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N’Delta: Executing The 44 Projects

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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved N179.13 billion for the execution of 44 projects by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in the nine states it covers. The projects include construction of bridges, roads, drainages, hospitals and the acquisition of hospital equipment, provision of potable water and educational facilities.

Among the ambitious projects that the government has lined up are the completion of the expansion of the East-West highway; the construction of the East-West coastal road from Calabar to Lagos; the coastal rail line; Inland water ways transportation; reclamation to link some oil-producing communities and environmental clean-up activities. The projects also include a N14.9 billion contract for the development of the newly established Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas, sited in Bayelsa and another N5.72 billion for the upgrade of the Petroleum Technology Institute (PTI) sited in Effurum.

This is a significant departure from the previous half-hearted approach to the massive developmental challenges in the region that produces over 90 per cent of the wealth of the nation. It remains to be seen how fast the government is willing to move to actualise these projects.

Taking on the big ticket projects will certainly make a huge difference on the deplorable state of affairs in the oil-rich region. It also aligns with the broad vision of those who believe that the region deserves a Marshall Plan treatment; that bold strategy that revived Europe after the devastation of the Second World War. Since we don’t have such a grand plan yet, the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan will suffice, as it outlines a holistic approach to the challenges posed by the deleterious effects of oil exploration and exploitation in the region.

While the government tries to shift emphasis from what it terms small projects to mega projects, it needs to carefully consider the whole concept of big and small. There is need to strike a balance between the big projects that would take many months and even years to complete and the small ones that would quickly address the urgent needs of a people who are eagerly looking forward to seeing concrete development.

In essence, the concept of mega projects must be clearly defined to ensure that the ultimate goal of rapidly and comprehensively transforming the delta region is achieved. In fact, mega projects should not just be about roads, bridges and rail lines. What happens to schools, hospitals, electricity and water projects? These may be small projects, but they are essential components of the region’s development process. The Master Plan, accepted by all stakeholders as the way forward, provides a fine blend of mega and small projects required for the quick transformation of the region. This widely acclaimed roadmap for the region took four years to produce by national and international experts.

Indeed, it is a worthy compass that should be adequately funded in order to translate the lofty plans into tangible projects and programmes. For instance, a coastal road proposed in the plan to run from Calabar to Lagos, is estimated to cost about N300 billion. Obviously, such huge projects call for collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders.

Since the Yar’Adua administration, like its predecessor accepted to work with the Master Plan, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which is facilitating its implementation, should be adequately funded to deliver on the critical sectors outlined in the plan. If all the stakeholders, which include the three tiers of government, oil companies, international donor agencies and the NDDC, were to put their hands on the plough, all sectors would be developed simultaneously without having to place emphasis on the size of the projects. In several cases, small is deemed beautiful in meeting the basic needs of the populace.

Incidentally, all the stakeholders come under the umbrella of Partners for Sustainable Development [PSD] Forum. According to the Managing Director of the NDDC, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha, “the PSD Forum, which is a direct product of the Master Plan, is a platform for collaboration amongst the development stakeholders of the Niger Delta region”, He noted that the body serves as a clearing house of information during project planning, budgeting and implementation. “It ensures that stakeholders harmonise their activities to avoid undue duplication of efforts and waste of resources”.

Such collaborative efforts, which derive from the Master Plan,  are essential in the quest for sustainable development in the Niger Delta. The 29- kilometre Ogbia-Nembe road being built by the NDDC in partnership with the Shell Petroleum Development Company [SPDC] is one good example of the kind of team work required to turn things around. The N9.6 billion project illustrates the kind of challenges confronting the Niger Delta. It cuts through the swamps with nine bridges and 99 culverts. The terrain is such that four metres of clay soil has to be dug out and then sand-filled to provide a base for the road. This road is going to an area in the Niger Delta that was written off in the past as one of those areas that would never be linked with motor way because of its difficult terrain.

If all the stakeholders were to play their roles appropriately, there would be little to complain about and the distinction between mega, medium or micro projects would not be necessary. It is unfortunate that many states and local governments in the region have been misapplying the funds meant for such basic amenities as potable water, hospitals and schools. They should be held accountable for the funds they receive. Mere tokenism is no longer satisfactory to Niger Deltans.

It is only recently that the Rivers State government, for example, took up the challenge in earnest and started building multi-billion model primary and secondary schools, as well as state-of-the-art hospitals in all the local government areas of the state. Sadly, this appears to be an exception as most of the other states are still lagging behind. The Rivers example needs to be replicated in all the Niger Delta states, so as to free the interventionist agencies to concentrate on regional projects that would rapidly improve the lives of the people.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole was not far from the truth when he accused the governors from the south-South region of squandering resources meant for the development of their domain.

Bankole said that even though Nigeria had not been fair to the Niger Delta, which has been producing the funds with which a city like Abuja was built, the region, should however, hold their leaders responsible for their woes. He also said that with the huge amount of money the Niger Delta States collect from the Federation Account, there was no reason why the quality of governance in a state like Lagos should be better than what is obtained in the Niger Delta states.

