Ogoni Clean-up: Why HYPREP matters

By Joseph Kpoobari Nafo

Recently a Non-Governmental Organization, Environmental Rights Action, ERA/Friends of the Earth Nigeria – through its Executive Director, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo – called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to scrap the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation, HYPREP. With all due respect, I am surprised that a learned person like the good doctor – an expert who is knowledgeable about the science behind environmental remediation/restoration processes – should come up with such a misplaced demand.

HYPREP is not averse to constructive criticisms that can add value. However, ERA and its boss know that the commencement point of a standard remediation exercise does not start with visually impressive, crowd-pleasing deployments of earth-moving equipment to sites. ERA knows that fairly lengthy and low-profile routine preparations – delineation and scoping, for example – need to be undertaken first. Or is ERA asking us to ignore best practices and do a substandard job for the long-suffering people of Ogoni, whose lands, swamps, surface and under-ground water have been massively polluted for decades? Does ERA not share our view that Ogoni people – whose health and livelihoods have been seriously damaged – deserve a modus operandi that will deliver sustainable results? In other words, ERA telling HYPREP to turn a blind eye to proper procedures and go straight to the actual clean-up is a disservice to the people of Ogoni whose welfare it claims to be concerned about.

The UNEP report was submitted to the Federal Government in 2011, but left unimplemented until 2016 when President, Muhammadu Buhari decided to put it on the front burner. And HYPREP has, since then, diligently and doggedly worked towards actualizing Mr. President’s vision for Ogoniland. If something is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well and HYPREP is carefully managing a complex and time-consuming process that cannot be concluded overnight.

Let me assure doubters that no day, week or month has been wasted – and that significant progress has been made – since HYPREP Project Coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil, enthusiastically embraced this challenge.

We are currently at the scoping and delineation stage and have advertised for companies to do remediation, carry out health impact studies and provide potable water for impacted Ogoni communities, in accordance with the procurement law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We now have to wait for that process to tail out because we cannot afford to breach the law. Complying with extant laws should therefore not be seen as delaying the process or lacking capacity to drive the clean-up process, as ERA is alleging.

As for ERA’s insistence on a name change, let me paraphrase William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and ask, “what is in a name?” Does a rose not smell the same whatever you call it?  It is true that the UNEP report advised the Federal Government to establish an “Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority.” But this nomenclature was just a suggestion and the Federal Government chose another equally appropriate name, HYPREP. At any rate, all that really matters is what the clean-up vehicle does and achieves; and ERA’s focus on name-changing is trivial and diverts attention from more important matters.

The pollution in Ogoniland is only a microcosm of the environmental devastation in the Niger Delta region and in the wisdom of the Federal Government an eventual success of the Ogoniland clean-up would be used as template for the remediation of the rest of the region and in that case an Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority will not be appropriate at that point. The same reason the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC is not named after individual communities that produce oil but given a generic name after the region. ERA failed to explain to the world how a mere change of name will in itself fast-track the Ogoniland clean-up and thus its position is but a fallacy.

ERA also falsely claimed that the Federal Government was not “following the recommendation of the UNEP report” and did not have “the political will to commence the clean-up of Ogoniland.” But ERA’s claim lack merit.

It must be stated categorically that the Federal Government showed the needed political will to flag off the project in 2016 and followed it up with the setting-up of governing structures (Governing Council, Board of Trustees and the Project Coordination Office) to superintend the affairs of the project. In the same vein,  it also included the administrative cost of the project in the national budget for 2018?

The President personally inaugurated the Governing Council and the Board of Trustees. What other show of political will on the part of the Federal Government does ERA wants to see to believe that the administration of President Buhari is committed to the implementation of the UNEP report on Ogoniland?

