The Federal Government in 2008 created the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to coordinate its efforts aimed at promoting infrastructural development, environment protection and youth empowerment in the region.
The oil-rich region historically comprises Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers and they largely occupy the mangrove creeks around the River Niger tributaries towards the Atlantic Ocean coast line.
But in 2000, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Imo and Ondo State became part of the region that had been the centre of international controversy over pollution and underdevelopment.
In the light of this, from the onset of the establishment of the ministry, the Federal Government has insisted that the ministry is responsible for direct response to the myriad of challenges in the region.
Concerned citizens, therefore, suggest that the ministry should urgently work towards the delivery of a virile development plan as prescribed by the Niger Delta Master Plan.
They note that although the master plan has been applauded since its scripting in 2006, previous administrations have not met the expectations of the people in the region.
They observe that amorphous militant groups, including the Niger Delta Avengers, have sprung up, destroying oil facilities because of the feelings among the people that their expectations have not been met.
They also note that dreadful cult groups are rampart among the youth, posing a great threat to the peace and development of the region.
They maintain that although Amnesty Programme and disarmament process on the militants, particularly among the members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta are commendable, they failed to address challenges of lack of empowerment and socio-economic underdevelopment of the region.
This development, perhaps, informs the recent decision of the Federal Government to inaugurate the clean-up of Ogoniland as a lead up to tangible development of the region.
The government expresses concern that the militants are creating worse environmental health disasters by the rate they destroy oil facilities in the region.
Apart from this, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Usani Usani,has assured the people in the region that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will create an enduring partnership for the socio-economic and industrial development of the region.
The minister said the ministry had not and would not abandon any of its ongoing projects in the nine oil producing states of the Niger Delta.
Receiving the community leaders of the nine oil producing states who paid a courtesy visit on him recently in Abuja, the minister said that the ministry was eager to fast-track the development of the region.
The minister said: “previous efforts created monsters that were bigger than the communities; the new efforts will cut down these monsters and cause them to submit to their communities.
“Previous efforts were characterised by corruption and bribery of government officials, the new approach will bring all stakeholders into a transparent commitment to the development of the Niger Delta region.
“Previous efforts paid more attention to mega projects like roads and huge buildings which were celebrated but not fully implemented, the new approach will pay considerable attention to projects that will truly empower the people by training, skill acquisition and ethical reorientation.’’
The minister has also said that there were plans of the ministry to send 100 Niger Delta youths to abroad for training in various skills.
He also said that the ministry had entered into many training agreements with various European and United Kingdom training institutions to train the youths in strategic areas.
According to him, such partnerships involve Ministry of Niger Delta with S.T Georges and Ministry of Youth and Sports to train Niger Delta youths on a programme tagged “Train and Engage.’’
He said the trainees would be absorbed and constructively engaged in existing oil and gas industries as soon as they finished their training.
The minister said the Local Content Office of the Africa House in UK, Africa Business Forum and the Ministry of Niger Delta had also entered into a collaboration to engage Niger Delta youths on a special programme along the NVQ model design.
He said the NVQ model “is designed to train the youths in oil and gas based on industry need basis.’’
He also warned that the era of getting paid for what had not been done had gone, insisting that “those who take up jobs as contractors must deliver quality jobs to justify the tax payers money paid for such jobs.
“Contractors who appear to have abandoned their projects are advised to go back to site to complete them.
“If they have found themselves incompetent to deliver, government should be made to know on time in order to re-award the contract to a more competent company.’’
The minister urged the people of the region against complicating the current environmental challenge of the region by engaging in vandalism of oil and gas pipelines which cause oil spillage and pollution.
“The government will compel oil spilling organisations to do the necessary clean-up because the government is on the side of the people to checking oil spillage.
“Already the Federal Government has taken the lead in this direction as it has inaugurated the clean-up of Ogoni-land,’’ he said.
In spite of all these, observers believe that the plans and goals for the development of the region can only be possible or feasible in an atmosphere of peace.
They note that it is necessary for all parties to maintain peace and work together for the rapid development of the region.
“We can achieve much more under an atmosphere of peace and tranquility than in an environment of confusion and chaos,’’ they counseled.