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VP Osinbajo hails collaboration as Caribbean University partners Maritime University, UNILAG

The academic partnership between Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) in Jamaica, and two Nigerian universities – University of Lagos and the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State – would be mutually beneficial to each country’s human capital development, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo stated this during a meeting on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, with representatives from the three universities; a delegation from the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) led by the President, CMU, Prof. Fritz Pinnock; and his Nigerian counterparts – the Vice Chancellor, Maritime University, Prof. Maureen Etebu; and the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.

According to the Vice President, “The Maritime University is an important part of our journey of developing the Niger Delta, as it would tackle restiveness among youths by providing them with education and training, and so benefit them. So, the Maritime University is a win-win for Niger Delta and Nigeria.”

Prof. Osinbajo further said the partnership between the CMU and the two Nigerian universities (Maritime University and UNILAG) was coming at the right time to help develop the country’s human capital.

“Our relationship with Jamaica is a very important one for us and we must continue to explore the very many areas of collaboration to benefit us all. We are truly grateful for the hand of fellowship extended to us,” the VP added.

Also at the meeting was the Acting High Commissioner of Jamaica, Abuja, John Clarke; and a former governor of Bayelsa state, Timipre Sylva, who is the Pro-Chancellor/Chairman of the Governing Council of Maritime University.

The Maritime University, which commenced full academic activities in April, is part of the Buhari administration’s Niger Delta New Vision aimed at developing the region.

Similarly, Prof. Etebu said the CMU has offered scholarships to two students of the Maritime University. ‘we are going to draw strength in terms of experience and exposure from the Carribean university,” she said. Also speaking, Prof. Ogundipe said UNILAG’s postgraduate programmes in Maritime Studies would gain from the collaboration with CMU to meet international standards.

It would be recalled that the Maritime University was granted approval in January this year by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to commence undergraduate degree programmes effective from the 2017/2018 academic session.

Also, the National Universities Commission (NUC) had approved that academic activities commence in three faculties namely; Transport, Engineering and Environmental Management, with a combined total of 13 departments with various specializations – from Marine Engineering, Marine Economics to Climate Change, Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The University commenced lectures in April this year following the admission of students into the university for the 2017/2018 academic year.

For the Records: #7BigWins in Focus – Big win 5 – Niger Delta and security

By Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu

*Puts in focus a “blueprint for Niger Delta’s development that can be sustained for posterity”

Let me welcome you to an 8 parts serial podcast that will look critically at the 7 big wins that were instruments of our intervention in the oil industry when we came in and see how we fared in each of those and what we need to do going forward.

All over the world these 7 big wins has been praised as a right model for intervention. But, let us now go neck deep and get a 3D view of what really has happened. In this edition, we are going to focus strictly on the Niger Delta security issues; what we met, what we did, what the future holds for us.

His Excellency, the President was kind enough and gracious enough to appoint me with the twin positions of both the GMD of the NNPC and the Minister of State for Petroleum. Niger Delta was a burning issue at the time. There was key unrest in Niger Delta, a huge amount of militant activities going on. There was reduction in production volumes, so much reduction leading to a consistent loss that led us almost to a cripple in the oil industry. Actually, at the lowest point we were down to about 800,000 barrels. All the infrastructure that we had were compromised; vandalism and militancy compelled the integrity of the infrastructure to disappear.

These sustained attacks continued for over a 10-month period. In February 2016 for example; the Forcados oil export line was breached, leading to very major attacks in other oil and gas assets. In May 2016, the Nembe creek truck line was attacked; in November 2016, series and series of attacks.

What else did we meet? We met the complete absence of a coordinated effort at developing the Niger Delta development model. There was, therefore, a consistent lack of investors’ interest in Niger Delta area, because of what really had happened was that with all the militancy attacks, uncertainties on policies, the lack of coordination in terms of development, everybody basically watched for what the next alarm bell was going to be.

The sheer amount of problems that we inherited in Niger Delta meant that literally if nothing was done, the country was getting crippled; no money for investments, no money for infrastructures, no money to run the budgets. We had to move in very rapidly with the support of His Excellency, the President.

