The Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, will now be represented in the Federal Government’s Inter-Ministerial Group tasked with the implementation of the Niger Delta vision.
At the meeting of the Federal Government with Niger Delta leaders under the aegis of PANDEF, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, welcomed PANDEF’s offer to fully join the inter-ministerial group.
He reiterated the full commitment of the Federal Government to realise a new and prosperous Niger Delta developed through forthright partnerships between Federal Government, State Governments, private sector and local communities.
“We are fully committed and thankful for your contributions and feedback. We are working on this day by day. From the beginning, we took the 16-point demand very seriously and we also developed our own plan mostly based on those demands.
“Personally, I believe the issues of the Niger Delta must be addressed. When I undertook the visit to the Niger Delta region, my sole intention for participating in this process is that we need forthrightness and a hands-on approach. There is no week that has passed that I‘ve not held one meeting or the other on the Niger Delta issue. I’ve spent quality time looking at how we can implement this (new vision),” Prof. Osinbajo said.
The Acting President further said the Federal Government will implement the new vision in a way that is fair to all parties. “It can’t be done overnight. We are also looking at the integrity of the process so we can meet our targets. We are not out of line. Everything is on course the way we set it out. We have got to do it right,” he said.
The inter-ministerial group, consisting of all relevant ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs of the FG, with the involvement of relevant State governments led by the Acting President, meets regularly to drive the different initiatives and ensure effective and ongoing implementation of the FG Niger Delta new vision.
Prof. Osinbajo further stated that the Federal Government was committed to the Amnesty Programme, the establishment of the Maritime University, the clean-up of Ogoni and the general development of the Niger Delta region.
Speaking on behalf of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark thanked the Federal Government for being forthright and showing commitment to improving the fortunes of the region, noting that the Acting President’s visit to the Niger Delta has contributed to the peace in the region.
Clark said, “The meeting was excellent. We met with Mr. Acting President. He was very forthright, truthful. We were very satisfied. There is no ultimatum. We agreed on many things and we came in with our own address, presented it; the ministers presented their cases. Mr. Acting President rounded it off and we saw in him the genuineness, truthfulness and forthrightness. He is a gentleman and we support him. We are satisfied. We did not use the word ‘ultimatum’. We only said we would withdraw. But we have agreed to work together.”
*A Catalogue of FG’s work in Niger Delta
1.The Federal Government has started the process of replacing illegal refineries in the region with modular ones, including options on how to involve the communities as shareholders in the proposed Modular Refineries. Ground-breaking of the first set of such refineries are expected in the 4th quarter of the year. In its operations, FG will supply crude to the local refineries at reasonably considered price, as an incentive to stop the current practice whereby illegal refiners vandalise and steal the crude. Each Niger Delta state is expected to host 2 modular refineries each.
2.Similarly, FG has commenced the process for the opening of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta state. Already, a 5-man inter-agency committee headed by the Minister of Education is in the final stages for the official opening of the university in the 2017/2018 academic session.
3.FG has released additional N35 billion to step up the Amnesty Programme in the Delta region, which is a specific and significant raise to the 2016 Budgetary allocation to the office. This significant increase is already reflected in the 2017 budget with N70billion allocation.
The Amnesty Office has since paid up all ex-militants backlog of their stipends up to April 2017. School fees for ex-militants studying abroad have been paid up to 80% this July. School fees in Nigeria paid up to 90% this July.
Under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the Presidential Amnesty Programme has deployed 1294 beneficiaries in different programmes in different universities across the world. 1230 have graduated; 196 are maritime engineers, 59 pilots, and 120 automobile engineers. It has established partnership with the PRESCOM (Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons), UNDP, EU and UNREC to curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the hands of unauthorized persons and groups.
4.To enhance a speedy development and restore peace in the Delta region, FG has revamped the Niger Delta Development Commission to drive the creation of development and infrastructure projects in the region.
5.An initial fund of 1 billion USD has been set aside for the clean-up and environmental remediation of Ogoniland. A sum of USD 200 million will be disbursed yearly for the first five years and work on the project will be conducted in line with international best practices. Already soil and water tests have been done in preparation for the clean-up and 15 technical assistants hired to be part of the work from Ogoniland.
6.To drive infrastructure, the FG has released funds for the continuation of various sections of the East-West Road. As at March 2017, the overall project completion is substantial ( Section I – 99.98%, Section II – I – 78.33%, Section II -II – 67.95%, Section III – 99.22%, Section IV – 97.7%) with Sections I and III completed and due for commissioning.
7The FG plans to construct health centres in the states and communities of the region. On completion, they will be fully equipped to address some of the health needs of rural dwellers.
This project will place the region as one of the most advanced places in Africa for high speed internet access and reliable communication systems
8.To further encourage infrastructure development, FG, through the Petroleum Ministry is also exploring with the International Oil Companies operating in the Delta region on how to relocate their operational headquarters to their states of operations as different from administrative headquarters which often has only about 5% of the staff.