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.