Governor Godswill Akpabio
Akpabio advises against Niger Delta Ministry, NDDC merger
By Ndubuisi Francis
The Niger Delta Action Plan, a collaborative framework to develop the oil-rich region is to pool an estimated $10 billion for investment within the next five years in addition to another $200 million (N3.2 billion) through a new development funding vehicle, Multi-Stakeholder Trust Fund.
The (MSTF) received the backing of the federal government at the inauguration of the National Council on Niger Delta, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State at the weekend.
According to the policy document, the MSTF is to address underfunded and high impact activities within the Development Results Framework of the Action Plan.
The Niger Delta Action Plan, which is a collaborative development strategy of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other global development partners, is meant to effectively address development needs in the region through a coherent framework, anchored on effective coordination and implementation.
The Plan is to run between 2013 and 2017.
Inaugurating the National Council on Niger Delta at the weekend, President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, enjoined stakeholders to latch on the prevailing peace to unleash development in the region.
Government's endorsement came as the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, advised against making the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) a parastatal of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, contrary to suggestions from some quarters.
Jonathan, said the government was endorsing the Multi-Stakeholder Trust Fund, towards creating development partners and stakeholders.
"The mechanism will assist the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to more effectively coordinate development resources from different stakeholders, in achieving the intended objectives," Jonathan said.
While chronicling the various phases the region has passed through from militancy, amnesty, and a resolve by the government to develop the region, which has ushered in peace, Akpabio said it was time to capitalise on the prevailing peace and development frameworks to push forward a new dawn in the region.
"When we work together, we are better able to unleash our creative potential in optimising our huge human and natural resources for the stability of the Niger Delta, and the good and progress of our country, Nigeria," he said.
The president recounted how the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua adopted the amnesty programme as a firm and durable response to the security challenges in the region.
According to him, the programme did not only pave the way for the disarmament and demobilisation of the militant groups, but also offered a window for their economic and social reintegration into the society.
"In the short run, these measures have helped to improve the security situation in the region and enhance oil production and development activities. Indeed, government has leveraged the prevailing peace to support efforts aimed at bringing permanent succour to every person living and doing business in the region," Jonathan said.
Jonathan noted that in spite of the positive momentum, the region remains vulnerable to threats, adding that the government was relentlessly building on “this firm foundation with great determination and commitment.”
“We consider it a priority to sustain the consolidation of the current security situation in order to deepen the very foundations of durable and mutually beneficial peace. This is achievable if we forthrightly and with articulation address the development challenges facing the region, and feelings of exclusion and neglect of its people,” the president said.
He stated that this had been the administration’s foremost objective in the development of the Niger Delta Action Plan to complement the specific commitments contained in the amnesty programme.
“This plan is also of great relevance for its concrete, comprehensive and coherent programme of investments in the social and infrastructure sectors of the various communities in the Niger Delta. The enthusiasm that met its recent presentation at the Stakeholders’ Conference, is an encouraging indication of joint purpose,” he said.
Meanwhile, Akpabio has advised against merging the NDDC with the Niger Delta Ministry, even as he cautioned youths and communities in the region to desist from making outrageous demands before allowing development projects in their areas..
“I want to state categorically that the independence of the NDDC, with its provisions to allow Niger Deltans head the commission is a welcome development. Such cannot be said of the ministry at the federal level. As the president has the right to appoint any person as supervising minister of a given ministry irrespective of tribe, he continued.
“What will happen if a minister who does not share the same passion with late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua or President Jonathan is appointed to saddle the affairs of this ministry?, the governor asked.
‘‘Even the National Assembly will not fail to put the NDDC budget together with that of the ministry, while strongly condemning and protesting that we are given preferential treatment. It will cause very heated debate where it will be argued that no ministry should for any reason be allocated mouth watering budget than its counter-parts’
“… Let us ensure that our region is left on the path of development by allowing the NDDC lay its independent role of developing the land which lays the golden egg. No amount of development can ever be too much . Yes, development may come from the Federal Executive Council through the ministry, but I will advise that we should also allow it come from the NDDC as a commission,” he advised.