We dealt with three main fundamentals. We decided to deal first with the environment and security issues. What were we going to do about that environment, the issues that had been burning in all the areas of Niger Delta?

The first thing we realized was that the one-on-one engagements, as good as they were, were obviously not leading us to the Promised Land. Of course, I did the whole yeoman’s job of taking a tour on the Niger Delta myself and getting into the creeks, at very great risk to my life and that of a lot of my staff, to engage the militants in their domain. I think the advantage in that was that it brought understanding and we then began a sustained community engagement.

The first thing we did was to work with the leaders of the areas to work towards the setting up of the PANDEF group. We thank all the PANDEF members; leader, Chief Clark and all of them who did fantastic work in trying to put together this Pan-Niger Delta Forum. We worked coordinating with them. So once that was set up, it was easy to have a body that could engage the Federal Government.

Then we dealt with the issue of Ogoni clean-up. The President had made a promise during his campaign that he was going to take this as a burning issue and he did and he inaugurated the Ogoni clean-up process that was launched very ceremoniously and we began the engagements and the financing that will enable us address the Ogoni cleanup. But not only Ogoni needs to be cleaned up, a whole lot of other areas need to be cleaned up. This is basically the beginning map on which we are going to work.

We came up with the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme, which was trying to address the exit of flare. The United Nations had set a 2030 deadline; we set a 2020 deadline. We are aggressive about it because we knew that unless the environmental issues in Niger Delta were addressed, no amount of investment would get a buy-in with the people.

With all the sustained engagements that we had, we had series of ceasefires which enabled us to bring back production volumes. In December 2015, we had a 30-day ceasefire agreement. It brought back production rapidly from the all-time low of about 800,000 barrels to about 2.2 million barrels. In June 2016, we had another 60-day ceasefire agreement, which lasted for a while. In April 2017, leading up from the 60-day ceasefire that continued and working with PANDEF and other elements, and with the assistance of the Vice President’s visit; we got to a point where we basically moved our production to an all-time 800,000 barrels volume to volumes in region of 2.2 million barrels.

We looked at infrastructure and not only did we deal with repairing some of the infrastructures that were broken down to enable oil begin to flow again. We came up with the concept of what to do with the illegal refining that was going on in the region. So, we came up with the modular refinery concept. Till date, we have targeted development and approved about 10 of those; two are basically on land now and beginning to construct. Hopefully, within the next one year, we will be able to deliver real results. But we are pushing for the other eight.

The AKK Pipeline that had been abandoned for a very long time was put back. The Federal Executive Council approved this and now engagements are going on to sort out this contract and begin that construction. That AKK pipeline will enable you deliver gas from the South into the North and open up gas delivery to homes, and development in terms of petrochemicals. So it is a huge infrastructure development.

We have been able to go visit some of these modular refineries. We visited the one in Ogbele, in Rivers State; we also have visited the one in Kwale (Delta State). Those are the two that are basically on ground and ready to take off. But there are 8 additional ones that are basically all getting ready for completion for financing and moving on.

But, the area where I think we have done a lot of work is in Capacity Building and Economic Empowerment. The greatest problem of Niger Delta has been that it’s not because money hasn’t gone in. Inter-agency researches have shown that over $40 billion have gone into Niger Delta in a period of, maybe, 15 years.

So what we’ve tried to do, was working under the Office of the Vice President, to try and working in conjunction with the Ministry of Niger Delta, Ministry of Environment, NDDC, NNPC, Oil companies, everybody; we were able to show the sheer amount of money over a period of time that had gone in, and the sheer amount of money that was available still to go in. And that led to a very integrated work that produced a report that enabled us to see what everybody’s budget was and what we needed to do. It ran into trillions.

And so working under an inter-ministerial group put under the Vice President, we’ve now began to build capacity, and build economic empowerment on the grounds of that and making sure that we supervise each of those intervening government agencies to do what they are supposed to do and the oil companies to take up also their responsibilities.

