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.

#7BigWins: Nigeria, Niger sign MOU on refinery project

Today, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) of Nigeria and his counterpart, the President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou oversaw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the Niger/Nigeria Hydrocarbon Pipeline & Refinery Projects & Inauguration of the Steering and Technical Committees.

This epoch-making signing is part of the strategies to reposition Nigeria’s Oil & Gas Industry. It may be recalled that a roadmap of short and medium term priorities tagged the #7BigWins was developed by the Dr. Emmanuel I. Kachikwu led team at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2016.

The fourth initiative of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources #7BigWins is the “Refinery and Local Production Capacity”, part of which has to do with the establishment of third party financed Greenfield refineries to improve domestic petroleum products sufficiency in the Nation.

The proposed projects for the construction of crude oil pipelines from Republic of Niger to Nigeria and establishment of new refinery at a border town in Nigeria is envisaged to be wholly private sector financed and the proposed Crude Oil Export from the Republic of Niger and Construction of Refinery Facilities posit immense benefits and opportunities for Nigeria.

A quick summary of general benefits to be derived from these projects by both countries are enormous and include the following:

1. Improved economic activities and bilateral relations between Nigeria and Republic of Niger.

2. Generation of more employment for the citizens.

3. Petroleum Product availability in Nigeria/Niger on structured legal framework.

4. Less carnage on our roads and deterioration (damage) to the road infrastructure.

5. Foster the development of small and medium scale industries through backward and forward linkages.

6. Socio economic development of the rural areas through provision of social amenities by the refinery developments.

7. Fostering of downstream value chain business opportunities, etc.

The refining opportunity in Nigeria is a great initiative. Its impact transcends economic gains for investors and entrepreneurs asides the potential contributions to national development. The projects will increase trade between Nigeria and Niger by giving access to each other’s markets and opening the markets to other successful industries which will create additional jobs.

FG’s Niger Delta New Vision will create a future of success, prosperity for region – Iyamu

The Federal government’s Niger Delta New Vision will create a future of success and prosperity for the region.

Senior Special Assistant to the President in Charge of the Niger Delta, Mr. Edobor Iyamu, stated this on Wednesday, June 27, in his opening remarks at a one-day capacity-building workshop with the theme: “Niger Delta New Vision: Partnership for regional development & Nation-building”, for the media, Civil Society Organizations and staff of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at the State House Auditorium, Abuja.

Edobor traced the conceptualization of the Niger Delta New Vision to the presentation of the 16-point Agenda of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, to the Presidency in 2016, which government responded to through the formulation of its 20-point Agenda.

It would be recalled that in November, 2016, in a move to address concerns in the region and see to its development, President Muhammadu Buhari held a meeting with Niger Delta leaders under the aegis of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF. PANDEF made a 16-point demand to the Federal Government which was subsequently captured in the FG’s 20-point agenda to develop the region.

Also, following that meeting with elders in the region, in 2017, on behalf of the President, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, undertook a tour of oil producing communities in the region. The Buhari administration’s New Vision for the Niger Delta was, thus, birthed.

According to Mr. Iyamu, the Niger Delta New vision was “designed to promote development in the region through a forthright partnership between the federal government, state government, private sector and local community.”

He said the New Vision was also designed to positively change the narrative of failed promises and abandoned projects and creates a future of success and prosperity which the people of the region so earnestly deserve.

He highlighted some of the achievements recorded since government started the implementation of the New Vision, including the establishment of the Maritime University, the Ogoni clean-up and the construction of modular refineries in the region.

Iyamu said academic activities commenced at the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State, on the 12th March, 2018 with the intake of 338 freshmen and with three faculties – transport, engineering and environmental management.

He said that prequalification process has been completed for the Ogoni cleanup while the technical and commercial bid was ongoing in line with Nigeria’s extant laws.

On the modular refineries, he said that two modular refineries have obtained licences and have since commenced construction work, explaining that one of them was about 70% completion in Kwale, Delta State while the other is in Rivers State.

Other interventions made through the Niger Delta New Vision, according to Iyamu, were gas commercialization to address the issue of gas flare, increased budgetary allocations and designing of the Strategic Implementation Work Plan, SIWP, for effective implementation of the new vision.

