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N’Delta Ministry, NDDC And Mega Projects

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At last, the big ticket projects that would change the fortunes of the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta region are beginning to leave the drawing board. Just last year, 45 mega projects worth about N180 billion rolled out of the “pipelines” to spread development across the region. Significantly, this has prepared the grounds for even bolder initiatives.

A few years back, the talk about a coastal road appeared utopian and distant. That is no longer the case as it has since left the realms of idealism. In fact, the design for the road, which is about 650 kilometers, is almost ready and the Federal Government is willing to pick up the bills.

According to Mr. Chibuzor Ugwoha, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the coastal road, which will traverse the deltaic region, will soon be a reality. “NDDC has done the design of the coastal road running from Calabar to Lagos. Before the end of the year, the final design will be ready,” he said.

Without doubt, the NDDC would have loved to execute this lofty project if it had the necessary financial muscle. Unfortunately, it couldn’t shoulder the enormous burden on account of the limited funds available to it. In this year’s budget, for instance, it has only N240.5 billion to spend on both projects and overhead costs. Certainly, that will not scratch the surface for a mega road project estimated to cost about Nl.8 trillion.

However, NDDC’s loss is the gain of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Not that it matters though, since the common objective is the rapid development of the oil-rich region, using the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan as a compass. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Federal Government has transferred the responsibility for executing the project to the Niger Delta Ministry.

The Vice President, Mohammed Namadi Sambo offered a justification for this when he said: “The Federal Government, in its quest to complete all major projects in the Niger Delta, has directed that the coastal road construction be transferred to the Ministry of Niger Delta since the money needed for its construction is over N1 trillion and is beyond the capability of the NDDC.”

In any case, the ministry was established to play such pivotal roles in the quest to actualise the government’s objective to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta. It is expected to lead and co-ordinate the infrastructural and environmental development, as well as the youth empowerment programmes in the region.

The perennial violence in the region has made it imperative for the government to accord the Niger Delta a special treatment that goes beyond mere tokenism. It is no longer sufficient to hide under the cover of an interventionist agency that is under-funded. Obviously, the country needs to do what the United States of America did for Europe at the end of the Second World War using the Marshall Plan.

The Regional Development Master Plan, accepted by all stakeholders as the way forward, provides the platform for the massive injection of funds to quickly transform the long neglected region that produces the oil that sustains the nation. This widely acclaimed roadmap for the region would require trillions of naira to actualise.

The Master Plan, which all agree is a worthy compass for the development of the region, needs to be adequately funded in order to translate the lofty plans into tangible projects and programmes.

There can’t be a better time than now to take concrete steps to accelerate the development of the Niger Delta region, to at least convince the indigenes about the commitment of the Federal Government to the socio-economic transformation of the nation’s honey pot. Visible development projects must now be embarked upon before the peace won through the amnesty programme is lost.

The Ledum Mittee-Ied Technical Committee did a thorough job, synthesizing the reports and recommendations of previous committees. Sadly, the report is yet to be fully utilized. Moreover, the Master Plan facilitated by the NDDC is another document that should be seen more like a Bible by the ministry.

Spear-heading the implementation of the Technical Committee’s report and the Master Plan will be the best strategy for the ministry, which is intent on making an enduring impact in the shortest time possible. For this to happen, though, there must be a robust funding of the Master Plan, which is a product of elaborate and intensive collaborative efforts of various stakeholders in the Niger Delta. Although the NDDC facilitated its production, it was, indeed, a product of all the stakeholders who spent over four years jointly in putting it together.

Given the volatile nature of the oil-bearing communities, it is only wise that the government takes urgent measures to address their age-old grievances. Unlike in the past when communities were contented with freebies, the ministry should aggressively provide basic infrastructure and human capital development that can guarantee long term benefits for majority of the people of the region.

Good enough, the NDDC has set the ground rules, many of which have worked very well in bringing succour to the people. The ministry should do well to take a cue from the commission. In all, quick execution of tangible projects in the Niger Delta is the enduring solution to the lingering crises in the region. The ministry should, indeed, call the meeting of all the major stakeholders – the state and local governments, the oil companies, the NDDC and the international donor agencies – to agree on the specific roles each of them should play in the faithful implementation of the Master Plan with definite timeframe.

It is obvious that no meaningful economic progress can be made unless the crisis in the Niger Delta is comprehensively addressed. The President Goodluck Jonathan administration has a chance to make history by fast-tracking the development of the region. With an established blueprint in its hands, the government has all it takes to succeed.

Undoing the damage wrought by decades of neglect and injustice requires partnership and synergy. The ministry and other relevant agencies should serve as rallying points for harnessing the energies and ideas needed for the comprehensive development of the region.

