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ICYMI: What President Buhari said during Itakpe-Warri rail line commissioning

*Govs Okowa, Obaseki commends Buhari administration

President Muhammadu Buhari, On Tuesday, September 29, inaugurated the 326 km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line for commercial operation, as well as the ancillary facilities yard, at the recently named Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex in Agbor (Owa-Oyibu), Delta State.

The President, who declared the rail line open for commercial operations at a virtual meeting in State House, instructed the Federal Ministry of Transportation to link all the nation’s ports of origin and destination – Apapa, Tin Can, Warri, Onne, Calabar Ports – to the rail network to enhance overall transportation and economic capacities.

The President declared that his administration recognised the importance of the railway mode of transportation as a vital backbone to support industrialization and economic development.

“Accordingly, I have approved the prioritization of viable railway routes for either new rail lines or the reconstruction and rehabilitation of some, to achieve effective and efficient train services supporting the country’s trade and commerce.

“The Railway Infrastructure that I have the honour to commission today is the rail line from Itakpe via the steel town complex of Ajaokuta to Warri, and is an important link for the country’s economy as the central rail line.

“This Government has also approved to link this line further from Itakpe to Abuja, thereby, connecting the Northern Zone of the country and also extending southwards to link the Warri Ports.”

“It will link people across the cultural divides and expand the frontier of trade and commerce, which will lead to better standards of living for our citizens,” he said.

President Buhari recalled that to further give recognition to Nigerian sons and daughters who have distinguished themselves at nation building and development , 11 railway stations and railway village were named after some deserving citizens.

He listed them as follows: Adamu Attah Station, Itakpe; Abubakar Olusola Saraki Station, Ajaokuta; Augustus Aikhomu Station, Itogbo; George Innih Station, Agenebode; Anthony Enahoro Station, Uromi; Tom Ikimi Station, Ekehen and Samuel Ogbemudia Station, Igbanke.

Others are Goodluck Jonathan Railway Complex, Agbor, Owa-Oyibu; David Ejoor Station, Abraka; Michael Ibru Station, Opara; Alfred Rewane Station, Ujevwu; and Michael Akhigbe Railway Village, Agbor

“I implore those who work on this line to uphold maintenance and safety culture necessary for long-lasting service in this difficult terrain.

“By the same token, I urge other sectors who will be primary beneficiaries of this transportation backbone, including, the iron and steel sector, stakeholders in agricultural and mining sectors on this corridor, as well as the host communities to protect and sustain this infrastructure and maximize the benefits that could be derived from it and which is readily available at their doorsteps.

“This project will increase the volume of their trade and kickstart and resuscitate the iron and steel complexes.

“All these, I hope will improve our industrial potentials and capacities as well as boost employment,’’ he said.

President Buhari said projections indicate that the commencement of operation of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail line will account for close to one million passengers annually and also unleash approximately 3.5 million tonnes capacity of freight annually that will service all off-takers on the corridor and beyond.

Congratulating the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and his team on successfully completing the project, the President recognized the host communities on this corridor for their patience during the long wait of over 30 years for the realization of the project.

He also commended the host communities for their cooperation during the completion works by the Federal Government.

He assured Nigerians that his administration would continue, within available resources, to judiciously connect commercial and industrial hubs to boost trade, generate wealth and create employment.

In his remarks, Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa commended President Buhari’s bi-partisan approach to governance, saying ‘‘it is a thing of pride and joy that this rail line was completed under your watch.’’

“Deltans are excited that this day has come,’’ he said, adding that the Ika nation is glad of the recognition accorded former President Goodluck Jonathan, in naming the railway complex in Agbor after him.

Okowa urged the private sector to take advantage of the historic corridor by establishing investments that will create jobs for locals, curb youth restiveness and stem the tide of criminality.

“It is imperative that the Federal Government in collaboration with the States provide adequate security cover for this rail line corridor,” he said.

In his remarks, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki congratulated the President on the feat of completing the project, saying it is quite fortuitous that few days to the country’s 60th independence celebration, the President has achieved the completion of this critical infrastructure.

“For us in Edo State we are excited that we have a few stops that have been completed and we are going to be working with you to utilise this infrastructure,” he said.

The Edo Governor appealed to the minister of transportation to extend the rail line to the industrial park in Benin City to facilitate the movement of goods to the northern part of the country.

Also speaking, Amaechi said the project was fully funded by the Nigerian government, adding that 8 of the 10 stations are in the Niger-Delta/ South South region of the country.

“There is no loan on this project, it was funded from the budget and I had the directive of the President to go and revive it and complete it as soon as possible,’’ he said.

