*…says why Niger Delta remains most peaceful
*…as UN backs FG on exercise
By Chris Ochayi, ABUJA
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has said that the interim reports from the ongoing forensic verification exercise of activities of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, have uncovered over 12,128 abandoned projects in the region.
Senator Akpabio, who noted that the abandoned projects have no specific ownership attached to them, stressed further that the development was against the 9,080 projects listed by the government to be considered in the verification process.
The minister, who made the disclosure during the visit of the United Nations, Deputy Secretary-General, Hajia Amina Mohammed, to him in Abuja, however, sought for the collaboration with United Nations to maintain peace and development in the Niger Delta region, which he said remains the most peaceful region in Nigeria.
According to the minister, “Most of these abandoned projects have become sanctuaries to criminals. Projects were embarked on without consultations.
“There was no initial coordination. So, as part of its mandate, the Ministry has adopted a programme called ‘Strategic Implementation Work Plan’, SIWP, which will coordinate the activities of development partners and stakeholders to prevent duplication of projects in the region.”
Akpabio, the immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom State, explained that the Ministry is developing a programme “Catch them young” where young people in primary and secondary schools are enlightened on the importance of peace and the dangers of destroying oil installations, which has serious impact on the ecosystem and the nation’s economy.
He said that since the discovery of crude oil in the region in 1956, several interventionist agencies had been set up to address the social and environmental degradation of the area, but they all failed to provide the needed succor to the people.
“In other to address the situation, the present administration decided to set up a forensic auditing process to access and evaluate the achievements that have been made by NDDC in the region since its existence.”
The minister acknowledged that Mohammed was a frontrunner in championing the course of the Niger Delta region and the Ogoni clean-up during her tenure as Minister of Environment.
Responding, the United Nations, Deputy Secretary-General, Hajia Amina Mohammed, noted that issues bordering on the Niger Delta region are peculiar to the heart of the UN and would do everything within UN programmes to address all issues of disillusionment in people’s expectations.
She commended the efforts of the Federal Government and the Ministry in the way they have handled the Niger Delta affairs as well as move to sanitise the NDDC.
Mohammed laid emphasis on the need to maintain peace and stability in the region, because without peace there cannot be any meaningful development, especially when the aspirations and rights of the people are not recognized.
In his welcome address, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Babayo Ardo, stated that the Ministry is charged with the responsibility of ensuring developmental programmes and supervises the NDDC.
He added that the Ministry as part of its mandate over the years had provided infrastructure and high impact programmes for youths and women, and the Ministry is willing to collaborate with the UN system in actualising its programmes to improve living standards.