By Chris Ochayi
ABUJAâ€” CHAIRMAN, Infrastructure Sub-Committee of the Amnesty programme and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette, said, yesterday, the proposed new towns would be sited in selected oil producing communities in the nine states which make up the Niger Delta region.
Ekaette who announced the measure during an interaction with journalists shortly after a meeting with representatives of nine state governors of the Niger Delta region, said stakeholders had agreed that the new towns be located in the oil producing areas.
Yesterdayâ€™s stakeholdersâ€™ meeting, convened by the ministry to deliberate on the placement and building of the proposed new towns in each of the states of the region, was also attended by the Minister of State, Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe.
Other participants included the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Yahaya Abdullahi, Secretary to the Delta State Government, Dr. A.I Okowa, Special Adviser to Abia State government, Chief G.O Onyemaobi, Commissioner of Environment in Rivers State, Dr. Julius Okputu, Chairman, Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, OSOPADEC, Debo, a commissioner in Bayelsa State, Mr. Etifa Bakeakpo, Special Adviser to Imo State government on Economy, Barr. Cyril Anyanwu, and Special Adviser to the Ondo State government on Niger Delta, Mr. I Bekekhimi.
Ekaette said: â€œStakeholders had agreed that the new towns should be sited in select oil producing communities in the region. The agreement was in response to perceived need of rehabilitating the ecologically disadvantaged oil producing communities.â€
He noted that the new town initiative of the Federal Government was part of the Post Amnesty Infrastructural projects aimed at building a cluster of communities and equiping them with infrastructural facilities; with a view to improving businesses and standard of living of the people.
Implementation of the new town development
The minister who said, he was happy with the outcome of the meeting, stated that turn out of the participants showed that the states were ready to partner with the ministry in the development of the region.
He said: â€œit was a very fruitful meeting. We discussed the issues of the implementation of the new town development. We felt that there is no way we can make meaningful progress without partnering with the states and we are going to be meeting often.
â€œWe have to carry out pre-feasibility and feasibility studies of the areas. We laid emphasis on the oil producing areas to use the project to impact on their lives. The concept of the new towns for the Niger Delta is borne out of governmentâ€™s earnest desire to dramatically improve the living standards of the people, change the outlook of the Niger Delta and provide the environment for sustainable peace and development.
â€œThe new towns which are to be developed in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers states will involve creating new communities with at least 10,000 persons in each of the states.
â€œSo far, a detailed brief on the programme has been developed by the ministry while consultants will soon be selected to tender for the feasibility study and design of the projects…it is time for more actions and less speeches as the people have been yearning for development for many years.â€
Some participants who spoke to newsmen after the meeting said the states had submitted bill of quantities and engineering drawings on the project to the ministry to ensure the smooth take off of the projects.
The Special Adviser to Imo State government on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Okere Tony Eze, for example, told newsmen that the state had provided a 50-hectare of land, part of which he said was at Ohaji Egbuna communities.
He said, â€œthis is going to be synergistic effort between the state and the federal government. This approach is very important because it is a bottom-up approach. This is the first time the government is consulting the people on their needs, asking the states, at what places do we insert the new towns.â€