•Says modular refineries will bring more stability to oil-rich region
By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The challenge of effective programmes and projects to ensure peace in the oil-rich Niger Delta has confronted successive administrations for decades. In this interview, a former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Chibudom Nwuche, says the Buhari administration has been changing the Niger Delta narrative. He describes the new modular refinery policy as a game- changer in the efforts towards lasting peace in the region.
After two years in government, how do you assess the performance of the APC government?
There is no doubt that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is doing well in its efforts to restore sanity in Nigerian society which is critical for a strong nation. We have seen the implementation of the economic diversification agenda of the APC.
We see the increasing agriculture sector outputs through various programmes to the extent that the nation has been assured that we would soon be self-sufficient in rice production and other commodities. This is a demonstration that agriculture is being given its pride of place. It is providing jobs for millions of Nigerians and we are not only producing for ourselves but also very ambitious to export. When we become a net export of foodstuff, it will do two major things for the economy. It will reduce the pressure on the foreign exchange market and increase our earning which will ultimately shore up the value of the Naira against international currencies.
All Nigerians agree that we had over relied on oil and that this reliance has hurt our economy very badly. But until this administration came into power, we had not seen action to genuinely diversify the economy away from oil into other sectors where the nation has comparative advantages.
This government is investing in critical infrastructure including roads, railway, power and other sectors. These are some of the most critical infrastructure that distinguish the developed economies from the third world economies. I believe that what this government is doing in this regard is to create a conducive environment for an economic explosion in our country.
The Buhari administration has been criticised in some quarters over its style of fighting corruption. Do you consider the strategy as effective?
If you recall, the fight against corruption featured prominently in the campaign promises of President Buhari. This government is fighting corruption as promised and i can assure you that majority of Nigerians are happy to see that it is no longer business as usual.
Nigerians must keep supporting this administration to actualise its vision for Nigeria. We must continue to support the efforts towards making corrupt enrichment of individuals unattractive. Governance is a collective process and must necessarily involve all those that are interested in contributing. People should feel free to offer constructive suggestions on how to improve on the service delivery of government and how to make its policies more effective.
Buhari’s health has become something of a great concern to many. What is your comment on this?
The President is a human being and is susceptible to indisposition and ill-health once in a while just like everybody else. There is really no big deal and Nigerians should always pray for their leaders and especially the President who is working hard to stabilise the country and usher in prosperity. The work of governance is continuing smoothly as the Acting President is readily available to do what is necessary to keep government running.
How do you rate this administration on the development of the Niger Delta?
I am glad that a renewed focus on the region is yielding the desired fruits. Don’t forget that the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, personally visited the region. He went to various states in the region and had genuine discussions with the people.
Following those visits, you have seen significant stability in the region. We have seen less and less disruption of oil production activities and I believe all Nigerians are happy with this development. There has been a promise to build modular refineries which I consider a masterstroke on the Niger question. It will bring greater stability to the region, oil business and, of course, prosperity to our people and the nation as a whole.
Some people have criticised leaders in the region over the utilisation of resources available to them. Do you agree that the development in the region is not commensurate with the volume of resources that have been allocated to the region, especially in the last 18 years?
This is an issue of great concern to some of us from this region. Perhaps some of those at the helm of affairs did not get their priorities right and may not have had clear and focused agenda for the development of the region.
There have been allegations of corruption against many leaders who have held elected positions in the region. This is a fact that is in the public domain. Others may also not have applied the revenues judiciously. That is not to say that some have not done reasonably well given the constraints of the difficult terrain and the challenges of our political system. The challenge of maintaining peace and seeking re-election for such leaders and their myriads of supporters could have also constituted impediments to resource application.
However, I think the biggest challenge is lack of vision. Leaders must be imbued with vision; open to new ideas, surrounded by thinkers and consultative by nature. They must also be well prepared for the office and governance and must have spent some time on their manifesto before contesting for election. If you come into an office with a clear vision and plans for your people, you will hit the ground running as there is a lot to do in every sector.
This is a region facing challenges of human capital development, youth and women empowerment; development of critical infrastructure such as roads, jetties, power, water, rural development and agricultural and aquaculture.
With a clear vision, one will discover that the billions from the federation account is not even sufficient for the already identified programmes and projects and will therefore be better utilised. You must also love your people and have empathy for them and then you will not be able to be corrupt.
Consequently, Niger Delta leaders must consciously begin a leadership recruitment process that enables our brightest to represent us at the levels of councillors, local government chairmen, state assembly members, federal legislators, ministers, governors, etc. This is the only way to ensure rapid development of the region.