Virtually all the stakeholders agree that there is high level of poverty and underdevelopment in the Niger Delta. To give effect to the urgent task of transforming the region, several strategies and options should be adopted. In all, however, funding remains the most critical factor. Even now, the Federal Government is yet to release a balance of N500 million owed the NDDC. One can only hope that the funding situation will improve henceforth.

Apart from the critical issue of funding, it is also important that all stakeholders collaborate to lift the region from the abyss of underdeve1opment. It is, ostensibly, in response to this need that the NDDC set up a clearing house called the Partners for Sustainable Developmen [PSD] Forum. This important organ brings together representatives of federal and state governments of oil-bearing states, youth and women leaders, traditional rulers as well as the organized private sector, civil society, the mass media and international development agencies such as the UNDP and the World Bank. Their main function is to ensure that the developmental activities in the Niger Delta by all stakeholders are synchronized. This important organ should be more alive to its responsibility and the ministry will do itself a lot of good by making use of the forum.

All the stakeholders are agreed that what the region needs is rapid and holistic development that will banish the era of militancy. A coordinated approach and a faithful implementation of the Master Plan will ensure a faster delivery on projects that would make profound impact on the lives of the people. The nation cannot afford a resurgence of armed conflicts in the Niger Delta.

Agbu is a Port Harcourt-based journalist and media consultant.

Ifeatu Agbu

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Opinion

For A Stronger Opposition Party In Nigeria

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For want of a better phrase, I will describe this week as a period of “push me, I push you” for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party in the country, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
It started with the PDP Governors in a communiqué at the end of their 11th meeting in Bauchi State on Monday, accusing the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the APC of turning the Presidential Villa to the new APC headquarters and using underhand tactics to arm-twist some PDP governors and other stakeholders to join the ruling party.
Then the Presidency which in its usual manner cannot take such allegation lying low, through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, lampooned the opposition party, boasting that “between now and 2023, there would be more confusion in their ranks and there would be more depletions in their ranks, so that is why they say anything,” he said.
According to him, “We were in this country when President Obasanjo was in power and the BOT meeting of the PDP used to hold at the Presidential Villa.
“We were here when President Yar’Adua, and President Jonathan was there, they held meetings at the Presidential Villa. What are they talking about really? Meaning, yes, we (the APC) are using the villa as a party office today because you (the PDP) used it in the past.
 So we are still where we were in 2015 when PDP left office. Nothing has changed? The wrongs of the now opposing party are still being perpetrated despite all the promises to bring about change? Maybe this mentality of “business as usual” is the reason the three major campaign promises of the ruling power tackling insecurity, improving the economy and fighting corruption are yet to be realized.
From the realities on the ground, it is obvious that the country is not any better today than it was six years ago. We have seen a complex form of insecurity threatening to tear the country apart. Many citizens have been sacked from their ancestral homes by bandits, herdsmen or whatever they are called; hundreds of people are being killed every day, kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative business; many farmers can no longer go to their farms for fear of being raped, maimed, kidnapped or killed.
 Economically, there is little or no visible improvement. Currently, Nigeria is topping the list of countries with the most people living in extreme poverty in the world. Unemployment rate is on the increase and the value of the Naira continues to depreciate. Corruption is now the order of the day. Some people liken corruption in the country to cancer that has destroyed every part of the body.
Yet, all we hear is that the government is doing a lot for the country. The Presidential spokesman, Adesina, announced a few days ago that the Buhari government will unveil massive infrastructure in the country by 2022. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and see what they have in stock and what impact it will make in the lives of the numerous poor citizens.
But the desired change is not the responsibility of the APC alone. Put differently, the blame for the lack of change should not go to only the ruling party.  Has the PDP as the main opposition party been able to put enough pressure on the APC to bring about change? By this, I do not mean the frequent press releases and communiqués whose impact is hardly felt.
Has the PDP demonstrated good governance styles in the state they control which can put pressure on the APC to sit up?  In the aforementioned communiqué the PDP governors supported the need for a free, fair and credible election in the country and asked the National Assembly to entrench electronic transmission of results of elections in the nation’s electoral jurisprudence.
The big question is, have these governors done the same in their various states?  Have they given free hand to their respective State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) to conduct free, fair and credible elections that will be acceptable by all or they have made their state electoral umpire an extension of their political party? 
Yes, it is good to criticise the federal government and the party in power when things are not going as expected or when their actions and inactions are causing untold hardship and pain to the citizens, but as leaders of government in opposition party controlled states, the governors need to go beyond criticisms and attacks.  A lot of Nigerians will like to see them exemplify their own alternative good governance style so convincingly that people in states controlled by other parties will want to support or vote for PDP candidates in their areas so as to be able to enjoy good governance.
Again, the PDP governors demanded Electronic Transmission of 2023 Election Results and many have been wondering why, as a party, they can support such a course while some senators elected on the platform of the party voted against it and some stayed away on the day the Senate voted to decide the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act.
It is, therefore, time for the leaders and members of the PDP to come together and think of a better, more effective way to play their opposition role if they must effectively challenge the APC in the next election. The ongoing zonal congress of the party should be free and fair, devoid of imposition of candidates or overbearing influence of the party heads so that the party will be united and not fractionalised, going into the 2023 General Election.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Of Prophecies And Profanities

