N’Delta: Executing The 44 Projects
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
Wike Urges Traditional Rulers To Engender Peace …As Awuse Heads Chiefs’ Council
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has urged traditional rulers to engender peace in their domain at all times.
He maintained that no government can progress without peace, stressing that it is the responsibility of traditional rulers to always galvanize and support the growth of their various kingdom through the sustenance of peace.
Wike stated this during the presentation of certificate of recognition and staff of office to six newly recognised traditional rulers in the state in the presence of the new Chairman of Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council, His Royal Majesty, Nne-Nwe-Eli Emohua XIII (OLO IV), Ohna Sergeant Chidi Awuse , at Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Wike,who identified peace as necessary ingredient in the process of governance, warned the traditional rulers against using their position to harass companies operating in their domain.
He particularly admonished the Gbenemene Tai Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, King Samuel Lebara Aadum Nnee, who was recognized as first class traditional ruler to use his new position to enthrone peace in Tai Kingdom for the overall interest of the people.
The five other recognised traditional rulers are all in the second class category. They include His Royal Highness, Eze Chukwuemeka Victor Elvis Nmeham Woji Okocha Orlumeni XII, Nye Nwe-Ali Rumuorlumeni; His Royal Highness, Eze (Dr) Wobodo Sunday Jonah, Nye Nwe-Ali Ibaa/Obelle; His Royal Highness, Ohna Christian Okchineke Elechi, Nye Nwe-Eli Odegu; His Royal Highness, Eze Damian Azike Ejiohuo, Nye Nwe-Ali Rundele XII, Nogbo II; and His Royal Highness, Eze Christian Amadi Evekwuru – Eze Chigu Rumuekpe.
I’m Leaving Nigeria Better Than I Met It In 2015, Buhari Boasts …Apologises For Negative Impacts On Nigerians
President Muhammadu Buhari has said he was confident that he would be leaving office with Nigeria better in 2023 than he met it in 2015.
Buhari made this known in his farewell nationwide broadcast yesterday
“I am confident that I am leaving office with Nigeria better in 2023 than in 2015. I thank you all. And may God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Buhari said.
He also appreciated millions of Nigerians who prayed and supported him during his illness in the first term of his office.
The President said he is constantly praying for those who helped him succeed and for Nigeria to thrive in peace.
He said, “I also want to use this opportunity to express my appreciation to a good number of Nigerians who provided their support and encouragement to help me navigate the exciting journey in moving Nigeria forward.
“I cannot and will not forget the millions who prayed for me during my illness in my first term of office. I am constantly praying for you and for Nigeria to thrive in peace.
“As I retire home to Daura, Katsina State, I feel fulfilled that we have started the Nigeria Re-Birth by taking the initial critical steps and I am convinced the in-coming administration will quicken the pace of this walk to see a Nigeria that fulfils its destiny to be a great nation.”
The President also apologised to Nigerians over the negative impact some of his economic policies inflicted on them.
He noted that some of his policies caused “temporary pain and suffering” to Nigerians.
According to him, “some of the decisions were difficult choices, the measures were taken for the overall good of the country”.
Buhari explained that, “In the course of revamping the economy, we made some difficult choices, most of which yielded the desired results.
“Some of the measures led to temporary pain and suffering for which I sincerely apologise to my fellow countrymen, but the measures were taken for the overall good of the country”.
Buhari will hand over power to Bola Tinubu, the president-elect, this morning.
Wike Honours El-Rufai, Fayemi, Fubara, Others
The outgoing governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, has conferred the highest Rivers State honours, the Grand Service Star of Rivers State (GSSRS), on eight personalities in the country.
The recipients include governors of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma; Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) and Rivers’ governor-elect, Sir Siminialayi Fubara.
Others were the governors of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu; Mohammed Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa); former governors of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio; John Olukayode Fayemi (Ekiti), and Senator Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari (Zamfara).
Governor Wike, while delivering his valedictory speech at a State and honours award night in Port Harcourt on Saturday night, said the second, third, and fourth- categories of honourees cut across a broader spectrum of society.
The governor said the seven governors and former governors honoured by the State belong to the country’s highly intelligent, committed, and hardworking servant-leaders who have distinguished themselves in public service with phenomenal performance records.
“Most of all, they are prominent power brokers among the Governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who signed, undertook, and worked day and night to deliver our collective aspirations for a southern president in the 2023 general elections at significant risks to their political lives.
“Their lives, reputation, exploits, and achievements are like open books, so we all know who and what they are, what they stand for, and which interests they represent and project. They have proven to be leaders made for the times rather than the ones the times and circumstances accidentally produced.
“We honour and celebrate these fellow compatriots’ inspirational achievements, exemplary leadership, profound service, love for the motherland, and contributions to national cohesion, democracy, equity, and justice”, Wike said.
The governor noted that the inception of his administration was rough and turbulent, because the then outgoing governor, Rotimi Amaechi, was very hostile and rancorous.
According to him, he also met an empty State treasury, huge public debts, a hostile political environment, and a hostile Federal Government that turned against his government, courtesy of the former governor.
“He initially struggled to prevent us from being sworn in by going to three different courts for restraining orders. When this failed, he challenged our electoral victory and had it nullified at the tribunal and the Court of Appeal.
“Our mandate was restored by the Supreme Court after nearly one year of legal battles. But, all three senatorial seats, a sizeable number of the House of Representatives, and over half of the State House of Assembly seats were nullified, leaving the State without representation at the National Assembly and a functional State House of Assembly. Our candidates for these offices were later subjected to a series of tempestuous re-runs before some managed to reclaim their mandates”, he recalled.
Wike accused Amaechi of laying social and economic landmines such as the shut down the State House of Assembly complex and courts with the sole intent to cripple his administration.
He alleged that having decimated the State’s governance institutions, Amaechi shifted his targets to the State’s treasury, including the statutory reserved funds, and emptied it with impunity.
According to him, “He (Amaechi) sold our valued assets, realized over $415,000,000.00 (four and fifteen million United States Dollars), and siphoned it entirely out of the State’s treasury in under two weeks. He embarked on some bogus projects he never intended to execute but to serve as conduit pipes to fritter State resources for himself, political cronies, and business partners.
“The less than one-kilometre monorail project, the multi-story Karibi-Whyte Hospital, the new Rivers State University, the Greater Port Harcourt City, and the M10 road projects are some of the elephant projects he purportedly initiated but failed at foundation levels after expending billions of public funds. He piled up debts by stopping to pay contractors and salaries to civil servants and other categories of workers, including pensioners and sportsmen and women.”
Despite initial challenges that beset his administration, the governor said he was able to overcome them to reposition the judiciary, delivered unprecedented 12 flyovers and constructed over 900 kilometres of Trunk-A roads and over 200 kilometres of internal roads across the State.
The governor boasted that Rivers State would remain a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) State for the foreseeable future, saying however, that the interest of Rivers State transcends political party confines and affiliations.
He maintained that it is the right of the people of Rivers State to participate in decision-making at the highest level as well as follow the political path that guarantees a better deal for the State and people.
“Accordingly, we made the right choice when we opted for unity, equity, fairness, and justice in our consideration for a Southern Presidency during the 2023 general elections. I assure you that we are in the right direction. Rivers State is politically connected to the Centre and will be better for it more than ever this time. There is nothing to regret.”
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