He said the workshop was organized to inform stakeholders of the what government was doing to promote development in the Niger Delta, to get feedback from stakeholders on how to implement the vision better and to solicit for the cooperation and partnership in the area of information dissemination in relation to the region.

Giving an overview on the SIWP, the Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs to the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Charles Achodo, said that an analysis of the 16-point Agenda presented by the PANDEF to the Presidency categorized the demands into three broad areas.

These were political, which focused on the issue of resource control; security, tied to the issues about how to secure the region; and developmental, dealing with environmental degradation, modular refineries and infrastructure.

Achodo said that government responded to the PANDEF 16-Point Agenda by formulating its 20-Point Agenda, bringing out specific activities and targeting particular goals for the Niger Delta.

He said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s engagements with stakeholders and community leaders during his tours of the Niger Delta Region last year yielded positive results.

According to Achodo, work on the SIWP has shown that there were several agencies working in the region without any result, requiring that a different approach be used in tackling the challenges in the Niger Delta.

One of the facilitators, Pamela Braide delivered a paper on communicating the SWIP to stakeholders in the Niger Delta.

She said the current situation shows that there is lack of clarity, distrust and cynicism about the intentions of government in the Niger Delta New Vision.

She said communicating the Niger Delta New Vision should be well planned and must combine the traditional and new media to reach the people of the region.

Braide said MOUs signed with governments of the states in the Niger Delta must be communicated properly while the SWIP must be broken down to enable people to understand it well.

In her presentation, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Infrastructure, Imeh Okon, said the key to what government was doing in the Niger Delta was to complete all abandoned projects in the region.

She said government was working to ensure that all projects with strategic developmental impact were completed.

Each session has robust engagements that participants said would further boost the implementation of key initiatives under the New Vision for the Niger Delta region.

The Special Assistant to the President Communication Projects/ Niger Delta, Arukaino Umukoro, also made a presentation on the Niger Delta New Vision website, which he noted was a part of the overall communication strategy of the New Vision.

He urged participants to visit the website for information on the activities on the Niger Delta New Vision.

Participants at the workshop were drawn from the media, government agencies and civil society organizations, where there were breakout sessions for the media, and MDAs and CSOs, which focused specifically on their roles and contributions to the region’s development and nation building.

Facilitators at the workshop include; the Special Assistant to the President on Digital & New Media, and Head of the Presidency Office of Digital Engagement (PODE), Tolu Ogunlesi; the Executive Director of We the People- Centre for Social Studies and Development, Ken Henshaw; the Head of Media & Campaigns, Environmental Rights Action (ERA) /Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Philip Jakpor and ICT consultant, Dayo Ibitoye.

FG Empowers Women from Niger Delta Region with ₦15 Million

In fulfillment of part of its pledge to improving the lives of people in the Niger Delta region, the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, continued its women development campaign through the sponsorship of individuals from the region in vocational training programmes.

A one month training programme which was undertaken at the Polytechnic, Ibadan, Oyo State, by 50 women drawn from the region were trained in confectioneries and household product technology at the institution. And on completion of the programme were handed the sum of N15 million by the Ministry as start up fund.

   The Minister of State, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Prof. Claudius Omoleye Daramola who made the presentation of the start up package at the graduation ceremony, promised that the ministry would continue to organize more training and empowerment programme specifically aimed at women in the Niger Delta region. He congratulated the graduants and categorically stated the importance of women empowerment which he said is rightly synonymous with the economic growth of the region.

    Prof. Daramola advocated for collaboration between key Ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government in order to collate resources so as to organize more training and empowerment programmes, and the effective monitoring and provision of support to the already trained women. He went further after advocating for inter-agency collaboration, made a call for partnership between the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the Bank of Industry, the Industrial Training Fund, and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.

    The Minister also stressed the need for the development of an extensive database of the trainees with the aim of tracking and funding trainees and future prospects for the empowerment programme. The rector, Prof. Olatunde Fawole ably represented by the registrar of the polytechnic, Mr. Ayodele Fehintola added that the acquisition of skills would no doubt be of tremendous assistance to the trainees and in turn, lead to the transformation of the region.