Again, if ERA lacks “confidence in HYPREP”, its pessimism is not shared by all Ogoni people. On 3rd August, 2018, several Ogonis – from all walks of life – gathered at HYPREP’s second Stakeholders’ Forum in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which was televised live. Many pledged their support for the project and the process and only pleaded that local Ogoni contractors should be considered in the award of contracts. Land is scarce and precious in ogoniland and if communities willingly donate large portions to the project as they have done, then, there could be no further testimony of support and confidence in HYPREP than that. ERA’s submission is also not the position of the United Nations system (UNITAR, UNOPS, UN Environment, WHO) or the position of International Development Partners such as the Department for International Development, DFID that are closely cooperating with HYPREP.

ERA says “HYPREP cannot do the project because they lack the machinery and they do not have the capacity to drive it.” Is that not deliberate misinformation intended to discredit HYPREP or what is called “give a dog a bad name to hang him”? Is HYPREP expected to have the machinery to do the work or to award contracts to competent contractors with necessary technical know-how and the facilities to carry out remediation, health impact studies, livelihoods training and provision of potable water for impacted communities?

Now it is abundantly clear that ERA’s call for the disbandment of HYPREP is ill-conceived and anti-Ogoni.

ERA threatened that “CSO’s are planning protest against HYPREP.” But they miss the point. In implementing the project, the Federal Government adopted a multi-stakeholder approach where Ogoni community, International Oil Companies, Niger Delta Community, the nine Oil Producing States and Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, all have roles to play.

The Governing Council is chaired by the Honourable Minister of State for Environment, Mr. Ibrahim Usman Jibril, who has demonstrated capacity and competence in piloting the affairs of the project. Meanwhile, Chief Wale Edun, an accomplished financial expert, is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees; while the Ogoni community is represented on the Governing Council and Board of Trustees by Prof. Ben Naanen, Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara, His Royal Highness, Chief Bebe Okpabi, and Dr. Peter Medee.

Other distinguished members of the Governing Council include Prof. Roselyn Konya, the Rivers State Commissioner for Environment, Retired Permanent Secretary Dr. Timiebi Koripamo, Pamela Esiri, the National Security Advisor and the Ministers of State for Petroleum Resources, Budget and National Planning and Niger Delta Affairs.

Civil Society Organizations like ERA are also represented on the Governing Council and Board of Trustees by Barrister Anyakwe Nsirimovu and Nnimmo Bassey respectively. Shell is an active participant and UNEP plays an observer role. With a powerful team like this supporting HYPREP’s determination to forge ahead and fulfill the dreams of the Ogoni people, failure is not an option.

HYPREP remains focused on the clean-up of Ogoniland and will not be distracted by unfounded criticisms.

 

Niger Delta New Vision workshop: Partnership for regional development & nation-building: A Reporter’s Diary

By Jahrock Ujewe

The Agenda for Niger Delta New Vision media workshop held on August 2, 2018 at BON Hotel in Warri, Delta State, was different from another workshop I had attended prior to that day. Apart from focusing on the Niger Delta region, it brought together representatives from media houses and Civil society Organisations (CSOs), and offered them the opportunity to deliberate on government’s development efforts in the region. For critics, who had the perception that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was not doing enough for the region, it was an eye opener for them, as some of the gains made were unveiled in the course of the session.

One startling moment at the workshop was when the current Vice Chancellor of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State, Prof. Maureen Etebu, presented a paper on the journey so far at the institution. Contrary to the general misconceptions about the school, Prof. Etebu began her submission by saying that the university has fully commenced academic operations, and most importantly, the recently concluded recruitment exercise to fill vacant positions in the institution was done with uttermost sense of merit and credibility. This was an eye-opener for me and some other media representatives present, as the Vice Chancellor further disclosed that the Maritime University will be holding its first matriculation ceremony in October.

If the Maritime University, which currently has about 300 pioneer students, holds successfully its first matriculation ceremony, it will put to bed the negative reports about the current government’s interest towards the take-off of the school and it will definitely be a plus to its desire to ensure the government is a continuum, in terms of inherited projects and project implementation.

