Niger Delta Governors are valued partners – NDDC

The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has described the governors of the nine Niger Delta States as critical stakeholders and partners in the development of the Niger Delta region.

The NDDC Director, Corporate Affairs, Mr. Charles Obi Odili, who spoke in an interview at the Commission’s Headquarters in Port Harcourt, noted that the governors of the Niger Delta states were strategic stakeholders and partners in the task of developing the oil-rich region.

According to a statement by the Commission, Odili said the governors play a key role in the process of building an egalitarian and development-oriented Niger Delta, “the kind of Niger Delta that we can all be proud to call our home.”

He said: “The governors form the Advisory Committee which is supposed meet from time to time to look at areas where they can intervene and advise management and board on the way forward.

“So, they are strategic partners in the process of building an egalitarian and a development-oriented Niger Delta region. The Governors of the region are very important and worthy stakeholders in the task of building the region.”

The NDDC Director also underlined the importance of another organ, the Partners for Sustainable Development (PSD) Forum, which he said was very critical to a coordinated response to the development challenges of the Niger Delta. He said that it was an avenue for the governors or their deputies or even representatives of their governments to liaise with the Commission for proper synergy.

Reacting to insinuations that the NDDC was often over-politicized,  Odili noted that the Commission was a political creation and as such could not be entirely divorced from political considerations.

On media reports which gave the impression that governors of Niger Delta states were instigating the probe of the Commission, Odili explained: “I did mention that the governors visited Mr. President and that the President as the father of the nation, reserves the right to look at the various components, because the Federal Government puts in so much money and would like to see what we are getting out of that effort. It is a welcome development that a probe is coming as a lot of things will come to the fore.”

He added: “The NDDC is over-burdened, being just an interventionist agency. Everybody feels some form of entitlement and the Commission cannot take on the entire gamut of regional expectations alone.”

Ogoni Clean-up: FG committed to UNEP report implementation, says Minister

The Honorable Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, has reiterated President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the full implementation of the recommendations in the United Nations Environmental Assessment Report on Ogoniland.

He said the Ogoni clean-up is a signature project, the first of its kind in Africa and the world with no existing template, while noting that HYPREP was developing one that would be used hereafter for the remediation of the rest of the Niger Delta.

Dr. Abubakar stated this during a working visit to the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) and some remediation sites across Ogoniland, and was received on arrival by the Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil.

The Honorable Minister also paid a courtesy visit to His Royal Majesty King G. N. K. Gininwa in his palace where he informed the King that the Ogoni clean-up is a pet project of President Buhari’s administration which is why the President constantly makes reference to the Ogoni clean-up project.

He said the Ogoni clean-up is a signature project, the first of its kind in Africa and the world with no existing template but rather HYPREP was developing one that would be used hereafter for the remediation of the rest of the Niger Delta.

The Honorable Minister assured the people of Ogoni that the Federal Government was not just concerned about remediating the environment but is also concerned about the well-being and economic life of the people.  He said “The Federal Government is aware that there are several other challenges you are facing as a result of the pollution.  That is why even though the core mandate of HYPREP is to remediate the land, other programs have been built into the Project to address some of these challenges.”

The traditional ruler appealed to the Minister for the inclusion of the Ogonis and to ensure that the people benefit fully from the clean-up project.

The Minister also attended the sensitization of women on the Livelihood program in Tai. He expressed satisfaction with the huge turnout of women for the program adding that it goes to show the seriousness of the women to key into the training programs to create economic activities for their financial empowerment.

Addressing the crowd at the event, Dr. Abubakar urged the women, men and youths to key into the various opportunities provided through the clean-up project to empower themselves to contribute to the economic growth of the kingdom.

Dr. Abubakar urged the people of Ogoni to be patient and ensure sustained peace during and after the project.  While expressing appreciation to the Royal Father, the Council of Chiefs the Youths of Ogoni, the Women, Opinion Leaders and others for their contributions to the success of the project, he appealed to the youths to desist from carrying out illegal bunkering and other activities that may negatively affect the environment.

Speaking with journalists during the inspection of some remediation sites, the Minister said with what he has seen, he has confirmed that remediation is going on across the various sites.  He said “I can say this is a big success for this administration, the people of Ogoni that I have talked to, the youths, women, elders they are happy with this and happy with Mr. President for keeping his promise to clean up Ogoni.”

“Let me say that this is something that is serious right from the start where we even have UNEP to do the assessment and follow through to ensure compliance with the recommendations.  This shows the commitment of the government; the commitment of the President and I believe every Nigerian not just the Ogonis should give this project a chance.  From what I have seen, the HYPREP team is doing a good job.”

