil industry receives enormous attention, remittances from abroad surpass oil revenue by far. He therefore advocated that more attention should be paid to the development and harnessing of human resources.

He gave the Indian example, noting that India, through solid human resource capacity, is in leadership of the top 500 fortune companies in the world.

Eze further pointed out that the most capitalised companies in the world are tech firms and that in three in five years, all leading firms would be using data. He therefore opined that the region needs to invest in technology.

He suggested the need to establish tech hubs, work out an Eastern Nigeria development plan with ICT curriculum in institutions to build relevant capacity using the Indian Institute of Technology example.

Others he noted include the development of appropriate ICT infrastructure by deliberate actions and policies to attract non southerners to invest in the South East, the need to embark on a conscientious indoctrination to reshape the minds of youths against flocking into politics for economic survival.

Region needs unity – Nebo

The former minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nebo on his part said pooling resources together would see to the economic transformation of the South-east.

He stated that the governments of the South-east have failed to create the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and concluded by suggesting that this type of summit should be held at schools.

The need for enabling environment

An economic expert and former economic adviser to President Obasanjo on Economic Matters, Prof Osita Ogbu who spoke on ‘Industrial Park and Free Trade Zones in Economic Recovery’ gave instances of successful industrial parks worldwide and listed the benefits.

In conclusion, Ogbu noted that private enterprises ride on the state activities, saying that government has a supportive role for businesses to thrive; therefore, has no business in other than creating enabling environment.

He stated that Nigeria has many institutions geared towards development but lacks coordination.

The former economic adviser said that government has to do a lot to help industries to thrive by coming up with policies that would aid trade and industrialisation, noting that government closing borders, banning importation could adversely affect enterpreneurship.

He was of the opinion that governments can give grants for companies to stay afloat instead of stifling such companies with heavy tax.

According to him, government can procure a giant machines that can help an industry to maximise its potentials and give bailout to companies not to fold so that the staff of such companies would not swell the ranks of the unemployed.

President of National Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) Chief J, C Udeagbala posited that industrialisation is the only way to ensure economic prosperity for the South-east and Nigeria in general, saying no nation can grow without manufacturing and industry.