5th June, 2013
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State spoke with representatives of media houses during the capital market committee retreat held in Warri on his efforts to attract foreign investors. The interview, published by TheNEWS magazine in its 21 January 2013 edition, forms part of this interview
How established is Delta State in infrastructural development?
It is not the responsibility of the states to provide essential infrastructure like power, but that of the federal government. It is 100 per cent the responsibility of the federal government to provide power, at least for now, and not that of states. But we had to provide some of the infrastructure because we needed them.
Can you assess the performance of the nation’s capital market?
There is need to bring back investors’ confidence. Since the market crashed, investors have lost interest. So a lot needs to be done to bring back investors’ confidence as the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, is doing now.
Delta State doesn’t intend to go to the capital market to borrow money again, though. We had gotten N50bn from the initial bond we issued last year. This is the first tranche and we are not thinking of taking the second tranche of N50bn because we don’t want to borrow money that we cannot repay before our tenure expires. We have borrowed another N320bn from the banks and there is no much difference between the interest we pay to the banks and bondholders.
When Delta State first issued a bond and could not use the proceeds properly for the purpose it was meant for, it took the state a longer time to access the market until last year when an approval was given us. On this one we are using the money for the purpose it is meant.
How is Delta State attracting investors?
We are an oil-producing state benefiting from what is called derivation. For us, though, oil is neither here nor there in terms of maintaining our economy. The oil can finish and anything can happen to the oil and it will affect the economy. This reality has made us devise what we called a Delta Beyond Oil. That is, we intend to use the money we are getting from oil to develop other sectors of the economy, especially agriculture, tourism, and others. In doing this, there are some basic things we need to put in place in order to attract investors.
There were crises in some parts of the state like Warri which made some companies to collapse. In bringing back those factories and attracting new investors, we needed to put certain things in place.
This is a follow-up to the above question on Delta Beyond Oil idea. Are you satisfied with the journey so far?
Let me say that the issue of Delta Beyond Oil is not a one-day, two days, three months, four years, eight years thing. It is a lifelong project. But what we are trying to do in actualising Delta Beyond Oil is setting up infrastructures that will attract investments in other areas of the economy, not entirely oil or gas. And those are the areas of agriculture, tourism, sports and all that. And you will agree with me that some of the structures are being put in place.
We are talking of power, we are talking of roads, and we are talking of ICT, the micro credit, improvement of our education sector, improvement of the health sector and human capital development.
And in attracting investments, we have been able to attract some investments. We have the Obasanjo Farms, we have the Delta Leisure Park that is coming up. Shoprite is coming to Delta, and we have a lot of hotels that are coming up. We have a lot of projects. For us, we are making a lot of progress on Delta State Beyond Oil. But the bottom line is that people should not just believe that we can only survive on oil, we can survive on other things.
How far with the Economic Advisory Team and the Economic Management Team which you set up? Have they lived up to expectation in driving your agenda of Delta Beyond Oil? What is more, your critics may say this is a duplication of efforts…
Well, one is advisory while the other is involved in management. The advisory team is headed by Bismarck Rewane. They have been advising us; they gave us the idea of the economic dashboard system that we have used to sanitize our ministries such that when you are a Delta State worker now, there are targets that you set for yourself and we monitor the targets.
They have also helped us to set in motion a process of reviving companies that are dead. We are reviving them; new companies are coming up and employment is being generated.
What infrastructure is your government putting in place to attract investors?
There are some basic infrastructural provisions needed – whether by big industries or small – to flourish. Most vital of the lot is power. Power has been a big challenge to all of us. To tackle this issue, we partnered with the federal government on an independent power plant, IPP. This started during the Obasanjo era. We committed about N15.7bn to a national independent power plant which makes us a shareholder. Hopefully, when it is completed, we would be getting some reasonable quantity of power from the plant in Sapele.
We also invested in distribution and transmission lines and transformers. Each year, we set aside money to purchase transformers. And we have started building power plants on our own, hoping that in the next three or more years there would be improved power supply.
Another area we are developing is transport–the seaports, an airport and railway lines. Unfortunately, most of the things or infrastructure that will attract investors are federal government’s responsibilities. When we talk about power, it is federal government’s responsibility to provide it. The airport we are building is supposed to be provided by the federal government but because we require it, we have to go into its construction. I don’t control ownership of the airport. For the past three years, we have been constructing the airport in Asaba. It is running but we are yet to finish it.
The roads are federal government roads, but then we needed them. When we held a meeting with Onitsha traders and we asked them why they were not importing their goods through the Warri port which is closer than Lagos ports, they complained that the roads are very bad and all that. So, we have to go into constructing roads, though they are federal government roads. We are dualising the Warri Port road with the intention of attracting importers and investors to patronise the Warri Port. We have an airport in Warri, though small; it is only two kilometres. We had an issue with Shell when we wanted to expand it. However, it has been settled and we hope to build a longer runway.