On the issue of water, the Minister said HYPREP has gone beyond the provision of water in tankers, but was working to ensure the provision of a sustainable source of water not just in the impacted communities but to other communities in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources.

He assured the people saying “we are following all the recommendations of UNEP and we all know when you are dealing with UN you must follow everything to the standard. The government has promised to use the UNEP Report to make sure the work is done according to the recommendations.  We are here to support the President’s commitment to the clean-up project, and I urge all of you to throw your weight behind HYPREP so that the dream of the President for a clean and healthy Ogoniland will be realized.”

Briefing the Minister, the Project Coordinator went through the various activities that HYPREP has carried out since inception.  He informed him that a total of 21 sites have been handed over to 21 contractors who were currently at different levels of remediation works while a joint team of HYPREP and UN are in the field to carry out reconnaissance in preparation for the commencement of the remediation of the complex sites.

Dekil added that the project has provided opportunities for training of Ogoni youths through the Livelihood Program, technical training for Scientific Officers who are all Ogonis in Nigeria and in Switzerland while arrangements for the training of 400 Ogoni women by United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) has been concluded.

The Project Coordinator further informed the Minister that HYPREP had carried out two medical outreaches where 20,000 patients were treated, and 400 surgeries carried out.  He added that HYPREP was collaborating with Rivers State Ministries of Water Resources and Health for the provision of water and assessment of health facilities in the impacted communities in Ogoniland.

Groups, CSOs back Buhari on forensic audit of NDDC

*President orders forensic audit of NDDC from 2001 to 2019

The state Chairmen of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-south and South-east regions have commended President Muhammadu Buhari over his directive for a forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

They also called on the president to urgently inaugurate the new board to superintend over the Commission’s activities for a holistic review and reforms.

The Nation reported that the call and commendation by the chairmen were contained in two separate statements issued by Akwa-Ibom State APC Chairman, Hon. Ini T. Okopido, who is the leader of the South-south Chairmen of the forum, and his Abia State counterpart, Hon. Donatus Nwankpa, leader of South-east Chairmen of the forum respectively, which was made available to journalists in Benin-city

The forum expressed satisfaction on the calibre of those Buhari has already appointed to take over the task of the region’s development, and appealed for their inauguration to pilot the affairs and bring their wealth of experience to bear on the Commission.

The chairmen, while commending the president for his ‘love’ for the development of the Niger Delta region, assured him of their unflinching support to carry out his holistic reforms in the interventionist agency.

Similarly, civil society groups and concerned individuals on Thursday hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for directing that a forensic audit be conducted on the operations, programmes and activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

A development economist, Jeffrey Emerson, the executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwwal Rafsanjani, and the president of Ijaw Diaspora Coalition, Johnson Ebibai, all said the directive was a step in the right direction, Premium Times reported.

“This is a good development, now that the President has finally responded to the concern by civil society and the demand for him to take action to stop the monumental corruption and outright stealing and diversion of public funds in these agencies meant to help the people and communities in the region,” Mr. Rafsanjani said on Friday.

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission from 2001 to 2019.

The decision followed persistent criticisms of the operations of the commission. A statement by the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Femi Adesina, said Buhari gave the directive after receiving governors of the states that make up the NCDC, led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.

The President said what was presently on ground in the South-South region did not justify the huge resources that had been made available to the agency.

He said, “I try to follow the Act setting up these institutions especially the NDDC. With the amount of money that the Federal Government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.

“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so much billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done. The consultants must also prove that they are competent.”

“I am acutely aware, with my experience, that projects in your area are very expensive; that is why if any job is given, we must make sure that the company is competent and has the capacity to do it well with experienced consultants”, the President said.

Buhari however said that he would wait for the report of the audit before deciding on the next line of action regarding the organisation.

Earlier, Dickson expressed the disappointment of other governors with the operations of the NDDC which, they said, was characterised by poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of the required support for the efforts of the states and local government administration in the region covered by the organisation.

He, therefore, called for the repositioning of the NDDC in order to achieve the objectives for which it was set up.

From Niger Delta creeks to billionaire farmer: An ex-militant’s story

In 2017, when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, went on a tour of the Niger Delta to quell the rising tension in the region, it not only birthed the Niger Delta New Vision for the region’s development & revamped the bedrock to a stable economy, it also open the door to a new frontier, an agriculture revolution.

Weeks after he left the Niger Delta, the tension and occasional assault on oil pipelines almost went extinct. It was as if the VP had used a magic wand from one of Harry Potters’ sold out series. Peace enveloped the region and the falling oil prices which could easily have colluded with insecurity and uncertainty in the region quietly went away.

