The development of the Niger Delta region will be given top priority by the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. This assurance was given by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at a two-day conference of Partners for Sustainable Development Forum hosted by Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in Port Harcourt on Monday. He said that the Federal Government would give the NDDC all necessary assistance and support to achieve its mandate of ensuring rapid and sustainable development of the region.
The Vice President, who was represented by Mr Adeola Ipaye, the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Presidency, stated that Niger Delta, being the world's third largest wetland, had immense potential to become an agriculture hub. According to him, ``Niger Delta remains a priority of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government. ``
He said that the theme of the forum; ‘Re-strategizing Development Concepts in the Niger Delta Region to Provide for Post-Oil Wealth Socio-economic Sustainability’, could not have been more apt, coming at the time of a global decline in oil revenue, especially in a country such as ours that has total dependence on oil for survival.
He regretted that the country’s over-dependence on oil was not only the cause of the downturn of the economy for now; it was also responsible for the emergence of redundant human resource base and high level of corruption. He said that it was at the root of agitations for resource control, particularly from the South-South. "For meaningful and sustainable development to take place in the region, citizens and stakeholders must be peaceful while curbing militancy and eliminating terrorism", Osinbajo said.
He stated that “the current government has already commenced work on the clean-up of the Ogoni area and other seriously affected communities. It will be our primary task to ensure that strategies are put in place to protect the environment as well as apply remediation measures to alleviate the impact in areas already polluted.”
Osinbajo also said that it was of utmost importance to improve and intensify socio-economic activities in the rural areas to ensure their well-being through agricultural and related rural enterprises, provision of access to markets and rural areas by improving road networks and value chain development.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Managing Director of the NDDC, Sir (Barr) Bassey Dan-Abia, said poor funding was a major challenge facing the commission. He explained that the commission was an intervention agency, not an alternate government, as wrongly held by some people.
He urged the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG) to commence the payment of its own contribution to the funding of the NDDC. He maintained that the NLNG fell within the oil and gas producing companies operating within the Niger Delta region and should take part in the funding of the NDDC.
The NDDC boss also appealed to the youths of the Niger Delta to strive towards the discontinuation of unnecessary restiveness and tension in the region to avoid the negative impact such social ills could have on the development of the region. "Youths should reduce the level of restiveness because NDDC does not have the capacity to solve all their problems,” he said.
In his goodwill message to the forum, the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, appealed to the NDDC to locate more projects in his state. The governor who was represented by his Deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, called for greater presence, especially in the area of people-oriented projects.