Agbu is editor’s guest

 

Ifeatu Agbu

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Dislodge Illegal Oil Refinery Operators, Wike Tasks Monarchs

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has urged traditional rulers in the state not to allow illegal crude oil refining (Kpo-fire) activities to take place in their domains anymore.
Wike gave the charge at a meeting he held with traditional rulers in the state at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt, last Friday.
The meeting was also attended by heads of security agencies and chairmen of the 23local government areas of the state.
Wike told the traditional rulers that those involved in illegal oil refining activities were sabotaging the economy.
He regretted that the Federal Government, which controls the oil industry and the security agencies, has been indifferent to the soot pandemic and the damage it was inflicting on the health of the residents of Rivers State.
“I should think that the way Federal Government intends to fight insurgency is the way they should fight illegal oil bunkering, because it is sabotage on the national economy. Very big sabotage! It affects our own revenue.
“If we are supposed to produce two million barrels, for example, we are now producing 1.2million. And that 1.2million barrels, it affects Rivers State because we are not producing up to the volume we are supposed to produce, and then, we cannot get the money to do whatever you want us to do.”
The governor also said that illegal oil refining activities constitute environmental hazard capable of causing cancer-related illnesses in the state.
According to him, his primary concern was to ensure that the health of residents of the state was not jeopardised.
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to see how this thing can be stopped. As I speak to you, nobody has called me from the Federal Government to say how they can support us. But that is not my business. My business is the health of my people. I will not because the Federal Government is not interested to stop it, therefore, my people should die. If everybody dies, who are you going to govern?”
The governor, therefore, urged the traditional rulers not to be less concerned about the activities of illegal oil refinery operators, but to frantically mobilise members of their Community Development Committees (CDCs) and the leadership of their youth groups to work in synergy to dislodge them from their domains.
Wike berated the Nigerian Police for being complicit in the criminal act of illegal oil bunkering, which is why they were not committed to the fight to stop the illicit business.
He also described as embarrassing how officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have continued to be complicit in the act and shamelessly involved in sabotaging the national economy.
“I don’t know how I can be a security officer sent to a place to protect people, to protect whatsoever belongs to the Federal Government, at the same time, I’m involved in sabotaging the national economy. I don’t understand how I can wear uniform and be involved in that. If they do not want to support us, we have no choice but to expose all the atrocities that are going on in this state.”
Wike said he recently received intelligence that an Army Major was providing exit services to illegally refined petroleum products, and had to send security personnel to thwart it.
“In fact, I had to send my special security to go and intercept a major who was trying to escort some of these illegal products.”
The governor declared that his administration would not hesitate to expose any security personnel involved in such illegal oil refining activities.
Wike frowned at the inability of the Nigeria Police to arrest Chief W. J. Wocha; Fubara Ohaka; and other members of the illegal bunkering cartel operating at Ibaa community in Emohua Local Government Area.
He said the names of all indicted persons would be published soon and they would be declared wanted.

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Rivers Rating In Ease Of Doing Business Rises -Banigo

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Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo has said that the sub-National Ease of Doing Business Baseline Survey indicates that Rivers State was doing great in the Ease of Doing Business Index in the country.
Banigo stated this at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, last Thursday, shortly after her arrival from Abuja, where she represented the State Chief Executive, Chief Nyesom Wike at the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and the National Economic Council meeting.
Banigo disclosed that the factors, which determine this survey, include infrastructure, security and healthcare.
“With the 10 flyovers the governor was constructing in Rivers State, and of course, with all the other infrastructure in health, education; and the monumental improvement in security as well as the clearing of the hideouts of criminals, obviously gave us a head way in doing very well in this baseline survey”, the deputy governor further stressed.
According to the public health physician, the response of the state to the COVID-19 pandemic, under the watch of the governor as the incident manager, has been tremendous in terms of healthcare delivery.
“I want to encourage the citizens of the state to maintain the non-pharmaceutical measures like the correct wearing of face masks, regular washing of hands with soap and running water for, at least, 20 seconds, social distancing, coughing and sneezing into one’s elbow as well as the improvement of personal and environmental hygiene. I also want to encourage Rivers people that vaccination actually reduces the mortality and morbidity that arises from COVID-19″, Banigo said.

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Ex-Agitators Beg Firms To Return To N’Delta

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Ex-agitators have pleaded with companies especially oil companies that relocated from the Niger Delta region following spate of insecurity triggered by militancy to return to the region promising uninterrupted peace.
The former warlords also called on interventionist agencies to work together to sustain the peace and ensure development of the region.
They spoke in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, during a regional peace summit to sensitize people on the need to advance the peace currently enjoyed in the region.
The ex-agitators also condemned proliferation of illegal refineries and lamented its adverse effects on development.
One of the participants at the summit and ex-freedom fighter, Pastor Nature Dumale Kieghe said as ex-agitators, who keyed into the vision of the Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Col. Milland Dixon Dikio (rtd), they have resolved to work for a new and better Niger Delta.
“It is important to sensitize our people towards a peaceful Niger Delta and create a friendly environment that will attract development, Multinational companies and other foreign investors to the region.
“We, who once carried guns, are now here to preach the message of peace to our people in the region. Peace is the only way we can have the developed environment that we dream of. Peace is the only way to attract the multinationals, investors and also be gainfully employed,” he said.
According to Nature, peace remained a vital tool to attract investors to the region which would in turn create business and job opportunities for the people.
“Companies that have left the Niger Delta because of insecurity need to return, this is the purpose for sensitization. We are blessed with an environment that is supposed to prosper us, we can only enjoy our natural resources if there is a peaceful environment, “ he added.
Nature pointed out that a major setback to the development of the Niger Delta was the absence of proper coordination among key stakeholders.
He said with the right synergy, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Presidential Amnesty office, could hasten the needed development of the region.
On illegal oil refinery, Nature explained that beyond hampering the development of the region, illegal refining of petroleum products was life threatening and dangerous to the ecosystem.
The sensitization programme commenced in Bayelsa state with 150 Niger Delta youths in attendance and would be held across the nine states of the region to create adequate awareness.

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