With the global drive towards green economy and the need to de-emphasize wholesale reliance on the exploitation of natural deposits, the initiative by Delta State government to adopt a wholistic approach to development has become a template not just for the rest of the country but beyond.
The Delta Beyond Oil, an initiative enunciated by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, governor of the state, to effect a paradigm shift from the nearly 100 percent reliance on revenue from crude oil in driving the state’s economy is aimed harnessing other resources in the state to create a vibrant economy away from oil which is a finite resource.
Speaking at weekend on Channels Television’s Sunrise programme, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Chike Ogeah, revealed that the areas of emphasis in weaning Delta State from dependence on oil are agriculture, information and communication technology (ICT), developing other natural resources, including solid minerals, developing the huge manpower base, and creating a clement environment for investment and private enterprise to thrive.
“The vision entails the development of a strong infrastructural base viz modern roads, efficient water transportation, efficient healthcare system, a world class educational system. Delta Beyond Oil is not a physical structure in terms of a building but an enduring vision to prepare the state for the inevitable drying up of hydro-carbon deposits. In effect, the vision does not come with any cost.
“The vision recognises the fact that despite a relatively significant revenue from oil, Delta is faced with huge challenges, especially in the cost of developing critical infrastructure due to its tough terrain.
“The game changing initiative and the accomplishments recorded so far attracted a medley of recognitions and awards by reputable local and international media houses and other organizations,” the commissioner said.
Among the awards recently conferred on Dr. Uduaghan are the Man of the Year 2013 by three mainstream newspapers, including The Sun, Vanguard, Leadership and Nigerian Pilot. From Dublin, Republic of Ireland, came the International Outstanding Leadership Award by Metro Eireann, the country’s multi-cultural newspaper.
On the successful kidney transplant accomplished at the Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH), Oghara, on Monday, January 13, 2014, he said the stage is now set for the state to become Nigeria’s medical tourism destination.
The kidney transplant, the first of its kind in the country, followed the successful knee cap and hip replacement surgeries earlier undertaken in the hospital last year.
Ogeah said the success of the surgery signals the advent of more complex operations to be undertaken at the hospital that will ultimately make DELSUTH a centre for medical excellence and tourism in Nigeria.
He said the pioneering surgeries at the hospital demonstrate Dr. Uduaghan’s visionary leadership and unique approach to healthcare in the country, noting that Delta remains the only state with a comprehensive healthcare programme.
“Delta State is the only place where pregnant women enjoy comprehensive free healthcare coverage and free delivery, including free caesarean section. In addition to that, every new born baby enjoys free medical care until five years of age. This is unprecedented and largely explains why Delta State by far has the lowest maternal death rate”, Ogeah said.
When the Uduaghan administration came into office in 2007, the death rate per 100,000 births was over 500. However, by 2013, the figure had dropped to about 250 deaths per 100,000 births, giving Delta State by far the best record in the country.
He identified employment generation and support for small scale entrepreneurship as a critical area where tremendous progress has been made. According to Ogeah, the governor created the Directorate of Poverty Alleviation, a special purpose vehicle to drive the small and micro-credit scheme in collaboration with the Bank of Industry under an arrangement that shielded it from the vagaries of officialdom.
“At the last count, over 100,000 people, mainly women and the younger generation, have benefited from the scheme. In fact, some products, especially processed foods, are now being exported worldwide,” Ogeah said.
Alongside the mega projects some of which are the Asaba International Airport, the Theme Park at Oleru, Warri Industrial Business Park, the 156-kilometer Asaba-Ughelli dual carriage way that links the Warri business axis with the largest market in sub-saharan Africa in Onitsha, Anambra State and the medical centres of excellence, Ogeah said Uduaghan had laid the foundation for the emergence of Delta State as a model economic giant.
“Uduaghan has set the pace whereby wealthy Nigerians will no longer have cause to travel abroad for even complex medical situations. Rather, we are the point where people from other countries will be coming to Delta State in search of specialist medical care. That is what medical tourism is all about and DELSUTH is leading the way”, Ogeah said.
The commissioner said the DELSUTH project involves not just the acquisition and installation of world class medical facilities but in the development of well trained manpower to undertaken surgeries hitherto obtainable only in developed countries.
Uduaghan, himself an accomplished medical doctor who was part of the team that successfully undertook the kidney transplant, had facilitated a five-year partnership between DELSUTH and UT South-Western Medical Centre, Dallas, the United States of America to build infrastructure and human capacity.
Two years ago, the Delta State Government started subsidizing dialysis of kidney patients in DELSUTH and progressively brought the cost down from N20,000 to N5,000 applicable only to patients of Delta State origin.