• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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NCND: Moving beyond meetings to implementation of resolutions

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A two-day meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta (NCND) has ended in Asaba, Delta State capital with the stakeholders going home in anticipation that things would henceforth change for the better for the region and its people.

The meeting which was the sixth edition, with the theme, “Stimulating Strategies for Economic Growth and Development in the Niger Delta Region, was attended by stakeholders from the nine states of the region.

The states are Delta the host, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross Rivers, and Ondo State.

The council meeting was held by the Ministry of Niger Delta Development (MNDD) in collaboration with the Delta State Government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

At the end, memoranda were submitted and resolutions reached on especially on the ways to end the underdevelopment of the region by putting the right developmental infrastructure that the people could be proud of, as region that contributes greatly to the economic development of the country.

The major issues that vibrated from the meeting held at the Government House, Asaba was the need for the federal government, the MNDD and the NDDC to complete all abandoned projects in the region and embark on and execute new ones.

The representatives of the states want the seaports in the region to function to boost the economy of the region and country at large. They want the refineries to work to enable local production of crude oil rather than importation. They want quality road projects even with emphasis on the East-West Road projects that had been under construction for years on. Their needs stretched to agricultural to health and to educational sector amongst others. They want the impact of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to be felt in the region.

They made huge demands people aimed at transforming the lives of the people and the entire region.

Some kicked against projects like solar street lights saying what they want is functional power plants and stations that guarantee 24-hour supply electricity supply to homes and businesses for better life.

Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo believes that such projects as solar streetlights have been jamboree projects through which funds were being siphoned for years. The projects, he said litter the region as abandoned projects.

Kingsley Emu, the Secretary to the Delta State Government had highlighted the economic opportunities and challenges as well as potentials abounding in the region in areas like tourism, agriculture, crude oil deposits, gas reserves, Information Communication Technology. (ICT) and other physical infrastructure developments like the coastal super-highways that is expected to begin in Lagos through the coastal states of the Niger Delta to terminate at Calabar and stress the need to tap it them to develop the region.

But beyond the potentials and opportunities are issues of abandoned projects in the region. Government is a continuum but when it comes to successive administrations completing projects the projects inherited from their predecessor(s), it becomes a very big issue. From national to regional and to states even to the grassroots.

Thus, the co-host of the meeting and Governor of Delta State, in his address, changed the interventionist agency in the region, the NDDC to complete all abandoned and on-going projects.

“Indeed, the existence of the NCND recognises the interdependent nature of economic and political systems and the value of regional approach to economic development.

“Economic diversification is key to our growth aspirations. Hence, I welcome ideas on how we can reposition our agricultural economies and invest massively in critical social and economic infrastructure.

“I also expect this meeting to develop the blueprint for a more robust and effective public-private partnership to accelerate industrialisation in our various states.”

He said that urgent steps needed to be taken in addressing the protracted problems of poverty, unemployment, and inequality in the region which he said are hydra-headed.

“By far the biggest challenge confronting us is the ugly spectre of youth unemployment, with the attendant effect of youth restiveness. The region boasts of a vast army of jobless young graduates, a clear and present danger to our collective peace and security.

“Urgent interventions are, therefore, needed to get the youth productively engaged. While the various states in the region have embarked on youth entrepreneurship development programmes, there is a compelling need for the Federal Government to work closely with the states to develop sustainable youth engagement programmes

But Samuel Ogbuku, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NDDC, defended the commission, saying it had recorded successes without the past administration telling their success stories

The past administrations of this commission recorded success but failed to tell the story hence the public believed the wrong information against the commission.

The commission he said intervenes in provision of basic amenities and projects that touch the lifestyle of the people. But the major setbacks included the unlimited roles assigned to the commission as well as instability in the reconstitution of the commission’s leadership.

While saying that the commission has introduced a system that provides data base for transparency and accountability, the MD said more youths would be trained and more projects embarked upon but said there is need for partnership.

He said the commission has provided the basics for the people and is currently building roads that link up the communities in the region.

Yes, Johnson Oseodion, the Director, Public Private Partnership Research Development, in his paper presentation, sounded it clear to the people that government has no business doing business but can only provide enabling environment like good road networks etc.

To bridge the infrastructural investment gap in Nigeria requires $3 trillion over the next thirty years to build and maintain infrastructure and where will you get the money? he queried.

Thus, according to him, what is required is the adoption of the Public Private Partnership, PPP model in energy, transport, agriculture, ICT, water and mining amongst others.

He also listed various types of PPP that could be used for project execution and implementation rather than people depending solely on the government.

President Bola Tinubu, represented by Abubakar Audu, the Minister of Steel, while declaring the meeting open, said he was aware of the challenges facing the region.

He said that concerted efforts were being made by his administration to transform the region including the completion of the East-West Road, building of local refineries among others.

The theme of this meeting is appropriate as it will stimulate proper coordination of developmental programmes and projects in the region.

According to him, the focus of the NDCN was in tandem with the cardinal objectives of his administration which is adequately enunciated in the Renewed Hope Agenda document

“May I reiterate that the Renewed Hope Agenda encompasses much more than driving economic growth in Nigeria. It is also about creating jobs, improving education, healthcare and reducing poverty, and building a more just and equitable society for all Nigerians. It is expected to bring succor to all citizens of Nigeria in these difficult times,” he said.

He also called on all stakeholders to key into the theme and ensure maximum deliverables are attained.

The Minister of Niger Delta Development, Abubakar Momoh, collaborated the president’s stance when he admonished, “As critical partners in the region, all hands must be on deck to sustain development, peace and security, support government intensified efforts to stop Oil theft and illegal bunkering, in order to increase revenues for greater impact in the region.

On our part as government, we are doing everything possible to improve on the gains and lessons of the past, towards positively transforming the country and the Region. In this direction, we have identified the need to harness the enormous potentials and investments of PPP in our developmental stride.

In line with the policy, the Ministry is implementing a Maritime Transportation System under the PPP funded arrangement and I have ensured financial backing in the 2024 Budget for the effective take-off of the ferry services as part of the implementation phase.

It is therefore appropriate that the ministry and major stakeholders seek more collaboration with Development Partners and other relevant Organisations in the formulation and implementation of the programmes that will develop the region.

Belgore Shuaib, chairman Technical Committee, and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Niger Delta Development, had recalled that one the major setbacks

The 5th meeting of the NCND held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State wherein it was agreed that the council Implementation Task Team should be constituted but the team was yet to be inaugurated for some obvious reasons, he lamented.

The 6th meeting of the council has also ended with memoranda submitted and resolutions made so that through the council’s blueprint the region would move to a higher level of development as desired by the stakeholders.

Charles Aniagwu, Delta State Commissioner for Works (rural and riverine areas) who is known for his proactiveness in whatever he does would want the technical committee and the council NCND act their words. That way, the citizens of the region will begin to believe in them. The people want feel the outcome of the resolutions implemented.