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Photos: OPAC Modular Refinery, Kwale, Delta

In line with the Buhari administration’s New Vision for the Niger Delta, the establishment of modular refineries in the region is already underway in the oil-rich region.

The Niger Delta New Vision is hinged on the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari administration to develop the region and ensure that the people of the region benefit maximally from the wealth of their land. The New Vision speaks to a progressive partnership among the federal government, state government, private sector and  local communities.

“One of the nagging issues we were confronted with during my tour (of the Niger Delta) was how to deal with the proliferation of artisanal refinery and its attendant negative environmental impact. Our solution was to promote the establishment of modular refineries,” Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, said recently.

Following the approval of for the establishment of private-sector-led Modular Refineries across the Niger Delta region by the Federal Government, several modular refineries have now been now completed or undergoing construction.

Below are recent photos of OPAC Modular Refinery in Kwale, Delta State, which will be set for operations soon.

Ogoni CleanUp: FG flag-off of water projects in Ogoniland

As part of the key emergency measures recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the Cleanup of Ogoniland, the Federal Government has flagged off key water projects in Ogoniland to provide potable water to the impacted communities.

The ongoing cleanup efforts is being undertaken by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), under the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Recall, that HYPREP had carried out a survey of drinking water sources across the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland. A total of 600 water samples was collected and analysed from 47 impacted communities across the four (4) LGAs – Eleme, Gokana, Tai and Khana.

HYPREP also commenced the process for the construction of new comprehensive water schemes and rehabilitation of existing ones in these communities.

The event, which was well attended by leaders from the host communities, representatives from UNEP, Shell Nigeria and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta region, is a milestone in the ongoing cleanup of Ogoniland.

At the flag-off of the water projects in Ogoni, the Officer Overseeing the Project Coordinating Office (PCO), HYPREP, Prof. Phillip Shekwolo, called on Ogoni people to support the laudable agenda of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the cleanup of Ogoniland.

Shekwolo also commended the efforts of the Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood, in accelerating the contract approval process.

Recall that the Minister had paid a courtesy visit to the Palace of HRH Barile Y. Deebom, Mene Ken-Khana Kingdom last week, where he stated that eight additional water projects will soon commence in Ogoni. The Minister also launched the 5,000 NEEDS Assessment forms for the livelihood programme.

Why FG approved $1.5bn for Port Harcourt Refinery rehabilitation

Facts have emerged why the Federal Government approved $1.5 Billion for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery in Rivers State.

The 38th virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the sum for the rehabilitation of the Refinery said to be the largest refining company in the country.

According to the SUN, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, said the rehabilitation will be done in three phases of 18, 24 and 44 months.

He said the contract was awarded to an Italian company, Tecnimont spa, who are experts in refinery maintenance.

He said the funding has three components from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), budgetary allocations provisions and Afreximbank.

Sylva who addressed State House Correspondents alongside his colleagues, Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire and Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, assured that local content is fully involved in the job.

He said: “The Ministry of Petroleum Resources presented a memo on the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery for the sum of 1.5 billion, and it was approved by council today.

“So we are happy to announce that the rehabilitation of productivity refinery will commence in three phases. The first phase is to be completed in 18 months, which will take the refinery to a production of 90 percent of its nameplate capacity.

“The second phase is to be completed in 24 months and the final stage will be completed in 44 months and contract was approved. And I believe that this is good news for Nigeria.”

Speaking more on the contractor, the minister said: “The contractor that was approved by Council today is Messrs. Tecnimont spa, of Italy, it’s an Italian EPC company that won the bid and that was approved by Council.”

On the question about operations and maintenance, Sylva said: “That has been a big problem for our refineries, as we all know, that was also exhaustively discussed in Council and the agreement is that we are going to put a professional Operations and Maintenance company to manage the refinery when it has been rehabilitated.

“In any case, it is actually one of the conditions presented by the lenders, because the lenders say they can only give us the money if we have a professional operations and maintenance company, and that already is embedded in our discussions with the lenders and we cannot go back on that.”

On whether the funds for the rehabilitation of the refinery was available, the minister said: “I want to answer that the funds are all in place and work will commence forthwith.”

On when the other refineries in the country will be rehabilitated, he said: “Discussions are ongoing. We want to take one at a time and I want to assure you that before the lifetime of this administration expires, work on all the refineries would have at least commenced.”

