– As NDDC seeks German collaboration for cancer centre
The Niger Delta region is now the most cancer endemic zone in the world. The The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Nsima Ekere, who made the declaration in Port Harcourt Tuesday, said this is because of oil activities.
Ekere declared the preparedness of the NDDC to collaborate with the government of the Federal Republic of Germany in setting up an enduring and functional world class cancer center in the Niger Delta region.
The NDDC CEO stated this while receiving the German Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Bernhard Schlagheck, at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt on Tuesday. With him to receive the German envoy were the NDDC Executive Director Finance and Administration, Mr Mene Derek, and Executive Director Projects, Engr. (Dr) Samuel Adjogbe.
Mr. Ekere called for both financial and technical assistance to make the Cancer Center a reality. He lamented that oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the Niger Delta had negatively affected the environment and caused serious health problems, including an increase in the number of cancer cases in the region compared to other parts of the country.
He said: “Germany has a long history of relationship with Nigeria and one area where the German government will be more helpful to Nigeria is in the area of health, because we have healthcare challenges that we believe collaboration with the Germans can help us.”
Mr. Ekere thanked the German government for its renewed interest in the Niger Delta region, noting that there had been a lot of engagement from the international community in recent times. “This interest in the affairs of the Niger Delta region and the Federal Republic of Nigeria will only add value to our effort to see our region as a peaceful, stable and secure area,” he said.
The NDDC boss commended the contributions of German firms in the production of the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan, which was launched in 2007. According to him, “the process that led to the Master Plan was assisted and facilitated by German collaboration.”
He added: “We are in the process of reviewing the Master Plan and we recognize that you did a very good job in producing the plan. Because you did so well in helping us with the master plan, we also have to appeal to you once more to assist us in the review of the plan.”
He told the ambassador that the NDDC had entered into a partnership with the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, NEXIM, to set up a N5 billion development fund, where both parties would contribute N2.5 billion each, with a view to accelerating SMEs and agricultural development in the Niger Delta.
Earlier, the German Ambassador, Bernhard Schlagheck, acknowledged the contributions of the NDDC in driving development in Nigeria’s oil-rich region and assured that the German government would encourage the Commission in its efforts to fast-track the development of the region.
He said: “We have been engaging the Federal Government on the Niger Delta question because we recognize the fact that the region provides the life blood of the Nigerian economy.”
The ambassador pledged the assistance of the German government in the task of developing the Niger Delta region. According to him, “we are here to have a consolidated view of what is happening in the Niger Delta.
“It is very important for the Nigerian economy to develop and to push forward and we are not underestimating the importance of what NDDC is doing for the overall achievements of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
The envoy said: “One of the reasons of coming here is to encourage you to continue to do more and perhaps improve on your performance.”
He observed that the image of the NDDC had changed for the better since the current board and management took charge in 2016. “I think a lot has changed for the better and I can only encourage NDDC to continue on that path of steadily improving its performance to the benefit of the region and to the benefit of the rest of Nigeria,” the envoy said.