Due to the existence of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta region, there has been calls for government to look at alternative means to exploit these activities for economic gains. It was really interesting to know that the present Buhari administration is responding now, thereby showing its commitment to the environmental well-being of the Niger Delta region. The Technical Assistant to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources on Refineries and Downstream Infrastructure, Mr. Christopher Ilukhor, while delivering a  on Modular Refineries, noted some gains recorded so far. As part of the Niger Delta New Vision, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has licensed some modular refinery operators to commence operations. Two of such refineries are being constructed in the region.

Participants were shown pictorial evidence of the level of work done at one of the modular refineries in Kwale, Delta State. This refinery would soon commence operations and it would create some substantial amount of quality jobs for Nigerians. This is clearly a departure from the past, where promises were made but not fulfilled.

My experience at the workshop will not be complete, if I do not talk about the break out session on the role of the media in communicating the Niger Delta New Vision.

Among other things, the Niger Delta New Vision is about the progress and stability of the region. This breakout session for the media, anchored by Philip Jakpor, sought to correct the negative impression created by the usual narratives in the media about the Niger Delta.

I must admit that a section of the media has portrayed the region as being hostile to investors and other agents of meaningful development. While the Niger Delta has been subjected to exploitation and underdevelopment, the need for balanced reportage was adequately stressed. Putting the region in the right perspective in news reports will not only attract investors, but guarantee sustainable development and stability.

The workshop deservedly came to an end with the Senior Special Assistant on Economic Matters, in the Office of the Vice President, Mr. Edobor Iyamu, saying that the Niger Delta region is perpetually in the eye of the Federal Government, noting that the Buhari administration remains determined to implement its developmental plans for the region. That says a lot.

As a media professional, I am ready to partner with the government on the Niger Delta New Vision towards a prosperous region by setting the agenda right in my reportage.

Development and Infrastructure in the Niger-Delta: Fruits of Buhari – Osinbajo’s Stabilizing Interventions

By Chukwudi Enekwechi

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has become famous among Nigerians for gainfully using the powers of his office to advance the socio-economic agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. For example in the heat of the Niger Delta crisis when militants resorted to blowing up oil installations, which crippled the country’s economy Professor Osinbajo took up the gauntlet and waded into finding lasting solutions to the problems in the Niger Delta region.

His interventions as manifested in his engagement with the Niger Delta leaders under the umbrella of Pan Niger Delta Forum led to the acceptance of dialogue by the Niger Delta agitators who eventually dropped their arms and saved the country from a total economic collapse and perennial restiveness in the region.

While it clear that some demands of the Pan Niger Delta Forum have not been fully implemented by the federal government, yet we see an obvious commitment on their part to fulfill most of their obligations to the Niger Delta region, and Professor Osinbajo is at the helm of seeing all these come to fruition. His inclination towards the maintenance of peace in the region has helped to stop the incessant interruption in the production and exploration of oil as a result of militancy, thereby improving the country’s economy and development.

In finding solutions to the problems confronting the region he has adopted some pragmatic approach, and the results are visible to all Nigerians. The reopening of Maritime University Okerenkoko in Delta state and establishment of modular refineries resonated well with the people and stakeholders of the region. The setting up of the modular refineries is a practical solution to the degradation of the region’s environment traceable to oil exploration.

Gladly the Buhari/Osinbajo administration is committed to the environmental remediation of the region as exemplified in the start of Ogoni clean-up programme.

The various empowerment programmes of the federal government which are targeted at supporting the youths of the region to lead useful lives have helped to provide the youths with gainful employment. In addition, the impartation of knowledge in various skills to the youths has played an important role in enhancing the productivity of the companies and other public institutions in the region.
The strengthening of the capacity of the Niger Delta Development Commission to deliver maximally on its mandate has raised the tempo of development in the region, especially in the area of infrastructural development and improvement in living standards.

