UNDERSTANDING AND APPLYING THE GROWTH POLE CONCEPT FOR…

UNDERSTANDING AND APPLYING THE GROWTH POLE CONCEPT FOR THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF RIVERS STATE AND THE NIGER DELTA

BY: DIENYE PEPPLE

 

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

The Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan (NDRDMP) recommended the use of growth poles as engines of growth within states and across the Niger Delta. It recommended three growth poles for Rivers State but did not present an implementation strategy for the actualization of this recommendation, neither did it explain how and what was to be done. In 2009, The Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA) picked up this concept and decided to run with it to fast track the development of Rivers State. At about the same time, the Egi People were considering the possibility of an Egi growth pole. It was to be funded via their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Total E & P. The NDRDMP recommended ONELGA growth pole, Degema growth pole and one other in the East of Rivers State, but RSSDA preferred to divide the State into Four growth Poles namely;

  1. Rivers North Growth Pole (RNGP)
  2. Rivers East Growth Pole (REGP)
  3. Rivers West Growth Pole (RWGP)
  4. Greater Port Harcourt (GPHCDA)

Port Harcourt is a naturally occurring growth pole and as the State capital it benefits from the direct interventions of the State Government. RSSDA had to choose one pilot growth pole out of her three newly delineated growth poles. Rivers North Growth Pole (RNGP) which encapsulated the Egi growth pole and the ONELGA growth pole was chosen for the following reasons:

  1. Availability of comparatively promising infrastructures (good road network, potable water, fairly steady electricity etc.)
  2. Availability of potentially skilled workforce and settlement sizes
  3. Joint industry partnership opportunities (Significant presence of oil and gas multinationals; Total E & P, SPDC, NAOC, NLNG, etc. whose community development interventions can aid the growth pole strategy)
  4. Proposed National Technology Centre in the area at the time
  5. Availability of baseline studies (carried out by Total E & P, RSSDA, and others.)

RSSDA developed a road map for the implementation of the pilot growth pole project as follows:

  1. Engagement of key stakeholders
  2. Constitution of a working group with relevant stakeholders
  3. Production of an Integrated RNGP Development Plan
  4. Sensitization and mobilization of all other stakeholders to obtain their buy-in for plan implementation
  5. Fund mobilization and Integrated Development Plan Implementation

Communication and engagement strategies were developed and applied to successfully engage and obtain commitments from all major stakeholders in the RNGP area. Governing structures including a steering committee, management committee and working group were constituted comprising of all major stakeholders. As a result, steps one and two above were accomplished. Problem came when we got to step three. Step three required funds for integrated development planning. RSSDA who had been funding all previous activities was now having financial constraints and required partners to co fund this stage of the road map. Following far reaching engagements and consultations it was agreed that the funds for this stage of the road map would be contributed by the following stakeholders: Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC), ONELGA Council, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Total E & P and RSSDA. UNITAR and Total E & P were to provide their contribution through a special purpose vehicle signed between them in which a budgetary provision was made for the RNGP. An attempt for these five organizations to sign an MOU for this funding failed. Some parochial, mundane and egoistic issues arose at this stage, leading to the failure of the MOU signing.

Added to the above, some organizations became worried that signing up to an integrated development plan for the area will cause them to lose control over their freedom to spend their Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Development funds as they please. There was also the issue of existing MOUs with communities. Explanations that these issues will be taken care of in the plan were shoved aside. The RNGP efforts halted at this stage.

Some of the lessons of this RNGP effort are unprintable as they expose how individuals and organizations frustrate development efforts for parochial reasons. One cannot help but mention here that the proposed National Technology Center (NATEC) was to be sited in ONELGA and was to serve as a pillar project to drive development in the RNGP. This project was in NDDC budget for several years and later dropped off for lack of implementation. What is intriguing is that this happened under the watch of two successive Managing Directors of NDDC that hailed from ONELGA.

In 2014 however, an engagement of selected stakeholders from Egi land was carried out by the Rivers State Partners for Sustainable Development, RSPSD (sponsored by Total E & P) to persuade them to pursue the Egi growth pole in the context of the Rivers North Growth Pole using funds available to them via their MOU with Total E & P. The idea was to handover the driver’s seat of the RNGP to the Egi People as one of the key beneficiaries of the expected growth.

