B.R.A.C.E.D: a bold new initiative is taking shape in Nigeria to devise an economic masterplan that will collectively boost the six states of the Niger Delta and the country itself. It has already won the approval of all six state governors and the initiative is now moving from formulation to execution.

Position:Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta States (BRACED
 
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Starting nationhood with a simple regional structure - Northern, Western and Eastern, on attaining independence from British rule in 1960, Africa's most populous and ethnically diverse country has, 52. years later, become a federation of 36 states.

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Whilst the plurality of federating units has offered, in principle, a limited degree of political autonomy to the marginalised nationalities within Nigeria, it has, conversely, reduced the scope of the resources available for developing each federating state.

Depending largely, if not solely, on their monthly share of the oil export proceeds disbursed by the federal government, most states, including the oil-producing ones, have failed, until very recently, to devise strategies for self-sustaining economic development.

But for the group of six that make up the BRACED acronym - Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta States, all located in the Niger Delta, the existing economic model is unsustainable and a new course must be charted if they are to survive and flourish.

"The concept of the BRACED Commission came from an interaction that we had as governors, where we felt we would be stronger if we worked together, towards realising our shared vision for the development of the South-South economy," Cross River State Governor Liyel Imoke, who doubles as the Commission's chairman, told New African in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State.

"It's about being able to appreciate the size of the economy that we have and to realise its full potential ... we, as the governors, are part of the BRACED council. But the dayto-day running of the Commission is left in the hands of the Director-General and his | officials."

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Contributing close to 90% of Nigeria's foreign exchange income, primarily from the region's oil and gas resources, the implementation of a national budget is impossible without the resources of the BRACED states.

Economic analysts opine that with this year's budget benchmark at $72 per barrel of oil, for which exports to Europe and the continental US are unimpeded, peace in the region will determine whether Nigeria's projected income estimates are realised.

But despite the critical importance of their resources to the economic survival of Nigeria, Emmanuel Uduaghan, governor of Delta State, is acutely aware that the region which lays the proverbial golden eggs must prepare for a life beyond this extremely valuable - but finite -...

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