- Niger-Delta Leaders Reject FG’s $10bn Development Package
Ahead of their meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, tomorrow, strong indications emerged, yesterday, that elders, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta Region have rejected the Federal Government’s move to launch a $10 billion (N4 trillion) infrastructural rebirth investment programme in the area.
The multi-trillion naira programme is part of the Short and Medium Term Priorities to Grow Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry (2015 to 2019), tagged the ‘7 BigWins’, a new initiative of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Dismissing the proposal as a blackmail since there is no money to fund it, the Niger-Delta leaders said it is imperative to tell President Buhari that they are rejecting the move because it is private sector-driven with the aim of dragging the government into it.
“At the end of the day, other Nigerians will say why complain when you have $10 billion and the money is not there in the first place. If the companies have such money, they should pay the money owed the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, rather than blackmail the region with such money,” they said.
These are part of the issues that would be raised with President Buhari tomorrow. These were also some of the resolutions at the end of a meeting held at the residence of the convener, Chief Edwin Clark at his 43, Haile Selassie Street, Asokoro, Abuja in the wee hours of Saturday.
Clark, a former Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South leader, will lead about 46 traditional rulers, elders and leaders drawn from the academia, civil society, freedom fighters and ethnic nationalities of the six South-South states to meet President Buhari tomorrow.
The leaders said it would be blackmail for the people of the Niger Delta as they were not consulted before the decision was taken and announced, adding that the people should have been carried along and their inputs obtained because they know the problems of the region.
Canvassing a bottoms-up approach instead of a top-bottom strategy, the leaders noted that the people of the region are suffering from oil exploitation, while mining is going on in the North without anyone harassing the people.
Let Maritime varsity remain, no to polytechnic
The elders also urged President Buhari to jettison moves to change the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Gbaramatu, Delta State to a polytechnic, against the backdrop that the government did not consult with the people of the region.
The region is also seeking for a special Marshal plan for the Niger Delta, review of the amnesty programme and the need to have a ministerial department that will always be a platform for discussion by the people of the region.
Leaders to meet Buhari
Expected at the parley are the Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwoli; Obong of Calabar, Ekpo Abasi – Otu V; Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Major-General Felix Mujakperuo, retd; first Military Governor of old Rivers State and Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass, King Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff; and His Royal Majesty, Pere Charles Ayemi-Botu among others.
Also to attend tomorrow’s meeting are former Akwa Ibom governor, Obong Victor Attah; Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, Professor G.G. Darah, Chief Timi Alaibe, Ambassador Godknows Igali, Alabo Tonye Graham-Douglas, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, Chief TKO Okorotie, Hon. Justice Francis Tabai, High Chief Mike Ekayama Loyibo, T.K. Ogoriba, High Chief Wellington Okirika, Chief Justice CET Ayama (retd), Dr. Alfred Mulade, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, MOSOP leader, Ledum Mitee, former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke; Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo; Brigadier Gen. Idada Ikponmwen, Senator Rowland Owie, Tony Uranta, Chief Dan Ikpebide and Senator Bassey Henshaw among others.
Agenda for meeting
The elders and leaders at the meeting will engage the President on the need for Justice, equity, fairness, confidence-building and consultations with Niger-Delta people prior to taking decisions on their problems.
Other issues to be raised at the parley include the need for restructuring the country and the zone; implementation of the 2014 National Conference report, the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, appointments of board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC where membership must reflect oil producing areas, and the need to perfect the protocol of memorandum of understanding, MOU on the ceding of Bakassi, because if not addressed, the people of the area stand the risk of not having a country. The problem in Gbaramatu with military allegedly harassing the people would also be presented before the President. After tomorrow’s meeting, the elders and leaders will ask for an executive session with the President where meaningful discussions would take place.
Niger-Delta now speaks with one voice – Clark
In his remark at the meeting, Chief Clark, who noted that the issue of not having representatives to negotiate with government for Niger Delta people was gone, saying the people are ready for negotiation. He said if there were issues, the meeting will not be the last, adding that the people are one family, though they are from different communities.
The elder statesman, who stressed the need for unity of purpose, said the people were not fighting the President but wanted government to carry them along.
His words: “We are going to ask for justice, fairness and equity. We are going to tell him that he should dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta and that the use of force is not and cannot be a solution to the Niger Delta crisis.
“He is our President. We will pledge our loyalty to him. We will congratulate him on his election because this is the first time we are seeing him as a people since he won. We are not going to be submitting any long list of demands to him, but we will let him know the need for him to carry the people of Niger Delta along in his government. They should take us as a people who are part of Nigeria. We are not separating from Nigeria.
“It is obvious that the country requires true federalism to move forward. We will tell him that and that is the same thing other parts of the country are asking for. If there is true federalism, we will not have a case of states not being able to pay salaries or maintain themselves. Those (states) that cannot stand on their own will join others.
