By Chris Ochayi
Notwithstanding pockets of incidents of insecurity in the country, the Federal Government, has assured that it would continue to work hard towards ensuring the safety and peaceful atmosphere for International Oil Companies, IOCs, operating in the Niger Delta region.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who gave the assurance while receiving the United States, US, Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, who paid him a working visit in his office in Abuja, said, the government’s determinations in guaranteeing peaceful atmosphere for IOCs and other companies working in the region to operate will be mutually beneficial not just to the companies that are coming in but also to the host communities.
Meanwhile, the United States, US, Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, has said that her country was looking forward to the early passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, noting that the PIB becoming a reality can be a predictable basis for companies who are operating in that sphere in a predictable sort of expectations for the population of the Niger Delta in that regards.
According to Akpabio, As at today, you can see the very difficult challenges in the country, the Niger Delta region is probably one of the most peaceful. This ministry is mandated by Mr. President to work very hard to ensure that the peace remains and the IOCs and the other companies working in the region have a very peaceful atmosphere to operate because it will be mutually beneficial not just to the companies that are coming in but also to the host communities.
“On the issue of the PIB, I believe the Senate and the national assembly is addressing that very seriously.
“And then on the issue of the peace in the Niger Delta region, we are also working very hard. We are engaging stakeholders and we are also engaging the youths.
“But do not mind some of the things you see on social media because even the war in Rwanda I understand came from a rumour that this person has killed this person and before you knew it over a million people had died.
“So you must find a way to suggest how we can curb some of the excesses that goes into social media and we must distill the information to actually find the truth.
“The Niger Delta region has been quite peaceful, we have had infiltration of recent from the South Eastern region particularly those people agitating for what they will not have because we must remain one nation; from IPOB and from Boko Haram infiltration and all that in some of the areas but the government is up to its responsibilities and the government is working very hard to ensure a peaceful nation.
“The US Embassy is always very concerned when something happens in Nigeria, I think other embassies should also be concerned because with the population of over 200 million people if there is a refugee crisis in Nigeria, West Africa cannot contain us, the population of Nigeria double the population of all the countries in West Africa put together.
“So it is in the interest of the global community for Nigeria to remain peaceful because we can have multiplier effect negatively on the economies and even the wellbeing and the social structures of other countries.
“For the parastatal under the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the NDDC, we are currently doing the forensic audit of the NDDC; there was need for that because even the staff who had worked there and retired are very excited that for the first time there pensions are going to be guaranteed.
“The way thing were going, there were not sure they were going to get their pension.
“We have submitted two interim reports so far through the Chief of Staff to the Mr. President for evaluation and we are hoping that in the next three months maximum we should be out of the forensic audit.
“And as to the issue of formation of board for the NDDC of which some people have sponsored a lot of write-ups, it is not an issue. We have had a board for 19years they didn’t see much on ground.
“The good example is the 26 years old structure which is the headquarter building which was not completed by any board and which no board even visited since 1996 after OMPADEC started the structure.
“But in 2016 this administration was determined to bring it to an end by awarding the contract and again it was abandoned in 2017 but when we came on board in August 2019 we took up the project and to the glory of God today that project is completed.
“And I must also say that even with the fear of the forensic audit we have completed over 75 roads that are now ready for commissioning and many other projects that are useful to the people.
“And we have directed that they should publish these projects as an advertorial in newspapers so that we can begin to commission them for the benefit of the people of the Niger Delta.
“And I believe that by the time we are through and a new organogram comes on board, we shall have a new NDDC, we are not going to be in power forever, but 2023 I believe we will get out of this place but we would have positioned the NDDC to become more productive than what it has been in the last 19 years.
“And we would have reduced the loopholes of leakages in the system that led to more money entering the pockets of people without much being seen on the ground.
“So we are determined to transform and that is why the director of press calls me the uncommon transformer, so we believe that we will transform the region uncommonly and we need your assistance.
“We also found that in the ministry here, we are grappling with two sets of master plans; the first is the regional master plan that was done by the Ministry of Niger Delta, and the second is the NDDC action plan for the development of the Niger Delta region. We will like to see a harmonized Niger Delta plan so that every person can key in.
“And we have recently developed what we call the CTC which is a web-based monitoring system that at the touch of a button you can see what is actually happening in every state of the Niger Delta whether the infrastructure is put by an IOC, whether it is a donor agency, no matter what so that we can monitor and be sure that those things are the things that are needed by the people.
“So we will definitely come out stronger at the end of the day but we need your assistance in the area of harmonization of the two master plans. So we can have one regional plan for the entire Niger Delta, for the nine states of the Niger Delta region.”
In her remarks earlier, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard said with the completion of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Headquarters, the commission, should be focused in addressing the issues of infrastructural development and youth empowerment.
According to her, “The NDDC had completed its headquarters and now it is a good moment that the base is established, pause a little bit and think about the direction moving forward in the programme to address all those areas that you mentioned in terms of development, infrastructure, and youth empowerment.
“There was a road map that was supposed to go to 2020, many of us have had our experience for 2020 not going exactly how we thought they might give the global pandemic.
“So expectedly we are going to hear a little bit about how our timetable or activities will be revised to reach all of the important goals of development, infrastructure, and security for this very important area.
“Also we are looking forward to PIB becoming a reality so that there can be a predictable basis for companies who are operating in that sphere in a predictable sort of expectations for the population of the Niger Delta in that regard.”