The Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has commended the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, for adopting a pragmatic approach in addressing the urgent and daunting task of developing the Niger Delta region.
Akeredolu was speaking at the Second National Council on Niger Delta organized by the Ministry of Niger Delta in conjunction with the Ondo State government at the International Centre for Culture and Events in Akure.
The Governor praised the NDDC for re-appraising its approach and focusing on a few key projects that would be completed expeditiously, noting that by setting its priorities right, the Commission would be able to effectively address the issue of abandoned projects.
Akeredolu recalled the history of development interventions in the oil producing areas and commended efforts made by past administrations to transform the physical and economic landscape of the region.
According to him, the past engagements had yielded positive results, even if marginal. “We must, however, not fail to mention the glaring facts of grinding and relentless poverty which has been the lot of the region,” he said.
He lamented that gross infrastructural deficit, security challenges in the Niger Delta, stating: “This region presents a cruel paradox; the entire country depends on it almost entirely for sustenance. It, however, lacks evidence of development depicting its status as the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg.”
In his keynote speech, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, described the Niger Delta as a unique region with many challenges. He noted that the region did not need sympathy, stressing that what was required was action to improve on the lives of the people. “This is not optional,” he declared.
He assured that President Muhammadu Buhari would ensure justice, peace and equity for the people of the Niger Delta, adding that the region deserved to benefit from its immense natural resources.
He remrked: We have-invigorated the NDDC to make it more effective. It is re-assuring that the Commission is now putting pressure on its contractors to deliver on on-going projects. He specifically recognized the efforts of the Chairman of the NDDC Governing Board, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba and the Managing Director, Mr. Nsima Ekere, in driving the development process in the region.
He re-stated the resolve of the Federal Government to support the building of modular refineries in the Niger Delta, noting that many of the licenses given for the refineries had expired, while the owners were still sourcing for funds. He added: “We have released the guidelines for the refineries and we are committed to it. We expect the state governments to work with the local communities to make the efforts successful.
The Vice President announced that the Federal Government had approved N2 billion for the take-off of the Maritime University in Okerenkoko Delta State next month.
Osinbajo, called on stakeholders in the oil sector and oil producing areas to make effective use of the proceeds from oil to develop their immediate environment, saying the world is gradually moving away from oil.
He said that many countries of the world were developing alternatives to oil, saying: “The future of oil is in decline, which is why it is the duty of all stakeholders to explore all the opportunities now and to ensure the government is not constantly battling with the security of the pipelines. We should use the resources to develop other potentials of the region.
“Many of the countries in Europe have set deadlines for phasing out cars using hydrocarbon,” he said, adding that the development meant that the value of Nigeria’s crude oil would continue to diminish.
The Vice President, therefore, charged the stakeholders to join in finding an alternative to oil, noting: “We should use the oil resources to develop other potentials of the region and it is the duty of this council to provide that road map for the future.”
Osinbajo stated that the clean-up of Ogoni land was on course. “If things appear to be slow, it is because we are taking time to lay the right foundation. The exercise is not just for Ogoni area, it is about the entire Niger Delta,” he said.
In his address, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Ugurru Usani, said that the summit was a major platform for the Federal Government to make policy decisions on sustaining productivity and other relevant operations in the nation’s oil sector.
Pastor Usani said that the conference with the theme: Fast-Tracking the Development and Peace in Niger Delta, was aimed at finding lasting peace in the Niger Delta States.