According to the Transportation Minister, the project started under the military era in 1987 but ‘‘underwent protracted hiccups, prolonged abandonment and massive vandalisation,’’ before it was resuscitated by the Buhari administration.

Nigeria at 60: Stronger Together

Happy 60th Independence Day celebrations, to all Nigerians. God bless our country!

President Buhari to inaugurate Itakpe-Warri rail line today

President Muhammadu Buhari will today commission the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge rail line, running through Kogi, Edo and Delta states, with commercial operations on the line expected to commence.

The rail service has 12 stations with two located between Itakpe, Ajaokuta and Warri. They include Itakpe; Eganiy; Adobe; Itogbo; Agenebode; Uromi; Egehen; Igbanke; Agbor; Abraka; Okpara and Ujewu.

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is expected to  lead the Federal Government delegation to the event.

The 276 kilometres rail line, otherwise known as the Central Railway line, was originally designed for the transportation of Iron ore to Ajaokuta (Kogi) and Aladja Steel Rolling mills (Delta State). It was also designed to transport processed steel to the port in Warri, Delta.

The Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway project was first awarded in 1987, the project was initially planned to be delivered in 5 years. However it was abandoned for 33 years due to paucity of funds. The construction of the Itakpe-Warri railway line was abandoned after 254 kilometres had been constructed.

The inauguration of the Itakpe-Warri rail line is a significant feat worth celebrating, as the rail line was mooted about 33 years but was abandoned. Although in 2009, the construction of the Itakpe-Warri railway line was reactivated, with the Goodluck Jonathan led Federal government then approving the redesign and completion of the remaining 22 kilometers. But under President Buhari’s administration, it has been completed and will be running. This has set the pace for many more projects to be completed in the Niger Delta region.

It is another demonstration of the commitment of the Buhari administration to develop the Niger Delta.  The Warri-Itakpe rail line is one of the achievements under the Niger Delta New Vision of the Buhari administration.

The contractors who constructed the rail line are China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCEC), Technique Engineering Architecture Marketing (TEAM) and Julius Berger who have lived up to expectations in terms of quality delivery on the project. They have since concluded their jobs, which they did well and met the desired structure for the rail line, of which the project will be effectively managed by the Nigeria Railway Commission (NRC).

In July, the largest station on the Itakpe-Warri route – the Agbor railway facility and station, was named after former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The rail station will resume commercial activities after the commissioning as soon as discussions are concluded between Dangote and Bua cement. Also, the Ajaokuta steel company and other manufacturers around the railway area are also expected to move their products through the train.

NIGER DELTA: BUHARI ADMINISTRATION 5TH ANNIVERSARY FACT SHEET (MAY 2020)

NEW VISION FOR THE NIGER DELTA #NDNewVision

The Buhari administration’s New Vision for the Niger Delta brings together a robust set of promises, solutions, targets and initiatives aimed at ensuring that the people of the Niger Delta benefit maximally from the oil wealth in the region.

The New Vision offers a detailed response to the 16-point Demand Agenda submitted to President Buhari by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in November 2016.

Tangible results of the New Vision so far include:

  • Take-off of the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State. The University was granted approval in January 2018 by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to commence undergraduate degree programmes effective 2017/18 session, and commenced academic activities on April 12, 2018.
  • President Buhari approved 5 billion Naira in take-off grant for the Maritime University.
  • The Maritime University commenced full academic activities for the 2017/2018 academic year with a total of 370 students spread across 13 undergraduate programmes in three Faculties approved by the NUC, namely: Transport, Engineering and Environmental Management.
  • Ogoni Clean-Up: Setting aside of US$170m seed funding for the Ogoni Clean Up, in an Escrow Account established for that purpose. The Escrow Agreement Signing Ceremony took place in April 2018.
  • The Clean-Up commenced in January 2019, with the handover of the first batch of sites to the selected remediation firms, after a painstaking procurement process.
  • A total of 21 sites has so far been handed over to contractors by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) under the Federal Ministry of Environment for ongoing remediation works and restoration of the environment. The Ogoni clean-up is the first of its kind in the history of Niger Delta.
  • Approvals for the establishment of private-sector-led Modular Refineries across the nine States of the Niger Delta – the first three Refineries have now been completed, while construction is ongoing on others (Ikwe-Onna Refinery, Akwa Ibom;  Azikel Refinery, Bayelsa; and AIPCC Refinery, Edo).
  • The 3 Modular Refineries now completed are: Niger Delta Petroleum Resources (NDPR) Modular Refinery, Rivers; OPAC Modular Refinery, Delta; and Waltersmith Refinery, Imo.
  • Infrastructure projects include the ongoing construction work on the 34-kilometres Bonny-Bodo road. When completed, the Bonny-Bodo road (and bridge), which was flagged off in October 2017, would connect several major communities and boost socioeconomic development in the region.
  • There is also the Itakpe-Warri rail line project, which is now complete and ready for commissioning. The rail line would handle passenger, commercial and freight services.
  • The Federal Government is also in the process of developing sea ports in the region, including Warri, Ibaka deep sea port, among other development projects like the establishment of Export Processing Zones to boost economic activities.

VIDEO: #NDNewVision: How President Buhari administration is transforming Niger Delta

How President Buhari’s led administration is transforming the Niger Delta region. (A review of some of the programmes and activities of the administration in the last five years)

We’ll campaign for a peaceful, clean Niger Delta – NDDC

The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Gbene Dr Joi Nunieh, says the Commission will drive a Niger Delta Next Level Re-Orientation Campaign to promote a non-violent and clean Niger Delta region.

Dr Nunieh stated this yesterday during a courtesy visit by a delegation from the Amayanabo of Okochiri, in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, King Ateke Tom, at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt.

According to a statement from the Commission, the NDDC Chief Executive Officer was joined at the event by the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang, the Acting Executive Director, Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh and other directors.

Nunieh said: “We want all Niger delta stakeholders to join hands in the re-orientation for a better environment and a non-violent Niger Delta.  With a clean and peaceful environment, investors will be interested to come to the region.”

She urged all Niger Deltans to support the efforts of the Federal Government to clean up Nigeria’s oil-rich region, assuring that NDDC would encourage the various communities to keep their villages and waterways clean.

The NDDC boss called on all Niger Delta stakeholders to join in the new movement to take the region to the next level, assuring that President Muhammadu Buhari was determined to give the NDDC a new face and a new lease of life.

She noted: “The President stands with us in the quest to turn things around for good in the Niger Delta. That is why he approved the setting up of the Interim Management Committee to ensure that the process of the forensic auditing of the NDDC was carried out properly.”

Nunieh stated that stakeholders in the region no longer had need to visit the NDDC to get things done because according to her, “our work will henceforth speak for us.”

She emphasised: “We want to take development to the rural communities and we want the Community Development Committees, CDCs, to become very active in rural development. Consequently, we have advised the youths that visit the NDDC to go back and wait for us in their communities because the water hyacinth contracts will henceforth be executed by communities through their CDCs.”

Nunieh said that the NDDC was going through a reformation process, which she observed went beyond the forensic auditing. She stated that the days of wastages were over, adding: “We must all put our hands on the deck to save the Niger Delta.”

Earlier in his remarks, the leader of the delegation from the Amayanabo of Okochiri, Comrade Opia Joshua Ojieh, said they came to identify with the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC.

He regretted that the NDDC, which was set up to fast-track the development of the Niger Delta region, had not lived up to the expectations of the people of the region.

Ojieh noted that the Commission was established as a result of the struggles of concerned Niger deltans. He, however, observed: “We are not satisfied with how the NDDC has been run in the past. That is why we support the position of President Buhari in setting up the Interim Management Committee.

“It is unfortunate that having stayed in the creeks for years to fight for the development of the Niger Delta, we are yet to realize our goals because of poor management of our collective resources by the previous administrations in the NDDC.”

Ojieh commended members of the IMC, describing them as men and women of integrity with good track record. He thanked the Federal Government for giving a listening ear to the cries of the Niger Delta people, stating: “We are looking forward to seeing the new face of the Niger Delta.”

NDDC suspends payment of N1Bn ‘agent fee’

The Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Dr. Gbene Joi Nunieh, says the Commission has suspended the monthly payment of N1 billion to a consultant that collects money from International Oil Companies, IOCs, on its behalf.

Nunieh, who spoke in an interview with newsmen at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, emphasised that the Commission did not need middlemen to collect statutory funds due to it.

According to a statement by the commission, she said: “We have a consulting firm engaged as a collection agent. We have another company that also collects 3 per cent whenever money is paid by the International Oil Companies, IOCs.

“We don’t need a middle man to collect 3 per cent for gas. The money should just be paid into NDDC accounts with the CBN.”

Nunieh stated that political interferences were setting the Commission back, noting that her desk was overflowing with files waiting for payments, even from companies belonging to one individual. She asked: “How can someone have 87 companies waiting for payment?”

The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that in spite of the political interferences, she was not going to compromise, stating: “That is why I have suspended the contract of a collection agent. We are no longer going to pay anyone N1 billion every month. That is wicked.