There was a new hope for Nigeria and he was rightly applauded locally and internationally for intervening at a time when things were most sensitive. But not only did he calm things in the Niger Delta, he opened an avenue for some of the ex-militants.

For those who have had the privilege to be in this same room as Prof. Osinbajo, you’ll agree that he is the full package. He is a leader, father, orator, inspirational speaker, lawyer, pastor, teacher etc but most importantly is the fact that he loves Nigeria. He loves Nigeria so much that sometimes you wonder why? This he shares in common with President Buhari who has so much belief in him that he sent him to deliver a Holy Grail. But that is a story for another day.

When Retson Tedheke listened to a speech by Prof. Osinbajo where he noted that there was a new oil well in Nigeria and he explained that if they can carefully mine it, they will have gold on their hands. That oil well was agriculture and a certain entrepreneur, Tedheke, was inspired by the Vice President’s speech

At the time, he was an ex-militant, but the entrepreneur in him was always going to come out, it only needed an inspirational speech and an outlet from the erudite professor of law. Oh boy, did that speech work? Yes, it did. It worked like magic. He caught the bug right there and he knew in his mind what he was going to do to put himself on the billionaire list.

Born in Delta state, but then resident in the creeks in Bayelsa, Tedheke made his way to the North Central part of Nigeria, specifically Nasarawa State. If you say Nasarawa State chose him, then you are right, but if you say he chose Nasarawa, you are also right. It was a partnership made in heaven, and only him and the people Gaa’te community in Nasarawa can explain how they have blossomed over the last few years.

On arriving at Ga’ate, the people took to him, they saw something him and at that point they knew they were going to make history together. While still getting to know his new surroundings, Tedheke was gifted three hectares of land to start his new adventure.

This is nothing like the creek, here he needed to learn a new language, meet new people, develop new relationships and make history if he could and somehow all these happened before he could even say Jack Robinson.

As it is with most successful people, Tedheke embraced his humble beginning and got straight to work. All the distractions available in the creek were no more, now was the time to work and make a name for himself and the community that had been so generous to him.

He had heard that President Buhari was determined to diversify away from crude oil and that he had his eyes on agriculture especially rice, which Nigeria had to potential to produce for its near 200 million population and also export to other countries.

The first farm produce was therefore rice and he did get it right. First, he showed how selfless and patriotic he was by branding the rice Ga’ate, after the community that had given him a home and the needed piece of land to start off. This legacy will never go away, the actions by the community and Tedheke showed that Nigeria is stronger together and that there is more to achieve collectively.

This was not a relationship based on ethnicity, religion or tribe but one built on ‘will’ and the Nigerian spirit that cannot be broken. Hand in hand, they started from 3 hectares to 3,000 hectares. Tedheke then went on to found National Farmers Group and Cooperative Society Ga’ate, Nasarawa, a cooperative that currently supports hundreds of farmers and workers.

Reflecting on his achievements in Nasarawa, he said, “We did it by being true Nigerians and developed it close to Abuja so anyone can see what we do. I’m originally from Bayelsa state, born in Delta state, now I live here and the Governor (of Nasarawa) is my Governor,” an emotional Tedheke said.

The business that started with N1.5 million is now worth about a billion naira through crowdfunding. With about 300 to 500 workers on the farm from across the country and hundreds more in indirect labour, Ga’ate is gradually becoming a community to reckon with and is finding its way on the global map.

The limelight beamed on Tedheke and Ga’ate when on Thursday, October 17, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, accompanied by the Nasarawa State Governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, paid a visit to the NFGCS Farm Centre, which Tedheke founded. It marked the germination of an inspired seed of words into a forest of achievement.

He noted that was inspired by the Buhari administration’s focus on agriculture diversification of Nigeria’s economy. He said receiving the VP on his farmland, as well as the Nasarawa State Governor was the “happiest day of my life.”

FG, China sign $3.9b agreement for Itakpe-Abuja railway, Warri seaport

The Federal Government has signed a $3.9 billion agreement with a Chinese firm for the construction of railway from Itakpe to Abuja and construction of seaport in Warri.

The agreement, which is Public Private Partnership (PPP), will have Nigeria cover 15 percent of the entire cost of the project while China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) will cover 10 per cent.

The Nation reported that remaining 75 per cent, according to the Federal Government, will be borrowed by the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).

To repay the 75 percent loan, the Federal government revealed that the rail would be managed by the CRCC for 30 years after which it would be handed over to the federal government.

