A former Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Chief Timi Alaibe, has said he is confident that if efforts are stepped up to restore relative peace, safety and security in the Niger Delta, the nation may not resort to huge external borrowing to fund the 2017 budget.
“We really may not have to resort to heavy external borrowing to fund the 2017 budget once the right steps are taken by the administration in the Niger Delta,” Alaibe, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), said yesterday in Abuja as a guest on THISDAY Live, a breakfast show on Arise Television.
He blamed the continuing restiveness in the Niger Delta on the glaring failure of successive federal government to follow through with the Niger Delta Master Plan that was commissioned by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and executed by the NDDC while he served as the commission’s Managing Director.
“There is really nothing new to be said about the situation in the Niger Delta. All that needs to be said and all that we need to do and where we need to do them are succinctly captured in the Niger Delta Master Plan,” Alaibe said, adding: “If you have massive infrastructure, if you have good roads and bridges to open up the Niger Delta, you will not have the recurrence of incidences of militancy in the region.”
According to him: “After President Obasanjo left office, I had the opportunity of briefing President Yar’Adua severally on the Master Plan and parts of the briefing led to the Amnesty Proclamation and the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the Niger Delta. Unfortunately, Yar’Adua died and the processes were not followed through after his death.”
The former NDDC boss said the Amnesty Programme derailed when the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan curiously stopped at the implementation of just one of its component.
He explained: “What you refer to as the Amnesty Programme today was originally designed to have five broad areas of focus, namely: the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of ex-agitators who accepted the offer of amnesty; there was the infrastructure development component which was supposed to address the huge infrastructure deficit in the zone; there was the environmental remediation component, which was to address the much needed clean up of communities that have for decades suffered pollution and other environmental challenges stemming from the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas; there was an aspect that was supposed to help work out ways communities can have stakes in oil and gas exploration and production and of course aspects of the original amnesty package offered communities the opportunity to gainfully participate in pipeline surveillance and protection. The opportunities were huge but the past administration implemented just the DDR component.”
He, however, lauded the efforts of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to prioritise the restoration of sustainable peace and development in the Niger Delta.
“I commend the on-going peace and fact-finding shuttle of the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to states and communities in the Niger Delta,” Alaibe said, adding: “It is a very good thing and it is an indication that this administration is keen on working with leaders of the region to implement the 16-point agenda for the Niger Delta submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari late last year.”
The N7.2 trillion 2017 budget, currently being considered by the National Assembly, is largely predicated on oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day and on an oil price of $42 per barrel.
Energy experts, however, worry that this projection may be a far cry given that for most of 2016, Nigeria did not produce up to 2 million barrels per day due to the restiveness in the Niger Delta.
Like most leaders of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Alaibe believes that the commencement of the implementation of the 16-point agenda submitted to President Buhari would mark a remarkable change of situation in the Niger Delta.
“What is needed is sincerity of purpose and the peoples trust would be easily earned,” Alaibe told Arise TV.