The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh, has urged stakeholders from the South-South to think outside the box and find other means of economic sustenance outside oil.
Boroh, Coordinator, Amnesty Programme for Niger Delta, gave the advice in a keynote address at a seminar organised by the Ijaw Professional Association (IPA) at the Agip Recital Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan Lagos on Sunday.
The theme of the seminar was “Social Inclusion, a Strategy for Peaceful Co-Existence’’.
IPA is a non-governmental organisation (NGO), and is made up of groups of professionals that seek to fashion a development blueprint for the Niger Delta region.
Boroh restated that oil which had been the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy deposited in the South-South region of Nigeria might soon lose its relevance in the world market.
He called for urgent diversification into the other areas of economic interest to shore up the country’s revenue.
“We are getting to the point of reality which we must tell ourselves. Oil was found in the southern region of Nigeria, but for how long will we depend on it for sustenance?
“Very soon, in a space of two years, oil will lose its relevance because there are many researches going on now for a safer and better energy which has reduced the importance of oil.
“We need to wake up to the reality that Nigeria’s oil economic value is fast depreciating as our biggest buyer, U.S. is not buying from us again. They now buy from India.
“Then, should we ask about what we pride in as our resources are not being appreciated again, what should we then do? The answer is to diversify and think outside the box.’’
Boroh said that thinking outside the box means that the region needed to look into the sectors that were more viable economically and explore for a better future for southern Nigeria.
“The new oil in the world now is Information Technology and ICT. It is a gold mine that can provide many opportunities to our youths that still have their eyes on oil.
“We need to tap into the ICT world if we are serious about progressing in the country and in the south region. Our youths should open up to the avalanche of opportunities in ICT world.
“Another area I want to talk about is Agriculture; it is an area we should start to consider now to replace oil in our minds. Before oil, what we have been engaging in is agriculture and we need to go back.
“We need to go beyond subsistence farming to commercial farming. We have the population in terms of human capacity to feed ourselves and the world,’’ he said.
Contributing, the moderator of the event, former Commissioner of Information and Communication, Dr Austin George, alluded that diversification from oil should not be lip service only but a deliberate action plan.
“We have been talking about diversification even now that the resources from oil are now dwindling. We need to implement the action plan now or never.
“What have we been doing these years when the oil was still booming? Diversification is more than a theoretical declaration; it should be an action plan which we must act on now.
“We need to diversify into ICT because it has generated a lot of opportunities. The future of our region is ICT. We need to know that.
“Now we are getting to the age of driverless cars, these cars make use of applications to operate. So, we need to come to the realisation of our potential before it’s too late,’’ he said.
Other discussants spoke on the need to have a deliberate plan to educate youths on how to make use of the opportunity around them.
A panellist, Mrs Ommo Clark, said there were opportunities that abound in the ICT sector but remained untapped by the youth.
“Some of the youth claimed that they are not using the internet whereas they are using it and unaware of how they can make a huge income from its use.
“Technology is being used to solve many problems now; ICT can be used for what we call e-Commerce. We can now trade without going out of our homes. All transactions are now done on internet.
“Instead of wasting money on social media, why can’t we turn it to productive use by advertising what we do; the services we provide on those platforms?
“There are software applications that helps advertise businesses for free. Once you upload what you do on it the world is already aware,’’ she said.
Another, Mr Ebikekeme Ere spoke on the productive way of using software applications, saying that he was able to develop software that could determine the quantity and the inflow of oil in the pipelines.
“I can say that very soon, even the schools will lose its relevance because we can now get the education needed via internet without the brick schools.
“ICT has made it possible to have things simplified to ease our stress, so we need youths in this direction,’’ he said.
Mr Biriyai Dambosan said there was the need to have social inclusion through an inclusive constitution that would be for all and not the one foisted by the military.
“Our constitution did not show any social inclusion at all because we have no part in it. The first phrase that says `We the people of Nigeria’ is a farce because we did not contribute to it.
“If we must make any impact in the development of Nigeria, we need a constitutional framework that will be socially inclusive.
“We have had many imbalances in the government and that is why we are calling for restructuring which some are shying away from,’’ he said.
Earlier, the President of IPA, Mr Elaye Otrofanowei, said the forum would seek to marshal a policy framework for the Ijaw extraction within the professional team that would be devoid political interference.
“IPA seeks to bring intellectuals that seek to position the Ijaw people on equal footing with other regions by creating a platform to identify and build capacity by acting as a resource base.
“It is also our desire to promote the interest of many young men, women and children both in Nigeria and the Diaspora so as to not only prepare the next generation for the mantle of leadership but to ensure coherence.
“There is a need for a unified Ijaw house that is driven by empirical findings and professionalism as the region is faced with several challenges,’’ he said.
Other dignitaries that graced the event include retired Rear Admiral Festus Porbeni, retired Capt. Perekemi Porbeni among others