On Tuesday, March 22, 2017, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere, met with representatives of former militant camps as well as youth groups from the nine oil producing states in the Niger Delta region led by Israel Eshanekpe, aka “General” Akpodoro. Addressing the representatives, Ekere, who identified himself as…

On Tuesday, March 22, 2017, the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere, met with representatives of former militant camps as well as youth groups from the nine oil producing states in the Niger Delta region led by Israel Eshanekpe, aka “General” Akpodoro.

Addressing the representatives, Ekere, who identified himself as a youth, said that NDDC was committed to the economic empowerment and development of the youths and other people of the Niger Delta.

He hinted that the commission would soon set up a specialised Niger Delta Development Bank (NDDB) for the youths and other people of the region to access funds, while assuring that the terms would be friendly.

The NDDC boss stated that the modular refineries, which would be established in communities in the Niger Delta region would go a long way to better the lives of the youths and other stakeholders.

Ekere disclosed that investors consider the region as unsafe, thereby relocating from the region, and admonished the youths to give peace a chance and shun criminality.

He called on the youths and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta to protect assets of the Federal Government and oil companies in their communities, thereby supporting Nigeria’s economy and put an end to recession.

The NDDC boss, who also admonished all Niger Deltans and other Nigerians to continue to support President Muhammadu Buhari and his government, insisted that the administration had done well for the Niger Delta, and meant well for the people of the region. He said the administration is committed to the real transformation of Nigeria.

Ekere said, “NDDC was set up by the Federal Government to address the problem of underdevelopment of the Niger Delta region. In addition to developing the physical infrastructure of the region, the NDDC will develop the human capital in the region. One of the key areas of the development is the young people.

“The major reason for the meeting with the youths is to rub minds and agree on a sustainable economic empowerment for youths of the Niger Delta. When we talk about empowerment, it is not about giving money.

We will not give you fish but we will teach you how to fish.

“The NDDC has been mandated by the Federal Government to work out the framework with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, so that youths of communities in the Niger Delta will be empowered through the establishment of modular refineries.”

He said for Niger Delta youths to be taken serious, they must emulate the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) on acceptable and recognisable leadership. PANDEF, led by a former Information Minister, Chief Edwin Clark, is coordinating all the elders and leaders of the region.

Apparently worried by the rate at which youths, including physically-challenged ones blocked the gate of the corporate headquarters of the commission in Port Harcourt to beg for money, Ekere said it was not proper and urged the young ones to be properly organised, in order to adequately benefit from the various empowerment programmes.

The NDDC boss said, “The major problem that we have had since we came on board is how to address and talk to youths of the Niger Delta region. Many ‘Generals’ have been calling me on this and that and it has been difficult to know who government should talk to on issues concerning the youths.

“Why can’t we in the Niger Delta agree on a proper youth structure that government can always talk to, when matters on youths of the region come up? Even armed robbers have leaders. Why can’t we have an acceptable structure through which we can engage the youths?

“PANDEF has provided the acceptable structure and platform for elders in the Niger Delta region to be organised and we commend them for that. The youths should borrow a leaf from the elders.

“We need to do things differently. There is need for enduring and sustainable development of the Niger Delta. We will continue to improve the capacity of the youths, with emphasis to be placed on ICT and agriculture. Let us make the Niger Delta safe for investors to come back. Without peace and active private sector, sustainable development of the Niger Delta will be a mirage.”

To Chief Fred One, a representative of youths from Delta State, who spoke on behalf of the youths, the lack of acceptable platform was the greatest problem facing the youths of the region.

Obe, who lauded NDDC’s managing director for the initiative, disclosed that Niger Delta youths had agreed to operate on the platform of Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators and Youth Leaders’ Parliament, while assuring that the youths would give peace a chance in the region, but called for adequate empowerment.

In an effort to prepare the ground ahead of the meeting with the group, Ekere, had after an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo in Abuja, given contractors handling its projects across the Niger Delta region, 30 days to return to site in order to complete the projects or face prosecution.

The NDDC boss said, “A list of such contractors is being compiled in all the nine NDDC states and defaulters would be prosecuted.”

He stated that it had become imperative to fast track the on-going audit of projects awarded in the region, in line with government directives and one of the planks of the new Governing Board’s 4-R Initiative, which is aimed at restructuring the balance sheet of the Commission and determine poor performing projects.

Ekere declared, “It is important for our contractors to realise it can’t be business as usual. President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to change how government business is conducted and everyone must wake up to that reality.

“But beyond that is the fact that we owe the Niger Delta region and our people the duty to implement and complete these projects, in order to facilitate sustainable regional development. This is a necessary process to ensure that things are done properly, how they ought to be done and when they ought to be done.”

The meeting was also attended by ministers of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Environment, Niger Delta and Information and Culture, as well as Ministers of State for Petroleum and Environment and the Presidential Amnesty Office.

It reviewed the 20-Point Agenda of the Petroleum Ministry with regards to the Niger Delta, as well as the Amnesty Programme and the 16 point demand of the Pan Niger Delta Forum.

Ekere said, “It was important to consolidate the agenda with that of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, as well as the blueprint of the state governments, the amnesty office and the NDDC master plan in order to roll them into one workable plan.

“We are all going to initiate quick-win projects that would give a sense of involvement to government’s approach to handling issues that would impact the people. We will organise frequent town hall meetings with all stakeholders and collaborate in building sustainable economic models for the communities of the Niger Delta.”

The NDDC boss disclosed that other decisions taken at the meeting was the need for the Commission to work with the Ministry of Environment and NOSREA to facilitate the Niger Delta clean-up of affected areas of oil spill, working on a time frame, as well as encourage IOCs to provide more power to their host communities, beyond working with PHCN and DISCOs.

He said, “Satellite mapping will be used to identify polluted areas in the Niger Delta and a comprehensive plan of action adopted to ensure regional clean up. This is important, because we must ensure that we safeguard our environment and give our people the opportunity and enabling environment to pursue our predominant traditional livelihoods.

“Agriculture and aquaculture are keys to facilitating sustainable development in the region, particularly as we seek alternate productive socio-economic activities beyond oil and gas. This is a future we must all work to safeguard.”

But, in a swift reaction, contractors handling NDDC projects across the nine states in the region, kicked against the marching order from the commission to return to site within 30 days.

According to the President of NDDC Contractors Association, Joe Asia, it was unfortunate that the commission had not thought of how to clear huge debts owed contractors before coming up with the marching order.

Adia said the new board of the commission had not even met with contractors of the commission to know their plight before coming up with the marching order.

He stated that  many of their members had died as a result of the huge debt owed them by the commission for projects executed, adding that some members of the body had lost their properties to banks due to unpaid loans used to execute jobs for the commission.

The contractors’ leader said, “The better approach is for them(NDDC) to have a meeting with us. We are the victims. We want to have audience with the management. Contractors are dying because they have not been paid for jobs. They are sick. They are losing properties to banks.  Since the last board by Mr Dan Abia there has been no mobilisation for contractors.

“We have to be heard to know the reason why contractors are not on site. If you owe us so much money and you are asking us to go to site,

to do what? If you can’t meet with all the contractors meet with the executives of the association.”

Continuing,  Adia said they were disturbed that  the commission was awarding fresh jobs  when there are several abandoned projects all over the region due to challenges of funding.

Source:Nigerian News from Leadership News