“Of course, we are going to talk to him about the need to develop Niger Delta. The problem is not lack of ideas on what should be done, the Mitee Technical Committee Report on Niger Delta in 2009 and others are there; the problem is lack of political will to develop the region.”
One group for all of N-Delta
Before the Saturday meeting, Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders, to enable them speak with one voice, came up with a position against those who they accused of using divide and rule tactics against the region. They decided to fuse all the separate groups into one umbrella body, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PNDF.
The groups included the Pan-Niger Delta States Consultative Forum, led by Clark, the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group, NDDCG, led by King Alfred Diete-Spiff, and a new group that was facilitated by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi. Other groups that collapsed into the PNDF were the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas, HOSTCOM, Initiative for Peace, Governance and Development, South-South Consolidated Forum among others.
University status not affected – Kachikwu
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has cleared the air on the apprehension that erupted, weekend, in the Niger Delta, over purported downgrade of the Nigeria Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, to a polytechnic, saying the Federal Government’s action does not affect the status of the institution as a university.
The people of Gbaramatu, speaking through one of their leaders, Chief Godspower Gbenekema and spokesperson of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr. Eric Omare, yesterday, hit the roof over alleged downgrading of the institution from university to polytechnic.
Kachikwu, who is facilitating the meeting of Niger Delta leaders with President Buhari, tomorrow, said “The status has not changed; I said with the facility in place now; we can start a campus version of the university on a polytechnic level until we build up.”
It’s objectionable – Omare
IYC spokesperson, Mr. Omare, in a statement, said: “The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide rejects in its entirety the proposal by the Federal Government to downgrade the Maritime University, Okerenkoko to Higher National Diploma awarding institute under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (MPR).
“This proposal which is contained in the Niger Delta and Security column of the ‘7 big wins’ initiative by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and launched by President Buhari on Thursday, the 27th of October, 2016 in the Presidential Villa is totally unacceptable to the Niger Delta people.
“There is no single justification to downgrade the Maritime University, Okerenkoko which is an existing university by National Universities Commission (NUC) records under the Ministry of Transportation to an institute under the Ministry of Petroleum. It is unprecedented for an existing university with degree awarding status to be downgraded to an institute.
“This move also demonstrates that the Buhari government is not sincerely committed to resolving the Niger Delta crisis despite efforts by stakeholders of the region to support the government as this unpopular and anti-Niger Delta decision was reached without consultation with the people of the region.
“The insincerity on the part of the Federal Government is capable of escalating the already volatile situation in the Niger Delta despite the efforts of leaders and stakeholders of the region.
“The insincerity of the federal government is further buttressed by the much publicized $10bn intervention fund for the Niger Delta. The way and manner government publicized this intervention fund would seem as if the fund would be released instantly to start the development process, whereas it is a 10-year initiative with no guaranteed source of funding. All the identified sources of funding are vague and unpredictable without stakeholders’ input. Therefore, the IYC regards this effort more as a propaganda strategy by the Federal Government rather than a genuine effort towards the development of the Niger Delta region.”
It’s ridiculous, insulting – Gbenekema
Chief Gbenekama, the Ibe Benemowei of Gbaramatu kingdom, who spoke on phone from Abuja, said: “It has come to our knowledge that on October 27, 2016, the Federal Government launched a book entitled ‘7 Big Wins to grow the oil sector,’ as presented by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu.
“Among these ‘7 big wins’ is the issue of Niger Delta and Security. Under Niger Delta and Security, we discovered that one item is the Okerenkoko Maritime University. In presenting the decision of the Federal Government, Dr Ibe Kachikwu stated that the Ministry of Petroleum has taken over the issue of Okerenkoko Maritime University and that the government had decided to reduce the Okerenkoko Maritime University, which was a degree awarding university to a polytechnic that will award OND and HND.
“This presentation was sanctioned by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. As critical stakeholders and immediate host to the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, we find this presentation and plan annoying, disturbing, disgraceful, insulting and dehumanizing.
“The issue of the Okerenkoko Maritime University was supposed to be a pre-Niger Delta, Federal Government parley agenda, which was part of the low-hanging fruits that the Federal Government was supposed to deal with to build trust before the Niger Delta leaders and Federal Government discussions and signpost that government will be serious with the discussions, but to our surprise, without consultations, the government has gone ahead to take a decision reducing the university to a Petroleum Ministry- run polytechnic that would award OND and HND certificates.
“Whatever would have gone wrong with the maritime university that made the Federal Government to reduce the status to a polytechnic is what any serious minded Niger Deltan and Gbaramatu man in particular cannot understand. For avoidance of doubt, we reject this plan of the Federal Government.
