Take-off grant for Maritime University in Delta state, licensing of illegal refineries, revamping of pipeline contracts, and fixing abandoned projects are areas the current administration is focusing on in its bid to develop the Niger Delta region, presidency sources has said.
Militants who have been clamouring for inclusion in the amnesty programme are also not left out, as the federal government has revived the programme, and is set to absorb new agitators.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua introduced the programme in 2009 to check hostility in the oil-rich region.
Monthly stipends and incentives were given to fighters who laid down their arms.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan sustained the programme, but there were fears of President Muhammadu Buhari cancelling it, particularly after he revoked the contracts awarded to militant leaders.
During the resurgence of militancy under Buhari, different groups demanded that their members be absorbed into the programme, but the federal government said the window had closed.
However, the Buhari administration has reviewed the programme, with the active participation of the various state governments.
A source at the presidency said 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,” the source said.
“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.”
Buhari had asked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to embark on visits to oil-producing communities.
In the course of his interactions with stakeholders from the communities, Osinbajo announced the proposal for a “new vision and compact” that would address all lingering issues bothering on the development of the region.
The source said a comprehensive road map for the development of the region is being worked out and would soon be unveiled.
The source said the road map would sign-post the transformation of the region and address issues of marginalisation and underdevelopment in the region.
“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,” the source said.
“Take off grant for Maritime University, new road to University site, how to license illegal refineries, pipeline contracts revamp, others to feature prominently in first phase implementation of the roadmap.”
Another source disclosed that the Petroleum Trust Development Fund is the lead agency in the implementation of the plan for the Maritime University.
“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 source said.
“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 source said the presidency has also directed 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.
“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,” the source said.
The establishment of modular refineries in oil-producing communities is also a distinctive feature in the 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,” the source said.
“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.
“Operators of such illegal refineries could become shareholders with additional investments made in their businesses.’’
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 organisations.
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.
A Troubled Relationship Between Buhari And Niger Delta
The Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government has struggled with relations with the people of the South South, the home of the Niger Delta, the owners of the oil and gas resources in the country.
President Buhari cast the tone for his relationship with the troubled oil region when a few weeks after his inauguration on May 29, 2015 he said that areas that gave him 5% votes (the South East and the South South), should not expected to be treated the same as areas that gave him 97% of the votes (North East and North West).
He has followed through his policy of marginalisation by attacking leaders – political, business, and traditional – from the Niger Delta. One of his early presidential orders was that the stipends to former Niger Delta militants who were under the Amnesty Programme be stopped.
Traditional rulers from the region have been hounded and harassed, their homes ransacked by agents of the country’s secret police. Soldiers have arrested a traditional ruler in Ogoniland.
The first president of Nigeria from the Niger Delta, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has been unfairly attacked by the Buhari regime in several forms under the guise of “anti-corruption” war. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has illegally clamped down on the bank accounts of former first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and those of leading businessmen and women from the region.
Because of the president’s anti-Niger Delta posture and policies, there has been a renewed restiveness in the region. The leading militant group in the region, the Niger Delta Avengers, successfully cut the oil production in the country from 2.2 million barrels a day to less than 600,000 barrels a day following a chain of attacks on oil installations.