RSSDA was driving the growth pole efforts through her partnership platform known as the Rivers State Partners for Sustainable Development RSPSD. As funding became a very serious issue for RSSDA, RSPSD collapsed. Subsequently, RSSDA also collapsed and today only exists in the sense that it has not been officially shut down by government and her salary starved staff still show up at work in the hope that the current Barrister Nyesom Wike led administration will show them mercy and pay their salaries.

In conclusion, it is apparent that in the Niger Delta, Government and the Oil and Gas multinationals cannot be relied upon to deliver development to the people. It therefore behooves the clans, communities and peoples of the area to take responsibility for their development. The growth pole concept can be of tremendous help if understood and conscientiously pursued.

UNDERSTANDING THE GROWTH POLE CONCEPT

A Growth pole is a point of economic growth. Poles are usually urban locations, benefiting from agglomeration economies, and should interact with surrounding areas spreading prosperity from the core to the periphery. It could be a natural or planned agglomeration economy based on one or more industries.  The economic activities ignite growth and better quality of life not only in the urban area but also in the urban periphery. Observation of naturally occurring growth poles has inclined planners to consider the possibility of creating what may be called artificial or planned growth poles. This can be achieved by deliberately concentrating production activities in an area delineated as a growth pole in a bid to stimulate production-based economic development of the entire region. The activities should be spatially concentrated but may be varied and comprise production processes that complement and also compete among themselves. The area to be chosen must be such that existing natural resources, raw materials and other baseline conditions show a strong development potential.

Many state capitals in Nigeria are naturally occurring growth poles. One example of a planned growth pole is Abuja. Before the decision to make Abuja the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria there was nothing there that could have made it a naturally occurring growth pole. The Federal Government deliberately concentrated development efforts in the area and now development is spreading from the FCT to surrounding towns and States. This can be replicated in other areas but not with government establishments as in the case of Abuja but with “Pillar industries”. Pillar industries are production activities that have the potential to create employment and create value chains that will attract other businesses. This will engender production based economic development that can translate to infrastructure and human capital development.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES OF A GROWTH POLE

  1. Wealth Creation and Poverty Reduction
  2. Job Creation
  3. Integrated Development Planning
  4. Diversification of the Regional Economy
  5. Minimize Adverse Impacts of Urbanization on People and Environment
  6. Facilitate the Provision, Operation and Maintenance of Support Infrastructure Services.
  7. Promote Effective Administration and Good Governance.
  8. Attract Funds [private and public] into the area

 

 

THE EXPECTED IMPACT OF GROWTH POLE DEVELOPMENT

A successful growth pole development is expected to impact investment, construction, infrastructural development, jobs, growth and development across a diverse range of sectors. It is anticipated that the growth will help to equalize the distribution of wealth and development in the economy and foster private sector opportunities for investment and growth. If this is achieved in the Niger Delta it would lead to:

  1. Reduced sabotage of oil and gas facilities; worker intimidation and harassment.
  2. Reduced demands for jobs in the few existing companies
  3. Growth of local businesses / SMEs which will in turn create multiplier effects in employment generation
  4. Social stability, more peaceful and secure environment to live and operate in.
  5. Veritable avenues for discharge of company corporate social responsibilities
  6. Embed pro-active policy making and planning
  7. Integrate development planning with positive linkages in all development interventions to ensure diversification and multiplier effects for qualitative sustainable change
  8. Minimize adverse impacts of urbanization on people and environment and promote value re-orientation.

GROWTH POLE IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS

An area or town that is not a naturally occurring growth pole can be made a growth pole through deliberate and proper planning and implementation of an agglomeration economy based on one or more industries. This involves a stepwise process.

STEP 1: RESEARCH AND BASELINE STUDIES

The process begins with research and baseline studies to understand what exists and identify the unique potentials of the area. This should cover both the human and material resources of the area. (I.e. The quality and size of available human capital and the type and quantity of available natural resources if any) Available industries and raw materials if any should also be identified and researched to determine their potentials.

