Skip to content

The Second South-South Economic Summit: Matters Arising by Emmanuel Ojameruaye Ph.D

May 4, 2012

The second South-South (or BRACED) Economic Summit (SSSES) ended on Saturday, 28th April, 2012 at Asaba, the Delta State capital, with mixed results and feeling. On the one hand, the governors of the BRACED states deserve to be commended for establishing the BRACED Commission and for hosting the Summit, both of which are important milestones on the road to full integration of the six BRACED states. However, the Summit was marred by some inadequacies which must be addressed and avoided in future. Apart from the embarrassing electric power outage and poor public address system that marred the opening ceremony, the no-show of some VIPs including President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Goodluck Jonathan was disappointing was very disappointing, especially as a N7.2 billion contract was awarded at the eleventh hour to demolish some hills near the new Asaba airport to allow the Presidential aircraft to land safely there. Also disappointing, in my view, were the communiqué issued at the end of the Summit and the lack of a clear road map for the BRACED Commission and the integration of the six states.

With regards to the no-shows, there was great expectation that President Kagame would come in person to reveal the “secrets” of Rwanda’s remarkable success in recent years despite the country’s tortuous past which culminated in the 1994 Genocide. It will be recalled that some of the BRACED leaders traveled to Rwanda to meet with the President because, in the words of Governor Uduaghan of Delta state: “We believe we should have someone who have had experience and success in crisis management and post-crisis management in tackling our peculiar situation hence the need to look in the direction of President Kagame and Rwanda”. The President was however represented by the CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, Mr. John Kigara. From media reports, some of the key messages contained in Mr.Kigara’s address can be summarized as follows:

(a) The way forward for Nigeria and South-South geo-political zone is to enthrone a formidable and accountable leadership which is responsible to the citizens;

(b) Rwanda overcame its post-war conflict out of its sheer will to succeed as a people, and they recognize that their development depended on their efforts to succeed, not on outsiders;

(c) In order to facilitate reconciliation, Rwanda initiated a national dialogue where the people ventilated their views on the way forward;

(d) The notion that natural resource is the main basis for development is distracting. What is critical is to develop human capacity to ensure that available resources are managed efficiently, effectively and sustainably;

(e) Cooperation is critical because it enables resources and efforts to be pooled together to achieve far much more than would be achieved when members work separately; and

(f) The bureaucratic way of doing business should be replaced by business-friendly environment that provides facilities needed for investment to thrive.

I agree with Mr. Kigara’s messages. In addition, on the basis of comparative data for Rwanda and Nigeria, I identified some key lessons that the BRACED states (and Nigeria) must learn from Rwanda in an article I published just before the Summit. They are:

(a) If we do not manage the ethnic, group and religious differences and conflicts in the region (and Nigeria) in a peaceful manner based on equity and justice we can end up with a tragic situation similar to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide;

(b) We must ensure good governance and curtail corruption;

(c) There can be no rapid economic growth without peace, security, stability and economic ddiversification;

(d) Nigeria and the BRACED states must increase their investment in its people, especially in education and health, as well as on public (not executive) security and safety; and

(e) Nigeria and the BRACED states must put in place affirmative actions to address the issue of gender inequality and other forms of inequality and social injustice. (visit http://www.elombah.com/index.php/articles-mainmenu/10777-the-second-south-south-summit-lessons-from-rwanda for details). It is my fervent hope that the leaders at the federal level, the BRACED states and Commission will carefully study the above recommendations and muster the political will to implement them as well as others made at the Summit before the third Summit.  Most recurring Summits and Conferences in Nigeria are seen as “jamborees” or talk-shops because the organizers do not come up with follow up action plans to implement good recommendations and report on results achieved at subsequent Summits. May this not be the portion or fate of the SSSES! Therefore, one of the agenda of the next (third) Summit must be an assessment of the actions taken to implement the recommendations of the second Summit and the results with explanations as to why some recommendations were not implemented.

With regards to the Summit communiqué, it contained some statements that are either shallow, uninspiring, controversial or that are not based on evidence. In fact, the communiqué betrays the seriousness of the Summit. For example, it notes that “The Summit recognised that there has been tremendous improvement on the security situation in the region and further described the South–South as a region of peace, stability and immense investment opportunities”. Really? It is an open secret that the tenuous security situation in the country, including the Niger Delta region, was largely responsible for the now-show of some of the VIPs expected, especially some foreigners. The communiqué also recommended that “the Federation should be restructured and unbundled, including the review of the current revenue allocation formula, to give more powers, responsibilities and funding to states and local governments as centres of growth”. This statement appears shallow. Why the silence on burning issues like the attempts by the Northern governors to review the 13% oil derivation downward and to re-introduce the offshore/onshore oil dichotomy, and the Sovereign Wealth Fund which have serious implications for the region? However, the Summit “directed the BRACED Commission to translate the recommendations into a measurable and achievable Plan of Action and engage the appropriate stakeholders on post–summit issues as elaborated in the summit’s presentations and dialogues”. Communiqués are very important because they serve as the executive summary of an event. The BRACED Commission should engage professional rapporteurs to cover all the sessions of the Summit and prepare communiqué.

