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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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Mexicans Set Up Labs In Nigeria To Produce Meth, Reps Confirm

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House of Representatives, yesterday, explained that since 1990 the production of crystal meth had been hijacked by Mexican drug dealers, who set up laboratories in Nigeria for the production of Mkpuru Mmiri in 2016.
The lawmakers then mandated the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), to go after peddlers of Methampheramine nicknamed Mkpuru-Mmiri and other hard drugs in the country with a view to stamping them out.
The House also asked the agency to reintegrate and strategize further on its enforcement and enlightenment capacity to cover the mode and cure for meth addiction which, it said, has no medical treatment at the moment.
The resolution followed a motion titled “Urgent Need to Sensitize Nigerians on the Danger of Widespread Meth Epidemic and Effect of Crystal Meth on the Nigerian Youths”, moved by Henry Nwawuba at the plenary.
Presenting the motion, Nwawuba noted the widespread meth epidemic and the effect of crystal Meth on Nigerians, especially the youths.
He also noted the highly addictive street form of the pharma grade amphetamine and the ill-equipped handling or stopping of the spread.
“Many homes in the south east are currently facing the dangerous effect of Methampheramine nick-named Mkpuru-Mmiri which translates to seed of water.
“Crystal meth is a crystal narcotic hallucinogen that is capable of destroying a person mentally.
“An estimated 75percent of the users in our society are adversely affected and they have become a burden to their families and communities.
“Since 1990 the production of Crystal Meth has been hijacked by Mexican drug dealers who set up laboratories in Nigeria for the production of Mkpuru Mmiri in 2016.
“Methamphetamine also known as Crystal Meth or Mkpuru mmniri was developed in Japan in 1919 and grossly abused during World War II when it was issued to pilots on suicidal mission then called KamKaze.
“After the world war, it was used briefly as a medication for depression and for controlling obesity, but it was quickly abandoned and banned thereafter, especially in the 1970s.
“As a stimulant, it has a powerful euphoric effect similar to those of cocaine.
“Meth typically keeps users awake depriving them of sleep, making them react violently and takes a toll on the physical look of its users,” he said.
Contributing to the motion, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu asked NDLEA to trace the manufacturers and others in the chain.
“Who are the manufacturers? Where is the factory? Where is it manufactured? Who are the traders?
“When you beat young people, it is like double jeopardy. Somebody is a victim of the drug and you are still beating them.
“NDLEA should trace, and we should ensure rehabilitation of the victims and make sure we take meth out of the market.
“That is the quickest thing we can do; after taking meth out of the market, then we will know what to do with our citizens who are already victims,” he said.
Also speaking, Lynda Ikpeazu said that many youths of young ages were involved in the consumption of the drug.
“It does sound like a joke, but it is actually very serious and killing a lot of people.
“In the next 10 years, if we don’t stop it, we are going to have a zombie society.”

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Join Campaign To End Violence Against Women, Girls, Banigo Tells Nigerians

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Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo has called on all well- meaning citizens, especially the male folk to join the campaign to end violence against women and girls.
Banigo made this call in her goodwill message in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, to commemorate the 2021 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls.
The deputy governor, who urged the male folk to be strong advocates in the quest to eliminate violence against women and girls, noted that violence against women and girls increase in the society during crises.
She said it manifests in physical, sexual and psychological means and most times perpetrated by trusted family members, while the rest of society look the other way, adding that sometimes women are also culpable when it comes to violence against fellow women.
Banigo said the state government under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike takes the security and wellbeing of women as top priority with zero tolerance for violence against women.
It would be recalled that November25 each year is set aside to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
It also marks the launch of 16 days of activism that would end on December 10, 2021, which is the International Human Rights Day.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”.
Similarly, Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo has said that every girl-child must be intentional and focused in order to achieve success in life.
Banigo stated this while speaking during the Girl Child Initiative, Just Girls Talk Programme at the Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta (UBE), last Wednesday, organised by the Youth Church of the Mountain of Fire & Miracles Ministries in Port Harcourt.
Speaking through the Coordinator, Protect the Girl Child Initiative of the Deputy Governor’s Office and Senior Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor, Barrister Inegogo Fubara, Banigo said women are leaders created by God to solve problems.
“We are problem solvers, do not ever think of yourselves as being little because you are wonderfully created for a purpose. We are here to tell you that you can be whatever you want to be, but you have to work it out, education is very important and you must take it very seriously and be diligent in what you are doing”, Banigo said.
The deputy governor, who described Wike as the most gender friendly governor in the country said apart from having a female deputy, he has continued to appoint women into positions of trust and has encouraged women to run for elective positions.
Banigo commended the school authorities and the Mountain of Fire & Miracles Ministries for the putting up the Just Girls Talk Programme.
In his remarks, the Regional Overseer of the youth church, Pastor Chinedu Udechukwu said the Just Girls Talk Programme, has been going on in the church for years, noting that after the pandemic they decided to re-strategize and take it off to schools to talk to young girls about their vision and expose them to our Lord Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith.
Also speaking, the Coordinator of the Just Girls Talk Programme, Mrs. Esther Udechukwu said the Just Girl Talk was organised to enlighten young girls on the consequences inherent in premarital sex, the physical and spiritual aspects, as well as to empower and sharpen them for the future.

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Police Smash Four Deadly Kidnappers In Rivers

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Operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in collaboration with policemen from the Rivers State Police Command, have arrested a kidnap syndicate that specialised in using Facebook and WhatsApp to lure their victims, in Port Harcourt.
The suspects admitted during interrogation to have kidnapped, tortured, raped and robbed their victims.
They admitted that their targets were usually female and that they have successfully collected ransoms from at least ten 10 female since January, 2021, with N5million their highest ransom.
The nabbed suspects are: Izunna Fidelis, 21; Humble Unity Okeregwu, 24; Izuchukwu Nwaobiri, 22; and Chibeze Nwike,23.
They were arrested in Choba and Etche areas of Rivers State.
According to the police, for suspects to get the attention of their victims, they take to their respective Facebook pages posing as foreigners working in multinational oil companies in Rivers State and professing love as well as proposed marriage to their Facebook girlfriends, all in a bid to trap them.
The police said their arrest followed report of kidnapping for ransom and the gang-rape of a 27-year-old lady identified simply as Happiness, on August 28, 2021.
According to leader of the gang, Nwaobiri, “The first thing we do is to check Facebook profiles for beautiful girls. Then, we would add them to our friend lists. Each of us works on different persons. I would start up a conversation with my supposed girl, exchange pleasantries and tell her that I worked with an oil company. I also asked if she was married or single.
“It takes time to familiarize with them, say two to three months. Thereafter, we would progress to WhatsApp chats and then telephone calls and when friendship has been established, we will invite them over to the company’s base which is a bush where they would be blindfolded and calls put across to their families.”
Nwaobiri added: “I started earlier this year because of circumstances. My mum is late, my dad has a stroke and I have been the one catering for everything. I have been involved in seven cases but succeeded in four.
“We only rape our captives if they don’t cooperate. That is, if they don’t mount pressure on their relatives to pay ransom.”

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