But we have also gone further than that. I have gone ahead to set up State technical committees and gone from state to state to take that whole vision and give it fruition. So, in those states, with the State Governments being the Chairmen of some of those; we have had our own representatives; we’ve had oil companies’ representatives, we’ve had Government Agencies. And the whole idea is to look at the blueprint of what oil is produced in a state, what volumes are available, what opportunities for economic empowerment are there and what are the burning issues in those areas. These technical committees have been launched in three states; in Edo State, in Delta State and in Imo State, and we are looking to complete that whole process.

If we succeed in doing that, for the first time, what you are going to have is a complete blueprint, complete local engagement, complete local intervention and supervision of the Niger Delta development model and that is something that can be sustained for posterity.

So, those interventions have helped; those technical teams have helped. Like I said, we’ve done it in about three states. We are going to continue to push the envelope in other states. Now, obviously in all these have rallied from the initial work done when we first started with all the problems we had, to the Vice President’s visit that was monumentally successful and helpful; to obviously the presidential cloak that has been given to this to make it succeed.

Where do we go from here? A lot of work still needs to be done, let’s not kid ourselves. What we have done is take a very difficult environment and bring some sanity to it.

So today, when we celebrate over 2 million barrels, when we celebrate $75, $77 price in oil, when we celebrate enhanced and increasing reserve size for this country, when we celebrate the highest capital budgets that this country has seen in decades, it is all because we found a way to find sanity in this very, very difficult environment. But we still have a lot of work to do.

Those engagements we talked about with the state technical committees are a key pivot; we must sustain and complete the process. And thereafter, there must be active; and there must, on a month-to-month basis, explore what the opportunities are, and ensure that the local populace are getting those opportunities.

There are regulatory interventions; the Assembly is working hard at PIB, and there’s Host Community Bill they are also doing. All these Bills, when passed, will give legal parameters to some of the interventions that are essential and create a sustained platform for these interventions in the future.

The President is completely committed to the success of this and we are working with the Ministry of Environment to continue the Ogoni clean-up. I have just directed that funds necessary for this must be released with a very short period of time so that this Ogoni clean-up can actually move from the drawing board to actual practical realities. And I’ve called on both NNPC and the oil companies to fund this sufficiently for us to move forward.

We’ve also began a programme to engage the Ogonis where there has been substantial problems, to get the community buy-in; to get the community’s participation. A few weeks ago, we held the Ogoni re-entry meetings. We are going to get into some of those, and not just Ogoni, but a lot of the areas to see how we can get people to believe gain and have faith in the processes that we are rolling out.

We are currently working on a framework for community-based participation in the protection of oil and gas pipelines, and oil and gas assets. How do we get the communities to take ownership of these pipelines, protect them, ensure an efficient delivery without complications and also ensure that in future they get benefits from some of the economic interventions that come out of all of these?

So, a whole lot of work needs to be done. It is almost like you are looking at the bill of rights in some of these areas. How do we develop things that people are entitled to; people execute, communities are involved, constant engagements continue, and the Government’s interest in this continues to ride.

But this where we met security, this is where we met the Niger Delta, this is what we have done in the two and a half, three years that we have been there. But like I said, the work continues.

What we can say is that provided Government continues to focus, provided the oil companies continue to focus on their key social responsibilities in these areas, provided that Government Agencies that are given responsibilities for intervention continue to carry out their jobs, provided communities realize that, at the end of the day, destruction of platforms leads to nothing but confusion and mayhem; but that working together with the Government, we can create an equitable problem-solving mechanism, provided State Governments and security apparatus carry out security intervention for peace in a manner that respects the fundamental human rights of citizens; we actually can take leverage from the total world attention that is looking at the work that we are doing in this area and get Niger Delta to where it should be.

Thank you very much for listening.

Kachikwu is the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources

(Podcast on May 23, 2018)

East-West Road: FG set up 4-man Ministerial Committee

*Committee to ensure speedy completion of project

 

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has approved a four-member ministerial committee charged with the responsibility of ensuring speedy completion of the East-West Road in the Niger Delta and ₦142.5 billion for construction of roads across the country.

