…Begins stakeholders’ engagement campaign in region
…As President Buhari increases allocation for Niger Delta in 2018 budget
10 November 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – In light of renewed agitations by militants in the Niger Delta who have complained of neglect of the region by the government, the Federal government has announced a new stakeholders’ enlightenment and engagement campaign to kick off in Edo State on Thursday.
Making the announcement on the Twitter page of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Minister of State, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, said that he and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, in conjunction with Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Niger Delta, would be kicking off a series of Technical/Stakeholders Engagements in the Niger Delta States, under the theme “Niger Delta New Vision”.
According to the post, the objectives of the Technical and Stakeholders Engagements include “to inform and explain key policy initiatives of the Government to the States in the Niger Delta (ie. Modular refinery, gas flare commercialization, and Strategic Implementation Work Plan).
“To explore partnership with the States on implementation of these specific policy initiatives. also, to constitute an implementation framework comprising a Steering Committee led by the State Governor and a Technical Committee with membership drawn from all relevant agencies.”
Others are to “articulate a communique of issues identified and agreed during during this engagement process. 5. And formalize these through a partnership MOU for implementation of the policy areas discussed with the States.
“To understand key drivers of militancy and youth restiveness in the State. And, to identify business and investment opportunities that has considerable impact for the Oil and Gas sector.”
The relative peace in the Niger Delta has helped Nigeria maintain its almost two million barrels daily oil production. However, a militant group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), has announced plans to commence attacks on oil facilities, claiming the government has not honoured its commitment to the Niger Delta.
The NDA, through its spokesman, General Murdoch Agbinibo, declared that the militants would resume hostilities in the region with ‘Operation Red Economy’ which will target to cripple Nigeria’s economy over what it termed the “the foot-dragging of the Federal Government in the peace process in the region”.
The threat by the group is said to have set alarm bells ringing in security circles in the Niger Delta region prompting some concerned security officials to reach out to influential elders in the region to talk to the militants not to throw the region into another round of crisis.
Some analysts also believe that the complaints of neglect in the region may have informed the decision by the government to boost its allocation for the Niger Delta in the 2018 budget, which was presented on Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech at the National Assembly.
President Buhari announced an allocation of N53.89 billion for the Niger Delta Ministry and N71.20billion for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in the 2018 budget proposal, a marked increase over last year.
The total estimates for 2018 federal government budget is N8.612 trillion.
The allocation for the Niger Delta Ministry represents a 50 per cent increase when compared with the N34.20 billion that was allocated to it in last year’s budget.
There is 18 per cent increase in the allocation to the NDDC in the 2018 budget. For last year’s budget, the commission had N61 billion allocated to it.
Mr. Buhari said the increase was meant to further support the development of the country’s Niger Delta region.
The president, in his speech, underscored the need for peace in the Niger Delta and said that the federal government has retained N65 billion in the 2018 budget for the Presidential Amnesty Programme in the region.
“We will complete all critical projects, including the East-West Road, which has a provision of about N17.32 billion in 2018,” Mr. Buhari said.
The president said that his administration had constructed or rehabilitated 766 kilometres of “key strategic” roads across the country in 2017, and that, he said, included the rehabilitation of Aleshi-Ugep Road and the Iyamoyun-Ugep Section in Cross River State; and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Enugu-Port-Harcourt Road.
Mr. Buhari said that the government was partnering with the Nigeria LNG Limited to construct the Bonny-Bodo Road.
“This project was conceived decades ago but it was abandoned,” Mr. Buhari said.
“This administration restarted the project and when completed, it will enable road transportation access for key communities in the Niger- Delta region,” he added.
On a rail line that would connect the Niger Delta with other parts of the country, President Buhari said, “We have also kick-started the abandoned Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail Line.
“This project has been on for over 17 years. We had to take some drastic measures but I am pleased to announce that work is ongoing and we expect to commission this service by September 2018. This service will start with seven standard gauge coaches.”
The president also spoke on the Ogoni clean-up project. “We are working hard on the Ogoni Clean-up Project,” he said.
“During the year, we engaged eight international and local companies proposing different technologies for the mandate. To enable us select the best and most suitable technology for the remediation work, we asked each company to conduct Demonstration Clean-up Exercises in the four Local Government Areas of Ogoni Land.
“These demonstrations were recently concluded and the results are being studied by the Governing Council of the Ogoni Clean-up Project.
“Although the project will be funded by the International Oil Companies, we have made provisions in the 2018 Budget for the costs of oversight and governance, to ensure effective implementation,” Mr. Buhari said.
The president thanked the communities and leaders in the Niger Delta for their support and vowed to honour the federal government’s commitments to the region.
“We cannot afford to go back to those dark days of insecurity and vandalism,” he said.