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S’ East: Okonjo-Iwala, Otti, Mbah, others seek regional economic cooperation

From Magnus Eze and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri

director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has tasked South East governors to pursue aggressive economic cooperation to better the lot of their people.

This is as former senate president, Chief  Anyim Pius Anyim challenged Igbo leaders on the worsening security situation in the zone.

Other speakers also called for shared values in the region.

In her speech at the ongoing South East Summit on Economy and Security in Owerri, Imo State, the former minister of finance chastised the people of the region for being their biggest enemy by not supporting one another.

She noted that the Igbo had been individualistic, and abandoned the sense of common purpose and focused on fragmentation.

She lamented the security situation in the region and urged that they should continue to work collectively towards ending it.

She talked about the gas project currently ongoing in the region and encouraged the governors to push on.

She pointed out the BudgIT statistics figure which shows that some South Eastern states are doing relatively well especially Ebonyi and Anambra, but insisted that it is below expectation as they should aim higher.

She admonished the governors to improve the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the states and also judicious utilisation of the federal allocations.

She further charged them to build infrastructure in the such areas as power, invest in digital trade and the likes, while scaling up manufacturing in places like Aba, Nnewi and other locations.

She talked about moving away from just building mansions in our villages to building sustainable growth.

“We need digital infrastructure to make our region attract digital infrastructure,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala also urged the southeast to take advantage of Diaspora financing to develop the region.

She suggested that the governors come together and float the South East diaspora bond that can trap all these monies.

Anyim who was Chairman of the occasion, attributed the lingering insecurity in the region to inability of the South East governors to unite.

He said: “There is a need for the South East governors to unite and make strong statement on the insecurity challenges in the country.

“We must emphasise that the circumstances that led to the Biafra agitation in 1967 are not the same as what is happening today.

“It is estimated that hundreds of lives and hundreds of billions of naira have been lost to the sit-at-home order and its enforcement. Life has become very difficult in the South East and almost every successful person in the South East is in self-exile.”

He equally enjoined the governors to take stand in the agitation of the pro Biafra groups in view of creating a lasting peace in the region.

He blamed the Igbo  leaders  for their inability to make a strong statement and define their position on the Biafra agitation.

He charged the Igbo leaders to engage the agitators to a robust discussion to find a lasting solution to the problem.

Anyim regretted that the once peaceful zone had turned into a war zone where safety is no longer guaranteed.

Governor Hope Uzodimma welcomed his brother governors to the state and declared commitment to Ndigbo cause.

Governors Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State, Alex Otti of Abia State, Peter Mbah of Enugu State, and Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi State all declared their readiness to work for the unity and safety of Ndigbo and the zone.

Otti announced a Sew Port project in Owazza, Ukwa East Local Government Area of Abia State, disclosing that it will be flagged off on Saturday, September 30.

According to the governor, it will also have an Export Processing Zone and other business-promotion facilities.

Owazza is between Aba and Port Harcourt.

Founder of Zinox computers, Chief Leo-Stan Ekeh called for the release of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu saying it will help to reduce criminality in the zone masked as agitations.

The event was attended by serving ministers, national assembly members of the zone, traditional and religious leaders, and several others.

Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe called for the restoration of Igbo values to drive economic goals.

The summit continues on today in technical sessions.