Although there are some achievements, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani, who prefers the prefix ‘Pastor,’ cannot lay claim to realising much of the dream programmes he envisaged for the region, writes Ndubuisi Francis
His Political Foray and Controversies
Since 2003, Usani Uguru Usani had thrown his hat into the ring, contesting the governorship seat of his native Cross River State. Each time, he did, mother-luck had remained reluctant to smile at him.
In the desire to govern, 2019 was not an exception. In deed, his contest generated several issues as the All Progressives Congress (ACP) in Cross River State became factionalised, with one of the factions accusing the minister of working against the party and causing its massive defeat during the general elections.
But his reaction to these allegations were simply that they were not strange to him. In an interview with a national daily, he had said: “You can cross-check everything I am going to say because they are verifiable. From 1999 to 2015, I have had reason to dine with the PDP. It was a political fallow season.
“You will probably be surprised to hear that when I contested for governorship in the opposition in 2003, there was an attempt in broad day light to assassinate me and I ran out of the country to return after two years. At that time I was asked to join the PDP and contest for the senate but I declined.
“In 2012, when I contested against the PDP candidate, offers were made to me and I declined. If you talk to Cross Riverians, they know us by character. So, when I had a political fallow season, I did not accept overture from them, what will now attract me now as minister? If for 16 years, I declined everything that tended to be offered to me, now that I am minister, what do I intend to gain? Is it that if I support them, I will become president?
“This is a crafted blackmail intended to decimate my reputation. Thank God as journalists, you have the capacity to verify what you get or the information you receive.”
Programmes for the Niger Delta
Since his emergence in 2015 as the minister overseeing the Niger Delta Affairs, the ministry has not recorded a quantum leap. The flagship project—East-West road is yet to be completed in spite of several assurances to evolve innovative funding initiatives to ensure completion.
Only last month, the minister told a delegation from oil and gas producing areas in the Niger Delta that the federal government had approved N100 billion to complete sections 1-4 of the critical project.
One of the minister’s achievements was to bring the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) under his ministry’s supervision.
Empowerment Programmes/Skills Acquisition Centres
Although the minister executed a couple of empowernent programmes for women and youths in the region, most of the skills acquisition centres he inherited from the previous regime, especially in the South-east are yet to be completed.
In 2016, the minister unveiled a lot of initiatives, which looked wonderful on paper. Some of them included common economic and communication projects for all the oil-producing areas. Among them was a fibre optic project. The dream projects which were unveiled with funfare in Akwa Ibom State with some governors in attendance, suffered death before arrival.
The same fate also befell a proposed trust fund for the region. Alhough the minister did not divulge much information on the proposed trust fund, it was configured in a way that donor agencies, international oil companies (IOCs), local and multilateral international financial institutions and corporate entities would contribute to a pool of funds that would be deployed in developing the Niger Delta.
Usani however oversaw a technical audit report of projects from the ministry’s inception and how funds were frittered away.