In view of the recent threat by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to resume attacks on oil installations, the federal government at the weekend released plans for the development of the volatile oil-rich Niger Delta region.
Nigeria depends on its oil for almost 90 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings and 70 per cent of total earnings.
Sustained attacks on oil installations by the Avengers in the first of 2016 contributed to halving Nigeria’s oil output and plunging the country into its first recession in 25 years.
But with the temporary end to hostilities secured by the government late last year, Nigeria has been able to ramp up crude production and was one of the major factors, along with higher oil prices, that the country exited the recession by the second quarter of 2017.
A statement by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, Sunday night listed the plans to include increased budgetary allocation to the Niger Delta ministry and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), take off of the Maritime University in Delta State, commencement of the Ogoni clean-up exercise, investment in infrastructure such as the construction of N120.6 billion Bonny-Bodo Road and N1 billion Ibaka deep sea port.
Other plans he listed were approval for the establishment of an export processing zone in Delta State, approval for establishment of modular refineries, and increased allocation for Presidential Amnesty Programme.
Giving details of the budgetary allocations for the region’s programme in 2018, Akande said N71.20 billion was allocated in the 2018 budget to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), N65 billion for the Amnesty Programme, and N53.89 billion for the Ministry of Niger Delta, up from the N34.20 billion in 2017.
On the Maritime University, he said: “The new Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State, has now commenced operations, inviting job applications for academic staff.
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration recently approved an increase in the take off grant from the N2 billion earlier announced to N5 billion. This sum was included in the 2018 budget presented to the National Assembly earlier this week under the Federal Ministry of Education allocation.
“Academic activities are expected to start in the university soon following the completion of the hiring process for professors, readers, senior lecturers, lecturers, assistant, assistant lecturers and graduate assistants to teach in the Faculties of Science, Maritime Transportation, Maritime Engineering and Technology, Maritime Environmental Management and General Studies.
“The take off of the Maritime University was one of the major requests tabled before the federal government when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo went on a series of tour to all the Niger Delta states during the year, following President Buhari’s meeting with leaders of the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) last November.”
On Ogoni clean up, he said in June 2016, the administration started the implementation of the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland devastated by decades of oil spills.
“An inter-ministerial committee on Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) under the Federal Ministry of Environment was established.
“HYPREP has since set up structures in place for the final take off of the clean up and restoration of the region devastated by oil spills. This shows the commitment of the FG to restore the region.
“Eight companies have been engaged to conduct demonstration clean up exercises in the four local government areas of Ogoniland, to enable HYPREP select the best and most suitable technology for the remediation work.
“These demonstrations were recently concluded; the results are being studied by the governing council of the Ogoni clean up project.
“HYPREP has also trained 15 indigenous Ogoni scientists on environmental assessment remediation.
“HYPREP assessed existing water facilities in Ogoniland in line with the UNEP recommendation report that potable water be provided for Ogoni, following pollution of water sources in the region by oil spills.
“A health impact assessment study to be done to ascertain whether there is a link between some disease patterns and oil pollution in the affected communities is also being done.
“Bids have been invited for consultancy on provision of water, health study and environmental remediation,” the statement added.
It explained that the Bonny-Bodo bridge and road project is a public private partnership arrangement jointly funded by the federal government and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) on a 50:50 basis.
According to him, when completed, the 34-kilometre road will connect several major communities in the Niger Delta region and boost socio-economic development and improve on the lives of people in the region.
Akande also said the federal government approved the establishment of the export processing zone (EPZ) comprising the gas city project at Ogidigben and the deep seaport in Gbaramatu, Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State.
“When fully operational, these projects are expected to boost socio-economic activities and improve the security landscape of the Niger Delta region,” he added.
On the modular refineries, he said 13 of 35 applications received by the government had reached what he described as the LTC (Licence to Construct) stage.
He also said two of these 13 refineries are almost ready for shipment while consideration for a customs duty waiver and some form of tax holidays are also underway.
The advent of modular refineries, he added, would create a robust domestic refining sector necessary to meet and exceed the full capacity of national demand, address the proliferation of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta and attendant environmental degradation, and provide jobs for unemployed youths in the region.