STEP 2 DETERMINE HOW TO MAKE EXISTING INDUSTRIES/RESOURCES PERFORM MORE EFFICIENTLY

Where there are one or more existing industries the next process would be to determine how to make the existing industries/resources perform efficiently. This will require innovation, entrepreneurship and training. The predominant industry in the Niger delta is the oil and gas industry. Whereas this is a big industry and should naturally be a growth driver, it is not producing growth in the towns and communities of the Niger Delta because of the deliberate exclusion of these towns and communities from participating in the industry. Whereas the people of the area do not have the technical capacity, financial resources and other wherewithal to participate in this industry, the Oil and Gas Companies themselves will spare no cost to take the attention of the people away from oil and gas for obvious reasons. In Nigeria, the natural resources used in this industry belong to the Federal Government by law. By agitating for resource control, the Niger Deltans have been perceived by the Oil and Gas companies and the Federal Government as a “nuisance factor”, consequent upon which they have been alienated from the industry. The innovation, enterprise and training necessary to make the industry take its place as a growth driver is being tacitly resisted by the Federal Government and the oil companies as these will equip the Niger Deltans for resource management which will eventually lead to resource control.

There are innovative ways of making this industry perform more efficiently as a growth driver and to the benefit of all parties (Federal Government, Oil and Gas Companies and Niger Deltans) but because of the politics and gamut of complexities involved in this industry this article will for now ignore this industry and seek other growth pathways.

Other industries that could be initiated or revived and made to perform efficiently and drive growth in the Niger Delta are the Shipping industry, Fisheries, Tourism, Agriculture, Agro Processing, boat building, inland water transportation etc. With a little innovation production of tiles, ceramics, toilet wares and glass can be added.  The natural resources and raw materials necessary for the flourishing of these industries abound in the Niger Delta.

 

 

STEP 3: DETERMINE HOW TO USE THE NATURAL RESOURCES MORE EFFICIENTLY

It is one thing to know what exists but it is another thing to know how best to use them. So the next step is to determine how to use the natural resources more efficiently and how best to harness available potentials. The natural resources in the Niger Delta area can support all of the above listed industries but which one is the most suitable application for the available resource in a particular area of the Niger delta has to be determined. There is the need to identify the opportunities that the resources offer and then identify suitable industries for opportunities identified.

STEP 4 STAKEHOLDERS ENGAGEMENT

Growth pole implementation calls for concerted efforts. All stakeholders, especially those involved in socio-economic development activities in the area need to be engaged. This will cut across economic, infrastructure and human capital development and so will involve the public sector, private sector and non-governmental organizations. These key stakeholders need to be identified and consulted. It is important to note here that many of them will only pay lip service to the growth pole effort. They will say yes but will not commit any resource to it. It is therefore imperative that the main beneficiaries of the growth pole effort should be at the forefront and should commit their resources to it. These would be the traditional rulers, indigenes and residents of the area. Communities that have any form of funding should consider applying their funds as described above. The fastest route to community development is economic development. When the efforts begin to produce results more stakeholders will begin to get involved as everyone likes to identify with success.

STEP 5: DEAL WITH CHALLENGES THAT ARISE

Identify challenges and proffer solutions to them. The two key cross-cutting challenges to growth pole development in the Niger delta are insecurity and political/economic marginalization (real or perceived). To think that nothing can be done about these is fatalistic and unacceptable. With regards to insecurity one only needs to consider the Middle East scenario. In spite of hostilities between Palestine and Israel, millions of tourists shuttle back and forth across the borders of Israel, Palestine and Egypt annually without incidence of security breach (kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism etc.)  This is because all the parties value the money that tourism brings into their economies. If Niger Delta youths can be made to see and partake of the benefits of tourism and other industries they will secure them.

With regards to marginalization, the specific areas of economic marginalization need to be identified and appropriately researched so we can draw the line between real and perceived marginalization. Where there is real marginalization they can be challenged and legal or political solutions sought.

Stakeholders not committing and reneging on commitments could pose a challenge. Solutions must be sought for these. There is no challenge that is insurmountable where there is a will.

CONCLUSSION

The growth pole concept can be applied anywhere in Rivers State, anywhere in the Niger Delta and indeed anywhere in Nigeria It is not a development theory bur a concept, around which an ideology can be built. Its efficacy is increased when pursued as an ideology – i.e. when a people say to themselves “we are taking responsibility for our development and the development of our community. We will create a production driven or a market driven economy. The steps and ideas outlined above will then be of great help to such a community.

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