Also, we would be building industrial clusters to attract investors, going along with the provision of certain basic facilities. We will also invest in Information Communication Technology, ICT, and engage the Minister of Communication and Technology in that regard.
What advice do you have for investors?
I am appealing to investors to come and invest in Delta State because we are providing infrastructure. Investors should tap into the various opportunities that abound in the agro-based sector of the state’s economy as investment is not about security alone but also good governance.
When you first became governor, the first challenge you faced was insecurity, especially kidnapping. How did you tackle and reduce it?
We are doing a lot of things. What I am trying to do is to lay more emphasis on advocacy; trying to gather intelligence and trying to tell various segments of the society that it is a collective responsibility. It is not a thing you leave to the security agents alone. They are doing their work but you need a lot of information to deal with it. What has happened really is that, we have been able to narrow down the headquarters of kidnappers to a particular part of the state. We have been putting a lot of pressure on them. Somehow, we are uncovering a lot of information.
Unfortunately for them, they are also in a process of getting a new king. So, I told them at the Kokori Community in Ethiope East, that I will not give their king a staff of office until we are able to deal with kidnapping. And of course, we also had to go and destroy some of the places they used to keep the kidnap victims. We are still destroying more. A lot of prosecution have been made.
So far, we have jailed 80 kidnappers in this state in the last few months. So there is a lot of pressure on them.
Critics went to town, condemning your refusal to sign the anti-kidnapping Bill presented by the state legislature. This created some friction. Why did you take such position?
I don’t believe in death sentence because it has never stopped any crime in the world. In fact, if you look back into history, when Jesus Christ was put on the cross, there were two criminals beside him. The crime they committed that made them to be killed, that crime is still on the ground till today. So it has not stopped any crime. Even in the era of Anini, firing squad did not stop armed robbery. That is one.
Two, sometimes, condemnation to death can be subjective in the sense that many innocent people have been known to be condemned to death and I think that is even more criminal than the person who has killed and I don’t want to be part of that.
And thirdly, as at today, even if you condemn somebody to death, that person will not be killed. There is no doubt about that in Edo State, where the governor had signed death warrants, but today they have not been killed. So, even if you condemn them to death, the person will not be killed. So why embark on an exercise in futility. The world is campaigning against death sentence and it is not something we should be encouraging.
Some projects still stand uncompleted. Why?
The projects have not been too long. What has happened in Delta is that there are lots of things that we are supposed to have had but we have not had. When you start like that, people expect that you should complete it tomorrow.
This Government House for instance, we have committed enormous resources for it to get to this stage. This is one administration that has started an airport and has taken it to such a stage that planes both big and small, are now landing. But having said that, it is possible that sometimes, we should have gone faster but we also have challenges with funds. You start a project, government increases salaries, and you divert some of the funds to the payment of wages, payment of pension.
Between 2007 and now, our wage bill has increased from about N3 billion to about N8 billion. So you have to spend more money in that area and less money on capital projects. You have one or two options, you either drop workers or you do something.
But even as we talk, there is need for more workers. So the balancing can sometimes be a challenge but our projects are moving fast.
There is an international airport in Asaba and your government planned to expand the one in Osubi. Tell us how far…
We have awarded the contract for dualisation. They are still doing some designs.
One can easily describe your state as a melting pot of different sub-ethnic groups. How do you walk this tight rope?
I think God has been very gracious to me in managing the state. Two, it also requires a lot of patience to govern. You must be patient, you must be focussed. There are people who want to distract you but you must be focussed. That is the thing. Remain focussed and convince yourself that this is the way that you want to go; move in that direction and don’t be distracted and I am sure you will get there.
Meteorogolists have been shouting over the roof tops that the heavens will open again this year with a deluge of rainfall. Has your government put certain measures in place in readiness for this?
We are preparing in three areas. One is advocacy, going around the communities to educate the people on what to do and what not to do. Two, we are trying to ensure that our water channels are cleared. Right now, if you have been following us, you find that we are clearing our water channels, illegal buildings and all that. Thirdly, we are getting our camps ready just in case some people are displaced.
What will be the legacy you wish to leave behind?
It depends on who is remembering me. If you ask the rural woman who could not go to the hospital to deliver because she did not have money to go to the hospital, but now she is able to go to the hospital and have her baby without paying for it, she will tell you it is the free maternal healthcare.
If you ask the man who stays in Asaba and has had to drive to Benin to take a flight to Lagos, but he is now able to fly from Asaba straight to Lagos, he will tell you he is remembering me because of the airport.
And if you have taken advantage of our micro-credit scheme to start your own business, you will remember me for giving you the rare privilege of being your own boss and employing others. My philosophy is just to be able to touch the lives of each and every Deltan and whatever I want to be remembered for depends on the person you are talking to.