The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, has called on Niger Delta youths to emulate the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) on acceptable and recognisable leadership.
He also hinted that NDDC would soon set up a specialised Niger Delta Development Bank for the youths and other people of the region to access funds, while assuring that the terms would be friendly.
Ekere stated these on Wednesday at NDDC's corporate headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, while meeting with ex-agitators and youth leaders from the nine states of the Niger Delta, led by Isreal Eshanekpe, aka "General" Akpodoro.
He disclosed that investors were considering Niger Delta as unsafe, thereby relocating from the region, while admonishing the youths to give peace a chance, not to resume hostilities and to shun criminality..
The managing director called on the youths and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta to protect assets of the Federal Government and oil companies in their communities, thereby supporting Nigeria's economy and put an end to recession.
Ekere also admonished all Niger Deltans and other Nigerians to continue to support President Muhammadu Buhari and his government, insisting that the administration had done well for the Niger Delta, meant well for the people of the region and committed to the real transformation of Nigeria.
He assured that NDDC was committed to the economic empowerment and development of the youths and other people of the Niger Delta, while reiterating that the modular refineries to be established in the Niger Delta would go a long way to better the lives of the youths and other stakeholders.
PANDEF, led by a former Information Minister, Chief Edwin Clark, is coordinating all the elders and leaders of the Niger Delta, with Ekere insisting that the youths must have similar body, in order to be taken seriously.
The managing director said, "NDDC was set up by the Federal Government to address the problem of underdevelopment of the Niger Delta region. In addition to developing the physical infrastructure of the region, the NDDC will develop the human capital in the region. One of the key areas of the development is the young people.
"The major reason for the meeting with the youths is to rub minds and agree on a sustainable economic empowerment for youths of the Niger Delta. When we talk about empowerment, it is not about giving money. We will not give you fish but we will teach you how to fish.
"The NDDC has been mandated by the Federal Government to work out the framework with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, so that youths of communities in the Niger Delta will be empowered through the establishment of modular refineries."
Ekere also stated it was not proper for youths of the Niger Delta to be coming to the gate of NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt to beg for money, while urging the young ones to be properly organised, in order to adequately benefit from the various empowerment programmes.
He said, "The major problem that we have had since we came on board is how to address and talk to youths of the Niger Delta region. Many 'Generals' have been calling me on this and that and it has been difficult to know who government should talk to on issues concerning the youths.
"Why can't we in the Niger Delta agree on a proper youth structure that government can always talk to, when matters on youths of the region come up? Even armed robbers have leaders. Why can't we have an acceptable structure through which we can engage the youths?
"PANDEF has provided the acceptable structure and platform for elders in the Niger Delta region to be organised and we commend them for that. The youths should borrow a leaf from the elders.
"We need to do things differently. There is need for enduring and sustainable development of the Niger Delta. We will continue to improve the capacity of the youths, with emphasis to be placed on ICT and agriculture. Let us make the Niger Delta safe for investors to come back. Without peace and active private sector, sustainable development of the Niger Delta will be a mirage."
The managing director of NDDC also urged the youths and other Niger Deltans to shun rumour mongering, while declaring that the board and management of the Federal Government's interventionist agency was determined to do things differently.
Ekere, who assumed office in November last year, disclosed that he had about two more years in office, but assured that members of the board and management would make meaningful impact in the crude oil and gas-rich region.
Responding on behalf of the youths, Chief Fred Obe, from Delta State, lauded NDDC's managing director for the initiative, while admitting that lack of acceptable platform was the greatest problem facing the youths of the Niger Delta.
Obe disclosed that Niger Delta youths had agreed to operate on the platform of Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators and Youth Leaders' Parliament, while assuring that the youths would give peace a chance in the region, but called for adequate empowerment.