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Exploiting River Niger and Benue will create employment for over 4 million youths, says YG-Consult
A GROUP of Nigerian professionals, YG-Consult, has made a strong case that Nigeria is missing out huge growth opportunity in agriculture, transportation and electricity generation due to its failure to exploit River Niger and River Benue.
The group believed that by just having more agricultural activities through irrigation along the rivers and other economic activities, over four million youths across 14 states would be redeemed from unemployment.
“These jobs will come from the small and medium scale enterprises clusters that will grow from the infrastructural development and economic activities around the rivers,” said Gabriel Yakubu Aduku, a former minister who led the group on briefing journalists in Abuja on Sunday.
Speaking on “Unlocking the Potentials of River Niger and Benue for Sustainable livelihood and Inclusive Development,” Aduku said: “if we consider the fact that currently 96 per cent of all businesses in Nigeria are MSMEs providing 60-70 per cent of the total number of employed Nigerians, it becomes easy to realise that stimulating more activities in the MSMEs sector will ultimately improve human capital investments and positively impact the Nigerian economy.”
He said the enormous advantages both rivers have can create economic diversity and empowerment of the populace regardless of geographical, religious, and political affiliations.
He urged the federal government to invest fully in the dredging and development of shipping ports across the 14 contiguous states in the northern and southern parts of the country as this would help reduce the frequency of heavy-duty vehicles moving goods over long distance and equally serve as a check on Nigeria’s over independent on oil as the main source of revenue.
“It is no longer news that less than 30 years from now, Nigerian oil reserve would have depleted. This means that we can no longer pay lip service to divest our economy from its current near-total dependence on oil.
“The building of the ports can spiral into large exportation of farm produce and food security. Not only for Nigeria, but for our region and make it easy to maintain our roads and cut down the current high rates of accidents,” he said.
Aduku also pointed out that the two rivers are not only nature’s gifts but also an avenue to promote economic growth, especially the power sector.
He said that modern and innovative projects around these rivers could catapult Nigeria hydroelectric generation status level to that of China with the world’s largest hydroelectric complex with the capacity of 22.5GigaWatts (22,500MW).
He pointed out that the River Niger has been a major trading route across the western-Sahara and centre of Sahelian kingdoms of Mali and Gao.
However, he expressed unhappiness over the federal government’s snail-paced work towards the completion of the N36 billion dredging project of the River Niger commenced by the late president Umaru Yar’Adua government in 2009.
Aduku charged the federal government to amend and harmonise related laws to support the development of the project as this would attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).