On why the government did not go back to  the original builders of the refinery, Sylva said: “The first action was to go to the original refinery builders, but you all know, like I do, that if you have a Toyota car, and your Toyota car develops problem, you don’t have to go to the builders of the Toyota to fix it. Usually there are people in the business of building Toyota cars, there are also people in the business of maintaining Toyota cars.

“So, we found out from the original refinery builders that they are not in the business of rehabilitating refineries, they are in the business of building refineries. So they actually pointed us to a rehabilitation company that we’re dealing with now.”

Asked who the lenders of the funds were, the minister said: “There are various components to the funding: there is funding from NNPC internally generated revenue, there is funding from the budget and there is also a debt funding. For the lenders, we are dealing with AFREXIM bank and they are very committed to us, we have actually concluded discussions with AFREXIM.”

On the issue of local participation in the rehabilitation of the refinery, Sylva said: “As you know, there is a local content law. The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) is fully part of the contracting process and has safeguarded the interest, adequately of our local contractors, so our local people will be fully involved with the Tecnimont spa.”

On if the rehabilitation of the refinery was as a result of Labour unions demand that deregulation of petroleum price should come after refineries rehabilitation, he said: “First, I am not aware of any such agreement that deregulation should only take place after the refineries have been fixed, that was at no time part of our agreement. But of course, this government, from the very beginning, has been in the process of fixing and rehabilitating this refinery, so, it is not because of our discussion with Labour, but it is actually the desire of the administration to ensure that our refineries work and that is the process that has bore fruit today.”

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President Buhari performs groundbreaking ceremony for Bonny Deep Sea Port, others

*Other projects are Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Rail Line and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday presided over the virtual groundbreaking ceremony of the rehabilitation and reconstruction Of Port Harcourt — Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway Project, Bonny Deep-Sea Port and Railway Industrial park, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

When completed, the 1,443-kilometre Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Rail Line will connect Rivers, Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe and Borno states all by rail.

President Buhari noted that the groundbreaking ceremony of the three projects – Port Harcourt—Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway Project, Bonny Deep-Sea Port and Railway Industrial park – marked the commencement of the implementation of another important national infrastructure.

According to the President, the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri narrow gauge railway reconstruction project, with new branch lines to Owerri, Imo State and Damaturu, Yobe State, aims to resuscitate the once vibrant railway transportation in the Eastern railway corridor of the country, Port Harcourt — Maiduguri.

“We are further expanding it to achieve contemporary demand for transport in the North East and Southern geopolitical zones of the country. It is also designed to link other standard gauge rail lines under construction through the provision of transshipment centers. The funding of the railway is through loan to fund 85% project cost and the Federal Government contribution of 15% as counterpart funding,” the President said.

He added that the Bonny deep sea port and a Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt are to be constructed through direct investments by our Chinese partners and international financing agencies.

“These projects will serve transportation and supply chain network for domestic needs and export as well as support imports into the hinterland of the country through the new deep sea port in Bonny Island, Rivers State. This improved port is designed to be a regional and international transport hub. In line with the global trends, the Railway Industrial Park will have the capability for processing exports of raw materials with value addition and also export of locally made goods,” he said.

The President further said the socio-economic and environmental benefits of these projects include the creation of massive employment locally, further utilization of local contents and technology transfer, and increase in internally generated revenue.

While noting that the projects would also serve as a fulcrum for the achievement of the Federal Government planned Integrated Development Masterplan, President Buhari stated that, “In planning this project, prudent use of resources has been given priority, as by this endeavor, Nigeria will retrieve the old narrow gauge that has been lying in neglect for years and bring it to full functional state commensurate to a National railway service at a rational price.”

He said, “The Port Harcourt — Maiduguri railway will translate to reactivation of economic activities along the Eastern corridor, which has been greatly affected by insurgent activities and serve as a stimulus for industry and trade.

“The connection of the railway to a new seaport in Bonny Island and Railway Industrial Park, Port Harcourt is designed to increase the viability and boost transshipment of cargo and freight locally, across the West African sub-region and in the Continental Free Trade Area.”

How modular refineries can create over 100,000 indirect jobs – Wabote, NCDMB

*Adds: Modular refineries should refine at least 10% of Nigeria’s oil production

At least 10 per cent of Nigeria’s oil production should be refined through modular refineries as it has the capacity to create about 3,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs, according to the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote.