    The consultant of the training programme, Dr. Benjamin Irikefe, said the training was planned to make the trainees employable by giving them requisite skills to be employers of labour and not job seekers. Speaking on behalf of the trainees, Angela Essien, appreciated the ministry for organising the training and empowerment programme adding that the training had laid the foundation for them to transform themselves and their communities in the Niger Delta region.

Ogoni Clean-up: HYPREP gives progress report

Within the last nine months, the Project Coordination Office (PCO) of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) has recorded some remarkable achievements. In a statement, the team gave a breakdown of its activities.

Training

We have trained some graduates from Ogoni who studied Environmental Sciences. The training was to build their capacity for the remediation work.

Provision of Potable Water

On assumption of office in March 2017, the PCO, under the leadership of the Project Coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil set up a Committee to identify existing water facilities in Ogoni, whether functional or non-functional with the aim of revamping and enlarging them to meet the water needs of the people. Based on the Committee’s report, the PCO advertised four (4) activities; vis rehabilitation of existing water facilities, construction of new water facilities in areas polluted but without source of potable water. The procurement process is ongoing.

Preliminary Data Collection towards implementation of UNEP Recommendation on Health Impact Study

In Line with the UNEP recommendation on the Health Impact Study, HYPREP carried out a Medical Outreach programme aimed at collecting preliminary data towards implementing the recommendation.

The Project Coordination Office on 26th December, 2017 officially flagged off the Ogoni Health Outreach programme in Bori, Khana LGA. The outreach lasted till 3rd January, 2018. Several  ailments ranging from minor sicknesses to major surgeries, were treated in the course of the preliminary data collection.

The expectations from the communities and their response to the programme was very high and encouraging. In all, a total number of 5,815 patients were attended to and 65 surgical cases treated.

 Community Sensitization

We did not limit our sensitization to the mass media. We have gone to the impacted communities and carried out initial sensitization of the Ogoni leaders, women and youths representatives. So far, we have visited Bodo, K-Dere, B-Dere, Kpor, Ogale, Ebubu, Korokoro, Ueken, Kpean and Buan and other communities where about 3,500 people have been sensitized.

Demonstration of Remediation Technologies: The Project Coordination Office (PCO) embarked on demonstration of technologies in some of the oil impacted areas in Ogoniland. This was in compliance with the UNEP recommendations on the type of remediation technologies that isn’t suitable in Ogoniland. HYPREP invited companies to showcase their new remediation technologies which was at no cost to Government or HYPREP. During the process, HYPREP carried out sampling activities at some selected polluted sites across the four (4) LGAs of Ogoniland listed below, for the demonstration of remediation technologies by interested companies:

i. Khana        –           Kwawa Community

ii. Gokana     –           Bodo, K-Dere and B-Dere Communities

iii. Tai                   –           Korokoro Community

iv. Eleme             –           Ogale Community

Seven (7) companies have completed their demonstration works on sizeable delineated work areas at five (5) sites, three (3) have recently been deployed while more are scheduled for mobilization to other allocated sites. A total of 201 samples (163 soil and 38 water) have been collected and analysed from eleven (11) sites in this exercise across the four (4) L.G.As

Soil and water samples were collected and analysed using different technology to determine the most suitable technologies that will be applied in the Cleanup exercise.

The reason for carrying out the demonstration of remediation technologies is to find the most suitable technology for the Ogoni environment as recommended in the UNEP report and competence of the companies. HYPREP will not approve the use of Remediation Enhanced Natural Attenuation (RENA) which will cause harm to the environment.

Other Activities carried out

The Project Coordination Office had received some international institutions within this period that have pledged their support to the success of the project. Foreign Government Development Agencies such as DFiD, EU Delagation to Nigeria/ECOWAS, USTDA, the United Nations System (UNEP, UNOPS, UNITAR) are in collaboration with HYPREP to develop and implement a comprehensive remediation of the environment and restoration of livelihood strategy in Ogoniland.

 

To contain re-pollution is pivotal to the success of the Ogoni Clean-up project and that necessitated our meetings with ex-artisanal refiners to educate them on the dangers of their activities to health, the environment and the economy. The ex-refiners are to come up with areas they would be trained to acquire alternative skills so that they do not continue with illegal refining.