Special Report

June 20, 2009

Yar’Adua means well for all Nigerians, especially people of the Niger Delta — Elder Orubebe

Elder Godsday Orubebe is Minister of   State in the Ministry of  Niger Delta  Development. In this chat with Abayomi Adeshida he speaks  the mandate of the Ministry and how its objectives  are being realized . Orubebe swears that the Yar’Adua administration believes strongly  that “the renewal we are expecting, will take place.”

What are the objectives of creating the Ministry?
The creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta is to articulate the issues of the Niger Delta and ensure that the socio-infrastructural development of the place is realized. Mr. President has a vision, and that vision is to transform the Niger Delta to a level that befits an oil producing area and the Ministry has been given the mandate to realize that; so, the Ministry is a vehicle to coordinate all other areas, departments, all other activities to ensure that that vision of Mr. President is realized. And so, that is what we are working on.

Your Ministry was created soon after the Niger Delta Technical Committee turned in its report to the Presidency, how much of the recommendations of that Committee forms the working document of your Ministry today?
I will want to repeat here that Mr. President wants the best for the Niger Delta and that informed the creation of the Ministry, and that also informed the creation of the Technical Committee to look at the issues of the Niger Delta globally and come up with support system ideas that would make the government take decisions and move the region forward.

They submitted the report and the President went ahead to form another committee, a White Paper Committee, to look into that report and he has directed that pain should be taken to go through everything so that at the time when we take final decisions, he knows that that will be the final dose in battling the issues of the Niger Delta. And I’m sure that the Committee has almost concluded its reports and any time from now, it will be tendered before the Federal Executive Council

Elder Godsday Orubebe

Elder Godsday Orubebe

While we are awaiting this White Paper, what is your brief as the Minister of State Niger Delta?
While we are waiting for the White Paper, Mr. President has directed that we should look at some quick win activities and let people see it. And so, the Ministry of Niger Delta has put in place, a training programe to train a number of youths; and we will not only train them, but at the end of each training, there’ll be a package for many of all these people to stand on their own and have their business .

And there are others that we are collaborating with various oil companies and servicing companies, we’ve been discussing and working with them; so that at the end of the various training, a few number of them will have employment within the oil industry in that area.

Also, we are training people in agriculture, in marine activities; some of them will have trawlers to go into deep water fishing; some of them will go into farming and these are packages that have been prepared by the Ministry to see that a good number of the people are engaged.

That is what we are working on. Also in sports, we have been discussing with other international organizations, to see that a lot of our talented youths are trained and we are having some agreements with them so that a good number of them will be sent particularly to Europe , where they’ll be engaged in various clubs over there.

So, that activity is also going on; people will be trained and encouraged to go into modeling, music, drama,  acting. Various activities are being put in place and hopefully as from the beginning of next month, a good number of these quick win activities will be seen by Nigerians. And of course, we have advertised for the Coastal road projects which Mr. President is looking forward to seeing that the economic life of the Niger Delta is open so that that region will serve as the economic hub of the West African sub-region.

In view of the hostilities between the JTF and Militants in the creeks, how much of confidence would you say government is getting to affirm the sincerity of purpose from the people who are used to unfulfilled promises from previous administrations?
You know that when there are problems, problems need to be resolved. And Mr. president in his human form has told every Nigerian and the world at large that his determination is first of all to ensure that life and property of people of this country are protected; and secondly, to ensure that food is put on the table of every Nigerian and thirdly, to generally see that Nigerians are happy with the  programme and policies of this government. He is working towards a comfortable living and environment for the people of this country.

And that desire is burning in Mr. President. Yes, so many people who are not directly involved are undergoing some humanitarian problems; and that is why Mr. President has directed the Ministry of Niger Delta and NEMA to ensure that the humanitarian angle is tackled so seriously so that people can get food, people can get health care, people can get places to lay their heads while government is working round the clock to see that the situation is normalized so that people can go back to their homes and continue with their life well being.

How soon do we see this realised? Innocent people returning to their ancestral homes after months of displacement due to hostilities they knew next to nothing about?
The concern of Mr. President should indicate to you that soon, people will go back to their homes and various committees are being put in place by Mr. President to tackle all these aspects and I can tell you that it won’t take time; very soon, people will go back to their homes.

When the thing started, there were no refugee camps, people were not immediately at hand, but now, you can see that NEMA, the Ministry, we are making contacts and explaining the position of government and what all of us collectively should do to bring about normalcy, the needed peace and development in the Niger Delta. So, things are being done, and I know that very soon, everything will be okay.

What government is doing about putting a permanent end to kidnappings all over the country so that Nigerians and foreigners who choose to live in the country would feel safe in any part they  live and work.

Well, I think Nigerians and indeed anybody  living in Nigeria are safe. When certain problems occur, I think most times, we over blow these problems. Some of the problems we observe in this country, may be in a month, are problems that take place on daily basis even in the developed world.

The issue of kidnapping, you remember that when it started and government came up to handle it, it was subsiding before it now spread to other parts of the country. All the State governments are  making different frantic efforts to see that the problem is resolved once and for all.

There is no problem that has come into human life and has stayed forever. As the problems come, ideas will come from time to time to tackle the problems. Security agencies have been put on the alert to work out modalities to curb the situation; and of course when the problem comes up just like that, they have to go back to the drawing board to look at one or two things.

The other day, I was discussing with the Inspector General of Police, and I am so impressed with what he is putting in place to see that the problem is curbed and he’s working round with all other security agencies to see that the problem is confronted frontally and I know that soon kidnapping will become useless, and of course, we also know that when there is a problem, we also have to pay a price.

The police and other security agencies cannot work effectively to succeed if there is no cooperation from Nigerians; and I call upon Nigerians to be very vigilant anywhere we are, and so that when something happens, we should have a way of reporting to the next person, so that before you know, the security agencies are at hand to prevent any kidnapping from happening. We have had situations where the thing would just happen and people will make contacts and before you know, the security agencies are there to release the people. And I think with time very soon, nobody will be interested in doing it, because government is doing everything possible to make it unattractive.

In view of the recent out of court settlement between Shell Petroleum and the families of the Ogoni Nine, what advice do you have for all prospecting companies in the Niger Delta region generally?
When I listened to the advert that was placed by Shell, what came to my mind was that Shell as a company is interested in the human aspects of our people, and that itself sends a message that the oil companies operating there are interested in the well being and the existence of the people in that area.

And as government interacts with the oil companies, and the activities of the oil companies are reviewed from time to time, you see that we are moving away from the past and moving into the era where we’ll be concerned about our environment, we’ll be concerned about the people we live with, we’ll be concerned about the areas we operate, and gradually, collectively, everybody will be interested more on human existence than the oil and all other things and everybody would be made to be participants and involved in the system.

Before you know, everybody will see the projects all around as their projects and nothing will happen to them. So, it’s a good development, its welcome, and I thank Shell for that bold initiative and I think that collectively, let’s move forward to develop the region and move Nigeria forward.

Finally, to the people of the region, what message of hope do you have for them?
One word of hope I have for my people is that I am serving in a government that I believe in, I believe in Mr. President, his vision. I have said it over and again, I have discussed with him in private and official capacities. I understand his burden, I see his burden, I feel his burden. He thinks of the ordinary people of this country. He thinks of the Niger Delta .

He has declared over and again that the Niger Delta has not got its fair share and is determined to turn the situation around. And I know that there is a renewal is coming to the Niger Delta and so, I pray to my people to be hopeful, to be closer to God, and I’m very confident, that before Yar’adua leaves government, the renewal we are expecting, will take place.