Arising from the recent Niger Delta stakeholder engagements anchored by the Federal Government, a comprehensive road map for the development of the region is being worked out and would soon be unveiled, presidency sources disclosed.
According to one of the sources, the road map which would sign-post the transformation of the region comprised a diligent, new and comprehensive work plan that would address issues of marginalization and underdevelopment in the region.
President Muhammadu Buhari had asked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to embark on visits to oil producing communities and had in the course of the interactions with stakeholders from the area announced the Buhari presidency’s proposal for a “new vision and compact’’ that would address all lingering issues bothering on the development of the region.
An implementation planning meeting was held last week in the presidency where several ministers and relevant MDAs started putting draft measures that will in turn become presidential directives very soon.
A source who is privy to top level decisions taken on the subject matter, said the broad areas of initial interventions being considered in the plan include; the take-off of the Maritime University, and the attendant financial grant, establishment of Modular Refineries including the engagement of the illegal refiners; the continuation and revamp of the Pipeline Protection contracts; a progressive review of the entire Niger Delta Amnesty Programme; the revisit of Abandoned Projects in the region; and the Clean-up of Ogoni land.
The source added that the implementation of the work plan would be anchored by the Federal Government in conjunction with the relevant state governments, development partners, the private sector and multinational organisations operating in the region, especially the IOCs.
Maritime University, Gbaramatu
Under the comprehensive work plan for the development of the Niger Delta, the Federal Government has activated a process for the smooth take-off of the Maritime University, Gbaramatu with the Petroleum Trust Development Fund as the lead agency in the implementation of the plan, another presidency source disclosed.
In this regard, the Federal Government is considering the release of a substantial take-off grant for the university while awaiting the conclusion of legislation on the establishment of the university by the National Assembly.
The Federal Government is also seeking international collaboration with universities across the world for commencement of academic programmes at the university.
The Presidency has directed Ministry of Petroleum Resources in conjunction with the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) and other stakeholders to come up with a proposal for an effective funding model for the university.
The Presidency has also directed the NDDC to liaise with the relevant agencies and organisations to facilitate the construction of an access road that will pass through Escravos to the university in Gbaramatu community.
The establishment of modular refineries in oil-producing communities is a distinctive feature in the Buhari presidency’s new vision road map for the development of the Niger Delta region.
The modular refinery initiative of the administration will be private sector led and will entail independent indigenous oil producers working with oil-producing communities to formalize the process of converting illegal refineries in their domains into legal entities that would be run in collaboration with government.
Under the new arrangement, the Federal Government is considering a situation where operators of illegal refineries in the oil-producing communities will receive legally crude oil at reasonable rates for refining while modalities would be worked out for them to register such refineries as legal entities.
According to the presidency source, “under the new plan, operators of such illegal refineries could become shareholders with additional investments made in their businesses.’’
It was learnt that the presidency has directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, as the anchor of the modular refinery initiative, to work in conjunction with the NDDC and state governments in the region to actualize the goal.
The presidency, it was also gathered, has directed the NDDC to evolve a strategy that would organise all modular refinery operators in the region into cooperatives to enable them access better funding and related support from the relevant organizations.
It is the intention of the Federal Government, under the new plan, to revisit abandoned projects in the South-South region with a view to completing them.
It was learnt that since the recent visits by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the Niger Delta region and the resulting directives from him that work should resume on sites previously abandoned by contractors, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) reported that some contractors have indeed started resuming work again on site.
It was also gathered that in furtherance to its earlier directive, the presidency has asked relevant government agencies to set timelines for the resumption of work by contractors in the region.
“There will be a final warning and then prosecution of defaulting contractors will follow after the Federal Government has done a comprehensive audit of all projects in the region,’’ the presidency source said.
To this end, the presidency has asked the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to produce a comprehensive report of all road projects in the South-South region to enable government take prompt action.
The plan of government, the presidency source said, will be to complete all abandoned road projects in the South-South, as part of the region’s comprehensive development plan.
Pipeline Protection Contracts
Another source who spoke on the condition of anonymity added that as a feature in the new Niger Delta vision, the Federal Government would revisit the issue of pipeline protection contracts.
The source disclosed that the presidency has directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at the protection contracts to ensure that host communities are also incorporated while ensuring a comprehensive review of existing ones.
“Under the new arrangements, the Federal Government would likely renew some existing pipeline protection contracts while new contracts would be signed,’’ the source at the presidency said.
Niger Delta Amnesty Programme
The Niger Delta Amnesty Programme will continue, under the new dispensation but with the active participation of the various state governments.
It was learnt that the state governments would be brought on board to identify and integrate militants who were left out in the previous amnesty programme.
Under the new plan, the Federal Government would work in collaboration with the states to consider and disarm militants who had not been disarmed in previous exercises to enable them benefit from the scheme.
Ogoni Clean-up project
The Ogoni clean-up project falls under the environmental remediation programme of the new Niger Delta development vision proposed by the Buhari presidency.
It was learnt that a coordinator for the Ogoni clean-up project is now in place and is in the process of setting up a project office and recruitment of staff while the contractors have moved to site to demonstrate the appropriate technology for the project.
According to presidency sources, “an initial $10 million dollars out of the initial $250m for the commencement of the project has been released by Shell while the project office have commenced the opening of accounts for funding of the project.’’
The Ogoni clean-up project is to be funded with an initial $1 billion from the oil sector stakeholders comprising the NNPC, SPDC, Total and AGIP.
The source disclosed that the presidency plans to ensure full implementation of the road map as it continues to engage critical stakeholders and review progress made in its vision to transform the region. (NAN)