With just 29 months to vacate office, President Muhammadu Buhari in a seeming peace-buying flattery to ensure steady oil production says his administration is now making efforts to stem the tide of decay, neglect and transform the physical and economic fortunes of Nigeria’s oil and gas region.
According to him, government is repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and the Presidential Amnesty Programme to ensure they deliver on their objectives and mandate.
He said the completion of the East-West Highway, which he claims is a priority project of his administration, has been handed over to the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, and assured that the project will be delivered by the end of 2021 or early March 2022.
President Buhari who was addressing stakeholders at the 4th meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on Friday, also accepted to implement the 16-point agenda outlined by the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), as minimum preconditions for peace and stability as well as development in the region.
The oil region’s stakeholders four years ago presented to President Buhari a 16-point-plan which they believe will reduce tensions and eventually eliminate militancy in the oil-polluted region.
Among other things, they are asking for the demilitarisation of the region, to bring the administrative and operational headquarters of the oil majors to the area of operation; approval of Maritime University, strengthening the Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, resuscitation of key regional critical infrastructures, the resettlement of Bakassi indigenes, restructuring and funding of the NDDC.
Others are, introduction of fiscal federalism, economic development and empowerment of the peoples of Niger Delta, improvement of power supply, security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure, meeting the immediate need of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and the Ogoni clean-up and environmental remediation.
Buhari who gave the assurance however, added that his administration was ready to implement the 16- point agenda in order to sustain the relative peace in the region.
He noted that the outcome of the Federal Government engagement with elders in the region has provided his administration the opportunity to ascertain the diverse needs of stakeholders in the region and experience some of the critical developmental challenges confronting the people of the region.
President Buhari who was represented by Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godswill Akpabio, said the relative peace in the region was a manifestation of the government’s commitment to implement those concerns expressed by the PANDEF.
While commending the leaders and youths for the relative peace and security the nation is experiencing in the region, the President admitted that the government was aware of the deplorable state of infrastructure both human and capital in the region.
“The on-going forensic audit of NDDC is expected to reposition the Commission and galvanise it towards optimal performance to provide the needed infrastructural and socio-economic development for the people of the Niger Delta region.
“I am delighted to note that the new leadership in the ministry has prioritised the implementation of the Harmonisation of all Developmental Plans of all Agencies and Development Partners operating in the Niger Delta Region into a single plan as a roadmap to accelerated development of the region.
“As stakeholders, some of the issues that must engage your minds as you deliberate in this meeting today should relate to economic diversification, fostering economic growth, eradication of extreme poverty, promoting social inclusion, creation of jobs and stemming environmental degradation including climate change in the region.
“If you are able to achieve these, a significant part of the challenges in the Region would have been resolved. I therefore call on all council members and stakeholders to engage constructively as this will afford everyone the opportunity to come together as experts to deal with issues that are of utmost importance to the well-being of the Niger Delta people and largely, the country as a whole”, Buhari says.
In his welcome address earlier, Akpabio explained that the council is aimed at achieving optimal utilisation of funds and the provision of landmark infrastructure in the region, pointing out that provision has been made in the 2021 budget estimates towards the completion of the East-West Road, which he said was the flagship project of the ministry.
Akpabio claims that countless achievements have been recorded in the region in the area of socio-economic development, capacity development of youths, construction of housing estates, provision of schools, hospitals, electricity and pipe-borne water in many communities.
He, however, assured the leaders that the Buhari administration is committed to sustaining the gains and even do more to improve the living condition of the peoples of the poverty-ravaged oil region.