Rapid development soon as Niger Delta Fund coming


* Its private sector initiative to radicalize development of oil region

* Foreign-based initiators set to unveil water-based transportation scheme, manufacturing, fish-trawling, etc

A development fund to be known as the Niger Delta Fund is said to be on the way. Inside sources said the foreign-based initiators have considered various areas of investment such as water-based economic ventures such as fish-trawling and water transportation to all the nooks and crannies of the oil region.

It was gathered Port Harcourt in the week that the investment spread would span to manufacturing with the objective of turning the oil region from consumer region to producer region. Agriculture and cash crops may also be given serious attention from the fund.

The scheme is said to be a reflection of and reaction to the failed dreams from previous development agencies organs expected to move the oil region to the next economic level, such as the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC), the wobbling Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the rested BRACED Commission.

The Fund would also seek to encourage investors to create an aviation hub by linking all the South-South cities by air which would create another investment opportunity in the Niger Delta.

Details of the upcoming Fund such as the size and application processes have not yet been revealed. A source linked to the project told BusinessDay that the brains behind the scheme wish to bring in a lot of funds from various parts of the world but this time not through government control.

The Director-General of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, a seasoned technocrat, Mr Erasmus Chukunda, who seems deeply connected with the scheme, confirmed the existence in an exclusive interview with BusinessDay.

The DG described the big move as another investment opportunity in Rivers State and the Niger Delta. He said so far, the development pattern had only encouraged roads and air modes. “There is now a plan to build a sort of Niger Delta Aviation Hub that would have domestic flights to all the Niger Delta states. The plan is to have a Niger Delta Fund which would facilitate that regional aviation hub to increase flights.

“Waterways is one of the transportation modes that has been neglected in the region and in Nigeria. Remember that one of the major points for boundary demarcation in the Niger Delta is waterways. If we can connect all our towns and villages in the region with water transportation system, that’s a huge investment.”

It was gathered that a company has already done a proposal on acquiring fleets of boats of different kinds to establish a water transportation system in Rivers State. They believe this is going to be a very huge investment opportunity. That way, travellers could from Port Harcourt for instance board a boat and get to any village in the creeks.

The planners think the scheme would rather convert the boys doing piracy and crimes in the creeks into investors and managers. It is believed that if investors can venture into water transportation network, it means that there would be increase in revenue also for the government and for the private sector.

Confirming this aspect, a source said: “A water-based economy including transportation is a huge sector waiting to be exploited in Rivers State or any part of the Niger Delta. The things that brings us together is water resources.”

On his own, Chukunda said water also bears special that helps in the glass industry. “Rivers State was once the producer of glass (Water African Glass Industry) using sharp sand to produce glass because we have high quality sharp sand at our seashores to produce high quality glasses. We need investors to come back and harness this resource.”

The technocrat pointed to manufacturing. “This is a very crucial area so the State does not remain a consumer society. The organized private sector (OPS) has produced what we call the strategic plan on manufacturing in Rivers State. This would be launched soon. There was a referral to the years past when there were very many manufacturing companies clustered at Trans-Amadi producing different products. So many people were employed. So, one of the catalysts for economic growth is bringing in investors into the manufacturing sector. If we can bring in such people to build industries in different sectors of the economy of the state, it means that we are really ready to industrialise the state.”

Other sources said it would be good if the government could set up a team of experts to develop at least 50 feasibility strategic surveys ready for any investor to plug and play.