N’Delta needs new deal, has suffered a lot, says Buhari

.….Ex-Militant Group Lauds President

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the Niger Delta region needs a new deal, having suffered so much deprivation and neglect.

The President disclosed that the Federal Government was repositioning the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Amnesty Programme to ensure they deliver on their mandates to develop the region.

Buhari stated this yesterday while declaring open, the fourth meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt.

This is just as ex-militant groups, under the aegis of the 21st Century Youths of the Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience (21st CYNDAC), commended the President for his bold step to avert attempts to truncate the forensic audit of the Commission by disgruntled stakeholders from the region.

The ex-militants said the appointment of Mr. Effiong Okon Akwa, who was the former Acting Executive Director of Finance and Administration to oversee the affairs of the NDDC until the end of the ongoing forensic audit was laudable.

A statement via email and signed by its Coordinator, ‘General’ Izon Ebi, the ex-militants said the move would rekindle the hope and belief that the President is resolute to ensure that Niger Deltans see and shame those that looted the NDDC to the detriment of the region and its people.

Represented by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Buhari said he was committed to changing the fortunes of the region to give the people a new lease of life, saying the ongoing forensic audit of the NDDC was expected to reposition the Commission and galvanise it towards optimal development and provide the needed infrastructure for socio-economic development that the region so much requires.

He added: “Due to the efforts and commitment of the minister of Niger Delta Affairs, the new headquarters building of the NDDC, which had been ongoing in the last 24 years, has been completed and is awaiting commissioning by my administration.”

He stated that the completion of the East-West road, which is a priority to his government, has been handed over to the Ministry, assuring that it would be delivered by the end of next year or the early part of 2022.

In his own remarks, Akpabio stressed the need for harmony between the NDDC and the state governments in the region for the benefit of the people, saying disharmony between these critical stakeholders was caused by many factors, including political differences.

He advised: “Development should not be tied to any political party, because what the people need is development, irrespective of political affiliation. Poverty and hunger have no political party.”

Akpabio agreed that funds coming to the region were not commensurate with the level of projects on the ground, but stated that governments in the region should be held accountable for the 13 per cent oil-derivation meant to develop the oil-producing communities.

He advised those blaming the NDDC for all the woes of the region to look inwards and tell themselves the truth, adding: “When stakeholders reach out to the NDDC for intervention projects and the Commission intervenes, that is not duplication of projects. State government should ensure that the 13 per cent allocation touches the lives of the people.”

Akpabio described the NDDC as an organisation where everybody contributes, while it belonged to nobody, noting that there should be synergy between the federal and state governments.

He said: “If we ask why the NDDC has failed, then we have to look back. That is why the President came up with the forensic audit to salvage the Commission, and I think he should be commended for that. We have to know what went wrong.”

Earlier, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike lamented that although the region was blessed with mineral resources, its people were living in poverty and underdevelopment.

Wike, who was represented by his Deputy, Mrs. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, said that the National Council on Niger Delta should serve as a platform for the people of the region to articulate their needs and challenges, adding: “With political will, we can overcome the challenges confronting the region, while we continue the struggle for the enthronement of true federalism in the country.”

The governor regretted the lack of collaboration between the NDDC and state governments in the region, calling on the Commission to work in concert with the state governments to ensure the greatest impact of projects and programmes for the people.