As Nigerians continue to applaud Professor Yemi Osinbajo for his proactive leadership style, especially in the latest sacking of the director general of Department of State Services, Mr. Lawal Daura for acting ultra vires in the security siege at the National Assembly, it is discernible that the duo of Acting President, Professor Osinbajo and President Muhammadu Buhari are determined to bring succour, not only to the people of Niger Delta but to all Nigerians.

His timely intervention in bringing the National Assembly siege to a stop played a significant role in restoring the confidence of Nigerians to the security agencies, and reemphasised that rule of law remains sacrosanct in Nigeria.

Enekwechi is an Abuja based Journalist

“Ogoni Clean Up is well on track”

By Kpobari Nafo Joseph

The attention of the Management of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP has been drawn to separate publications in The Guardian Newspaper of 6th August, 2018 with the titles, “Niger Delta Leaders, Stakeholders Decry Slow Pace of Ogoni Cleanup” and the Guardian editorial, “What’s delaying the Ogoni cleanup project”, respectively. While we appreciate the writers and stakeholders behind the op-eds for raising some genuine concerns over the Ogoniland clean-up, as well as the people of Ogoni for their understanding and cooperation with the Project Coordination Office of HYPREP; we equally want to put the records straight on other issues brought forward in the reports as HYPREP is making crucial and final preparations for the remediation of polluted sites in Ogoniland.

The report stated that the Federal Government only contributes a paltry N20 million in the 2018 spending plan for the clean-up and that it translates to breach of covenant with the environmentally embattled people of Ogoniland. This is not the case, as the said N20 million is only an administrative cost to be borne by government and not part of the remediation funds. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other International Oil Companies (IOCs) are the contributing partners to the initial $1 billion for the clean-up project. As such, the issue of breach of covenant does not arise.

The other issue raised was the alleged slowness in implementation two years after the project was flagged off. What many persons know, including experts, but are not willing to admit is the fact that the Ogoni clean-up project is first of its kind in Nigeria in terms of scope and complexity and unlike what was done in the past for a clean-up that lacked detailed remediation plan and a variegation of remediation technologies to treat contaminated soil, underground water and swamp, the assessment that recommended the Ogoniland clean-up was carried out by an international body, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and so its implementation must of necessity meet international standards.

What we have done in the last 15 months is to follow those procedures and processes as recommended by the UNEP report and are now at the terminal stage to enter the field for remediation. What we do not want to do as a project is to sacrifice global standards on the altar of speed to get momentary commendation that cannot stand the test of time. A little more patience with us and we will get there.

It is gratifying to note that the Guardian editorial Board rightly noted that the Federal Government is “expected to create an Ogoniland Restoration Authority distinct from all existing institutions, create an environmental restoration fund, co-ordinate multi-stakeholders efforts and oversee institutional as well as regulatory reforms.” It also noted that “As part of government’s duty, President Buhari has since approved the setting up of a Board of Trustees to commence the process of implementation and also a Trust Fund to finance the programme.”

As stated above, we have done this and more in the past one and half years in line with the provisions of the UNEP report. And as each stakeholder is expected to play their individual roles towards the successful implementation of the project, we call on the Ogoni people to sustain the peace we all enjoy for the overall attainment of corporate goals.

The success of the Ogoniland clean-up is to provide the template for the clean-up of the rest of the Niger Delta where there is oil pollution. This is the reason the project is called Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, and not Ogoniland Restoration Authority, as was recommended by UNEP, so that it can apply to other hydrocarbon impacted lands outside Ogoni by the time the Ogoniland clean-up is accomplished.

