Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The European Union (EU) has said it was building a platform that would enable experts to address the challenges of maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea and specifically in the Niger Delta region.
It said it would invest in a multi-million naira programme that would focus on maritime security because the Niger Delta region was critical and strategic for not only Nigeria but the West African sub-region.
The head of EU delegation, Mr. Philippe Peyredieu, said this yesterday when he led a three-man team on a courtesy visit to the acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, at the commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.
He stated that: “Peace and security in the Nigerian environment affects the other countries in very significant ways. The NDDC is in a vantage position to drive development in the region because it lives with the people and knows them.
“Most of the tax and oil-related activities are done in and around the Niger Delta region. This makes it necessary for us to look at the security challenges that may hinder such activities.”
Peyredieu said the programme would cost several millions and that it would be difficult for the EU to shoulder all the responsibilities without getting the assistance of relevant stakeholders. He underscored the importance of collaboration and acknowledged the relevance of NDDC, which according to him, “knows more about what is happening in the Niger Delta.”
The head of the EU delegation said a more definitive conclusion would be arrived at after a stakeholders meeting scheduled to hold in Abuja next Thursday.
“We want all Nigerian stakeholders to be involved and to be concerned,” he added.
Peyredieu remarked that some legal issues would be addressed at the meeting to facilitate necessary reforms.
“The objective will be to have more prosecutions and ensure that people who are arrested and actually prosecuted. The idea is to make it easier to prosecute and enhance the process of evidence and intelligence gathering,” he said.
The NDDC chief executive officer, in her response, stated that the Niger Delta occupied an important place in the Gulf of Guinea, adding that the region is home to one of the largest wetlands in the world and Africa’s largest delta.
Semenitari said the
commission was always keen on partnerships because they serve as major vehicles for the achievement of its mandate.
She said: “The challenges that the Niger Delta faces are numerous. For us in the NDDC we have been thinking and talking partnership. The programme you are planning for 2017 is very important and this is a good time to plan. We are beginning to reach out to the communities to make inputs for next year’s budget. So, this is a good opportunity to begin to articulate the projects and programmes that would go into the budget.
“There are lots of benefits that could be derived from the region. It is not just oil. Whether you are talking about wetland or about the wealth in our waters, we have a lot that we can bring to the table. So, it is very important and strategic for us to ensure that we begin to firm up security measures in the region.”
The NDDC boss said the commission was delighted to work with the European Union on the issue of maritime safety, especially as it was its responsibility to engage in programmes that would aid the process of development in the region.
“It is our job to drive development in the region and protect it as well. So, we are eager to discuss the issues of maritime security with the European Union,” she said.