In a combination of what may be interpreted as an attempt to maintain the fragile peace in the nation’s oil-rich Niger Delta region at a time of stable production output and relative high price per barrel, and an eye for the 2019 re-election race, the Federal Government, on Sunday said it has kept its promise to ensure that people of the zone “benefit maximally from the wealth of their land.”
To demonstrate that it has kept faith with the commitment, a statement by the Office of the Vice President, outlined activities already undertaken in the zone, in line with the New Vision for the Niger Delta (#NDNewVision) promised by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. This, the statement said, includes a significant increase in budgetary spending on infrastructure and project that would ensure good health, job creation and economic wellbeing of the people over time.
One of such, according to Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President, is the modular refineries, two of which are ready for shipment and being considered for duty waiver and tax holiday.
Giving a breakdown of the journey so far, he said 13 of 35 applications have reached what is known as the LTC (License to Construct) stage, with two of which would arrive soon, just as government “is also working with Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF), Bank of Industry (BOI), Afrexim Bank, and Nigerian Content Development Management Board to address the issue of lack of financial capacity on the part of the local partners (expected to come up with a minimum of 15% of cost as counterpart funding).”
The idea of modular refineries in the Niger Delta region was mooted by the administration as a way of creating “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 the attendant environmental degradation, and to provide jobs for unemployed youths in the region,” the statement added.
In the area of budgetary allocation, the Federal Government further noted the princely N71.2bn earmarked for the Niger Delta Development Commission in the 2018 Budget; and the 57.6% increase in allocation for the Ministry of Niger Delta from N34.2bn in 2017 to N53.89bn.
In the area of infrastructure, the statement said administration has budgeted N1bn to develop Ibaka seaport in Akwa Ibom; just as the N120bn, 34-kilometre Bonny-Bodo bridge and road project was flagged-off in October by Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
The project linking Bonny Island to the mainland was first mooted about 40 years ago is a Public Private Partnership arrangement jointly funded by Nigeria LNG and the Federal Government with each bearing 50% of the N120.6bn project cost and would connect several major communities in the Niger Delta region, while boosting socio-economic development and improve the lives of people in the Niger Delta region.
The Presidency also noted the new Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State that has invited job applications for academic staff, with the recent increased in its take-off grant from the N2bn to N5bn, included in the 2018 budget presented to the National Assembly last Tuesday, under the Federal Ministry of Education allocation.
“The take-off of the Maritime University was one of the major requests tabled before the Federal Government when the 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 Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) last November,” the statement recalled.
Government, it continued, is studying the report of an Inter-Ministerial committee on Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) for the final take off of clean-up and restoration of the region devastated by oil spills.
Another N65bn, the fact sheet noted, has been budgeted for the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), under which 21,615 beneficiaries have been trained, 4,079 of who have been empowered through establishment of businesses such as agriculture (cluster farms).
Another 3,237 ex-militants are in various stages of Vocational Training and University Scholarship Programmes, while the Amnesty Office has initiated the training of 10,000 beneficiaries in modern agriculture and established them into 10,000-hectare cluster farms in the nine Niger Delta States.
These modern agricultural schemes, the statement continued, are projected to create 80,000 new jobs in three years.