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi explained that the government decided to opt for PPP agreement so as to reduce the debt from loans borrowed.

He disclosed these in Abuja on Thursday during the signing of PPP railway agreement for Abuja- Lokoja rail project and construction of Warri seaport between the federal government and a delegation from CRCC led by its Vice President, Wang Wenzhong

Amaechi said: “The signing ceremony that we have today is the first PPP railway agreement for Abuja- Itakpe or Abuja-Baru-Itakpe and Lokoja and it is between Nigeria and CRCC. The agreement is to be 15% Nigeria equity and 10percent CRCC equity and then we will borrow 75 percent as SPV from the Chinese bank.

“We will give them sovereign guarantee and they will give us performance bond that protects our sovereign guarantee. When they finish construction, they will manage for 30 years. When they recover their money, the ownership of the asset will revert back to the government of Nigeria. The 15 percent covered by us will be paid gradually.

“The entire railway for now in Nigeria is constructed by CRCC. I think that the good working relationship we have had with CRCC is the reason we have not been able to engage other companies.”

On transfer of technology and knowledge, the Minister said there was need for the Chinese firm to engage Nigerian engineers and contractors.

He said: “We need you to work with us to develop the knowledge of Nigerians and that is why we emphasized on the universities we are asking you to build. We are expecting that not only will you build, you will provide us with lecturers until we can train our own lecturers.

“Literally, all the railway activities in Nigeria are handled by Chinese firm. The Abuja-Kaduna that is completed was done by CCECC, and the Lagos Ibadan that is nearing completion is also handled by the Chinese.”

Giving update on the Lagos-Ibadan rail, Amaechi said: “I hope they (CCECC) will be able to complete the project before the deadline. We need you to complete it quickly and we have told you that by February, legally by law, the contract signed would have expired. I hope you will complete before that time so that we can commence commercial activities.”

PHOTOS: Ongoing Ogoni Cleanup in Niger Delta

Pictures from Eleme LGA, one of the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland where the clean-up/ remediation exercise is ongoing.

It shows the process of transfering contaminated soil into Bio-cell for treatment at the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) Project Site, Lot 006, Nkeleoken, Alode, Eleme LGA in Ogoniland, Rivers State.

A total of 21 contractors are currently at different levels of remediation works on 21 lots across the four Local Government Areas in Ogoniland – Eleme, Gokana, Khana and Tai LGAs.

The Ogoni clean-up is part of the Buhari administration’s New Vision and underscores its commitment to a cleaner and better environment in the Niger Delta region.

It would be recalled that in June 2016, the Buhari administration started the process of implementation of the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland. The Ogoni clean-up project is the first of its kind by a Nigerian government in the oil-rich Niger Delta environment that had been devastated by decades of oil spills.

#NDNewVision: New modular refinery set to be commissioned

A new 5,000 barrels per day modular refinery will soon be commissioned in the Niger Delta.

The modular refinery, Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Refinery, in Ogbele, Rivers State – is currently refining 1,000 bpd and was recently upgraded to 6,000 bpd.

This is in line with the Niger Delta New Vision plan of the Buhari administration to develop the Niger Delta region.

“The Buhari administration is very excited about the commissioning of this project and is indeed committed to changing the negative perception and narrative of the Niger Delta,” the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Edobor Iyamu, stated.

There are currently six modular refineries at different stages of completion in the Niger Delta region.

NDDC to partner IFAD in $129m job creation project

The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is partnering with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, in a $129.21m Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises Project in the Niger Delta, LIFE-ND, to create jobs and reduce youth restiveness.

This was declared by the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Dr Akwagaga Lelegima Enyia, when officials of the United Nations, UN, agency, led by the IFAD Country Representative, Ms Nadine Gbossa, paid her a courtesy visit at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.

According to a statement from the Commission, Enyia said: “I believe that this partnership between IFAD and the NDDC will enhance the opportunities of our youths and women and also alleviate poverty in the Niger Delta region. The NDDC is willing, ready and prepared to partner with IFAD to increase food productivity and create employment opportunities that will meaningfully engage our youths and women.

“I believe that with this programme, the issue of poverty will be taken care of and our youths and women will be happy to be engaged positively.”

The NDDC boss explained that the LIFE-ND project would address the problem of restiveness among the youths by sustainably enhancing incomes and food security, and creating jobs for young rural people and women in the Niger Delta.

The IFAD Country Representative explained that LIFE-ND programme was designed to get the youths and women to be engaged in productive activities relating to commercial agriculture.

According to her, the project would build on the successes of earlier IFAD-supported projects to develop the supply of skilled youth labour and strengthen the capacity of institutions at the state and community levels to work with private sector actors.

