Daibo: Right Policies Can Attract Investments to Niger Delta

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Executive Director, Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta, Sam Daibo spoke with Eromosele Abiodun on the role of the foundation in ensuring equitable economic development in the Niger Delta, as well as the impact of militancy on the maritime sector, among other issues

The Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) is a Nigerian non-profit foundation established in 2010, tell us more about the organisation.

The Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta is a Nigerian non-profit organisation engaged in building partnerships for peace and equitable economic development in the Niger Delta. Our strategic priorities centre on economic development, peace building, capacity building, analysis and advocacy. We leverage our extensive local knowledge of the Delta, market driven approach expertise, access to market and peace actors, technical expertise, data resources and network of partners to bring real value to development in the Niger Delta.

Our readers would like to know some of your achievements as they relate to the goals you set out to achieve from inception.

Certainly; there are a few different ways to look at it-from a 10,000-feet point of view where you look at the sum of all that we have been able to achieve and the programme-to-programme perspective. Let me start from a 10,000-feet perspective.
In five years, we have completed successful pilots of over 20 different interventions focusing on empowering those we work with, with information, knowledge, technology to help them better deliver on their respective objectives. We are also catalysing new entrants into the region. To date, we have 511 organisations in our direct network – 406 of which are local, grassroots organisations.

These 406 local organisations also represent the pool of organisations throughout the region that have benefited from trainings to improve their institutional capacity and ability to deliver on their respective mandates. The Niger Delta was long deemed a no-go area for international development organisations to put in place any programs for reasons of safety and access to local organisations, but our presence has changed that. Through the presence of our Economic Development Centres first in Warri and in Port Harcourt, we have been able to provide the resources and security from which international development partners can foster needed collaborations for development.

That’s a key part of the reason we have been able to catalyze more than $92 million (N1,579,566,200) in new investment in both monetary and in-kind resources, as well as more than $730,000 (N123,300,000) in new loans for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from financial institutions in the region. So that’s the 10,000-feet appraisal. Let me give more programme-level achievements. Beginning from 2012, we worked with market actors to build three sustainable market systems that produce widespread, long term opportunities for the poor rather than dependency on donor funding.

Our interventions focused on aquaculture, cassava and palm oil value chain development and their access to finance and financial services. PIND’s partnerships with private companies in the cassava, palm oil and aquaculture value chains have allowed for increased access to local markets, while improving farmers’ agronomic, harvesting and processing practices. Our demonstration pond project has resulted in improved practices and profitability for over 3,000 farmers in the region since the pilot in 2013. Improved linkages with input suppliers have resulted in 10 new partnerships between farmers associations and private companies.

Our work on technologies to improve efficiency in production in agricultural value chains began in earnest in 2013, and there we targeted promotion of the mechanical adjustable harvester to reduce climbing to harvest palm fruits and the small-scale palm oil processing machine to increase efficiency and improve quality of palm oil. 592 farmers are now using the mechanical adjustable harvester to increase their output to 140-200 bunches of palm fruit in six hours without the dangers of climbing, improving profit by 30 per cent as a result.

So confident are PIND’s private company partners that they on their own have committed resources to our interventions by fully covering costs of inputs such as herbicides and fertilizer in the cassava demonstration pilot project, fish feed in the aquaculture demonstration pond project and demonstration of harvesting technologies in the palm oil pilot project. Private companies understand that these projects improve their access to markets, while farmers get better inputs and profitability -a win-win.

It wasn’t until 2014 that we figured out how to effectively support small businesses in the Niger Delta. Thankfully we always start small with pilots and increase the reach and resources of our work when we find out what works. After some trial and error, we now work on a model based on thorough diagnostics to identify specific market opportunities and the related constraints impeding the Small and Medium Enterprises ability to competitively address the opportunities, and then facilitating targeted customized capacity building activities that would enable them to exploit the opportunities. By supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs, we have seen an increase of business revenues in excess of N132 million and creation of about 73 new jobs.

Starting small and taking the time to figure out what works also served us well with our work on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). We took a unique approach to WASH in two ways: we established targeted intensive pilots in specific communities and interweaved entrepreneurship into the pilot by training social entrepreneurs close to communities where the filters are most useful to promote, sell, build and fix locally-made bio sand filters. These filters are made with locally-available materials and can filter up to 99 per cent of water impurities.

In addition to the filter making clean water more affordable and improving the health of households from better access to clean water, our empowerment of social entrepreneurs aimed to ensure local buy- in and ownership, which is key to long-term sustainability. Between the pilot in 2013 and 2015, the simple water filtration technology has been adopted by 270 households, and is driven by the 21 local social entrepreneurs we trained to promote it. With recent partnerships with organisations like Rotary Club International and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), we hope to continue making strides in improving WASH in the region.

We also launched the Partners for Peace (P4P) Network, a network of peace builders in each of the nine Niger Delta states, in August 2013. This network grew from 120 to 3,800 members by the end of 2015. The skills we impart to these peace actors enable them ease conflict in communities, and the working groups we organise has given them a platform to exchange ideas and network. We expect the Network to grow to 138,760 members by 2020, and will continue to empower local actors to build peace, a necessary pre-condition for economic development.

What is the relationship between the Niger Delta Development Forum and PIND?
We started the Niger Delta Development Forum (NDDF) in 2012. NDDF is a key part of our analysis and advocacy programmes, which focus on knowledge sharing and providing data for Niger Delta development to support evidence-based development approach in the Niger Delta.

Quite early on in our work, we noticed that one of the things that was missing in the region is an avenue whereby different stakeholders in the region can share information, understand what others are doing that is working and not working, and even provide an avenue where state and federal level government officials can hear directly from key stakeholders in the Niger Delta on economic development issues affecting them. By creating a multi-stakeholder forum like this one, we help foster the kind of collaborative environment that we believe is important for the Niger Delta to succeed.

