National council adopts single master plan for Niger Delta as Buhari accepts PANDEF’s 16-point agenda


* FG frowns at too many youth bodies in oil region

* Council to seek alternative sources of funding to develop Niger Delta

The oil region may soon get a single master plan for its development if the resolution of the National Council on Niger Delta gets immediate implementation. The Council which ended its meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, also resolved to seek alternative sources of funding for its numerous development projects and programmes.

This is as President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted the 16-point demand by the elders of the oil region which had been an issue of contention. The president said the recent meeting with stakeholders in Port Harcourt has opened his eyes to key needs of the oil region.

Meanwhile, the FG has decried the proliferation of youth bodies in the region, saying it makes it difficult to plan for the youths.

The Council resolved to mobilise key stakeholders to commence harmonisation of the Niger Delta Action Plan and the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan to produce one regional road map for development in Nigeria’s oil-rich region.

This was one of the decisions taken at the end of the fourth meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta, hosted by the Rivers State Government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt.

The chairman of the Council and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who read the communique, underlined the need for collaboration among stakeholders in the effort to develop the Niger Delta region.

According to Akpabio, the council resolved that there was need for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to improve on its coordinating role in dealing with all actors in the region to enhance synergy and avoid duplication of projects.

He said that the council noted “The importance of strengthening the mechanism of monitoring and evaluation of the projects by stakeholders to ensure transparency.”

The council, he added, stressed the need to involve the various communities at the stages of project conceptualization, planning and execution, to ensure their buy-in and ownership.

The communique decried the proliferation of youth groups in the region, which makes it difficult for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to manage them for the purposes of empowerment trainings, noting: “There is need to ensure that efforts are made to bring about attitudinal changes among the youths through intensive and value re-orientation programmes. There is need to ensure that the youths acquire skills, attend trainings and take advantage of the numerous socio-economic programmes of the Federal Government.

Akpabio said: “Never in the history of our great country has any President thought of the poor like President Muhammadu Buhari has done. That is why almost all his programmes are aimed at putting money in the hands of the poor.

“The Niger Delta region has benefitted immensely from these programmes. He has maintained the Amnesty Programme, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission.”

The council further resolved to push for more infrastructural development and environmental remediation. It approved that the current clean-up in Ogoni be extended to other oil-impacted communities in the Niger Delta region.

Akpabio said that the Council also resolved to seek alternative sources of funding for the completion of the on-going capital projects in the region.

Earlier, while declaring the meeting open, President Buhari accepted to implement the 16-point agenda outlined by the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) as minimum conditions for peace and stability as well as development in the region.

He said the government was ready to implement the 16-point agenda in order to sustain the relative peace in the region, noting that  the outcome of the Federal Government’s engagement with elders in the region has provided his administration the opportunity to ascertain the diverse needs of the region’s stakeholders.

The President was represented by Senator Akpabio at the Council Meeting, which had the theme: “Achieving Uncommon Development in the Niger Delta: Roadmap and Strategy.”