• Kachikwu says peace initiatives already improving oil production
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
In furtherance of efforts to entrench peace in the Niger Delta, the federal government, international oil companies (IOCs) and other stakeholders have kicked off a collaborative approach aimed at maximising resources for the sustainable development of the region.
In this regard, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Usani Uguru Usani, tuesday hosted a meeting comprising representatives of the governors of the oil producing states; the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; chief executive officers of oil and gas companies and their representatives; the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programming (PAP), Brig-Gen Paul Boroh, (rtd).
All the stakeholders agreed to evolve a common template to fast track peace and development in the region.
They expressed concern that in spite of the enormous resources deployed in the development of the Niger Delta region over the years, little development had taken place.
However, they traced the spate of abandoned projects in the region to the duplication of projects by various federal agencies, development partners and intervention agencies on account of lack of proper utilisation of funds and coordination.
In his remarks, Usani sought a common planning template upon which projects will be evolved.
“From the outcome of what we have been doing behind the scenes, and of course the result we got here, is that we should have a common planning template upon which project executions will be based.
“So, when the 2017 budget begins to be implemented, you will begin to see the results.
“We have agreed that we are going to have a framework for coordinated planning for development, which means we will as much as possible ensure that we eliminate duplications from all agencies of development in the region.
“So no one or no two agencies will be doing the same thing in a particular community whose threshold does not demand more than one functional performance in that sector.
“On this, we are excited that it is taking place because it would curb waste of energy and other resources, as well as engender confidence in the community in what we are doing; to believe that government is actually interested and committed to the development of the region,” he said
According to Usani, functioning independently as has been the case, had amounted to waste and a conflict of roles, adding: “We want to eliminate all these and be sure that every government as well as the partners in development are on the same page.”
He said the government, in its interaction with the European Union Support Programme on Weather and Sanitation, made it known that from the planning stages “we need to know or get involved in what they are doing”.
“So we can actually not over-concentrate in certain areas beyond their needs, while some others are left untouched and their demands not met at all.
“And then the NDDC that has come under us; we are already telling them that for their 2017 appropriation, they will need to bring it to us and let us sit together and be sure that between these agencies and themselves, we do not duplicate projects again,” he explained.
Responding to a question at the meeting, Kachukwu expressed concern that majority of the communities in the region had not felt the impact of the humongous amount of money deployed for development purposes.
He said: “What has happened in the past is stereotype, with a lot of money that has gone into these agencies, but does not get to these communities.
“Accordingly, we must be able to look on a year-to-year basis what capital projects across states can be developed, whether it is inter-regional or inter-state.
“So we are going to put that together and we are going to get the Niger Delta to actually chair that.
“And the whole idea is for everybody who is putting in money, so that if we say we need to do X development in the region this year, we can see where the money is coming from and people can see what we do.
“My greatest concern with this whole system is when you look at the analysis of $40 billion spent in the region for 12 years and nothing to show for it.
“So, such a development council enables us to pool resources together, pool concepts together and be able to identify what we need and will help NDDC in terms of its own credibility, because then you can point to what NDDC is doing.
“Because when you put in a lot of money and you have nothing to show for it, you are at pains as an oil company to explain to your community why they are not getting their fair share of NDDC projects and yet you put in your own contribution.”
Kachikwu explained that with the focus of the present administration, it was clear that the presidency is “very definite and very committed” to bringing peace and development to the region.
He noted that the recent peace overtures in the region were already yielding immense dividends, adding that oil production had risen from about 1.1 million barrels per day (mbpd) to about 1.9 mbpd currently.
Describing it as an incremental development, he called for more collaborative efforts and prayers by all stakeholders to entrench lasting peace in the region and called for optimism from all.