• Friday, May 24, 2024
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From militancy to ‘Militech’: How new initiative aims to boost prosperity in Niger Delta

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Militancy which brought global attention with some welfare programmes but negative image to the Niger Delta may now give way to what is called ‘Militech’.

This will give birth to nine technology hubs (tech hubs) in the nine states of the Niger Delta with centre in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

This is part of a new initiative from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which is pushing the ‘Holistic Opportunities for Programmes and Engagements’ (Project HOPE) in the oil region.

The scheme is said to be set to unveil other programmes including 900 hectares of land for massive agriculture, food processing projects, massive job placements (through internship, trainings), and establishment of music and arts centres.

Unveiling the full package of Project HOPE, the resource consultant, Fubara Blessing, told newsmen in Port Harcourt that his team created the concept of ‘Militech’ by looking at the information and computer technology field (tech).

Before now, he stated, around the world, “We were known as militants; it was like a nickname to us. We tried to find out why and realized it was a misrepresentation of our pattern and approach to agitation. We realised we could dedicate ourselves to a new activity and rebrand our perception globally. So, we coined a new name ‘Militech’, which is from arms to tech (militancy to technology). So, we are going to deploy the energy in militancy and channel it to technology and thus a tech hub.”

He said his team approached the Rivers State Government under Sim Fubara for partnership for the Militech scheme of ‘Project HOPE’. “The governor readily agreed and expressed a desire for youth development. He extended an olive hand to us and this gave us free access to the Rivers State ICT Centre opposite the Pleasure Park for use.”

He said the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) of the NDDC has approved this and from next week, they would commence pilot activities at the centre before they would spread to other centres around the nine states.

Blessing said: “We also have what we call ‘Desk For Entrepreneurial Development’ where we say, the season is gone where you ask people to write business plans. We have a database now. Let’s see what we are doing and support us genuinely. The MD has approved of this.”

Boost for SMEs

The consultant said Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) would dominate the activities aimed at turning around the economic fortunes of the youths of the oil region.

He said: “From next week, we shall commence a scheme where 370 persons would be supported at the rural level for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and 185 would be supported at the urban levels for SMEs. We believe that if we stimulate small-holder economic system, we should be able to hold the burden of hardship before we start doing long term sustainable projects.

“We also looked at internship and asked why we have not got it right. We keep sending people to companies that do not have responsibility. These days, we do not even find companies that need enough manpower to even send our people to. In the near future, artificial intelligence (AI) will take away more jobs.”

So, he said, if they must send interns, they must send those with proper responsibility. “So, we looked at the technical area. We looked at ongoing jobs such as the NLNG Train 7 and some others in fabrication. We looked at welders that the NDDC has so far trained over time. We penciled down some of them where we have already got access for us to send our interns.”

90 hotel managers to be recruited:

Blessing said a strategy to boost job creation in the hotel and tourism sub-sector is ready. “We also looked at the hospitality industry. We know that hotel management is a professional thing. Of course, no matter how much the hardship is, the hotels keep operating. So, we have approached the hotel owners’ association (HOA) for partnership. They have sent us list of their hotels and we are going to work with 10 hotels in each state. We are sending them one manager per hotel which will be 90 managers in the nine states. They will pay 50 per cent of the salary and we pay 50 per cent. We believe that this will be sustainable and will create jobs.”

Same method would be adopted in medical internship.

Quick impact projects eyed:

He said all of these schemes that were of quick impact were to kickstart in January 2024, but NDDC board inauguration issues intervened. He said there was need for the new board to review the plan. The board came in and looked at what the MD/CEO had planned and brought in experts and professors to look at it again. “In summary, we got a pass mark and the MD has approved it for implementation.”

He said the programmes have been explained to the various youth groups in the Niger Delta for action, saying support was key in the success of execution. He also said the projects were a fallout of the directive of the managing director/chief executive officer (MD/CEO) the previous week.

He said ‘Project HOPE’ is a product of engagement which emerged when the Samuel Ogbuku Management came in. “They decided to do peoples engagement from the different strata of the oil region to draw up the strategies they would use for implementation.”

They decided to use the ‘statement of the problem’ approach and found out that absence of reliable or concise data of the youths in the region for proper evaluation was an issue because there was no parameter for interventions on needs assessment.

“The major outcome of that meeting was the need to develop a system that would do qualification identification, needs identification, skills, interests, and passion.

“For this reason, we have launched the first Niger Delta Youth Database in the region. From the July 12, 2023, an unprecedented thing took place which placed the Niger Delta region ahead as the only region with a youth database. We immediately did integrity and credibility test-run of the system on August 12, 2023, which was to mark the International Youth Day (IYD). From this, we trained and deployed collation officers and supervisors across 185 local council areas of the region.”

Effort was made to create systems of support to help in the collation and the reasons for the project fundamentals.

He said review showed that the database was alarming and the MD of the NDDC immediately directed them to commence the Holistic Opportunity phase.

“We decided to break down into two phases: to have the Quick Impact Action that is sustainable. In this category, we selected five specimens that are very relevant for the youths.”

Agriculture:

In this segment, he stated, the issue had been that the Agric they have been doing is from farm to table, thus missing out on the food agro chain. “This means we can’t actually create employment; and food security and employment are not actually captured properly.