The Country Representative said that creating jobs for youths and women was a priority for IFAD, “which is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is financing rural development projects and developing agricultural programmes that have contributed to increased productivity and incomes in Nigeria.”

Gbossa affirmed: “We are committed to getting the programme started as soon as possible so that we can create opportunities for the youths and women in the Niger Delta region to improve their livelihood and increase their income. We want them to engage in agriculture as business.”

In his brief on the LIFE-ND project, the NDDC Director Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr George Ero, said that as co-financier, the Commission was expected to facilitate the operations of the scheme in the Niger Delta and see to its sustainability.

He noted that the overall goal of the LIFE-ND programme was to realize a transformed rural economy in the Niger Delta from which the rural population can derive prosperity and equal benefit.

Ero said: “The project development objective will enhance income, food security and job creation for rural youths and women through agricultural-enterprise development on a sustainable basis in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.”

FG, Greece partner to train Niger Delta youths

The Federal government is set to collaborate with Greece on the training of Niger Delta youths and others in shipbuilding, fishing, food sufficiency and employment generation.

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said this when the representative of the Greece government in Nigeria, Concept Amadeus Limited, paid a working visit to the ministry on Tuesday, in Abuja.

His Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Anietie Ekong, quoted Akpabio as saying that the ministry was poised to improve the standard of living of the people of the Niger Delta and Nigeria in general.

The PUNCH reported that the Minister commended the initiative which according to him, would reduce militancy and crises resulting from unemployment in the country.

The minister noted that the partnership would empower the youths in the Niger Delta region, stop the illegal fishing on Nigerian shores and also give Nigerians the opportunity to explore the value chain in the fishing industry.

Akpabio added  that the host communities would  be involved in the whole process to enable them own the project and provide the enabling environment for successful hosting of the dockyard.

He regretted that most areas in the Niger Delta might  not be good for fishing because of oil exploration, adding that the Maritime University in Okerenkoko , Delta State and the Maritime Academy in Oron, Akwa Ibom State could be used as the training ground for the shipbuilding programme.

To ensure that the whole process is domesticated,  Akpabio and the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Festus Keyamo, set up a five-man committee to work out detailed modalities of the training programme.

Earlier, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Concept Amadeus Limited, Patrick Osabase, the organisation representing the government of  Greece, said that the partnership programme  would create employment for the youths in the Niger Delta region and enhance their potential in the fishing industry.

Ogoni clean-up: UK commends HYPREP on remediation exercise

The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Gill Atkinson says she is elated at the level of work done so far in the ongoing clean-up of Ogoniland in line with the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP Report on the Ogoni environment.

Gill stated this when she led some officials of the High Commission on a working visit to some sites in Ogoniland being remediated by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP. She said, “It is really good to see some strong progress happening here and genuine implementation of the project which has taken time to plan, but as we can see, there is a real productive work going on now.  Congratulations to them for work well done”.

She gave assurance of Britain’s support politically and also offering long term expert support for the project through the Department for International Development (DFID).

The Project Coordinator, HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Barinem Dekil while briefing the British Deputy High Commissoner on the progress of work, reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to implementing the recommendations in the United Nations Environment Project (UNEP) Report to the letter in the Ogoni clean-up project.

He said HYPREP has carried out several engagements with various stakeholders at the community level to get their buy-in to enable them take ownership of the project.  He added that the sensitization provided a platform for HYPREP to harvest ideas and suggestions from the people which have yielded positive results.

“The project is enjoying full support from the traditional rulers, youth groups and women groups in all the communities that the clean-up is currently taking place”.

He explained that the bio-remediation option adopted by HYPREP for the clean-up is a slow process but the most effective.  He informed the Deputy High Commissioner that a total of 21 contractors are currently at different levels of remediation works on 21 lots across the 4 Local Government Areas of Ogoni.

The HYPREP Coordinator also said that the Project has provided huge employment opportunities for youths of Ogoni while business opportunities have also sprung up as a result of the ripple effect of activities in the communities. He disclosed that HYPREP had gone into partnerships with the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources to be able to provide water to more communities in Ogoniland; Rivers State Ministry of Health to carry out assessment of all medical facilities in Ogoniland; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) to provide training to Ogoni youths under the Sustainable Livelihood Program.

The Deputy High Commissioner and her team were later led by Dr. Dekil to pay a courtesy visit to the King of Eleme Kingdom, Emere Philip Obele in his palace where she was decorated and conferred with the title of Egbere Owa Ekoo, Eko of Eleme (Big woman and friend of Eleme Kingdom).