Stakeholders from the Niger Delta region have strongly condemned the lack of attention given to the region, especially being the main stay of the economy of the nation and advocated for a new Economic plan to develop the area, lamenting that the painful aspects of the neglect which have manifested in denying the region of its water space, as well as, granting its indigenes free access to the oil business in the country, was not in the interest of the area.
This was the unanimous agreement by stakeholders of the region at the Delta Online Publishers Forum, DOPF, 2021 Annual Lecture, with the Theme: Niger Delta Economy: Building A New Face For The Region”, on Thursday, October 21, 2021, in Asaba, Delta State.
The event, which was the third in its Annual Lecture Series, had in attendance, the Former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, who was the Guest Speaker, the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, represented his Chief of Staff, Bar Festus Ovie Agas, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, who was represented by one of his Aide, Mr. Joseph Adimabau, Miss Annkio Briggs, a prominent Niger Delta Activist, and Professor Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, Delta State Commissioner for Secondary and Higher Education.
Also in attendance were Miss Faith Nwadishi, Founder/Executive Director, Koyenum Immalah Foundation/National Coordinator Publish What You Pay, Nigeria
Board Member, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative EITI,, Dr. Ignatius Nwanze Ezoem, former Provost Federal College of Education, (Technical), Delta State and Engr. Effiom Akwa, Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, who was represented by the Director of Media, Mr. Chijioke Amu-nnadi.
In his submission, the Guest Lecturer, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, stated that condemn the idea of the continuous tagging of the Niger Delta Region as a “Red Zone”, by the international community, saying that activities in the area is mainly fueled by the actions of the companies, as not considering the plights and needs of the people, especially in the diversification of the economy of the area.
The former governor stated that the region can be moved from its present underdeveloped phase to a better one, where human capital development is highly carried along with other indices of human development.
He condemned the act of the law of the federation, which denies the states of the region the water space, which is to be harnessed by the various states for their economic growth as its done with those with massive landspace in the country.
On his part, the Governor of Delta State, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who was the special Guest of Honour, called on the continuous development of the youths through skilled acquisition, stating tha the states in the region had agreed to work more closely to have a homogenous drive to improve the lives of the people and grow the economy”.
The Deputy Senate President, Obaisi Ovie Omo-Agege, in his contribution, said one of the area for a new economy to be built in the region, should be develop to sources and represent the diversity of facts of the people they serve particularly there is a lot diversity in the form of multi ethnic and multi religious character of the region.
A renowned Niger Delta activist, Ms Annkio Briggs, held the opinion that the region is geographically positioned and endowed with human capital resources, as she said;
“When you talk about human capital resources, we have it, when you talk about the geographic location, we have it. Niger Delta as you Know it, the people, the ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta have no business with poverty.
“If today, after the struggle that we have put in if we find ourselves in a position today, where we are sitting down to discuss the way forward and we are talking about the basis how to get oil investment. How will our people invest when our people are not even participants in the economy that is generated. The people controlling the oil and gas privately are outside the government”.
She added that the region equally have about 20 billion out of the 66 billion barrel of oil enjoyed by the country from the area.
Ms. Faith Nwadishi, Executive Director of Konyenum Immalla NGO, was emphatic when stressing that in any advocacy about the Niger Delta with a new face, “We need to talk about a framework for implementation. We have so long talked about the oil and gas in the Niger Delta but we have not realized that even though we have an oil and gas sector in the Niger Delta, we don’t have an oil and gas economy.
“There is no community you will go to and see striving oil and gas business”, she noted, describing this anomaly as an indictment on the Niger Delta, even as she further disclosed that if in 1956, about 5, 000 barrels of oil was exported and today with over 1.2 million barrels of oil per day produced and that is yet to translate into the economy that the region is looking for, then “there is an indictment on all of us”, she concluded.
Another discussant, Dr. Ignatius Nwanze Ezoem, former Provost, College of Education (technical), Asaba, ascribed the sufferings of the Niger Delta people to politicians.
According to him, “The problem of the Niger Delta, is not what is going to be said. What has been said we ought to work with it. The Niger Delta region, is a blessed region by God but today, we are still discussing about the Niger Delta. I am worried because the Niger Delta that we are talking about, has all it takes to be the Los Angeles of Nigeria”.
He noted that the Nigeria’s factor gives emphasis to theory than practicals just as he called on the Niger Delta governors to put on their thinking caps rather than go to Abuja, to beg for what rightfully belongs to the region.
Similarly, Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, pointed out that it was difficult for government at all levels to employ all unemployed youths into the civil service, hence the Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa-led government, has diversified into skills acquisition for youths which according to him has yielded the needed results.
“It is not the responsibility of government to set up a tomato factory, it is the responsibility of the private sector to see the opportunity to set up a tomato factory, “government gives the enabling environment for business to strive”.
He said it is out of irresponsibility for anyone to tag Delta State a red zone, noting that “Delta State is about the safest state to live in, in Nigeria, today. Delta is a free zone”, he stated, pointing out that the Colonial masters caused the agitations in the Niger Delta region.
“They abandoned us, took our wealth away but when our boys started going to school and understanding the intricacies of the Nigerian State that we have been pushed against the wall. These boys are merely trying to resist and the role of leadership is to talk them down not to resist”
Prof. Muoboghare then called on the federal government to do the needful by way of relocating the Nigerian Navy to where it originally ought to be instead of siting it in Kano where there is no water.
“Let the federal government of Nigeria, do the needful. They carried the Nigerian Navy to Kano where there is no water. To start with, remove that Naval school from Kano back to where Navy should be in the Niger Delta area. There is no technology that drives ship on land”, he said.
On his part, the Interim administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Effiom Awka, represented by his Media Director, Mr. Chijioke Amu-nnadi, said that seeking a new face for the development of the Niger Delta would help to properly situate the region and get it focused on things to do that will position the region for all round development.
Akwa, who said the commission had done much to reach the people and transform the lives of residents in the oil rich region, noted that the NDDC was established to develop, stabilize and make life good for the people in the Niger Delta region, and her dream policy, after the conclusion of the ongoing forensic auditing, is to speed up development of the region.
He assured stakeholders of the commission’s readiness to collaborate with all players in the region to develop and implement a better economic and social development policy for the area, especially with the conclusion of the forensic audit.
Earlier, in his welcome address, the Chairman of the Forum, Mr Emmanuel Enebeli said the 2021 theme became necessary as the area which produces the wealth of the nation, over the years had not shown signs of development, as they had not gotten the true value of the black Gold that is in their communities.
He called for a new channel of development plan for the region, taking into consideration the fact that the Niger Delta is endowed with others resources and a very beautiful waterfront that can be harvested for the good of the people, even as he condemned the continuous dependency of the governments of the region on allocation from the Federation account.