Wabote stated this on Tuesday during the commissioning of the 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) Waltersmith Modular Refinery, developed with 30 percent equity investment by the NCDMB.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday performed the virtual commissioning of the Waltersmith Modular Refinery, describing the role played by the Board as novel in concept and superb in delivery.

The President also performed the ground-breaking of the refinery expansion at the Ibigwe field, Ochia Community, Ohaji-Egbema Local Government of Imo State. The new phase will first add 25,000 barrels per day processing capacity, before the final phase of new 20,000 bpd, bringing total capacity to 50,000 bpd.

Delivering his address virtually, President Buhari stated that the deployment of modular refineries was one of the four elements of the Refinery Roadmap introduced the Federal Government in 2018 to meet local needs for petroleum products and eliminate importation.

According to a statement from the NCDMB, Wabote canvassed that at least 10 percent of Nigeria’s oil production should be refined through modular refineries, noting that an average of 10 direct jobs are created for every 1,000barrels/day capacity of modular refinery.

He said, “We believe that about 3,000 direct jobs and over 100,000 indirect and induced jobs can be created if 10 percent of Nigeria’s oil production is refined using modular refineries.”

The NCDMB boss also provided the basis of the Board’s equity investment in the 5,000bpd Waltersmith Modular Refinery. He hinted that Section 70(h) of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act mandates the Board to assist local contractors and Nigerian companies to develop their capabilities and capacities to further the attainment of Nigerian Content in the oil and gas sector of the economy.

According to him, “This refinery creates job opportunities and business prospects, enhances availability of petroleum products, and provides ready market for some of our crude cargo within our shores. At current capacity, this refinery will utilize about 1.8million barrels of crude oil. At the completion of the expansion works, this will increase to more than 16million barrels of crude and condensates every year.”

The Executive Secretary confirmed that NCDMB was also in partnership with other investors for the construction of a 2,500bpd modular refinery in Edo State, which will later be expanded to 10,000bpd and another 12,000bpd hydroskimming refinery in Bayelsa State, that will produce a full slate of petroleum products to serve immediate and nearby markets.

In the same vein, President Buhari assured that Government was making good progress in the Rehabilitation of existing refineries, Co-location of new refineries, and Construction of greenfield refineries, with the firm goal of making Nigeria a net exporter of petroleum products in a few years’ time.

He also commended the expansion plans of Waltersmith Refining & Petrochemical Company and directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and other relevant Government Agencies to provide the company all the necessary support with regards to access to crude oil and condensate feedstock for the timely delivery of the additional capacity.

In his speech, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva applauded Waltersmith and NCDMB for embarking on the project in 2018, considering the immaturity and uncertainty in the downstream sector as at that time. ”It is only investors who have faith and believe in Nigeria, with clear delivery strategy that would have had such boldness,” he emphasised.

He clarified that efforts to achieve sufficiency of locally refined petroleum products “has to be a combination of large-scale processing plants as well as small to medium modular processors which will be enabled by our progressive policies and regulations.”

He challenged other investors to take a cue from Waltersmith and speed up action on similar development efforts to jointly grow the nation’s economy.

The Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma while delivering a goodwill message lauded President Buhari for providing purposeful leadership and conducive investment climate that enabled the establishment of the Waltersmith Modular Refinery within two years of conception. He recalled that successive administrations had awarded licenses for similar projects, with none of them coming to fruition.

He assured that the Imo State Government will partner with the host communities to protect the investment, while charging the company to discharge its statutory obligations to government and perform its corporate social responsibility to the communities.

Modular Refineries will eliminate importation, make petroleum products available – President Buhari at commissioning of Waltersmith refinery

The establishment of modular refineries in the country will make petroleum products available in the country and eliminate importation, President Muhammadu Buhari stated on Tuesday.

According to a statement by the Special Adviser to the President, Media & Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President spoke at the virtual inauguration of the 5,000 barrels per day Waltersmith modular refinery in Ibigwe, Imo State, as well as the Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Phase-2 works to expand the capacity of the refinery to 50,000 barrels/day.

President Buhari said the deployment of modular refineries was one of the four key elements of his administration’s Refinery Roadmap rolled out in 2018, adding that its implementation will make Nigeria a net exporter of petroleum products.