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A back-page news headline in The Tide, Monday, July 19, 2021, “I Warned Nigerians About This ‘Evil’ Govt, Oyedepo Laments”, was described by someone as a political profanity. A political profanity would be described in religion as a blasphemy or sacrilege. But such views or utterances tend to be common with narrow-minded persons. One Robert Ingersoll, an American and a self-proclaimed agnostic, once said that religion is not only an opium but also a prophylactic.
Bishop David Oyedepo, said to be the world’s second richest pastor, recently spoke on the power of prophecy at the Canaanland headquarters of his church in Ota, Ogun State. According to him, “I am privileged to be among the few God shows things long before they happen”. Therefore, “when a prophet speaks, he speaks the heart of God”. He went on to say “I saw the wickedness of the wicked being forced on the land…” Can we ask why?
From the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kaduna State chapter, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, we hear that there are “commercial pastors”. We are told that “CAN has watched and listened with dismay how some Abuja commercial clerics have been recruited to discredit a serious security challenge that Kaduna State people, especially Christians, are going through in the hands of bandits and kidnappers”. Now we know that there are “commercial pastors who value money more than human lives” and who can be hired to distort truth, calling terrorists a mild name.
Then from the National Broadcasting Commission comes a directive that television and radio stations in Nigeria should not “glamourise” the nefarious activities of insurgents. Yes, code of ethics for Nigerian journalists, under the item on violence, states that “Journalists shall not present or report acts of violence, armed robberies, terrorist activities or vulgar display of wealth in a manner that glorifies such acts in the eyes of the public”. Reporting is not same as glamourising!
The universalistic hedonistic principle of ethics suggests that the ultimate criteria for determining whether anything is right or wrong, is the degree of happiness or satisfaction generated. Such would include stability, justice and mass acceptance of the issue in question. In the case of the ongoing mayhem in Nigeria, there is a suspicion that ideological leanings play some roles in the matter, whereby one man’s bandit is another man’s hero. This suspicion gains support in a situation where a bandit becomes a mystery man no one can arrest.
Ideological leanings or orientations in Nigeria derive largely from the two dominant religions in the country, namely: Christianity and Islam. Therefore, there is no way that we can shy away from the fact that orientations of Nigerians are coloured and influenced by religious considerations. But what we must try to avoid is a situation where we hide under secular politics, to promote religious ideologies. Such hypocritical postures are becoming evident in Nigeria currently.
Conceit is a major plight which bedevils humanity most grievously, whose domain of manifestation, from earliest times, has been the religious institutions. Humans have been held hostage and the mind held captive through the dogmas of prevailing religions. Nowhere are we spared the numerous voices of authority, prophesies, claims and assertions of religious orthodoxies. Is it a profanity or sacrilege to challenge dogmas that rarely have spiritual validity and assertions that go contrary to personal experiences and convictions?
Was there not a time that numerous people were burnt alive at the stake on the orders of religious authorities for refusal to recant their beliefs and personal convictions, not in line with religious dogmas? Did religious authorities not assert that the Earth was like a table, contrary to “heretic” view that it was spherical? What were the crusades and Punic wars about? Or, have the conceit and abuses of power ended? Even during the era of abolition of slavery, a Missionary Captain of a slave ship had the audacity to tell a Naval ship captain that “This is a Christian ship on a Christian mission”.
Is it false to say that religious bodies took part in slaving activity, gave blessings to pirates and bandits and received donations from them thereafter? Currently we hear about “commercial pastors allegedly hired to discredit insecurity in Kaduna State”. Let us not shy away from the truth that a greater part of atrocities committed on Earth are done under the invocation of the Name of God. Similarly hungry masses have been exploited and further impoverished via tithes, etc.
More importantly, it is the marriage of religion and politics that accounts for the disdain heaped upon religion which began long ago when Christianity became a tool for political power. Consequently wars and bloodshed became associated with religion, up to a situation where members of a Society of Jesus (Jesuits) could be seen with a Bible in one hand and a gun in another. Neither did Islam fare any better, resulting in the two dominant religions being described as the enslavers of mankind.
A French satirist, Arouet, who took the pen name, Voltaire, in his work titled Candide, posed a question, demanding an answer: “Do you mean to say you have no monks teaching and disputing, governing and intriguing, and having people burned if they don’t subscribe to their opinions?” Heretics of religious bigots of old, now bear new names of enemies of the establishment who call for a review of the status-quo, rather than accept what is on the table already. Agitators, insurgents, etc.
Under the compulsion of accepting the status-quo and what is on the table already, dissidents, like the heretics of old, are fit for hanging, in place of burning. Human authorities, from political to religious ones, must learn that in an imperfect state, everything is subject to continual improvement and changes, such that conceit and dogmatism signify arrogance. Even prophesies and revelations come in stages as the level of human development can absorb. Profanities include ascribing to the creator what did not emanate from, or not consistent with Him.

