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    Whither the South East regional integration?

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    By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

    Precisely in 2017, governors of the states in the South East regional came up with a laudable and noble initiative to forge a very strong and reliable regional integration. Five years down the lane, nothing serious has come out of the initiative, rather insecurity is staring the faces of some of the states menacingly and if nothing is done as a matter of urgency, the states may slip more dangerously into situations with some of the Northern states, especially the North East and North East and North West.

    The urge for regions across the country to come together and forge economic integration was increasing at  geometric progression, and this provoked the interests of South East governors to join the moving train.

    Regional integration, which is simply the joining of individual states within a region into a larger whole, is now the vogue. This arrangement tends to achieve the following functions: to strengthen trade in the region; to create an appropriate enabling environment for private sector development; to develop infrastructure programmes in support of economic growth and regional integration; to develop strong public sector institutions and good governance.

    Others are to reduce social exclusion and the development of an inclusive civil society; to contribute to peace and security in the region; to build environment programmes at the regional level; and to strengthen the region’s interaction with other regions.

    The urge for a stronger regional integration by the South East governors was basically informed by the prevailing economic realities in the country. In the South West region, the governors of the region in a continued search for Regional Integration of the zone under the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), then resolved to work together to address security challenges confronting the region and foster economic growth and well-being of the people.

    In a meeting well attended by governors of the region and their representatives then, critical attention was accorded to issues such as kidnapping and menace of the herdsmen.

    In the South East, efforts, in the period under, were in top gear to foster an economic integration. In a bid to advance the economic well-being of the region, the five South East governors met and resolved to bury their differences and work for the economic integration of the region.

    In the words of Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, the initiative was in the interest of the people. The meeting was a landmark because it discussed critical issues affecting the region such as security. On the issue of security, the governors agreed to collaborate by comparing notes to talk with the Commissioners of Police and other security agencies located in the region on security integration.

    Security, no doubt, is an important component of the integration and must be pursued vigorously. It is indisputable that kidnapping had taken a serious toll on almost all the five South East states then and deserved a serious collaborative effort. When kidnappers are dislodged from one South East state, there is every tendency that they would seek a safe haven in a nearby South East state and resume their unwholesome trade there. But today, kidnapping has become a lesser evil that what have befallen some of the South East states. Criminal elements wielding dangerous arms and weapons are the prowl trying seriously to sack communities. They are killing indiscriminately and at will; razing peoples homes at the slightest or no provocations. The 2023 general elections in the zone bus highly threatened. The Continuous Voter Registration exercise is highly threatened as gun men now invade centres ransack, maim and kill at will. Police formations, military check points and public gatherings are now at high risk and prone to gun men attacks.

    There were enough early warning  signals and one could attribute the present security situation to inability of our security agencies to sample their competence on intelligence. When criminal elements were amassing large volume of arms and ammunitions illegally by sacking police formations and ambushing checkpoints, we did not need a soothsayer to inform that the dooms day is imminent. We did not need a prophet to tell us that we were sitting on a keg of gun powder waiting for time to detonate.

    Really, we are sitting on a keg of gun powder and the detonation may be more imminent than we expect. That some fo the South East states today does not that these criminal elements lack the ability to expand their operations tomorrow. On this note, let the South East governor’s revisit the earlier regional integration, fashion measures to collaborate and tackle this menace called insecurity headlong. Now is the time to collapse every political leaning and interest and chase away the proverbial wolf later to come back home and blame the straying hen.This will afford them the opportunity to them to cross- fertilise ideas and borrow notes from their counterparts from other states.

    On the other hand, South-East states can engage in joint projects that require huge capital outlay by pulling financial resources together. To buttress this claim, in past, the 19 governors of the northern states of Nigeria gave approval to Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), owned by the 19 northern states to establish a strong and viable bank.

    While NNDC was also vigorously pursuing the search for oil and gas in the Lake Chad Basin and the Niger-Benue trough, plans are underway by the northern states to establish an Agricultural Commodity Board, to guarantee market, quality and more farm produce in states in the region as well as the establishment of a multi-faceted Agricultural Industrial Park that would assist in fast-tracking economic productivity.

    NNDC was a strong instrumentality to establish a strong foundation for Northern Nigeria to be self sufficient in food production, financial services and other sectors. Nothing makes it unbecoming for the South East states to think along this line.

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