President Muhammadu Buhari says that the Federal Government is repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission and Amnesty Programme to ensure that they deliver on their mandates to develop the Niger Delta region.
President Buhari stated this on Friday while declaring open the fourth Meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The President, who was represented by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, observed that the Niger Delta region had suffered so much deprivation and thus needed a new deal.
“We are committed to changing the fortunes of the region to give the people a new lease of life,” he stated, adding that the government was addressing the challenges of under-development and insecurity in the region.
Buhari said the ongoing forensic audit of the NDDC was expected to reposition the Commission and galvanise it towards optimal development and provide the needed infrastructure for socio-economic development that the region so much requires.
He said further: “Due to the efforts and commitment of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, the new headquarters building of the NDDC, which had been on-going in the last 24 years, has been completed and is awaiting commissioning by my administration.”
On the status of the East-West Road, the President said: “The completion of the East-West Road, which is a priority to this government, has been handed over to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and I assure you that it will be delivered by the end of 2021 or the early part of 2022.”
In his own remarks, Akpabio harped on the need for harmony between the NDDC and the state governments in the Niger Delta region for the benefit of the people.
According to him, the disharmony between these critical stakeholders was caused by many factors, including political differences.
He advised: “Development should not be tied to any political party because what the people need is development, irrespective of political affiliation. Poverty and hunger have no political party.”
Akpabio agreed that the funds coming to the Niger Delta region were not commensurate with the level of projects on the ground, but stated that governments in the region should be held accountable for the 13 per cent oil-derivation meant to develop the oil-producing communities.
He advised those blaming the NDDC for all the woes of the region to look inwards and tell themselves the home truth, adding: “When stakeholders reach out to the NDDC for intervention projects and the Commission intervenes, that is not duplication of projects.
“State government should ensure that the 13 per cent allocation touches the lives of the people.”
Akpabio described the NDDC as an organization where everybody contributes, while it belonged to nobody, noting that there should be synergy between the Federal and the state governments.
He said: “If we ask why the NDDC has failed, then we have to look back.
“That is why President Buhari came up with the forensic audit to salvage the Commission and I think he should be commended for that.
“We have to know what went wrong.”
Earlier in his address, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, lamented that although the Niger Delta region was blessed with mineral resources, its people were living in poverty and underdevelopment.
Wike, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, said the National Council on Niger Delta should serve as a platform for the people of the region to articulate their needs and challenges.
He added: “With political will, we can overcome the challenges confronting the region, while we continue the struggle for the enthronement of true federalism in the country.”
The governor regretted the lack of collaboration between the NDDC and state governments in the region, calling on the Commission to work in concert with the state governments to ensure the greatest impact of projects and programmes for the people.