The premier web site of Edo speaking people.
Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western Africa.
I would like to thank the organizers of 2006 Edo Okpamakhin symposium for the honour and privilege to participate and present this paper on the �Importance of Sea Outlet for Edo State�.
As you may be aware, this symposium is a follow-up on the 2004 Convention held in far away Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Interestingly, I also had the rare privilege and honour to be part of that programme and presented a paper on �Importance of Port Development for Edo State�. This paper therefore builds on the previous one.
1.1 EXPOSITION ON SEA OUTLET
For the purpose of this paper, a sea outlet means the mouth of a river where it flows into a larger body of water. It could also mean a commercial market route for goods or services.
The rivers, Osse, Orhionmwon, Ikpoba, Owan and Orle which all drain the land to the sea, are some rivers in Edo State. The State is also blessed with marsh vegetation that lies to the South of the State and is bisected with creeks and rivers.
2.1 IMPORTANCE OF SEA OUTLET FOR EDO STATE
The economic advantages which accrue to a State by virtue of close proximity to a port are numerous. A port could serve as a catalyst for the rapid economic development of a State.
States that are traditional producers of agriculture and/or have large oil deposits are putting desired pressure on the Federal Government through various means, both orthodox and unorthodox, to develop their port facilities. In recent times, Ondo and Ogun States have reached advanced stages in their plan to establish a sea port in their coastline. This is largely because of the importance of such a sea outlet for the States.
2.1.1 Infrastructural Development
Edo State has the unique opportunity by reason of our strategic geographical location (the spaghetti junction of Nigeria). Her agricultural products found outlets through the Ports of Burutu, Koko, Sapele and Warri. Most imports to the State, Middle Belt and Northen States were transported via Edo State to their destinations with the accruing economic advantages.
Since the creation of Edo State, the State has become land locked; thereby cutting out all the benefits she accrued when she was part owner of the ports aforementioned. Maybe our leaders at the time should have negotiated for one of the ports, maybe Koko to be left in Edo State.
Koko Port Proximity to Edo State
Koko, a town in the Niger Delta, lies about 60 to 70 kilometres west of Sapele and Warri. It serves as a port on the Benin River Estuary in the same manner as Sapele and Warri for the Mid-Western Region in those days. The relief is flat and low-lying with a coastal mangrove and rain forest vegetation.
Koko is the administrative headquarters of Warri North Local Government Area. Historically, it was one of the European settlements in Nigeria because it serves as a gateway to the 62 villages scattered on both the left and right banks of the Benin River Estuary. Access is through the mouth of the Escavos River. As a port for commercial boats and sea vessels, it has a historical past with trade relationship with Europeans. Finally, it is well located in relation to villages downstream because it has a good road link to Benin City, capital of Edo State and the rest of Nigeria
Today, Edo State is blessed with crude oil, maybe in moderate quantities, and Benin is the headquarters of Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) � the Nigerian equivalent of SPDC. Oil developed by NPDC needs to be exported. The absence of a port in Edo State means that the exportation and attendant revenue accruing from the port activities become the benefit of other States.
Imports and agricultural exports have since been surpassed by oil (both in the crude form and product form) constituting the greatest item of seaborne trade in Nigeria.
Storage and distribution of both the exported and imported goods have led to the establishment of depots, dry ports and the demand for extensive road networks across the country. Can Edo State participate in this? In the absence of a natural port does the State have the will to develop a man-made port through canalization? Would this make economic sense and would it be economically viable? Does the economic activity of the State involving collection and distribution of import and export produce justify the development of a dry port? This also necessitates other infrastructural development such as, electricity, pipe borne water, etc.
2.1.2 Stimulation of Economic Growth
No doubt, port development would stimulate the much needed economic growth for Edo State. Industrialization of Edo State could only result from investment in the State by both Governments and organized private sector. With the advent of a democratic government in 1999, a number of policies have been put in place in order to create conducive climate for investment in all the sectors of the economy. The Government�s economic strategy has been to transfer the epicentre of growth and development to the private sector. Opportunities abound for investment in Edo State. The Coastal and Inland Shipping Act 2003, for instance, is aimed at encouraging indigenous participation in the coastal and inland water shipping activities. The Act provides for foreign participation through joint venture relationships with indigenous companies. As shipping and maritime industry is capital intensive, especially for fleet expansion and maritime infrastructure development, indigenous players have not been able to take advantage of the opportunities created by the Cabotage Act. There are therefore ample investment opportunities for both Nigerian and foreign companies in the industry. The Nigerian government needs to do more to realize the gains of the Act by providing accessible fund at affordable rates to serious indigenous players in this industry.
2.1.3 Job Creation
Investment in Edo State and development of basic infrastructures would have the positive effect of creating jobs for our people in Edo State. Development of sea outlet or dry port in Edo State would definitely have the effect of easy movement of goods, plants and machinery into Edo State (import) and agricultural produce out of Edo State (export). If this is properly harnessed, there will be a huge stimulation in trade once again reminiscence of the trade with the Europeans, as was the case several centuries ago. Also, agriculture used to be the mainstay of the Nigerian economy and agriculture created employment for the majority of Nigerians. However, with the discovery of crude oil and partly because of rural-urban migration induced by lack of infrastructure like electricity and water in the rural areas, agriculture has since been placed in the back-burner. The effect has been that agriculture no longer employs a large number of Edo people. Nevertheless, if Edo State Government continues to be in the forefront of developing agricultural industry, soon agriculture (hopefully mechanized) will again employ thousands if not millions of our people. This will continue to be enhanced by good market for agricultural products created by sea or dry port outlet for Edo State. Job creation definitely will minimize youth restiveness, prostitution, armed robbery and other social vices which are direct consequences of unemployment and idleness. Taking advantage of the oil deposit in Edo State could lead to the development of an oil base in the State for storage, handling, processing and export.
Our rich cultural heritage is definitely something to be proud of and quite honorable. However, the challenge ahead of us � addressing the numerous problems plaguing Edo peoples at home and in Diaspora is enormous. Past glory is not sufficient. It is not enough to reminiscence on the trade relationship which existed between us and the Europeans in the past. The flashback should help us to develop sea outlet or dry port as this is as important now as it was centuries ago. The task may appear daunting, but with a clear vision such as this symposium is trying to articulate, it is my hope that the blueprint crafted at this meeting would go a long way towards developing a structure which will concretize a platform towards developing a sea port or a dry port for Edo State.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Greg U. Ogbeifun
Starzs Marine & Engineering Limited
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