“So, we designed a system that looked at the terrain and resources of the region. We designed schemes for each state.”

States:

Rivers: Their projects include farm input programme that would come with processor directly with it. We decided to do a Cassava Farm and Offshore Fishing with a Tech Hub

Imo: We plan a Sugar Cane Plantation with Sugar Processor and a Tech Hub.

Delta: For Delta State, we want to do a Cassava Farm, an Automobile Village, and a Tech Hub

Ondo: For Ondo State, we are to do Dairy Production (with Butter and Cheese), Cassava, and a Tech Hub

Abia: For Abia State, we are doing Textile Market and a Vegetable Farm, plus Tech Hub.

Akwa Ibom: For Akwa Ibom State, we are doing Vegetable Farm, a Rice Farm, and a Tech Hub

Cross River: For Cross River State, we are doing a Poultry, a Vegetable Farm, and Tech Hub.

Bayelsa State: For Bayelsa State, we plan Plantain/Banana Plantations, Snailry, and Tech Hub for short term, then Aquaculture for long term.

Edo State: For Edo State, we plan a Cassava Farm, Cassava Processor project, and Tech Hub for short term; and a Furniture Village for long term.

Massive farming:

He said: “We did not only look at these projects and leave them to run but we looked at the fundamentals

“For the Agro projects, the key tenet is land; we looked at the size of land that would be needed (though we encourage small-holder farm system so they will be off-takers from the processing mill.)”

100 ha per state:

He said: “We went ahead to engage the communities and we can announce that we have secured 100 hectares of land in each member-state. With the MD’s permission, any moment from now, we start land-breaking and planting in May 2024.

Music & Arts:

“We all know that the Niger Delta is strong in the creative arts; and we are one of the most resourceful in Nigeria and Africa right now in that sector.

“We have looked at five skills sets: Music, Music production, Cinematography, Script & Movie, and Creative Skit Content.

“The MD has approved the Music and Art Creation for Niger Delta Youth which is to be launched this weekend.”

He said the scheme was to establish an industry in the region and create 27 ponds which they call ‘Brights of Niger Delta.’

He said the musicians would have industry standard sign-on fees with house, car, production sessions for two years, etc.

“The ones that produce will also have the same thing with equipment for continuous production in the region.

“What we regard as industry is the talent, which is backed with good character, and good character comes with production especially audio and visuals. It goes to exposure.

“Now, for talent we have, for character we can build, but for production, there are equipment that our youths here cannot afford.

“That is why, no matter how good you are, you must go to Lagos if you must succeed in the industry. This is to get a good mastering and production of your song. Now, we are buying these items of equipment.

“For others outside the pond we are creating, same to the cinematographers, same to the movie, just to see that there is an enabling and sustainable platform for the creatives.”

Answering questions, Blessing said they would establish the Niger Delta Music and Arts Project. “Now, we have plan to establish what we call ‘Industry Village’ or what some people refer to as film village. “It will be a complete place where you have movie locations, halls for major events, and aesthetics that a creative industry would need. We will get to that on the long-term plan of that music and arts project.”

PPP:

On budgeting and funding, the consultant said: “We know that the budget for every government agency is done annually and the process of ‘Project HOPE’ was designed on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model where we ask the NDDC that for every year, they will sponsor up to 30 per cent of what provision they have. From next year, 2025, it will now be put into the budget proper.

“We say for this year, for Agriculture, if they can help us to do production, that is land preparation and planting, we can go to our partners for funding of machinery and of course equity funding for the establishment of the farm. We have already signed with four partners for this. We also pray that organisations are listening. In as much as the MD has signed and has listening ear and has desire to make a difference, let those institutions that are responsible and are interested in the development and stability of the Niger Delta region also see the credibility of the work we are doing and allocate more funds to enable us own the project.”

Obstacles and action:

Blessing said they have identified three impediments hampering progress in the Niger Delta. “One is political interference. This is because politics decides who becomes the chief executive of the NDDC. Two is administrative will and competence. Even when politics decides and the MD is appointed, you have to face the question of whether the MD knows what to do. The third is merchants of misinformation. These are the people that would not want good things to work well just because it would not favour their interests (not interests of the Niger Delta people).

“We have pointed at political interference, and we say political action has got it right this time by giving us Ogbuku, Boma Iyaye, Victor Antai, and the rest of the board. Ogbuku was acting well with us in the former board for the socio-economic development of the NDDC. He has stood firmly and given huge commitment.”

“For the detractors, our word is, we are not from outside Nigeria. We are all here. This time, we must get it right. It must be good over evil.”

Conclusion:

He said the MD has approved partnership with the youth groups so the communities would be properly sensitized for proper collation of data to get more people to attend to so that they get people for practical implementation of the projects. This is to ensure the security of implementation facilities.

They have also announced a launch of Operation Identify the Detractors of Niger Delta Development’. “This is why we are doing it in partnership with the youth groups so that any dissenting voice that does not have any fact to show that can beat what we have on ground, ‘we must overshadow it’.

Some youth groups starting with Ijaw Youth Council spoke endorsing the message.

It is left to be seen if this will restart development in the oil region or not.