“We are not good enough to be educated, our areas is not good enough to be developed, both infrastructural and human capital development, which is the reason the federal, through its militarization policy of the Niger Delta has rendered all our primary and secondary schools ineffective. The height of it is to cancel the Maritime University which the immediate past administration sited at Okerenkoko with take-off campus at Kurutie in Gbaramatu kingdom,” he said.
Militants continue bombing despite Buhari’s meeting with N-Delta leaders
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, NDGJM, a militant group in Delta State, went ahead with destruction of oil facilities in Niger Delta region, weekend, despite the meeting tomorrow, between President Buhari and Niger Delta monarchs, leaders and stakeholders in Abuja.
The group, in a statement by self-styled General Aldo Agbalaja, yesterday, said: “At about 23:30 hours of Saturday, October 29, in furtherance of the Operation Hammurabi Code, our Akuma Strike Team struck and brought down the 32-inch Effurun-Otor delivery line.”
In the statement, entitled: “This is not ending soon, we shall fulfill our promise of uprooting your entire assets in our land,” the militant group said:
“We are reiterating our unflinching belief that the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, being coordinated by E.K Clark is a job and, therefore, can never get our support.
“Like we said before now, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate is not opposed to a genuine dialogue between the Federal Government and real representatives of the various nations of our region.
“We are collecting names from the nations in the region, those who will sincerely and equitably represent our various peoples,” he added.
FG Approves $11.17B To Link Coaster Cities With Standard Gauge Rail Line
On Wednesday, the federal government of Nigeria approved $11.17 billion for the construction of rail line to link all of Nigeria’s coastal cities in six years.
According to the minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the funds was approved by the cabinet at their meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Mohammed said that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, presented two memos which had to do with Federal Government’s commitment to expanding and consolidating on the rail project.
“The first one has to do with the Kano-Jibia rail and the other one has to do with the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail.
“Actually, what was approved today was funding to ensure that work starts immediately on those two rails.
“And then, also another memo that was approved today was the ratification of the president’s approval for the award of contract for the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Standard Gauge.”
He said the project was an old project which was inherited by current administration.
Mohammed said that under the former administration, approval was given but nothing was done.
“Today, the council has given approval to commence the Lagos-Calabar Coastal rail.
“This particular route is very important because after the Lagos-Kano route, this Lagos-Calabar Coastal route actually will link all the coastal cities in the country.
“Actually, the proposed route alignment is as follows; it will go from Lagos to Sagamu, Sagamu to Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Ode to Ore, Ore to Benin City, Benin-City to Sapele, Sapele to Warri, Warri to Yenogoa, Yenegoa to Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt to Aba, Aba to Uyo, Uyo to Calabar, Calabar to Akamkpa to Ikom, Obudu Ranch with branch lines from Benin-City to Agbo, Ogwashi-ukwu, Asaba, Onitsha and Onitsha Bridge and then Port Harcourt to Onne Deep Sea Port.
“This particular route is very important especially for our coastal economy; the cost of the project is $11.17 billion,” he said.
According to him, the project is expected to be completed in six years.
The African Union Commission and TRAFFIC Sign a MoU to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade and Support Development
Protecting Africa’s wildlife from unstainable and illegal harvest and trade and the contribution legal trade and use can provide towards livelihoods and development of Africa’s people is at the heart of a newly signed Memorandum of Understanding between TRAFFIC and the African Union Commission (AUC).
Under this agreement, the parties will collaborate to support the African Union Member States’ policies for environment, wildlife management and trade, and conservation and recognise that wild flora and fauna loss affect African people’s livelihoods, especially during post-pandemic recovery. It acts as a framework to combat the illegal exploitation and trade in Africa’s rich wildlife with a joint goal of protecting flora, and fauna on land, wetlands, and marine ecosystems.
The Memorandum of Understanding is a significant step towards implementing the African Union’s Wildlife Strategy and was signed by Her Excellency Ambassador Josefa Sacko, AUC Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) and Steven Broad, TRAFFIC Executive Director.
On the occasion of the signing, the MoU, H.E. Amb. Josefa Sacko, AUC Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) states: “For the African Union, this is an important MoU for the safeguarding of Africa’s wild biodiversity. We are looking forward to deepening our already great collaboration with TRAFFIC and are welcoming TRAFFIC’s technical support and policy which stems from its evidence-based experience, on how to keep the use and trade of wild-harvested flora and fauna at legal and sustainable and levels, and on how to best combat any illegal trade and overexploitation threatening our biodiversity.”
“We are committed to improving the sustainability of Africa’s wildlife, environment and legal trade to support national economies and local development across the continent alongside the African Union Commission. It is a promising and welcome step towards sustainable wildlife trade in Africa” said Richard Scobey, Executive Director for TRAFFIC.