On the supposition that the current fast-track of the clean-up process is aimed at drawing good will for the President in the 2019 general elections, nothing could be further from the truth than that. The President had shortly after assuming office launched the clean-up in fulfillment of his electoral promise during the 2015 presidential election and had followed it up with the setting up of a Governing Council and Board of Trustees – structures that were lacking in the former HYPREP. This was done to make it run with less inference of government and to outlive any particular regime of government. The Project Coordination Office was to come after and since then we have been working to the point where we are now. It is only sheer coincidence that the last stage of the process leading to the actually remediation tails out just before an election year. For emphasis, the Ogoniland clean-up is not a campaign tool for the 2019 election, but a fulfillment of Buhari administration’s promise. From all indication, it is obvious that President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo remain committed to the overall development of the Niger Delta region.

The entire perception of slowness of the project revolves round the fact that the Project Coordination Office insists on compliance with international best practices. When the process is fully completed, the Ogoni people, and indeed the entire Niger Delta, will be satisfied with the outcome that it was worth waiting for. HYPREP is not only carrying out remediation, but it is also providing potable water for the people, carrying out livelihoods training to give them alternative sources of income as well as conducting health impact study.

Also, HYPREP had advertised for pre-qualification of remediation companies and the list of successful companies published on our website, www.hyprep.gov.ng. We have also advertised for water and health impact study and the bids are now being evaluated. We have kick-started the process for livelihoods training and communities of Ogoni have graciously donated lands to support the process for which we are grateful. It must be categorically stated that the project is not a mirage as alleged in the said article; instead there is everything on ground to show that the Federal Government is committed to the clean-up project. Twice have we embarked on medical outreaches to Ogoni with an impressive record of more than 20,000 persons treated for various ailments and 300 surgeries carried out in Ogoniland; the testimonies are there for verification.

Also, we have carried out the delineation of impacted sites (which entails desk top study of UNEP data on all sites previously assessed, field investigation, sample collection and analysis, evaluation of analytical report, use of analytical results to calculate volume of soils to be treated) to get the current characterization status of the sites since the UNEP report was submitted in 2011 and the time lapse has necessitated a more recent investigation to update the data on those sites.

Again, I would like to emphasize that the clean-up of Ogoniland is not a subterfuge for the resumption of crude oil production in the area. Our mandate is a stand-alone – to remediate the environment and to restore livelihoods of the people.

We have not left the people of Ogoni in the dark about what we are doing. We have sensitized the leadership of impacted communities, engaged with Ogoni stakeholders at two different fora, as well as the youths and student bodies on all our activities. We now have records on a range of remediation technologies there is to be used for the clean-up as a result of a demonstration of remediation technologies that was carried out by volunteer companies at no cost to the project. Our assurance to the people of Ogoni and all Nigerians is that the project is on course to deliver on its mandate and we need their support.

Joseph is the Media Assistant to the Project Coordinator, HYPREP

Dayo Ibitoye: Driving the Niger Delta New Vision through the SIWP

By Dayo Ibitoye 

Niger Delta, the region that produces the lifeline of Nigeria’s economy – oil, is home to about 31 million people in nine states. Oil was discovered in the region in Oloibiri, which is in present day Bayelsa State, in 1956. However, ever since oil was discovered in the region, there has been a roller coaster of security and development issues.

The Federal Government, in her bid to resolve the insecurity issues bedevilling the region, took significant steps to engage the Delta’s disaffected communities. In 2009, it introduced the amnesty programme, a disarmament programme which granted an unconditional pardon to all persons who have directly or indirectly participated in militant activities in the Niger Delta. The Presidential Amnesty Implementation Committee upheld the fact that militant’s disarmament was only a first step towards bringing development to the Niger Delta since there cannot be development without peace.

Another significant issue the Federal Government had to deal with was crude oil theft, which became widespread as a result of pipeline vandalism and related criminal vices in the country’s oil sector. Efforts by the Federal Government to curtail the illegal diversion of oil in the Niger Delta through increased security spending in recent years as well as the hire of private security firms and equipping officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) did not lead to any measurable gain.

