By Emma Amaize
READING thoroughly the draft copy of the 84-page Strategic Implementation Work Plan for Development, SIWP, in the Niger Delta (2017-2019), entailing a whooping N2, 065, 140, 035, 959 expenditure on 457 projects, across the nine states of the oil region, it is evident that midnight candle was burnt over it, though ample room exists for modification.
The document, it was learned, was developed by the Ministry of Niger Delta, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Ministry of Environment, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, with support from the Office of the Vice President.
Eye-catching is the tactical involvement of the International Oil Companies, IOCs, in the conscripting of the work plan, probably to secure their collaboration in the implementation and from available facts, they are committed to a total of 150 short-term and medium-term projects valued at N295.5billion, while the Federal Government is committed to 307 projects estimated at N1.7 trillion naira.
A privileged source hinted that it took the sagacity of the Minister of Petroleum Resources (State), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who the IOCs have come to trust to make them buy into the SWIP; otherwise, they were not prepared to make such commitment. Determined to ensure development of the region, the minister also practically marshalled the process to its current reality.
Insisting that government officials had concluded discussions on the projects to be executed when it pulled it into the inter-ministerial committee for the SWIP, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, an umbrella body of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the region shot down the proposal, and not until the body met with the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, August 3, I at Aso Villa, Abuja, did it simmer down.
Reports from the meeting said the Acting President promised to fully involve PANDEF, led by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark with the former governor of Akwa Ibom and old Rivers states, Obong Victor Attah and HRH, King Alfred Diete-Spiff and as co-chairmen of its Central Working Committee, CWC. Chief Clark, who first echoed the group’s rejection of the SIWP had after the meeting with Osinbajo, confirmed his satisfaction with the plan to fully involve PANDEF in the inter-ministerial committee.
Without gainsaying the fact, the SIWP with so many landmarks, including 100,000 jobs across each state of the Niger Delta over the next five years, establishment of the first set of modular refineries in Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states, pilot industrial estates in each of the oil states, avalanche of water, electricity, healthcare, road, education and empowerment projects, is a well thought out blueprint.
Consequently, it should not have been a case of throwing away the baby with the bath water because of some procedural and other issues, which the makers affirmed were subject to correction and further input in the document. “The present report forms a consultation draft for a document that will not be complete without input from the states and stakeholders in the Niger Delta…,”the creators stated on page 5 of the draft copy. The draft SIWP had also been sent out to states and stakeholders for input before the brouhaha on its appropriateness.
Over the years, the problem of Niger Delta in truth is not lack of blueprint for development of the region, but a lack of political will to implement the proposals. There exists a legion of plans before now to develop the region, including the Willinks Report 1958, Belgore Report, Don Etiebet Report, Vision 2010, Report of The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Nigeria and Popoola Report.
There were also the Ogomudia Report, Presidential Panel on National Security Report on First International Conference on Sustainable Development of the Niger Delta, Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, 2004, NPRC Report 2005, UNDP HDR 2006, Report on Coastal States of the Niger Delta 2006, Ethnic Nationalities and Communities Petitions, National Confab Report 2014, Pan Niger Delta Forum (2016), 16- point Agenda and Niger Delta People’s Congress (2016).
Action, not words
What reasonable Niger-Deltans nay Nigerians expect from the President Muhammadu Buhari government is to break the curse of non-execution of development blueprints for the region. With its contributions to the economy of the nation, the oil region more than deserves the attention. It is neither about its words nor how magnificently the SIWP is drafted, but its actions, which definitely speak louder than words. In all, SIWP is a good starting point for the region, so all hands should be on deck.