A COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE MAIDEN EDITION OF THE URHOBO ECONOMIC & INVESTMENT GROUP WEBINAR, HELD ON MONDAY 27th APRIL, 2020 BY 11AM

The world is currently in a lurch, facing one of its most overwhelming challenges since the dawn of the 21st century. The novel coronavirus, a disease that has infected millions of people around the world, and claimed tens of thousands lives remains a puzzle that the world is yet to unravel. Sadly, Nigeria is in the league of affected countries and the outbreak of the virus in the country has necessitated the shutting of most human activities in the past weeks, with dire socio-economic implications. The Urhobo nation is not insulated from the debilitating effects associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, as the socio-economic activities of its sons and daughters have also been negatively affected.

In a bid to ensure that the Urhobo people are well positioned to overcome the festering health and socio-economic challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Urhobo Economic and Investment Group (UEIG) organized its maiden webinar themed: 'The impact of COVID-19 on the Economy of the Urhobo Nation'.
The overarching goal of the webinar was to highlight the most beneficial ways to harness the positive impacts of Covid-19 plague, while ensuring that the Urhobo people are prepared for life and business once the disease is sufficiently brought under control. The webinar session featured many notable participants of Urhobo extraction drawn from various regions including a team of carefully selected speakers with deep rooted knowledge on finance, business and economic matters. Mr. Kingsley Ubiebi, the Convener of the Urhobo Economic and Investment Group, welcomed participants of Urhobo extraction across the globe for participating in the epoch making event. He noted that the objective of the webinar was focused on enlightening the implications of the COVID-19 in the economy of Urhobo Nation, and also to proffer workable solutions on how to tackle the challenges ahead of Post COVID-19 era. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Benson Uwheru, Partner, Ernst & Young Nigeria, he kick started the session with an inspiring speech in which he who enjoined all Urhobo sons and daughters to prioritise their health and safety during the pandemic by adhering to the safety protocol issued by relevant health and government authorities. In his special delivery, Dr Uwheru identified some of the major socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic to include reduced access to liquidity and collapsing demand for businesses, policy uncertainty and distorted supply chain, and the obvious difficulty in inventory management occasioned by increasing complexity in getting raw materials from overseas. In a follow up presentation, Ms. Helen Ese Emore harped on the need for the Urhobos to go back to the basics, stressing the imperative of socio-economic cooperation and collaboration among the Urhobos across all levels. She informed participants on the opportunities for Micro, Small, and Medium scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria and how they can access the intervention fund from the CBN. She encouraged MSMEs to remain resilient and refocus their business strategies on the critical sectors emerging from the pandemic The President and founder of FMG Empowerment, Chief Francis Okumagba, highlighted the numerous opportunities that could be harnessed by the Urhobos despite the Covid-19 pandemic and called for a positive change of attitude among the sons and daughters of Urhobo nation to enable them take advantage of such openings. He explored the huge economic potential of the internet and advised Urhobo youths to think outside the box and take their businesses online. Engr. Henry Orhojoma, CEO, AQME Technology, spoke on the increasing job losses traceable to acute drops in the global price of crude oil and advised that a policy of diversification within the oil industry be pursued in Delta State. He canvassed for the establishment of a Free Trade Zone with constant power supply and tax holidays to encourage entrepreneurs to bring their business ventures to Urhobo land and also to harness the manpower and technical expertise that will be leaving the oil industry as a result of the present situation. Kelvin Ogba Dafiaghor, the Chief Promoter for Artificial Intelligence in Africa, warned against implementing quick fixes and advised that long term, technology based solutions should be sought since artificial intelligence is the future of the globalised world. Albert Ofuoku Ph.D, Delsu Abraka, enjoined Urhobos to look beyond subsistence farming and key into mechanize agriculture. He listed opportunities in agriculture for job creation, among these are; vegetable production, Cocoa production, rubber production, fish farming, chicks brooding, broiler production, oil palm among others too numerous to mention. At the end of the robust discussion, the participants resolved that:
  1. The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the Urhobo nation with debilitating effects on the socio-economic activities of our people. However, the health and safety of all Urhobos and other Nigerians in Urhobo land remains an utmost priority. Therefore, everyone should pay adequate attention to all Covid-19 safety guidelines such as wearing of face masks, washing hands with soap under running water at regular intervals, use of alcohol-based sanitizer, practice social distancing and personal hygiene.
  2. As part of strategic response to the harsh effect of the pandemic, Urhobo people must build, nurture and maintain strong socio-economic bonds evident in their cooperation and collaboration among themselves as there is strength in unity.
  3. MSMEs operating in Urhobo land should register their business entities with the Corporate Affairs Commission, and maintain a well-structured system and operation for sustainable growth and development.
  4. A Free Trade Zone with constant electricity supply should be established in Delta State to host petrochemical and allied industries, food processing plants and other economic activities that will promote opportunities in Urhobo land. We encourage Urhobo Leaders to use their vast network to help with the establishment of free trade zone in Urhoboland.
  5. Urhobo farmers should be encouraged to form cooperative societies that will enable them have access to financial opportunities and build their capital base. Those still practising subsistence farming should urgently consider the more beneficial option of going into large scale cultivation of both food and cash crops.
  6. Fertilizer plants should be established in Delta State and efforts should be made to re-engage experts leaving the oil industry as a result of the current challenges in the sector.
  7. There is need to diversify our investment focus to other critical sectors especially technology based investments, given that the next generation of businesses will be largely technology driven.. Essentially too, Urhobo youths should think outside the box and find ways to take their businesses online as there are great marketing potentials on the Internet.
The webinar came to an end with the moderator, Dr Benson Uwheru, thanking the participants and the panelists for their time and efforts, and prayed for the continuous progress of the Urhobo nation.   Signed………….. Kingsley Ubiebi Convener, UEIG
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