Under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, there have been significant strides to improve the fortunes of the region. One of these steps was engagements with key stakeholders in the region. In November 2016, President Buhari engaged the Pan Niger Delta Development Forum (PANDEF), which provides a concerted regional voice with the capacity to articulate and advance regional concerns and interest as well as engage with the Federal Government. In its first meeting with the Federal Government, PANDEF submitted a 16-point demand, which was subsequently captured in the Federal Government’s 20-point agenda for the development of the Niger Delta region.

The Buhari administration also explored further consultations with stakeholders in the region. On behalf of the President, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, was delegated to lead the consultations and undertake a tour of the oil producing communities in January 2017. The government issued a call for a roadmap to end militancy and promote concerted development in the region by outlining its 20-point agenda, which represents broad sets of objectives and clearly defined statements of intents for the region covering oil and gas investment, infrastructure development, agriculture and youth employment, as well as security stabilization measures in the region. These interventions by the Government has been tagged the Niger Delta New Vision. The Niger Delta New Vision is designed to develop a new and prosperous Niger Delta through the forthright partnerships between the Federal Government, State Governments, Private Sector and Local Communities.

 

To enable the effective implementation of the New Vision for the Niger Delta, the Federal Government constituted an Inter-Ministerial Working Group (IMWG), which is chaired by the Vice President, with membership drawn from the critical agencies of government involved with Niger Delta. These include the Ministries of Niger Delta, Environment, Petroleum Resources, Works and Housing, NDDC and Presidential Amnesty Programme. The IMWG meets quarterly to review development in the region and prescribe strategic responses. The Vice President mandated the Inter-Ministerial Technical Working Group, which is a subset of the Inter-Ministerial Working Group to develop a development compact called the Strategic Implementation Work Plan which incorporates the PANDEF’s 16-point agenda and the 20-point agenda of the government, along with the various initiatives planned by the Ministries and agencies as well as the oil and gas operators in the region.

 

The Federal Government has since made significant success in the implementation of the Niger Delta New Vision. Some of the projects in the SIWP that has received significant attention include the take-off of Maritime University in Delta State, commencement of Ogoni Clean-up, approval for the establishment of Modular Refineries, the continued implementation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and infrastructural investments like the Bonny-Bodo Road and Ibaka Deep Sea Port.

 

However, despite the commitments and attendant responsiveness from the Federal Government, a lot of advocacy is still needed to enable the speedy adoption and implementation of the SIWP.  So far, the Federal Government has demonstrated its political will to ensure that the SIWP is fully implemented. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play a significant role in the success of the implementation of the SIWP and by extension the success of the Niger Delta New Vision. CSOs, as we all know, is a vehicle through which citizens can aggregate their interests, voice their preference and exercise the power necessary to effect sustained change.  One major foreseeable hindrance to the implementation of the SIWP is the low political and budgetary commitments to the implementation of the SIWP by the Government. CSO advocacy will be vital to driving more Government commitment to hasten this process. This will require CSOs to play a variety of complementary role that includes stepping down the message of the SIWP to citizens and local community representatives in the Niger Delta. The Federal Government has also made several promises to work alongside the CSOs to actualize this laudable initiative.

In the words of Jan Eliasson, a former UN Deputy Secretary-General, “There is no peace without development, and there is no development without peace’’. The SIWP, if effectively adopted and implemented, will help to ameliorate development in the Niger Delta, and improve the living conditions of the people through economic and infrastructural development. Maintaining the peace and stability in the region is needed to ensure this is a possibility.

 

 

Busayo Anike: How deep sea ports can develop Niger Delta, boost national economy

By Busayo Anike

Under the New Vision for the Niger Delta region, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has proposed the establishment of Ibaka Deep Sea Port in Akwa Ibom State. The port is expected to boost economic activities in the region.