Now that the Summit is over, the BRACED Commission must take concrete actions to justify its raison d’etre (existence). Firstly, within the next few months, the Commission should produce a Detailed Report of the Summit and an Action (Work) Plan with action parties, implementation schedule, resource requirements for the various actions and a monitoring and evaluation plan.  Secondly, the Commission should update its website. In this information age (of “show me”), the content and currency of the website of an organization speak volume about that organization. Browsing through the Commission’s website (www.bracedcomission.org) paints a poor and distressing image of the Commission compared to similar organizations or initiatives in Nigeria. For instance, if you click on “South South Economic Summit 2012 Asaba 2012, 26th to 28th April” for details, it takes you to a page that shows that the Summit is scheduled for 24th to 26th November 2011 and there is no information to show that the Summit was postponed to April 26 – 2, 2012! There is no program or information about the Summit. Absolutely nothing! At the point of writing this article, six days after the Summit, there are no pictures or posting of the papers presented at the Summit on the website. Furthermore, if you click on “Ongoing Projects”, “Braced Publications”, “Research Activities’, “The Fund”, etc, you will find nothing! One is left with the impression that the Commission has virtually nothing to show after about 18 months of existence. Thirdly, the Commission needs to go beyond the list of “quick wins” and “low hanging fruits” recommended by the First Summit. Now is the time for the Commission to take bolder actions and focus on strategic initiatives that can enable it to achieve its mission – “To promote cooperation and the integration of the South-South Region and accelerate socio-economic development”.

An example of a bold initiative is for the Commission to facilitate the establishment of a South-South Petroleum Fund (SSPF) modeled after the Alaska Permanent Fund and Alberta’s Heritage Fund, but different from the controversial Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority otherwise known as the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund. All the BRACED states should be required to contribute, say 20% of their monthly oil derivation revenue, to the SSPF. The SSPF should be divided into three sub-funds or divisions, viz: (a) the SS Investment Corporation (SSIC); (b) the SS Future Saving Account (SSFSA); SS Capital Projects Initiatives (SSCPI). The funds contributed to the SSPF will be distributed among the three sub-funds in the ratio of 40%, 30% and 40%, respectively. The SSIC will be managed in a manner similar to the Odu’a Investment Company owned by the six western state governments (www.oduainvest.com.ng). The funds of the SSIC will be invested prudently in the capital and money markets in Nigeria and overseas, including acquisition of equity in energy companies operating in the region. The dividends from these investments will be shared among the BRACED states in accordance with their contribution to the SSPF. On the other hand, the funds paid into the SSFSA will invested (saved) in risk-free or low risk assets such as treasury bills and fixed deposit accounts. The interest income will be re-invested. At some point in future when the SSFSA would have reached a significant level, about 50% of the interest income (plus 25% of the income from the SSIC) can be paid into a SS dividend fund account (SSDFA) which will be shared among all eligible “citizens” of the SS region in the form of an “annual stipend” or “social welfare payment” according to an agreed formula.

The SSCPI funds will be invested in projects that provide long-term economic and social benefits to all the six BRACED states, especially projects that cut across all the six states and which the federal, state and local governments are unable or unwilling to undertake. Some of the investments could be in the form of private-public partnerships. Examples of such projects include a Railway line linking all the six states, an Airline operating flights across the airports in the six states, a Shipping/Boat/Cruise company linking all the ports along key rivers and coast in the region, a Refinery, a Petrochemical plant, an Electric Power Generation company, and real estates in choice locations. These capital projects will also be able to generate significant income some of which can be re-invested or shared by the state governments or paid into the SSDFA. To endure effectiveness, efficiency and accountability, the overhead/administrative expenses of the SSPF including those on corporate social responsibility and research activities should not exceed 20% of the income from the various funds (interests, profits, dividends, etc excluding the contributions from the oil derivation fund.

It is an established fact that a common language which people regard as their won (not imposed by outsiders) facilitates integration. For instance, in spite of the “divide” and distrust among the three “ethnic” groups in Rwanda in the past, most of them speak Kinyarwanda which is the language of government, in addition to the other two official languages – English and French.  Therefore, aanother bold initiative that the BRACED Commission can take is to promote the adoption of a “common language” within the South-South region by empanelling a group of linguists to develop the “pidgin” English into a modern language (call it “Bracedia” if you will) similar to Swahili in East Africa or the Esperanto language that was created in 1887, recognized by UNESCO 1954 and is today the world’s 32nd language.

Still another bold action that the BRACED Commission can take is to facilitate reconciliation in the region in order to heal historical wounds and mistrust among ethnic groups and communities in the region. For instance, in Rwanda, the government initiated a National Reconciliation process to heal the wounds of the 1994 genocide and past conflicts, and it is also promoting a “one-people” policy by removing the Hutu/Tutsi/Twa classification from identity cards. In fact, the three groups are now classified as social groups rather than “tribes”. In addition, the government has enacted laws criminalizing genocide ideology. The BRACED Commission can set up a Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee to address and manage conflicts in the region and promote cohesion.

In conclusion, as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The Summit and Commissions are two important steps in the journey towards the integration of the South-South zone. The journey has just begun. Now is the time to take more audacious steps.

Emmanuel Ojameruaye, Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Culled from ChatAfrik.com

Dr Emmanuel Ojameruaye

Advertisements
One Comment leave one →
  1. Josephine permalink
    May 4, 2012 21:41

    Dats gud

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: