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Presidential Amnesty Programme: Niger Delta monarchs pledge support

Traditional rulers in the Niger Delta have declared their total support for the Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Col. Milland Dixion Dikio (Rtd).

They also agreed to work closely with him to realize his new vision for the PAP and achieve lasting peace in the region. The monarchs made the pledge in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when Dikio paid them a courtesy call as part of his ‘Back to the Region tour last Tuesday, according to a Vanguard report.

While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for his appointment, the traditional rulers said Dikio’s tour of the region and his inclusive approach in the running of the PAP has reinstated the confidence of stakeholders that the Federal Government is committed to the objectives of the programme. In a speech read on his behalf, the Executive Chairman/General Coordinator of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs of Nigeria, King (Captain) Frank Okurakpo expressed confidence that Dikio will live up to expectations. King Okurakpo however appealed to Dikio to ensure that all those who have been trained under the PAP are fully engaged in order to reduce youth unemployment in the region. The monarchs also called for the establishment of amphibious security outfit that will be responsible for checkmating kidnapping and other sundry crimes within the region.

They also investment in Agriculture and marine transportation that will help create jobs. In his remarks Dikio thanked the monarchs for maintaining peace in their domains and assured them of his readiness to recalibrate the training programme of the PAP to reflect areas that people of the Niger Delta have comparative advantage. He said his tour of the region was deliberate because of the insinuations that the programme has been hijacked by other regions and has become an “Abuja thing”. Dikio told the monarchs that his actions and policies would be guided by consensus inputs of key stakeholders of which they play a major role He added that his focus would be effective reintegration of ex-agitators.

“We want to work with all tiers of government and those central to our new vision so that we can deliver the deliverables of the PAP. “This is essentially why I have come to meet with you today. I want you as royal fathers to help us restore that age-long respect for our institutions and our elders. Those are the fabrics that helps to preserve our traditions and culture. “We are people from riverine communities. There are things that are mostly peculiar to us and they come naturally with us. So we are going to recalibrate our trainings to take cognizance of those areas we have comparative advantage over otherd and enhance them. That to me will in the long run positively impact on our people. “Ultimately we want to synergise with all stakeholders so that we can make the Niger Delta a place to live and do business in”.

 

NDDC audit: Forensic auditors to take over contract files

As part of the on-going Forensic Audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, the lead consultants, Olumuyiwa Basiru & Co. will tomorrow (Thursday) takeover all original contract files relating to projects and programmes awarded by the NDDC between 2001 and 2019, as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The NDDC, in a statement issued yesterday, said the takeover of the contract files by the Forensic Auditors will mark the commencement of the next stage of the exercise which started with the handover of contract documents covering projects captured during the verification exercise in April 2020.

According to the statement, “It is important to emphasize that the forensic audit is being carried out in phases and we are now ready to kick-off the Field Forensic Audit. To ensure the success of this exercise, we are making available all required documents needed by the field auditors to enable them discharge their duties efficiently and effectively.

“The NDDC management will meet with the forensic auditors to formally release the files which have been sorted in 16 lots as segmented for the forensic exercise.

“We wish to inform the public that all contract files are no longer in the office of the Acting Executive Director Projects, as they are now in the custody of the auditors.”

NDDC Director Health and Social Services, Princess Philomena Oputa, (Left) and the Provost College of Health Science, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Iyeopu Siminialayi

COVID-19: NDDC hands over testing equipment to Teaching Hospitals

The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has handed over Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR, machines and related medical items to three teaching hospitals and one College of Health in Rivers and Delta States for the fight against the Coronavirus, COVID-19.

Handing over the medical equipment to representatives of the hospitals in Port Harcourt, the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, said that the distribution of PCR machines across the Niger Delta region would help in both testing of patients for COVID-19 and also for research purposes.

According to a statement by the Commission, Prof Pondei, who was represented by the Director Health and Social Services, Princess Philomena Oputa, said that the equipment would impact positively on the lives of the people of the Niger Delta region and address their health concerns as it relates to COVID-19.

He noted: “We are continuing with the distribution of PCR machines across the Niger Delta region. The handover should have taken place in the institutions but they were so excited and could not wait and decided to come and carry the equipment themselves.

“We are still distributing and we are going to send to the remaining states that are not here today because that is the original plan.”

Responding, the Chief Medical Director, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Prof. Henry Ugboma, said that the equipment would go a long way in improving service delivery in the health institutions.

He said: “I can assure you that as we have received this, we are going to put it into good use and I am asking that in a very short time, NDDC will call us again for further assistance.”

Also speaking, the Provost College of Health Science, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Iyeopu Siminialayi, noted that the equipment were expensive and not easy to come by. He added: “We thank the Federal Government for approving the money for the NDDC that made it possible to get these equipment. We look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership with the NDDC.”

In his own remarks, the Director of Health Services of Rivers State University, Dr. Dagogo Cooky-Gam, thanked the NDDC for assisting health institutions in the Niger Delta region. He said that the equipment will enable the university to set up a laboratory that would help in testing students and other members of the university community.

PIB: Oil Firms’ licences may be revoked over neglect of host communities

Oil firms that neglect their obligations to host communities risk losing their operating licenses if the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) presently before the National Assembly sails through.

The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) seeks to increase government revenue from oil, establish strengthened legal and regulatory framework for the Nigerian oil industry, and promote transparency in the administration of Nigerian petroleum resources.

According to Leadership newspapers, in the new bill, the power to revoke oil licenses is vested on the Minister of Petroleum Resources. It reported that according to the bill, the action will be taken with the recommendation of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, among other powers.

It defines host community as “any community situated in or appurtenant to the Area of Operation of a Settlor (oil company), and any other community as a Settlor may determine.”

It said that any oil and gas company that fails to incorporate the Host Communities Development Trust would have its license revoked.

It stated that on its constitution, the Host Communities Development Trust would be empowered to manage and supervise the administration of the annual contribution of the settlor (oil companies) contemplated under the Act and any other sources of funding.

The bill further proposed that the objectives of the trust shall include financing and executing projects for the benefit and sustainable development of the host communities.

“It will undertake infrastructure development of the host communities within the scope of funds available to the Board of Trustees for such purposes; and facilitate economic empowerment opportunities in the host communities, among others,” it said.

Other powers granted the minister of Petroleum in the new bill include the revocation and assignment of interests in the petroleum industry, and approval of the fees for services rendered by the upstream, midstream and downstream regulatory authorities.

The bill is also proposing to empower the minister to order a cutback of the levels of crude oil or condensate production in the context of international oil pricing agreements supported by Nigeria.

It stated: “The minister is also empowered to, upon the recommendation of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission, or the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, direct in writing the suspension of petroleum operations in any area.

“The suspension, according to the bill will persist until arrangements to prevent danger to life or property have been made to his satisfaction or where in his opinion, a contravention of the Act or any regulation made under the Act has occurred or is likely to occur”.

The bill has passed second reading at the Senate and a committee was constituted to work on it for further deliberation.

2020 Marginal Oilfield bid still on, says DPR

*600 companies applied to bid for 57 marginal oil fields

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) says the bid round process for its 57 marginal oilfields in the country is still ongoing.

The Head, Public Affairs, DPR, Mr. Paul Osu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos that the bidding process has not been completed.

“The 2020 marginal oilfield bid round process is still ongoing in line with our published timelines on DPR website and bid portal.

“Over 600 companies have applied to be prequalified for the bid rounds which began on June 1. However, the DPR had put measures in place to ensure that the awardees would be credible investors with technical and financial capability.

“The objective of the 2020 marginal field bid round was to deepen the participation of indigenous companies in the upstream segment of the industry and provide opportunities for technical and financial partnerships for investors.”

According to Osu, the last time the country conducted marginal field bid rounds was in 2003 “with 16 of the fields now contributing two per cent to the national oil and gas reserves while bringing development to their host communities in the Niger Delta.”

NAN reports that a marginal field is any field that has reserves booked and reported annually to the DPR and was unproductive for a period of over 10 years.

NDDC Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojoughoh, (right) during a visit to the Coventry University in UK

We’ll begin payment of outstanding scholarship claims soon – NDDC

The Management of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has reassured the beneficiaries of its Foreign Post Graduate Scholarship programme in the United Kingdom that the remaining scholars will be paid within one week.

According to a statement by the Commission, the NDDC Acting Executive Director Projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, was in London on Thursday, September 17, 2020, with relevant officers of the Commission, to carry out physical verification, monitoring and evaluation of legitimate students on the scholarship programme.

The statement read, “Having concluded the verification exercise, which involved the registration of all scholars and the confirmation of their claims with the various universities, payment of the outstanding fees were to commence immediately.

“Unfortunately, some unforeseen circumstances, including the upheavals that followed the EndSARS protests by youths, constituted stumbling blocks for the speedy implementation of the payment plan.

“Before the protests, which slowed down activities, the NDDC Interim Management Committee, IMC, had released $5,910,000 million through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to offset all the verified outstanding foreign scholarship obligations, despite the non-passage of NDDC 2020 budget by the National Assembly.

“Obviously, the CBN was not immune to the sad realities bedeviling the nation in the past few weeks. However, the bank has promised to treat the case of the scholarship beneficiaries with utmost dispatch.

“We appeal for understanding and patience from the students. We urge them not to allow themselves to be used as tools by those sponsoring devious campaigns to discredit the IMC through protests at the Nigerian Embassy in London.

“We re-affirm our commitment to the Post Graduate scholarship Scheme, which is part of our efforts to develop professional manpower to help in the transformation of the Niger Delta region.”

5,000 bpd Waltersmith Modular Refinery Ready for Operations – DPR

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has said that the 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) Waltersmith Modular Refinery project is fully ready for operations.

The Director of DPR, Mr Sarki Auwalu, stated this during a pre-commissioning visit to the project site located in Ibigwe, Imo State recently.

The refinery had been officially scheduled for inauguration on Monday, October 26, 2020, but had to be put on hold due the nationwide protest.

Auwalu said the purpose of the visit was to make sure that Waltersmith Refinery was ready to start operations. “We can confirm that the refinery is very much ready to commence operations. We have seen all the preparations. To us, the plant is alive. The commissioning is just symbolic. Everywhere is ready to start off. My overall assessment is excellent.

“We have been to other modular refineries but we have not seen anything like this: the space, the way it is arranged and the way it will work”, Auwalu said.

The DPR director, however, urged Nigerians to start seeing the agency as an enabler and not a regulator, stressing that their focus was on how to create opportunities for Nigeria’s vast oil and gas resources to be properly managed for the betterment of Nigerians.

According to him, “The role we play is to enable businesses and create opportunities. When DPR issues you a license, it enables you to invest. It is that opportunity we create that enable businesses to grow.”

Auwalu added: “Waltersmith is one of our success stories. We consider the project as ours. We have been tracking their growth and we are happy to see that our child is growing. It is our plan that they expand and they have the potential.”

The 5,000bpd modular refinery has a crude oil storage capacity of 60,000 barrels and is projected to deliver over 271 million litres per year of refined petroleum products comprising of Diesel, Kerosene, Naphtha and Heavy Fuel Oils to the domestic market.

The bulk of the crude supply for this phase will come from Waltersmith’s upstream business with backup from nearby third-party crude.

“What you see here is a proof of the absolute faith we have in our country. We want to demonstrate that it is practically a waste of resources to produce crude oil and just sell it. It is more impactful to add value and make more significant impact on the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of our nation”, Chairman of Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company, Abdulrasaq Isah, was quoted as saying during the visit.

“This is the first phase of a series of refinery development which will culminate in the delivery of up to 50,000bpd refining capacity that will expand the product slate to include petrol, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Aviation fuel”, he said.

Isah added that the expansion plan consists of 20,000bpd crude oil refinery and a standalone 25,000bpd condensate refinery both of which are at early stages of project development.

On the sustainability of the refinery project, Managing Director/Chief Executive of Waltersmith, Mr. Chikezie Nwosu, said domestic consumption was more sustainable than crude export.

“With export, there are things you do not have control over and for every dollar you gain by exporting crude oil as a commodity, you gain multiples of those dollars in terms of GDP growth by consuming the energy within the economy”, Nwosu said.

Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company obtained License to Establish from DPR in June 2015 and obtained Authority to construct in March 2017.

The company partnered with Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) who are 30 per cent equity holders while the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) committed significant financing to the project.

#EndSARS protests: Shun violence, embrace peace – Akpabio to N’Delta youths

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, has appealed to the youth of the Niger Delta region to shun violence and embrace peace in the wake of the nationwide #EndSARS protests.

Akpabio, who led a Federal Government delegation to Uyo, Akwa Ibom, made the appeal at the stakeholders’ conference comprising the youth in Uyo on Saturday.

He said that he was saddened by the violence that was caused by hoodlums, who hijacked the #EndSARS protests to cause wanton destruction and looting of public and private properties.

The minister called on Niger Delta youths to shun acts capable of truncating the peace in the region, while urging the youth to embrace programmes and policies rolled out by the President aimed at addressing the challenges of the region.

The Nation reported that Akpabio, who was accompanied by other government officials from the state including Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang, said they were in Akwa Ibom at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Speaking, the minister urged youths of the state to embrace peace as President Buhari was committed to meeting their demands with regard to police reforms.

Akpabio mentioned that the FG was doing a lot in terms of job creation and development of key economic infrastructure in the state and the Niger Delta region.

He asked youths of the state to take advantage of social and economic job intervention programmes of the FG, adding that the Buhari administration is desirous of combating poverty and unemployment in the country.

Akpabio said the #EndSARS protest was capable of scaring away existing and expected investors with the negative economic effects on the state and the region.

He commended Governor Udom Emmanuel and other governors for setting up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to address concerns of victims of SARS brutality, adding that the FG was ready to work with governors to achieve justice for victims.

The Minister urged all those who have lost their properties in the Thursday carnage to channel their petitions to the judicial commission of enquiry.

The Minister said, “We have gone round and seen the level of destruction in the state, it is a sordid sight. People were working in all these places they destroyed. This is very sad and regrettable. This must stop. I am constrained to address you on the #EndSARS protests which started peacefully but turned into mayhem and criminality.

“The Federal Government is very serious in addressing the yearnings of the proper #EndSARS protesters but condemned the wanton destruction and looting of public and private properties. The youth should know that they are the leaders of tomorrow and should not cut short their life through criminality.

“We are appealing to the youth to cease the protest and come to the table and go into dialogue. We are very proud of our youths.”

In the same vein, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta, Sen. Ita Enang, condemned the wanton destruction of lives and properties by miscreants under the guise of the “EndSARS. He urged the youth of the region to maintain the peace and avoid any destruction of public or private property.

Enang urged all those with genuine complaints to avail themselves of the Judicial Committee of Inquiry to address them.

 

 

 

 

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!