Up to five Deep Sea Port projects are in works in various part of Nigeria – Lekki, Badagry, Ibaka, Olokola, Ogidgben, Agege – in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Ondo/Ogun, Delta and Bayelsa states. Of these locations, Lekki, Badagry and Akwa Ibom are often more reported about; with Lekki being a hive of development and technological advancements for the nation as the Federal Government recently pledged $1.5 Billion dollars into its progression, with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, stating the project was a step in line to the federal government Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) – and the Akwa Ibom Deep Sea Port (IDSP) proposed to project economic advantages beyond its contemporaries currently under construction in other parts in Nigeria, as it is strategically positioned in the Gulf Guinea among up to 19 countries requiring various maritime services.

A deep sea port characterized by its location around a river or water channel that acts as a gateway to a large body of water channel that allows for protected staging and anchoring, or docking, for ships to load and unload consignments. Usually, deep sea ports are built in locations that have direct access to the open waters of the sea/ocean. Of the reported total of more than the 100 sea ports expansion in the world, more than half (up to 75%, as the studies show) are Deep Sea Ports (also known as Deepwater Ports).

The recent evident need for Deep Sea Ports, as stated, is a step towards regrowth of the nation’s economic plans. As the existing ports located in Lagos State, Rivers State, Cross Rivers and Delta state can no longer be solely depended upon. As Nigeria is largest importer and exporter of cargo in the West African region, it would be a reasonable goal to have one of the Deep Sea Ports to become the central hub for west and central African port services. As it is evident that bigger ships contain more cargo than the smaller ships and as companies obtain these bigger ships, a Deep Sea Port is the next logical conclusion.

The advantages a Deep Sea Port provides to a nation as large as Nigeria are numerous. Right of the gate, the construction and maintenance of a Deep Sea Port as large as the projected port in Lekki, Lagos would require thousands of constant workers, thereby providing countless jobs, stable jobs, for citizens both skilled and unskilled. With a targeted 1.5 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) container capacity annually, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, said the completed project would generate up to 170,000 jobs in the economy; as President Buhari promises the Lekki Deep Sea Port would generate up to $200 billion dollars for the nation. In the global market, a Deep Sea Port would put a nation like Nigeria ever boldly on the map of the world’s business markets. It has been reported that over 100 global companies have begun displaying eager interests in the Akwa Ibom Deep Sea Port development. As disclosed by the State Commissioner of Housing and Duties, Akan Okon, up to 75% of paper work leading to actualization of the port have been achieved and cleared. “I am happy to tell you that as of today, the 27th of February, 2018, the bidding is still open, with over 100 companies across the globe displaying interest, with more expected to arrive,” said Akan Okon.

Like adding a train stop to a settlement to attract businesses, tourists and a prosperous population, the deep sea ports would vastly contribute to the growth of a city, a region and a nation. Placing a deep sea port, as opposed to a regular port, would bring in business of immeasurable scales to a community, with job opportunities especially being the selling factor and most importantly curbing youths restiveness.

The Green Shirts of the Niger Delta

By Brigadier General Paul Boroh (Rtd)

When T.Y. Bello (Toyin Sofekun-Bello) sang: “The land is green, is green, oh oh oh; the land is green, is green, can’t you see” she might have had the Niger Delta in mind. No part of our country  is more lush fully green than the Niger Delta  with its all-year round rainfall.  Even in times of tragic oil pollution, some plants stubbornly sprout with their green coated in oil, as if to say, ‘this land is ours’

The irony however is that the rich natural vegetation of the Region has not translated into food self-sufficiency or security. Like most parts of the country, the Niger Delta has become like Abdul, the man in the fairy tale who wants to get rich without working. Yes, oil is a rich resource, but as we know, it is a wasting one; not only will it not last, but also, its importance is diminishing daily with humanity finding alternative ways of powering energy and automobiles. In fact, future cars will be run on recycled water. This is why the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari harps not just on the need for alternative sources of income for the country, but with its Green Initiative, backed by various programmes like the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and those of the Bank of Industry, point at agriculture as what would save the country.v

When in July, 2015, I was appointed the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme with the sustainable reintegration of 30,000 ex-Militants as a main target, I  worked out in the back of my mind, the fastest and best way to achieve this. My conclusion is   to let the Amnesty Beneficiaries blend with the greenery of the Region by attracting them to return to culture the land and fish ponds.