To truly have the kind of far-reaching impact you need to have, you need to have as many people feel a sense of ownership of the Forum and a willingness to take on some of the policy recommendations.

This is why we were quick to open NDDF up and include partners in the planning of the forum. In fact, the 2016 forum was the first in which a state government -Imo State in this case -worked with us and our partners on planning. Because the Forum takes place towards the end of the year, it is easy for many development partners to come away from it with ideas to follow up on with their programs in the coming year, and we have found it gratifying to see the influence NDDF has had in influencing economic development practice in the region. Additionally, by partnering with international donor organisations who have economic development in the Niger Delta as part of their mandate, we make it easier to reduce replication and possibly even build on ideas that have been found to work elsewhere.

The Nigerian economy is in a recession following the decline in oil prices and militant activities are rising meaning that government revenue is becoming leaner. What is the way out for Nigeria?

We need to raise awareness on the long-term impact of destruction of national assets. I think awareness is key because when you attack national assets you are not just harming government’s ability to make money, you are also harming Nigerians’ ability to access power, endangering the employment of those whose job it is to maintain the pipelines, and diverting government funds that could potentially have gone to investments in other things to rebuilding these key infrastructure. Rising militancy hinders investment, both local and foreign. Stakeholders in the region must demand for peace and an enabling environment for investments. You cannot ask that government spend our money better, then destroy infrastructure that we already have -it is counterproductive and helps no one.

An organisation or a company that ordinarily would have done business in the country may decide not to because they perceive the region as not stable. What we need to do is have this awareness of the impact of militant actions so that we do not cut our noses to spite our faces. We must come together and address issues peacefully and bring stability to the country, so that we will develop economically. If we do not attract the investment to develop our economy, we will continue to see anger and frustration, which will then fuel even more militancy. What we have currently is a vicious cycle that we must stop.

Militancy in the Niger Delta is also affecting the maritime industry as ships, sailors are regularly kidnapped for ransom. What is the best way to resolve this problem? Also, poverty, neglect and underdevelopment are some of the problems fueling the Niger Delta crisis, what immediate steps can the government take to resolve this?

Poverty and underdevelopment are symptoms of a larger malaise we have in this country with respect to governance and creating an enabling environment, and even developing policies that actually address the challenges before us and not make things worse. This is why we emphasise evidence-based policies in our advocacy work at PIND.

In the Niger Delta Development Forum of 2015 that held in Asaba, we discussed the importance of inclusive economic development, and how we must ensure that our economic policies work for all regions, all Nigerians including youth and women, all aspects of value chains, small and large businesses. Bringing all stakeholders to the table and developing policies that make life better for all will go a long way towards stabilising the country and fostering peace.

Peace is the key to addressing poverty and underdevelopment, because no progress can happen without it. Just like every other asset, you must create stakeholders for peace. We must foster a peace that we all see as in our collective best interest. When you’ve got peace and stability, and we have policies that work for the benefit of all, we can attract investment and begin the work of rolling back poverty and underdevelopment. These things go hand in hand.

Why is it that the focus of the NDDF is on ‘Self-Sustaining Development in the Niger Delta: Narrating and Showcasing a Re-imagined Niger Delta?

We chose the focus out of our awareness of the goings-on in the region. I don’t need to tell you that the Niger Delta states are experiencing crises on many fronts – politically, economically, socially, and environmentally. The collapse of global oil prices has taken its toll the hardest on the nine states of the Niger Delta, resulting in the re-emergence of violence by new militancy groups. It is fair to say that there has been little headway in forging a firm way forward for the region, in spite of some efforts from the federal and even some state actors.

In order to create a way forward, though, we must first re-imagine a possible future for the region. We have to do this by changing the narrative of the Niger Delta to include one that focuses on: inclusive citizen participation in governance; governance that practices transparency, accountability, and effectiveness at the forefront; economic diversity championed by state governments and executed openly; and, of course, peace. How do we move the region in this direction, towards action and accountability on the part of all stakeholders, not just government? At NDDF, we asked some foundational questions that got to the root of these, and included Niger Delta stakeholders from state and federal government, civil society, and private sector.

What do you want to achieve with this programme?

The NDDF just finished and we’re still doing post-event surveys so I can’t say just yet what the programme achieved, but the hope is that NDDF helped shape awareness and shared understanding among stakeholders on the critical steps needed to move the region towards a re-imaged Niger Delta. We are also hoping to see an increase in actionable opportunities for sustainable development initiatives and activities in the Niger Delta region and facilitate commitment of key actors (government, private sector, civil society, donor community) through dialogue, collaboration with diverse stakeholders and ongoing engagement activities with various partners for more inclusive pro-poor development initiatives in the Niger Delta.

What is next after this?

The NDDF is not just about the two days of the forum that is just to bring people together to spur needed action. The most important thing is what happens afterwards, and I am excited to see what partnerships follow this edition. Following previous NDDFs, we have seen BRACED Commission progressed some of the agriculture and investment policy recommendations directly with the commissioners of the six states they are mandated to work in; Abia State Government organized their own Forum, like ours, this time on Aba Urban Development; and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) MARKETS (Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises) II programme provided equipment support to women and youth farmers in Cross River and Delta States addressing the constraint of access to finance. And that’s just some good examples as to what NDDF has helped achieve.

Following this forum, we are evaluating the responses to the forum to see what really resonated with people, and keeping up with civil society and international donor partners on their key takeaways. We are also closely working with our partners and monitoring for any follow-on actions and partnerships that occurred as a result of the forum. We will take on some of the recommendations ourselves, and reach out to various partners as we plan for 2017.