With 45 years of experience, a global network of expertise and ongoing projects in the field, TRAFFIC will provide the AUC and its Member States with the latest evidence-based technical guidance to implement sustainable natural resource strategies that support national economies and local community development. Existing TRAFFIC projects like Reducing Illegal Timber Exports already work with communities living adjacent to forests with the legal knowledge and tools to reap the rewards of legal, sustainable forest management.
Additionally, TRAFFIC’s growing portfolio of work with private sector companies along the supply chain including e-commerce, transportation and financial sector companies directly support common interests and sustainable development agendas. TRAFFIC will also collaborate with and support the African Union Commission in the effective implementation of the Green Recovery Action Plan, providing support especially to the ‘Biodiversity and Nature-based Solutions’ component.
On the international front, TRAFFIC will also assist the AU and its Member States to prepare for and build relationships at multilateral summits such as The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These crucial meetings can be informed by holistic and pioneering methods like the Trade in Wildlife eXchange (TWIX) platforms in Central, Southern and Eastern Africa to support the elimination of the illegal trade of Africa’s fauna and flora. At the same time, other international TRAFFIC behaviour change projects work across the globe to reduce demand for illegally and unsustainably harvested wild fauna and flora at the end of the supply chain, whilst supporting choices for wildlife stemming from sustainable and legal sources.
H.E. Amb. Josefa Sacko continues to express: “The AU is further looking forward to co-operating with TRAFFIC in preparations for key multilateral and bilateral fora, such as for example for CBD and CITES, as well as for the environmental components of the Commission’s frameworks and partnerships. We hope that African negotiators participating at such fora can be better capacitated.”
We also welcome TRAFFIC’s commitment to collaborate with and support the Commission in the effective implementation of the Green Recovery Action Plan, providing support especially to the ‘Biodiversity and Nature-based Solutions’ component to which we can bring considerable technical expertise and international experience.”
Existing intergovernmental relationships between the AU and the Member States allow coordination with the relevant ministry departments and other government sectors. In a post-pandemic world, not only will this be vital for conservation and development but will enable sound and evidence-based responses to zoonoses-induced threats stemming from wildlife trade.
Oyo Begins Training of 3,300 Youths in Agribusiness
The Oyo State Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the CSS Global Integrated Farms in Nasarawa State to train 3,300 youths from the state on agriculture and agribusiness.
The state governor, Seyi Makinde, made this disclosure at the Stakeholders Consultative Meeting on the 2022 Budget, noting that the move is part of measures being taken by his administration to address the challenges of youth unrest and youth unemployment.
He equally explained that the state government’s decision to reconstruct the Oyo-Iseyin federal road was borne out of the need to prevent the state’s investments in the Fashola Agribusiness Hub from becoming a waste as a result of lack of road access.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, quoted him as explaining that the training will have 150 participants per batch and that the first batch is to begin training this week.
“I am happy to tell you that we just signed an MoU with CSS Farms in Nasarawa State to assist us in training 3,300 youths in agriculture and agribusiness.
“The training will last two weeks. The first set will start on August 1, and there will be 150 participants for every batch. By the end of August, we would have trained 600 of them.”
Governor Makinde, who stated that his administration will do everything to ensure that youths in the state are meaningfully engaged, said he has also instructed the local governments to set up Direct Labour Agencies, which would absorb the youths to engage in minor construction and other works.
He said: “Our youths have to be meaningfully engaged and we will continue to strive. What I asked them to do in each local government is to set up a Direct Labour Agency, in which a certain amount of money will be earmarked for them every month.
“They will be the ones to be doing culverts, fixing street lights, channelisation of drainages and we have an arrangement with the local government chairmen. As soon as we put the new cabinet in place, I assure you that whoever becomes the new Commissioner for local government matters will drive the process.”
The governor equally said that his administration has been investing heavily in sports development in order to take youths off the streets, saying the investments in the Lekan Salami Stadium and other sporting facilities will soon pay off.
“Some of us have talked about our troublesome youths who are disturbing the peace of our environments because they have nothing doing. This is why the Oyo State Government has committed resources of about N6bn to remodel the Lekan Salami Stadium, not only for football but for other sporting activities.
“We have to be patient with the government so that we don’t lose focus. What you are doing at the community level and what we are doing at the state level, what we need to do is to consolidate, which is the only way we can develop the talents in our communities. We should not relent.
“So, I also want to urge our local government chairmen and chairpersons to develop their programmes to ensure they utilise the sports facilities we have put in place.”
While stating that the state is set to flag off the Oyo-Iseyin Road once it obtains the written approval, Governor Makinde said: “I went to Abuja to meet with the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola. We are hell-bent on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Oyo-Iseyin road even though it is a federal road.
“This is because we are investing a lot of money in the Fashola farm estate there. If we don’t fix that road, all of that money will go to waste.
“I am happy to report that the Minister was gracious and has given his verbal go-ahead. He asked us to come with the document and it will be signed.”
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