He expressed delight that Waltersmith refinery in Ohaji Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State was coming on stream within two years of the commencement of the Roadmap, after many years of granting licenses for the establishment of modular refineries with nothing to show for it.

”Furthermore, there is increased momentum in the other three focus areas under the Roadmap covering the Rehabilitation of existing refineries, Co-location of new refineries, and Construction of greenfield refineries.

”The realization of the Refinery Roadmap will ultimately lead us to becoming a net exporter of petroleum products not only to our neighbouring countries but to the worldwide market.

”This modular refinery is the largest commissioned modular refinery in the country today.

”The role played by the Federal Government through the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in going into collaboration with Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company is novel in concept and superb in delivery,” he said.

The President described plans to commence the expansion of the capacity of the refinery to 50,000 barrels per day to refine crude oil and condensates as an important part of economic reforms the country is undergoing.

”I look forward to seeing this new phase completed within the target timeframe,” he said.

President Buhari, therefore, directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), NNPC, as well as all relevant Government Agencies to provide Waltersmith Company all the necessary support to access crude oil and condensate feedstock for the timely delivery of the additional capacity.

In line with his administration’s agenda on jobs creation, the President said he was pleased to note that hundreds of direct and indirect jobs were created during the construction of the first phase of the project in addition to the various business opportunities.

Equally, he expressed hope that the construction of the second phase of the project will create bigger additional employment opportunities.

President Buhari thanked the local community and the people of Imo State for hosting the refinery, which, he stressed, will bring prosperity and economic development to the area.

The President commended the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, the Chairman and members of the Governing Council, and the management and staff of the Nigerian Content Development Board for making the public-private partnership a success.

He also commended the Chairman, Board, Management and Staff of Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Limited for their professionalism and focus in getting the project completed.

Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and the Minister of State, Petroleum, cut the tape on behalf of the President, at the event which was also attended by the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, the Executive Secretary, NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Wabote and the Chairman of WalterSmith, Abdulrazaq Isa.

#NDNewVision: President Buhari to commission 5,000bpd Modular Refinery on Tuesday

**WalterSmith project in line with President Buhari’s vision to boost Nigeria’s oil refining capacity – NCDMB

President Muhammadu Buhari will tomorrow formally commission the WalterSmith 5,000 barrels per day modular refinery at Ibigwe, Ohaji/Egbema local government area of Imo State.

The Modular Refinery project is part of the initiative of the Buhari administration to boost local refining of petroleum products to end importation and create jobs and opportunities for people in the Niger Delta region.

The President will be supported at the event by the minister of state for Petroleum Resources, Timpre Sylva and Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, among other top government officials, oil industry regulators and stakeholders. The president will also perform the ground-breaking ceremony for the 45,000 barrels per day refinery also initiated by Waltersmith.

The event will also feature goodwill messages from top industry players, partners and community leaders. At a recent pre-commissioning visit to the refinery, Yusuf Usman, Chief Operating Officer, Gas & Power, said, “It is a landmark achievement and it shows that we can actually refine our crude oil in-country.” The modular refinery has a crude oil storage capacity of 60,000 barrels and is projected to deliver over 271million liters per annum of refined petroleum products, including Kerosene, Diesel, Naphtha and Heavy Fuel Oils, to the domestic market. The bulk of crude oil supply for this phase will come from Waltersmith’s upstream business, with backup from the OML 53 (Ohaji South) Seplat/NNPC JV third party crude currently processed at Waltersmith Ibigwe Flowstation and additionally from the 2020 Marginal Fields Bid Round for a nearby asset.

The company then partnered with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) to raise the required financing. NCDMB are 30 per cent equity partners while AFC committed senior secured credit facility towards the project.

“From the very day we keyed into this project in line with the President’s aspiration to grow the country’s oil refining capacity, we felt very happy that we are associated with Waltersmith, a serious-minded company”, said executive secretary, NCDMB, Simbi Wabote.

The Chairman, Waltersmith Group, Abdulrazaq Isa, said, “The first module to be commissioned tomorrow is 5,000bpd refining capacity. We are looking at 50,000bpd refining capacity that will come with the planned additional two modules; 25,000bpd and 20,000bpd refining capacity respectively which will then add PMS, Aviation fuel and LPG to the product slates.” Waltersmith obtained the ‘License to Establish’ the modular refinery from DPR in June 2015 and got the ‘Authority to Construct’ in March 2017.

 

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.

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.

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.”