By: Bright Amirize

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Contradictions Of Change

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In Nigeria of today change and public expectations have become conflicting dialectics. Hallowed societal values are built on positives with respect to the term change.
However, governments after government in Nigeria have come and gone without berthing the desired changes and change has become a contradiction that needs to be changed.
The problem with Nigeria lies in the philosophy of Leo Tolstoy when he said “Everyone thinks of changing the system but no one thinks of changing himself”.
This explains why political parties come out with one manifesto or the other but end up without implementing what ought to be a social contract with the people that gave them the mandate.
Most politicians and political parties have continued to pay lip service to their sworn promises to the people and democratic principles. This is because individual politicians are not sincere to themselves and to the people they represent. Their tactics and bad behaviour have remained the same.
The ruling political party A.P.C. swore to change what they perceived as wrongs in the political structure and administration when they came up with their change mantra.
In a face book post in 2017, I had observed as follows; “APC means different things to different Nigerians; Armored personnel carrier, which is a metaphor for impunity. All people confused. All promises cancelled. All plans changed. All people chained.”
The above is a reflection of frustration, disappointment, a feeling of betrayal which an average Nigerian has experienced since 2015, the inception of the present dispensation at the centre.
At the core of this frustration is the fact that the ruling party had promised to revamp the economy, curb insecurity and create jobs for the growing army of unemployed Nigerians.
Nigerians know better today as the change they promised needs an aggressive revolution for a sustainable change.
The country has become more divided than before as ethnic militias and secessionists have been further emboldened because of the absence of leadership, irresponsible management of information and unbridled insensitivity in the handling and sharing of national wealth.
It is unfortunate however that many Nigerians have been hiding under the cover of political parties to unleash their personal unethical dispositions in politics.
This can be seen in the way they respond to burning national issues with irresponsible diatribes and rampant throwing of tantrums in the name of defending party positions.
We can see this unfortunate scenario in Rivers State where politicians attack just government policies unjustly. They have refused to see the magic wand of Governor Wike in project execution. Nigerian politicians should begin to take individual responsibility for their actions without hiding under political party cover to display unpatriotic tactics to the detriment of the people.
According to the first black American President Barrack Obama; “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for, we are the change we seek”. Indeed, every one, political parties, individual politicians, N.G.O, the people who deliver their mandate on the basis of sentiment to politicians are the change we seek. We as Nigerians are all caught in this contradiction of change.
Nigerians have been clamouring for restructuring; yes we need to restructure the system, the governance structure, distribution of wealth, everything, but first we must restructure ourselves. That is the change that is most desirable.
Watching the drama of absurd on National television one could only see badly brought adults hiding under the umbrella of politics to display their primordial sentiments.
The recent debates on the petroleum industry bill brought out the worst from the average Nigerian Legislator in the two chamber legislature in Abuja .”Statesmen” were separated from state plunderers.
A political analyst, Festus Oguche once queried their actions, wanting to know whose interest they represent in some of their crude display on the floor of the hallowed chambers. The petroleum industry bill has suffered undue delay because of certain interests in and out of the National Assembly who misunderstand the intentions of the law. Other interests are simply mischievous over the benefits such a law would confer on the oil bearing communities of the Niger Delta.
A responsible nation should be built on equity and justice for all.
There is the dire need at this time of our existence as a nation to have laws that would sanitize the negatives in the oil and gas sector to the benefit of all stake holders.
The maxim, “The majority have their way and the minority have their say “, has become a call for mediocre legislation. What on earth would make 21st century legislators in Nigeria vote against transmission of votes via electronic means? E-governance in Nigeria is as old as two decades or more, why should the electoral system be an exception to the rule?
If a legislator could accept huge sums sent to him by electronic means, why can’t he accept results transmitted through the same means?
INEC has the statutory mandate to conduct elections, in line with the laws and constitution of Nigeria. Common sense demands that they should be allowed to exercise their discretion in the exercise of such functions without any supper impositions from law makers.
What are the law makers afraid of? They want to rig the next elections? The greatest challenge in our politics is the electoral process which recruits some persons that have no business in governance.
The wrong persons are those who renege on their promises to change the system or add value to what is good.

By: Bon Woke

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