Sunday, 9 June 2013
(NEWS): “My ministry needs over N1 trillion to develop the Niger Delta” – Niger Delta minister, Orubebe
The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs requires at least one trillion naira to effectively “develop the Niger Delta region. This was made known by the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe at the 2nd session of the on-going 2013 Ministerial Platform, held at Radio House, Abuja held on Thursday, June 6, 2013.
While responding to a question on budgetary issues on his ministry’s mandate, Elder Orubebe made it clear that there would probably never be enough money to develop the Niger Delta region.
“They asked about how much is needed for the development of the Niger Delta in this period (the past 2 years)? If you ask me, I would tell you I would need over a trillion, a trillion naira for this period,” Orubebe said. “But during the period, what we have gotten is a little over N200 billion. N200 billion, that is what we have been using over the past few years.”
The minister also disclosed that the Federal Government had started the construction of nine skill acquisition centres in the region for the training of youth and four of the centres “will be put to use before the end of 2014”. The four - Cross River, Delta, Akwa Ibom, and Bayelsa – will provide training in oil and gas, tourism and entertainment, and maritime. The one in Calabar is specifically earmarked for tourism and entertainment. The centre in Edo State was closed for lack of performance.
In response to questions about several development projects in the Niger Delta region, Orubebe said that from inception, his ministry was not created to deal with what he termed as minor projects, rather, his ministry was designed to handle “mega projects and regional projects like the East-West Coastal road and the skill acquisition centres”.
“But, of course, the budget for the Ministry of the Niger Delta was not initially produced by us, so so many projects found their way into the budget, so that is the problem that we are having,” the minister explained. “And I did say that we are sacrificing some of these projects for us to see that the East-West Road is completed.”
The minister promised that the East-West Road would be completed by December 2014 at the estimated cost of N347 billion.
Orubebe also took time to list the challenges to the completion of the East-West Road which was awarded in 2006 during the Obasanjo administration with the view of it being completed in 2009. He also disclosed that only N1.2 billion was allocated to the project by the government at the time.
“In 2010, we released there was no detailed design or drawings for the road, and we had to go back to the drawing board. This amounted to starting all over again,” Orubebe said. “It was in that same year (2010) that we put a financial plan in place to complete the road. So, when the contract for the road was awarded, there was no financial plan to complete it. Today, we have a financial plan to finish the road by December 2014.”
In what could be considered an indictment of the Obasanjo administration the minister said, “Ours is a government that if we talk, we do it. If we know we cannot do something, we don’t go to the public to say it.”
The minister disclosed that the East-West Road has 42 bridges ranging in length from 70 meters to 850 meters and that as at today, 36 of those bridges had been completed. The road also had 1,070 culvets and 786 of those had been completed.
Some of the problems affecting the pace of the construction of the East-West Road were the terrain, budgetary constraints, youth destroying projects, excessive demands from contractors, and incidences of kidnapping of expatriates working on the road.
Orubebe disclosed that in 2013 alone, there had been 18 incidences of kidnapping of the expatriates working on that road. He also disclosed that there had been efforts to invite investors in on Public-Private Partnerships but none had come because of security concerns.
He went on to appeal to the people of the Niger Delta, “We cannot be talking of development, if we don’t have peace. Peace and development go hand in hand. Give us peace, and we will give you development.”
The minister also said they ministry sees achieving peace in the Niger Delta as its primary responsibility. “Because once there is peace in the Niger Delta, there will be increased oil production, and increased oil production means increased revenue for the development of the entire nation.”
In his closing remark for the day, the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, called on the youth of the region to give peace a chance assuring that the government was change the history of the development in the Niger Delta.
“Indeed it is my belief that given the present level of funding for the East-West road, by the grace of God that road will be delivered it is the most strategic road in the Niger Delta and it is going to open up the entire region to development.
“For the youths in the Niger Delta, peace is the only way you can develop, there is no other way. If you look at the level of progress in development in the Niger Delta in the last two years when peace returned, indeed you cannot really exchange that for any other thing.
“This is indeed very, very important. The North-East is suffering today, for lack of peace. So those of us who are living in peace in our communities, we must never take it for granted, so it is very important that the issue of peace is pursued by all,” Maku said.
The 2nd of a month-long series designed to provide details on President Jonathan’s mid-term report, the event was attended by the Niger Delta Minister, Elder Godsday Orubebe, Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Nwogu, and Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Darious Ishaku.
The Ministerial Platform, according to the Minister of Information is “designed to promote national conversation and good governance” was attended by the media, organised civil society, the private sector, professional guilds, and organised labour to “make the national conversation on the nation’s development process fully participatory”.
The next session is scheduled for Monday, June 10, 2013. The Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Minister of Trade and Investment, Segun Agaga are billed to make their presentations.
The Ministerial Platform comes up between 11am and 1pm will run will be broadcast live on NTA, FRCN, VON, AIT, and Channels Television as well as the website of the Federal Ministry of Information.
Nigerians all over the world are also expected to participate in the programme through the Social Media Platforms on the following addresses: www.fmi.gov.ng; www.livestream.com/fminigeria; www/youtube.com/fminigeria; www.facebook.com/fminigeria; and Twitter handle @fminigeria.