DISTURBED by the continued decline in living standards in the Niger Delta region owing to the rising level of poverty, some concerned groups comprising development experts, socio-political pressure groups and non-governmental organisations have stressed the need for the optimization of the region’s diverse resources to improve the standard and quality of lives of the people.
At different fora held in Lagos during the week, the groups specifically called for renewed efforts towards the actualization of the East-West Coastal Road project, stressing that when it is completed, the road would open up the Niger Delta and make the region’s immense promise as a future investors’ and investments’ paradise realizable.
Rising from its stakeholders meeting yesterday, the Niger Delta Consultative Forum, a forum of professionals from diverse callings, bemoaned the fact that in spite of the abundant resources buried underneath its bowels, the region has remained largely underdeveloped due mainly to under-utilization of its resources, skills and energies of its people as well as the dearth of requisite infrastructure to support economic activity and development across board.
It therefore called on the Federal Government to put the East-West Coastal Road project on its list of priority of capital projects so that it could feature prominently in its ongoing transformation agenda for the country.
In the same vein, a non-profit organization, the Niger Delta Development Initiative (NDDI) in a statement by its Executive Director, Samuel Ebikeme, said the East-West Coastal Road had become imperative in stakeholders’ quest for the region’s socio-economic development.
The group lamented that given the strategic, economic and socio-political importance of the project and the boundless opportunities it would throw up in the region, the just-concluded South-south Economic Summit held in Delta State failed to address it.
It noted that it was insensitive for the South-south, which makes up two-thirds of the NigerDelta, comprising of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta (the BRACED states), to have organized an economic summit without the coastal road project being top on its agenda for deliberation.
“The road holds immense prospects for the coastal region and the Nigerian economy. Aside creating employment for over 11,000 people in the region while its construction would last, when completed, the road would connect 1,000 communities, improve fishing and trading activities and help the communities absorb their contributions to national growth by facilitating the movement of raw materials from the rural end of the market to high end urban centres where their produce are transformed into final outputs.
When completed, the road would be the shortest route linking Lagos to the coastal areas of Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. It will also connect such North-South vertical routes as Lagos-Sokoto, Warri-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano-Daura, Port-Harcourt-Makurdi-Bauchi-Kano/Maiduguri road, and Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja-Jalingo-Numan-Maidiguri, all of which would be linked to the Trans-West African Highway (Lagos-Benin-Enugu-Abakaliki-Ikom-Cameroun-Mombassa on the East African Coast.