Briefing state house correspondents on the outcome of the council’s meeting, The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, revealed that the committee consists of Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Usani Uguru Usani; and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola. He stated further that the members of the committee would undertake an inspection tour round the construction site to appraise the ongoing project in ensuring its speedy completion of the East –West Road which was mooted in 2006 under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

The chairman of the committee, Amaechi advertently disclosed that the council approved ₦1.67 billion for the procurement of equipment for the Lagos–Kano narrow gauge in line with an initial interim agreement signed between the federal government and the GE (General Electrical).

The council also approved ₦1.2 billion for the purchase of 18 flat-bed wagons to be operated on the narrow gauge rail line by the Nigerian Railway Corporation.

He said ₦18.874 billion of the amount would be expended on the maintenance of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos as part of the federal government’s National Bridge Maintenance Strategy.

Fashola said the Third Mainland Bridge contract was awarded to one of the original contractors for the project, Borini Prono of Italy.

He said the construction company was expected to carry out maintenance works on 33 out of the 177 piles of the bridge which were in critical condition.

According to him, part of the repair works on the bridge will also involve the maintenance of General Expansion Joint Replacement and will be completed within 27 months.

The minister said the budget for the repair on the bridge was captured in the 2017 appropriation law. He said council also approved ₦80.19 billion as revised amount for the second section of the 84 kilometres Lagos-Ibadan expressway project.

275 Niger Delta youths benefit from agriculture training, empowerment

No fewer than 275 youths in Niger Delta region have benefited from the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and its Joint Venture agro skills acquisition through the Green Rivers Project scheme.

The Vice Chairman/Managing Director of NAOC, Massimo Insulla, said the special agricultural scheme was introduced in 2016 to meet the present day economic and social realities and to bridge the gap between the aging farmers and make agriculture attractive to youths.

The Guardian reported that, Insulla, who spoke at the graduation ceremony for pioneer class of 2017/2018 NAOC-JV Agro-Skills Acquisition Training Programme in Port Harcourt at the weekend, said the scheme was introduced to increase employment generation.

He added that the choice of agriculture for the empowerment of youths was in line with the Federal Government’s vision on diversification.

The trainees were drawn from the four states of NAOC operations, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, and Imo States were trained in Skills such as fisheries, poultry, livestock and crop farming.

Navy pledges support for grassroots sports in Niger Delta

In line with the FG’s intent to restrain youth and foster peace in the Niger Delta region, the Nigerian Navy, through the Commander of Naval Anti-Piracy Task Group, Commodore Idi Abbas, has pledged a steadfast support for grassroots sports in host communities.

This he made known during a friendly football match organized by the Navy in Port Harcourt on Monday.

The friendly match which was organized between personnel of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder and Osklean Football Academy Rumuolumeni, ended in a draw.

Commodore Abbas disclosed that the aim of the football match was to improve fitness of troops; address youth restiveness and encourage peace in the host community.

According to The Nation, Commodore Abbas said “The NNS Pathfinder organised the football match to keep our personnel fit, knowing fully that it is only when the personnel are fit that they will effectively deliver on the job.

The other reason is to further foster that cordial relationship of officers and ratings of the base and the host communities”

“This is just the beginning and it is hoped that other games would be looked into with participation of the host community.”

By doing this, the naval base will get to know its host community and the community members will also get to know their own neighbors.”

In his speech, he mentioned plans to expand the games to accommodate other sporting events like; volleyball and basketball, saying that the base had excellent facilities to host future games. He further advised participants to use the game to polish up their skills, to enable them represent the country in future sporting events.

The Supreme Ruler of Rumuolumeni community, Eze Ndubueze Olumeni, applauded the Navy for organizing the friendly match with the host community. He said that the community members had always hoped to have a good rapport with the naval base since it came into the community 25 years ago.

“This is a naval base and not a civilian environment, and so, it has been difficult for our people to feel free to enter here for any activity.

We appreciate this type of event and hope that if we continue like this; our relationship will improve and everyone will be happy for it.” He said.

PHOTOS: Pictures from FG Team’s visit to OPAC Modular refineries in Delta State

A team from the Office of the Vice President, led by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Economic Matters, Mr Edobor Iyamu; and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, led by the Senior Technical Adviser to the Honourable Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Mr. Rabiu Suleiman, on Tuesday, 24th April, visited the OPAC Refinery site, located at Umuseti, Kwale, in Delta State.