This I also found as the answer to the Federal Government’s primary objectives in the Niger Delta which are to ensure peace and sustainable development. So apart from continuing the existing projects such as developing the human capital resource of the Region through tertiary education, professional and vocation training and empowerment, my team and I took the sure turn to agriculture. We entered into partnership with various organisations like the Bio Technology Resource Centre, university Agriculture faculties and established farms to train the ex-Agitators.

These seedlings we are planting are beginning to sprout. You can imagine my joy when on Friday October 13, 2017, before the chiefs, elders and people of George Town, Okrika, Rivers State, twenty young men in green overall stood before us, the mass media and the world, as I handed over to them a modern, zero-waste, integrated cluster farm. These were part of the 105 youths the Presidential Amnesty programme had trained under the Songhai Rivers Initiative Farm. While their colleagues are being empowered with single stand- alone farms and ponds, this was our first experiment to group ex-Agitators into cluster farms, register them as cooperatives and watch them become not just self-employed, but also employing other unemployed youth.

The model farm, fully funded by the  Presidential Amnesty Programme which we handed over to the Beneficiaries, has 30 Ponds, one  Run-off Earthen Pond, 5000 Bird Poultry including Broiler and  Layers, Free Range, Cropping and Processing Sections,1 Administration and Sales Office, 2 Feed Stores, 2 Implement Stores and one Control Room.

 I told the Beneficiaries that they have a once in a life time opportunity not just to make a decent living for themselves and their families but also to employ a number of the unemployed. I also  informed them that  the Amnesty Office was further empowering them by handing over to them as a start-off package, 1000 fingerlings to 2000 post fingerlings,  100 Point of Lay Birds and an additional 200 broilers, 10 Piglets  and a Crop Section with  Cucumber, Pepper, Pumpkin and Okra.

Perhaps the most critical aspect of this farm is that it is designed to be one  with an all-year round production by running a staggered stocking and harvesting plan. With this, commercial sales have been programmed  with the sale of eggs by  November 1, 2017 and, smoked fish, broilers  and vegetables in December, 2017. We opted that smoked fish, rather than fresh fish be sold, first to add value and secondly to make more profit.

I was also very happy with George Town  which provided the land for the farm. I was elated when the traditional leader of the town, Chief Akuro Richard George said with this project, we had brought  Federal presence to them  and that the  project has established a bond between the George Town  people and the Federal Government. His request that the Presidential Amnesty Programme establishes   a skills acquisition centre in George Town to cater for lots of unemployed youths, is one that sits well with the Presidential Amnesty Office.

My happiness knew no bounds when the  Chairman of the ex-Agitators  Cooperative, Mr. Emmanuel.T. Promise,  thanked the Federal Government for giving them the opportunity  of their lives to  run a  viable and sustainable business of their own.  These are men who had picked up arms to fight the country, but who are now a role model for their peers and are resolved to run their lives in peace and security.

The occasion further convinced me that this is the way to go; that this cluster farm which we registered with the  Rivers State Government as “Okrika Agro Farmers 105 Cooperative and Investment and Credit Society Limited”  must be  replicated in other parts of the Niger Delta. Already, we have 1,000 Beneficiaries   who have either been trained, being trained or are on the waiting list to be trained in agriculture.

As we continue with this, our attention is also directed at rice farming for which we have already trained 305 Beneficiaries with two of them establishing their rice farms in Ughelli. My vision is to produce tens of thousands of youths in the Niger Delta cladded in their green overall and shirts, turning the Region into a Green Belt and blending with the green vegetation.  This is the beginning of what I call the “Green Shirt Movement” The Land is green and is becoming greener, can’t you see?

Brigadier General Paul Boroh (Rtd)  is the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.