“That money can put mono pumps in rural communities in the Niger Delta. It can buy books and set up primary health centres. The three per cent for a consulting firm is over. That is why we are under pressure. But I laugh because those who live in glass houses should never throw stones.”

Nunieh called on Niger Deltans to stand up to protect their region. According to her, “what is happening is very embarrassing. We must all get up and know that these people have taken our commonwealth.”

The NDDC boss said that things were beginning to look up as many contractors have gone back to site since she mounted the saddle as the MD/CEO. “We have about 57 contractors that have gone back to site. I am encouraging everyone to go back to site so that things will be done properly. Those that actually execute their contracts will be paid,” she assured.

Addressing the issue of the legitimacy of the three-man Interim Management Committee, IMC, Dr Nunieh wondered why people were misconstruing the situation, observing that although the NDDC Act was silent on the matter of an Interim Management Committee, IMC, the President had the right to set up the body.

She said: “The NDDC Act is clear on the matter of the Commission’s chairmanship. It says that after Cross River State, Delta State is supposed to produce the Chairman of the NDDC board. If the Act says that after Cross River, Delta should produce the chairman, why would anyone say no?

“When the governors of the South-South states, led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, visited President Muhammadu Buhari, he assured them that he would comply with the Act setting up the NDDC in taking decisions concerning the agency. He said that he would respect the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He also directed that a forensic audit be carried out from 2001 to date, stating that it was only after the audit that he would decide what to do with the Commission.”

Nunieh remarked that the NDDC would make sure that everything runs smoothly in the course of the forensic audit ordered by the President. Affirming that the audit would be deep and detailed, she said this explained the panic in certain quarters.

The Acting Managing Director stressed that her focus was on rural development. She explained: “We are trying to see how quickly we can get water to every village before long. We will try to see how we can use existing infrastructure to get water to the villages.

“No big contractors. Get the locals who are plumbers to get the mono-pumps to work. We are going to take development to the people and that is why you no longer see the young men hanging around our gates. We have asked them to go back to their communities and we will meet them there.”

Nunieh said that NDDC would encourage communities to set up cooperative societies to address peculiar challenges. She added: “We are going to give awards for the cleanest villages in the Niger Delta. We are going to see who has the cleanest water fronts. Everyone will take care of their water fronts and the Niger Delta will be green again.”

The NDDC boss promised that the Commission would carry out an epidemiological study in the Niger Delta to find out the prevalent sickness in the region and see what could be done.

She said: “Our people must be helped to stay alive and healthy. Look at the United Nation Environmental Project, UNEP, report which states that one in eight Ogonis would die of cancer. So, you can imagine the situation in other parts of the Niger Delta.”

President Buhari approves Interim Committee for NDDC

*Sends NDDC board list to Senate for confirmation

In line with his recent directive for a comprehensive audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), covering from 2001–2019 period, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to prepare for the audit.

They are: Dr. Gbene Joi Nunieh as Acting Managing Director; Dr. Cairo Ojougboh as Acting Executive Director, Projects, and Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang as Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration.

The IMC was inaugurated by the Honourable Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, in Abuja on Tuesday.

The Inauguration of the new NDDC Board Members – whose names have been sent to the National Assembly for confirmation – will be put on hold until the forensic audit exercise is completed. The IMC will run the organization in the intervening period.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Tuesday started the process of confirming the appointments of nominees for the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, after President Buhari had sent NDDC board list to Senate for confirmation.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan read a letter from President Buhari, announcing the 16-member board at plenary. Lawan asked the committee on Niger Delta to conclude the screening of the nominees and submit a report, within one week.

According to the letter from the President; the nominees include Dr. Pius Odubu, a former deputy governor of Edo State, who would serve as Chairman; while Bernard Okumagba from Delta State, would serve as Managing Director and Otobong Ndem from Akwa Ibom State was nominated as the Executive Director, Projects.

Others include, Maxwell Okoh from Bayelsa State; Jones Erue from Delta State; Victor Ekhatar from Edo State; and Joy Nunieh from Rivers State; Nwogu Nwogu from Abia State; Theodore Allison from Bayelsa State; Victor Antai from Akwa Ibom State; and Maurice Effiwatt from Cross River State.

Olugbenga Edema from Ondo State; Uchegbu Kyrian from Imo State; and Aisha Murtala Muhammed from Kano State representing North-West area on the board are also on the list.

The other names on the list are, Ardo Zubairu (Adamawa State), who will represent the North East; and Ambassador Abdullahi Bage (Nasarawa), who would represent the North Central geopolitical zone.

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.”

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.